Machine Design

2008 Hummer H3 SUV

An SUV this rugged doesn’t have to be good looking, but that doesn’t phase this latest iteration of the military workhorse.

Some say it’s underpowered, but acceleration, at least, is satisfactory. The 242-hp, 3.7-liter in-line-five-cylinder engine makes 242 lb-ft of torque. Independent front suspension with torsion bars and multileaf springs in back make the ride a little harsh. Ground clearance is 9.1 in., and it turns a 37-ft circle.

My biggest peeve concerns visibility. Even parking head-in, you can’t see what’s alongside. The high, narrow windows restrict the view. And beware you don’t leave the oversized mirror at the drive-up ATM.

There’s a step (more nuisance than asset for this 6-plus-ft driver) for both front-seat passengers, but none for the rear. The backseat is comfortable, but I’m not sure how kids, let alone mothers-in-law, get on board without a pole vault. On the other hand, the H3 can pull 4,500 lb — so you can always put Mom in a trailer. By the way, there are only two rows of seats, but there’s 29.5 cu ft of storage behind the second row. Folding the rear seats increases storage to 55.7 cu ft, although they remain tilted up in front about 30. And they don’t recline or slide backward and forward.

The H3 is more truck than car, which is not surprising given that it’s built on the same ladder-type frame as the midsize Chevrolet Colorado pickup. And H3’s low gear ratio means you’ll be doing a lot of shifting.

I liked the spare interior, rugged yet comfortable seats, and thick steering wheel. Radio controls on the steering wheel would be a nice option: It seemed a bit of a stretch to the radio despite my long reach. Cruise-control buttons on the turn-indicator stalk took some getting used to. But I’m splitting hairs; the H3’s gifts are wasted in town — unless you’re intimidating other motorists.

The heavy rear door, with fixed glass and mounted full-sized spare tire, opens sideways. The spare tire partially obstructs the view through the small rear window. GM says the H3 will ford 16 in. of water at 20 mph and 2 ft if it slows to 5 mph. EPA estimates mileage at 13 (city) and 18 (highway).

Standard side curtain air bags protect front and backseat passengers. Antilock brakes and electronic stability are also standard. Base price is $30,080, but our ride was tricked out with the Adventure Package ($2,220), which included off-road tires and suspension, 4:1 two-speed transfer case, electronically controlled fully-locking rear differential, specially tuned shocks, and six-disk CD player. Throw in a power sunroof ($950), tow package ($390), eight-way adjustable power driver seat ($250), destination charge ($615), and this testosterone booster comes in at $34,505.

—Patrick Mahoney

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