2010 HUMMER H3T Expert Review:Autoblog

    The following review is for a 2009 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.

    2009 HUMMER H3T Alpha – Click above for high-res image gallery

    The 2009 HUMMER H3T Alpha arrived in the Autobog Garage on Election Day, and so it was my transportation to and from the local polling station to exercise my civic duty. I had the HUMMER in my thoughts when I went to cast my ballot, and looking at the paper before me was like seeing the fate of General Motors reflected in this year's presidential election.

    Barack Obama was new, different and promised an uncharted path to better times, the physical manifestation for this country of what the Chevy Volt is to GM. John McCain was both fiery and familiar, a well-liked veteran returning once again with a vision for America that was the same but better, just like the new Camaro. If Obama is to the Volt as McCain is to the Camaro, then that would make our current president the HUMMER H3T. It's the lame duck truck.

    Photos Copyright ©2008 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

    Just like President Bush, HUMMER's best days are behind it and any remaining ones are numbered. GM needs money right now to survive and is actively trying to sell it as we speak. Thus, it's fair to assume that the H3T is the last new model we'll see from HUMMER for a long while, if not ever.

    Like the standard H3 SUV, the H3T is built on the same platform as the Chevy Colorado pickup and GMC Canyon. Its claim to fame is a five-foot bed out back, which is made possible by lengthening the wheelbase to 134.2 inches, some 22.3 inches longer than the regular H3. The extra inches are immediately noticeable. The truck both looks longer and feels more stable on the highway where its ride quality benefits from the front and rear wheels being farther apart.

    We discovered quickly that our H3T with an as-tested price of $39,745 (including $745 in destination charges) doesn't quite match the caricature of a HUMMER that most people imagine when they hear the name. Friends and family who had never seen one sitting in their driveway were surprised by how small it is. This is not a towering H2 or a lumbering H1, but rather a reasonably sized pickup that isn't the shortest or the longest in the mid-size segment.

    The exterior design is instantly recognizable and includes such HUMMER trademark design cues as a seven-slot grille, exposed gas gap, HUMVEE-esque wheels, a faux hood vent and the like. Our tester came with the Alpha package, which, along with replacing the standard 3.7L I-5 engine with a much stronger 5.3L V8, also adds a chrome appearance package, 16-inch aluminum wheels and tube steps. Every H3T also gets four underbody skid plates that will likely get used if one takes this longish truck rock crawling.

    The interior should also be familiar to anyone who has spent time in an H3, and that's fine as everything works as advertised for the most part. While the HVAC controls are large, easy-to-turn dials, the optional navigation system that replaces the standard radio features very tiny buttons that require your attention to hit the right one on your first attempt. The navigation screen is also positioned vertical and low in the dash, which means the driver is forced to view it at an awkward angle. Aside from the metallic face plate for the navi and temperature controls, the rest of the dash is black, textured plastic.

    Climbing into the H3T is a bit awkward as you can almost slide your rear onto the seat with your feet on the ground but not quite, and grabbing the handle on the A-pillar and stepping on the tube rails feels like overkill. Once you're in place, however, the seats are comfortable with wide cushions and foam that's just firm enough. Rear seat occupants also have plenty of legroom, but their cushions have less padding and the bench seat is bolted into place with no fore/aft or seatback angle adjustments.

    As mentioned, our H3T tester came equipped with the Alpha package that beefs up the truck with a 5.3L V8 producing 300 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque. It moves the 5,069-lb truck with ease and makes us wonder how anyone could live with the standard 3.7L inline five-cylinder that produces just 239 hp and 241 lb-ft of torque. The extra grunt increases maximum towing capacity to 5,900 lbs (up from 4,400 lbs.), but you'll pay a penalty at the pump as fuel economy falls from an already dismal 14 city mpg / 18 highway mpg to just 13 city / 16 highway. The H3T just seemed to consume fuel a quarter tank at a time, with every errand taking a huge gulp from the 27-gallon fuel tank.

    We'd be remiss not mention the H3T's serious off-road hardware, though there was no opportunity to test its prowess in the wilds of suburban Cleveland. For those who do take their trucks on safari, the H3T Alpha features a full-time four wheel-drive system with an automatic rear-locking differential. You can pick your drivetrain's poison via three buttons on the dash for four wheel high, four wheel high with the transfer case locked and, for when you're boulder crawling behind a Jeep, four wheel low with the transfer case locked. A front locking differential is also available if you opt for the Off-Road Adventure package.

    We suspect only the remaining HUMMER faithful really care about what the H3T can do off-road. We are not among this group. We used our H3T Alpha as a daily driver, the same way a lot of HUMMERs were used a few short years ago when they weren't the poster vehicles for arrogant excess and environmental insensitivity. Nowadays people would have you believe that parking this H3T in your garage amounts to a morally bankrupt move. It's really not, though it may be a stupid one if you don't intend to haul or tow anything, go off-road with it or can't afford its fuel bill.

    HUMMER says the short bed out back can carry two dirt bikes, an ATV or a snowmobile, and its got small storage compartments in the bedliner (not lockable) and a rail system for managing your cargo. Thus, it's perfectly clear who the H3T's intended buyer is: adventure addicts who want a big toy to haul around their smaller toys. As that, the H3T makes sense. As a daily driver, not so much.

    Aside from its poor fuel economy, the H3T Alpha isn't very comfortable or easy to drive around town. It is a truck after all with a multi-leaf rear suspension that bounces over bumps. Parking is also made difficult with the H3T's extra length, and backing up is perilous with that high tailgate blocking your view. There is a new rearview camera system with a display that hides in the rearview mirror itself and magically turns on when Reverse is engaged, but the camera is positioned above the tow hitch. You get a great view of the hitch and whether any small pets, children or bikes are about to be crushed, but have no idea if you're about to clip the Lexus in the next spot over.

    HUMMER has gotten a bad reputation, some it deserved and some not, but we here at Autoblog do respect them for their capability, and some of us even for that over-the-top image others love to hate. The H3T Alpha is a true HUMMER, or at least a true HUMMER of the GM-era. Possibly being the last, it's also the best HUMMER because it's reasonably sized and the pickup bed adds a much needed dose of practicality. The future of GM is at stake, though, and vehicles like the H3T that did well for the automaker a few years ago are now dragging it down. Change is needed and this lame duck truck doesn't have much to offer the new era of autos that will soon be sworn in.

    Photos Copyright ©2008 John Neff / Weblogs, Inc.

    Click above for hi-res gallery of the HUMMER H3T

    If HUMMER had a theme song, it'd probably be the Allman Brothers' Whipping Post -- the one that goes "Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel, like I been tied to the whipping post..." The brand has been the go-to effigy when something needs to burn on the altar of eco desecration. But HUMMER doesn't have a theme song, it has the tagline "Like No Other." It also has a new pick-em-up truck we had the chance to drive recently in the High Sierras: the H3T. Follow the jump to find out if it's another HUMMER like no other, and check out the gallery of hi-res images below.

    Before we get into the truck, we'll spare a few more words for the HUMMER brand itself. GM is openly considering selling it to companies from China and India, is in talks with dealers about an amicable breakup, and is amenable to turning the brand's lights off and sending everyone home. In July, HUMMER's sales were down 65-percent. This year, HUMMER sales are down 30.7% overall, but non-US sales are up 28.7%. Apparently, in the rest of the world, nymphs swim in rivers of milk and honey, gas prices are up to two songs and a dance, and the lure of the big chrome H is still strong. And GM is hoping it that lure will be even stronger with the H3T.

    The H3T is square in the mid-size truck range -- a little longer than a Chevrolet Colorado and a little shorter than a Dodge Dakota. From the B-pillar forward it's an H3 and has the same I-5 and V8 engines. An instant advantage over the H3 is the full-size rear door, meaning no highly attentive sideways entries are required to get behind the front seats. It's got plenty roomy, but although HUMMER says the rear bench is good for three people, we wouldn't want to be the guy in the middle for a long haul.

    But underneath and out back, it is its own beast. It has a bedliner with built in storage and a highly flexible cargo management system built right in. There are four underbody skid shields. Standard equipment also includes Hill Start Assist, Traction Control, Electronic Stability Control, three recovery hooks, and Bluetooth connectivity.

    The 5-cylinder H3T will run you $30,750, with the Alpha version going for about $5K more. Throw down for the Adventure Package at an additional $2,570, and you get a 4:03:01 transfer case, electric front and rear locking differentials, tuned shocks out back, and 33-inch Bridgestone tires. There's a Luxury Package for the 5-cylinder that gets you the leather goodies and stereo from the Alpha, and there's an X package that adds chrome and shiny bits, too.

    If you're thinking of buying a HUMMER then you should be thinking about gas mileage. We'll fill you in: the I-5 is EPA-rated at 14/18 and the V8 is rated 13/16. Both vehicles have a combined rating of 16 mpg, which is the same as the Wrangler, Commander, Touareg, and Tacoma.

    For the first time you also can get the H3 Alpha with a cloth interior. However, the cloth is applied to the bolsters. The center seating panels are a mesh-like material, which looks good and is damn comfy. And despite the heat, we never stuck to it.

    HUMMER's quirky rear-view camera no longer slides out of the mirror housing. The camera image now shows up directly on the left side of the mirror face itself. We only had a look at it once, and in bright light it could take a second to orient your eyes to the lack of contrast, but for our money it's a much more graceful arrangement than the previous pop-out version. The rear-vision camera is a $550 option... after you buy the tow package, which is a $420 option.

    We started off in the 5-cylinder manual. On city streets and highways, the truck is fine. As has been said often enough, it doesn't have a lot of power – I think "anemic" has been hurled at it once or twice – but once up to speed, there's nothing wrong with it.

    On the flats, at least. Head up a steep incline, as we did making our way up to the trailhead, and the engine turns into that guy at the gym whose moaning lets everyone know how hard he's working. We were told that the sweet spot for power is about 4,500 RPM, but by the time you get up there, engine noise is filling the cabin. It wasn't awful – and in fact, by the end of the day we still would have stumped for the 5-cylinder – but a well placed turbo would do wonders for it. HUMMER says it can tow 4,400 pounds, but we don't even want to imagine what that would be like.

    Once at the trailhead, things got better. The folks in charge said they picked out a tight technical trail at the upper end of the amateur level. Every fourth boulder had been tagged by some unfortunate underbody or defaced with rubber tread graffiti, and nearly every tree had sacrificed a pound of bark to other trucks' grille guards and mirrors.

    When not trying to drag itself up steep hills, the 5-cylinder is AOK. The truck has plenty of power to get up and over rocks, aided by those 33-inch Adventure Package tires. The electronic locking front diff, which was called into use a couple of times, was effective at getting the truck over or through anything on the trail. Even when we picked the wrong line, there was an occasional crunch on the rock guards, but the truck simply plowed on.

    Speaking of plowing on, yours truly missed the part of the H3T walkaround that explained the 4:1 low gear. Our last manual off-roader was an '86 Trooper II, which was unstoppable but liked the throttle to help it get over serious stuff. Not so with the H3T. Unaware of this, we soon filled the woods with the smell of burning clutch. We'll be signing autographs at the trailhead, folks, please hold your applause.

    A gentle talking to clued us in to the 4:1, and then we simply let the truck meander over the rocks on its own. It would bog on occasion, but wouldn't quit. You could apply a dash of throttle or you could let the truck tiptoe over on its own. A half mile using that technique, and we could smell nature again.

    On the way back down, we swapped out for the automatic H3T Alpha, which we found was the equivalent of fire-and-forget. Put the truck in Drive, and pick a good line. Every once in a while you might put the truck in first gear, or low-range, and then go back to... letting it go. No questions. No drama. There's really not much more to say. Just stay alive. And steer.

    HUMMER has made its bread and its bed by providing a certain kind of vehicle for a certain kind of person. Fill in any blanks you want. The H3T looks like a HUMMER, there's a big V8 and leather on offer, it's aimed at men, in stock form it will go nearly anywhere you point it, and there are enough accessories to make Barbie and Ken faint. If you just want a pickup truck, go somewhere else. If you want a pickup truck that says something and can do nearly anything, well, there isn't much else out there.

    It's not for everyone, and, as even HUMMER will tell you, that's the point. We'll start finding out how many midsize pickup people HUMMER can get to join its party in September, when the truck arrives on dealer lots. If we were invited, we'd still take the 5-cylinder manual, give it a little under-the-hood help, and be on our way.

    Travel and lodging for this review was provided by the automaker.

    Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited vs. Hummer H3T – Click above for high-res image gallery

    Last year, we compared the dirtside manners of the Hummer H2 and Toyota Land Cruiser. Both trucks did everything we asked of them, but at the end of the excursion we were left with another question begging to be answered: could the Hummer H3T stand up to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon? These cruiserweights live on a fatter part of the buying curve, and any time a Jeep is summoned to the ring, the other vehicle is inevitably the challenger. Even though the H3T is still relatively new to the world, it came time to find out if it was ready to stand up and fight for its place. Follow the jump to see how it held up.

    Photos Copyright ©2009 Jonathon Ramsey / Weblogs, Inc.

    In one corner, we have the 2009 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited and in the other, the 2009 Hummer H3T fitted with the Adventure Package that adds such off-road accoutrement as 33-inch tires and a locking front differential. Get the two together for stats and weigh-in, and this is what you come up with:

    Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hummer H3T w/ Adventure Package
    Price $32,840 $34,065
    Engine 3.8-liter V6 3.7-liter inline-five
    Transmission Four-speed Automatic Five-speed manual
    Peak HP @ RPM 202 hp @ 5,200 RPM
    239 hp @ 5,800 RPM
    Peak Torque @ Rpm 237 lb-ft @ 4,000 RPM
    241 lb-ft @ 4,600 RPM
    EPA Mileage (city/hwy) 15/19 mpg
    14/18 mpg
    Curb Weight 4,442 pounds 4,911 pounds
    Length 184.4 inches 212.7 inches
    Width 82.8 inches 85.1 inches
    Wheelbase 116 inches 134.3 inches
    Ground Clearance 10.1 inches 10.2 inches
    Approach 44.4 degrees 38.7 degrees
    Breakover 20.8 degrees 20.2 degrees
    Departure 40.5 degrees 30.6 degrees
    Tires 32-inch 33-inch
    Suspension Solid axle with locating arms,
    coil springs, track/stabilizer bars,
    gas-charged monotube shocks
    (Front) Independent SLA torsion bars,
    gas-charged monotube shocks,
    tubular stabilizer bar, (Rear) multi-leaf
    semi-elliptic dual-stage leaf spring,
    gas-charged monotube shocks, stabilizer bar
    Additional Electronic sway bar disconnect,
    front and rear locking differentials,
    Dana 44 Heavy Duty front and rear axles,
    4.10:1 low, 3,500-lb max tow rating
    Locking front and rear differentials,
    4.03:1 low, 4,400-lb max tow rating,
    1,090-lb bed payload capacity

    The H3T is materially more vehicle, and it shows everywhere. You get more room inside, a better ride, and more power, but you lose out on things like approach and departure angles due to the Hummer's overhangs. Would it matter? We thought it time to find out.

    But first we'd have a snoop around the two trucks. The Rubicon's styling gives only the merest nod to the word "design" – it's two rectangles with fender flares and bumpers. And for that, we like it. As with most Porsche products, the Jeep's exterior styling hasn't changed much over the last few decades – form follows function, and to good effect. If someone pulled up in a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon and asked if you wanted to go for a bite, they might mean heading to the local Ruby Tuesday's or driving to the Pampas to slay some Argentine beef. The Rubicon, especially with a liberal coat of mud, is just that kind of contraption.

    However, the rest of the Wrangler doesn't venture far beyond that level of nuance. In our previous review, we noted the Rubicon's asceticism and called it out for being "a Protestant affair." That's a fair description at best and, depending on how long you drive or where you're sitting, you might replace that with "penitent."

    The original Willys Jeep was made in response to World War II. The Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited appears to have been made in preparation for World War III. Assuming that such a conflict transports us back to a quasi Stone Age, here is a quasi Stone Age vehicle with which to tackle that retro future. There is nothing wrong with it – it's just radically basic. Even though the seats were wrapped in cloth, the interior screamed "Clean me with a hose," something the Rubi's owners would be all too happy to oblige.

    Get on the move and you'll discover, as one of our fellow drivers remarked, "Every road is bumpy in the Rubicon." The short-ish wheelbase, high ride height, and a suspension tuned for Battlefield Earth will have you experiencing more good vibrations than you ever wanted. And that's if you're sitting in the front seat. If you're unlucky enough to be banished to the rear bench, with its Lilliputian bolsters and crippling lack of leg room, the encounter could give you PTSD and violent flashbacks every time someone mutters the word "Rubicon."

    Yet the Rubicon knows its chosen habitat, and it knows its customers: Jeep-o-philes want a vehicle capable of doing the beat in town and capable of going anywhere off-road. Make no mistake: this is that truck.

    The H3T is not merely a horse of another color – it's an entirely different breed of equine. Hummer also knows its customers: They want to go anywhere and will pay a little more to get a little more. The nearly 500-pound weight difference doesn't just come down to footprints: there's a great deal more finish in the cabin: a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel, more tactile controls, a six-disc CD changer, rear view camera, and a proper rear bench with great seating for two and just enough for three. And the ride is actually pleasant.

    The H3T's giant 33-inch rubber certainly doesn't hurt, but the extra inch over the Jeep's BFGs isn't the only thing responsible for its vastly smoother road manners. Heavier and with a longer wheelbase, the H3T is planted where the Rubicon is petulant, and the extra cabin materials make for a more serene experience when ambling along at speed.

    Unfortunately, getting up to those speeds is far less pleasurable. While the H3T has no issues gobbling up flat expanses, the inline-five needs a walker and a case of Red Bull when the time comes to get uphill quickly. Inclined roads suck the gumption out of the H3T and while downshifting is the only solution, when you finally reach peak output, the cabin fills with the din of internal combustion exertion. This truck will go, but it won't be quiet about it.

    The complete package is wrapped in a look that's unmistakably Hummer. In a word: chunk. Lots of it. And while we enjoy the H3T's looks, at least two of our companions agree that although it's attractive, they couldn't deal with the badge. "I like it and I could even see having one," our grizzled bunkmate told us, "except... it's a Hummer."

    The key, then, was to get both trucks to the kind of lonely, boulder-strewn playing field where brand judgments are dropped and the only measure of worth is arriving at the destination in one piece. Our chosen arena was the seven-rated, 23.5-mile Pleasant Loop Canyon Trail in the Panamint Range, adjacent to Death Valley. It peaks at 7,400 feet, with a trailhead of 300 feet. Between those two checkpoints were rocks, ruts, side slopes, trenches, a narrow and vertiginous bridge made of logs, and mud. Lots and lots of mud.

    First-up: the Wrangler. Jeep absolutely owns this metier – lords over it – and the experience is as basic as the SUV itself, but shorn of its rough edges. Or rather, you don't notice them because – let's face it – you're crashing over everything.

    Things getting a little tough? Put it in low and let it go. Things getting a lot tough? Hit one or both buttons and lock the diffs. Need – or just want – a little bit of sway? Press the buttons to release the bars and live a little. We wouldn't have minded a more substantial steering wheel, but the wheels don't need ham-fisted guidance if you know what you're doing.

    Part of the Rubicon's basic-ness is its engine bay, where the V6 has so much room there's a good view of the ground underneath. While this was nifty in The Good Old Days, it wasn't so nifty when mud flew up and settled unevenly on the fan, causing the propellers to elicit a wobbling racket that made little sense to deal with until we got out of the mud... which took a while. Nothing a shroud couldn't fix, but we were surprised it wasn't included in the standard packaging.

    Nevertheless, it was a quintessential Jeep experience. The Jeep asks no questions; it only delivers answers, simply saying, "Sure, I'll do it." The Wrangler is the ultimate no frills off-roading device, allowing you to feel what you're doing intimately and unabashedly.

    The experience in the H3T in many ways mirrored that of the H2 in our previous comparo. The H2 was called "The off-roader for idiots" because all that's required is to point and press the gas. Rocks appeared to turn to jelly beneath it, so you didn't feel much in the process.

    The H3T didn't quite have the juggernaut factor, but it did get plaudits from all its occupants for being a markedly different beast than the Jeep. Specifically, it was capable and comfortable. Nice cabin, big plush seats, slightly bigger wheels, larger, firmer stance and plenty of suspension travel meant a little less time thinking about what you were doing, a little more time enjoying what you were doing.

    But the Hummer's slightly wider track could prove to be its undoing. Approaching a sign that warned "narrow bridge, tight turns" the route book warned that the coming section was "not recommended for extra long or wide vehicles." Because the ascending switchback was so thin, if you committed to going up, it was going to be a hellacious experience getting back down if you needed to back out.

    Naturally, we went up.

    Who knew 2.3 inches – the difference in width between the Jeep and the Hummer – could mean so much? The road had been blown out decades ago, and what remained wasn't generous. The path and the bridge predated the birth of the consumer-grade Hummer and the widebody SUV, proving that the log book was both up-to-date and wasn't lying about the narrow passageway. Getting across the bridge and the rest of the trail, then around a tight, right-hand, off-camber turn that leaned to the left was a matter of tucking one's mirrors, thinking of nothing but following the spotter's instructions, and tres doucement on the throttle.

    The Hummer's width, though, would play the opposite way when we got to rutted sections. While the Jeep's passengers leaned into it, the H3T was wide enough to stay level, straddling the dips in the road. Does that make a difference? By itself, not really. It's just another situation where you can be slightly more comfortable and it adds up over a full day on the trail.

    And speaking of a full day...

    Having allotted the recommended 6.5 hours to cover the course and taken a short lunch to ensure we wouldn't be digging in the dark should a snafus arise, we ended up getting done well ahead of time and without, to our mind, ever having really exercised the vehicles. We aren't sure if the trail was rated before regular four-wheel drives got this good, or if these two trucks really are just this competent. But the ending came too soon, before we even realized we'd covered the thrilling bits.

    However, that's not to say it was boring. There were plenty of moments where the boulder soup was thick enough to require a spotter, the ascent elicited full extension from both vehicles' suspensions numerous times and the slip-n-slide mud sections, including an almost tropical set in a cut on the descent, were equal parts thrills and "Pay attention!"

    All of which is to say that just because we wanted more doesn't mean these SUVs didn't give us plenty. For both the Jeep and Hummer, the question isn't, "Can they do it?" It's "How do you want to do it?" They both got in the ring, fought the whole fight, and didn't need more than a sponge off if asked to do it again. The overhang issue never came up and we were never left wanting for more.

    So, why would you buy the Jeep? You want something that will go anywhere, that will do it simply, and that will be easy to fix. You might want to rock crawl and that's where the two-door Wrangler comes in. For some, you want something that doesn't say Hummer on it. But you'd be mistaken if you're buying a Jeep because you think it's better out of the box than the Hummer.

    Why would you buy the Hummer H3T? That's like asking "Why would you want to be able to go anywhere off-road and be comfortable?" And after performing a variety of feats in the mountains, the desert, the streets, and in the Baja 500, all we can say is, these Hummers have the goods.

    However, we're not about to declare it the outright winner. Depending on what you require from your 4x4, size could matter. But the H3T is just as good as its Pentastar foe on the trails and even better on terra firma. And if WWIII does come around, we're going to be looking for a combination of go-anywhere capability and comfort when the zombies finally attack.

    Photos Copyright ©2009 Jonathon Ramsey / Weblogs, Inc.

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