Resident Evil — We Review the Hummer H3T

Post by blogger | February 6, 2009      

According to just about anyone I know of the Prius exalting persuasion, the Hummer SUV is the most evil manifestation of capitalist over-consumption to ever roll our planet. In their view, it epitomizes the hilarious albeit grim sticker you might see on many a Hummer rear bumper : “Earth First — We’ll Wheel the Other Planets Later.”

Backcountry Skiing

Our Hummer H3T review copy. We liked this truck's handling and off road capability, but could do without the postage stamp sized pickup bed and tiny windows.

Perhaps the mongo military derrived H1 is such evil, at least when used as a street truck. And the H2 model is burly as well though much more reasonable. But in the case of the H3 version, Hummer has been radically downsized and re-engineered to something much closer to that “trailhead approach vehicle” (TAV) all of us backcountry skiers have love/hate relationships with (some, like myself, more on the love side, but whatever.) Sure, the H3 is not a Prius (or a Nissan Versa like ours). But then again, it’ll tow your snowmobiles — and reach the upper South Colony trailhead in summer without being drawn and quartered.

So, when the GM marketing folks ask me if I wanted to review a Hummer, I said “sure, but does it come with a gas card?”

Turns out I still needed the gas card, but was pleasantly surprised by a truck that could easily class as a useful TAV. The latest model downsized Hummer we received, HT3 Crew Cab Alpha, is a baby brother of the big monsters. At a curb mass of 4,384 lbs it’s lighter in weight than a full sized pickup, and the EPA highway mileage rating of 18 mpg (3.7 liter Vortec 5 cylinder engine) isn’t bad for a true 4×4 like this (though you won’t be breaking any records in fuel economy).

Coolest thing about this rig? If you buy it with the Off Road Suspension package, you’ll get FRONT and rear locking diffs, more complete skid plating than I’ve seen as stock under any SUV, and 33 inch tires. This all yields a nimble off-roader with about 10 inches of ground clearance. Worry free and fun for all but the gnarliest trailhead approach roads, and easily run on most recreational 4×4 trails as well (though in the latter case you’d probably want aftermarket bumpers, real rocker guards and a winch).

Backcountry Skiing

Skid plates and room for rocks, perfect for any approach road outside of the Central American jungles.

Least coolest thing? Unfortunately, what makes a Hummer a Hummer is the unique body styling. Yet the only reason I can see for tiny windows and Tonka exterior is to imitate the original military look — a form in function kind of thing that came from the need for more armor and a lower profile in a fire fight.

Backcountry Skiing

Hummer H3T Crew Cab pickup bed is so tiny my 178 cm Manaslus have to go diagonal. The bed liner looks good, but it's a slick plastic that needs better friction properties to prevent humans from slipping and possessions from sliding around.

All the funky design stuff is fine if aesthetics are your only care and you like that sort of thing. But what if you have to drive it? I’m here to tell you that those tiny windows are indeed a pain. They need to shed those from the design as quick as the next model year rolls around.

Heck, just getting out of the parking lot at the ski resort, I found myself jamming my head and shoulder out the side window like a drowning man trying to exit the porthole of a sinking ship, craning my neck for a view that would have been casual with a conventional window layout. Luckily our rig had a reverse videocam on the rearview mirror, as hanging out and looking to the rear from those tiny windows would challenge a circus contortionist.

But let’s get back to performance. As a highway cruiser that’ll rock crawl or snow bust, H3T is the trick. Steering feel is solid and tracks nicely on the pave — indeed, you’d think you’re in something smaller and lower. Better still for our purposes, get the Hummer on ice or packed snow and look out. Honestly, with all season tires and however they’ve tuned the suspension of this thing, you can rip on slick surfaces. Not that I like driving overly fast when stopping quick is impossible, but a bit of “testing” in that vain reveals how a truck will do during one of those ten hour storm drive epics, say getting from Salt Lake City back to Denver during a big one. (Some of this happy on-road verve might be due to the longer wheelbase of the pickup model H3 we tested, so keep that in mind.)

H3T is also available with a ripping 5.3 liter V-8 that at 16 MPG on the highway will definitely work your plastic to the max. Other reviewers have written that with the 3.7 liter power plant the H3 is a bit less than “snappy.” Seems that’s a common complaint these days with most SUVs when driven with their lower powered yet more economical power package. But one of the only ways to get true gains in fuel economy for most drivers is to remove the consequences of lead footing, so at this point I think we just need to re define what we mean by “snappy.” And if you do actually need more power (for maxing out the tow rating, or pulling Colorado passes with a full load of family people and camping gear), you can of course purchase with the larger engine.

Conclusion? The small windows and tiny pickup bed of the H3T are less than ideal. Beyond that, if you’re looking for a truck-like TAV with adequate but not massive storage, that can handle the burliest trails yet carve the pave, yeah. And the day you get to jerk your neighbor’s Prius out of a snowbank? That will be a good day.

Our tester MSRP is $44,745, but keep in mind that recent troubles in the automotive industry may result in a firesale. Depending on your trim level and option choices, all the usual navigation, sat radio and stuff like that are available for the H3T. We liked the sat radio. Perhaps an essential for a TAV? And nope, you’re not going to haul a long track snowmobile in the back of this thing, though it has plenty of tow capacity (4,400 lbs) for a sled trailer.

Hummer website.


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28 Responses to “Resident Evil — We Review the Hummer H3T”

  1. Njord February 6th, 2009 9:23 am

    My Subaru hauls 4000 lbs…

  2. ScottP February 6th, 2009 9:39 am

    Most of the hatred of the Hummer comes not from their use as an off-road vehicle, but from people using them to do nothing but cruise around the suburbs. And really, they don’t do much that other vehicles can’t do better, and their competitors tend to use less fuel.

    Also, the H2 limos that I see out front of the Staples Center in Los Angeles that nearly run me over on my bike commute are just absurd.

    That said, I could totally go for an H1, but only if the .50 cal were still mounted on the roof.

  3. Lou February 6th, 2009 9:43 am

    Njord, yeah, I was surprised the tow capacity wasn’t higher, if for no other reason than it’s used as a marketing number in the same way max DIN is used to market ski bindings. On the other hand, regarding your Subaru, it must be an interesting experience hauling a 4,000 lb trailer that weighs more than the vehicle pulling it! I guess the key is make sure you’re going straight when you put on the brakes ?

    Way back when I hauled a snowmobile trailer all over Colorado behind an all-wheel-drive Honda Civic (the cool ones that had a low range gear). It worked great if I was careful, but then a friend drove it and burned up the clutch in one parking session. The amount that clutch cost was way more than any gas money I saved over driving a pickup.

  4. Jeremy February 6th, 2009 12:55 pm

    Thanks for the review. Not that I can afford one but I think they are one sweet looking vehicle..

  5. Cory February 6th, 2009 12:56 pm

    Why the jabs Lou? I know great people who drive Prius(s). Is this an attempt to draw up controversy?

  6. Lou February 6th, 2009 12:59 pm

    Trying for contrast Cory, not controversy. Basically, If the shoe fits wear it. My friend neighbor drives a Prius, as do quite a few other folks I know. But are they “Prius exalting?” Probably not, they’ve got other more important things to exalt. I was just referring to the extremists who use the Hummer as a symbol of all that’s wrong with the world.

    P.S., I do know one Hummer hater who drives a Prius, so I wasn’t just speaking rhetorically.

  7. Shane February 6th, 2009 1:06 pm

    Hey Lou, Are those dynafits the comfort model on the Mt. Bakers? I always see the red climbing post on the heel piece on Andrew Mclean’s skis. Maybe it is some sort of aftermarket fix that people are doing? Thanks for the info and the great website!!

  8. Matt Kinney February 6th, 2009 1:11 pm

    Thanks Lou…I actually looked at one, but attaching a Boss V-plow required some substantial modifications. I have yet to see one mounted with a plow up here. Interesting that it get better gas mileage than my Ford SD F-250 which gets 14mpg hwy. . The price is high but competitve with some trucks. t I would imagine the extras needed to to do serious trails would be substantial. But unlike my truck , it wouldn’t carry my Geo Metro or Polaris Widetrack in the back!.

  9. ScottN February 6th, 2009 1:42 pm

    That thing got pretty good reviews in the 4×4 mags. I like all the interior space as compared to my Taco, and the factory front locker doesn’t hurt either. But its still a little bling for me, looks like something you’d see around Aspen (grin).

  10. Lou February 6th, 2009 1:55 pm

    It indeed got kudos, and it’s indeed incredibly competent off the show room floor. That’s why I think it could make a decent TAV if the price was right and you didn’t need the big bed of a pickup, and if you didn’t mind the body style.

  11. Mac February 6th, 2009 4:48 pm


    If I may be so bold, I’d suggest that the reason people in general disliked the original civilian versions of the HMMWV, is simply because they were utter rubbish! With cutting-edge 1970’s technology, 3.5 tonnes chugging along at a sedate pace getting 27L/100km, combined with the interior cabin space of a small Japanese convertable squeezed into the equivalent space occupied by a small aircraft carrier. The question is why did anyone who wasn’t an egomaniac rap star buy one when you could get any number of useful 4WDs for a quarter the cost?
    The penny obviously dropped for GM, as the H3 is now actually smaller than a Disco. But for my money what the H3 really needs is a diesel engine to fulfill its true off road potential.

  12. Lou February 6th, 2009 5:26 pm

    Mac, I’d tend to agree.

  13. Mark February 6th, 2009 7:06 pm

    Guess I’m getting somewhat spoiled by 30+ mpg with my VW Golf. Might end up getting something like a Toyota pickup, though, because there are times when ground clearance and the ability to drive rough terrain are a real possibility.

  14. Mac February 6th, 2009 8:47 pm

    Mark, you can’t really go past a Toyota Hilux as a run-around, get to the hill wagon. Don’t suppose you’ve seen “Top Gear” – check out “YouTube – Top Gear – Killing a Toyota”.

  15. JIm February 6th, 2009 9:00 pm

    Cool ride, nice suspension and off road package but I wouldn’t trade it for my 2007 Dodge Ram pickup with the last of the 5.9 cummins. I got just over 19 mpg on my last roundtrip from the plains to the mountains, did some skiing and had room to pick up a bed load of farm parts from the machinist’s in Longmont for the trip home. Its kinda on the big, wide, and long side to drive in Boulder but guess thats part of the fun.

  16. John Gloor February 6th, 2009 9:06 pm

    I drive a Toyata 4runner since it carries people well for Kayaking and is very capable offroad. Not as versatile for carrying gear or dirtbikes. There is no way it gets 20 mpg, or very close to it. Most toyota owners will tell you different. Now that Hummers are available as a semi-practical truck, perhaps they will be less despised, especially at 18 mpg. The H1 and H2 were most often urban bling and a sedan could carry as many people, at twice the milage. This truck intrigues me, but the price is a little too steep, and my 4runner is still more capable offroad (32’s and 2″ lift) and is easier around town.
    On another note, anyone who has seen the H1 hummer tours on the slick rock bike trail has to be impressed. Incredible approach and departure angles and that diesel engine would idle it up a tree if it could get traction. Keep in mind it was a utilitarian vehicle designed to replace the jeep. It did that and more. Probably not the best grocery getter though.

  17. Paul February 7th, 2009 7:38 am

    I enjoy your reviews (be they of vehicles, beacons, bindings, or pastries) because they all exhibit a welcome humorous tone. There’s something refreshing in laughing a little at ourselves, whether we drive Prius’s or Hummers or split our time between an old GT bike and an older Toyota 4-Runner (’89 Fiberglass pop-top model), my vehicles of choice. Wildsnow isn’t quite _Gulliver’s Travels_, but a little tongue in cheek makes for a pleasant smile while reading. Maybe as a counter-balance response to your Hummer review, Toyota will lend you a Prius to review for your next Bellingham trip, and the gas savings will allow you a side excursion here to the ranges of the Inland Northwest/Kootenay Boundary for some glade skiing (if we get some snow).

  18. Paul February 7th, 2009 7:51 am

    Lou, I actually read Wildsnow far more frequently than I do Jonathan Swift (it’s more relevant currently, and back when I was in British Lit. the internet hadn’t been invented). Still, it’s hard to compete with one of the great satirists, although I suppose in your review the Hummer drivers could be Brobdignagians and Prius drivers Lilliputians. Thanks again for the site.

  19. Derek February 7th, 2009 8:32 am

    The Prius is a statement, not a reality.

    My manual transmission 2003 Corolla gets 42mpg in town with proper tire inflation and keeping the tach below 2600rpm. It doesn’t have a battery that requires environmentally destructive mining, and is $8,000 cheaper.

    It’s not Berekely cool, but it’s functional.

    The Hummer is to tough guy as the Prius is to Green. A statement.

  20. andyw February 7th, 2009 10:47 am

    Definately wasteful but strangely alluring.
    It always makes me laugh as I go around alpine villages everyone has 1 litre fiat puntos and you only see the big wagons when folk roll in from the cities for a week or 2 a years skiing.

  21. Tom February 8th, 2009 8:42 am

    33″ tires and only 10″ of clearance? That’s one of the worst ratios of any 4wd vehicle I’ve ever heard, might be the worst, my XC70 has over 8″. I don’t mind vehicles that get crappy mileage as long as you get something for it, that is definitely not the case with this truck. If you really want the image of “I’m just not very bright” then get this truck, if you’re in the more than half a brain crowd get a Chevy Duramax. You can put a plow, lumber rack, tow 10k lbs and get to the trailhead all while getting over 20 mpg running B20 from Catherines store.

  22. Alex February 9th, 2009 3:49 pm

    The south colony lakes trailhead isn’t that bad. I made it most of the way up with my old RWD Volvo wagon after I had already wrecked the shocks around Canada and Glacier. I haven’t tried it with my newer AWD Volvo wagon yet. I did take that up and over Haggerman pass which was really easy, but it was really funny to see a 350 size truck decide the way I came up was the wrong way for them to go down.

  23. Lou February 9th, 2009 4:31 pm

    That’s sad news about South Colony road, as in my view, the rougher the better (grin)!

  24. Alex February 9th, 2009 5:45 pm

    It might just be that a couple of my friends driveways are rather similar, so I’ve gotten pretty good at coaxing the old RWD Volvo places that most people believe that it shouldn’t be.

  25. OMR February 11th, 2009 8:35 am

    A truck that can’t fit ski’s or a bike is no better than my ’72 Pinto.

  26. John Gloor February 11th, 2009 10:27 pm

    OMR, you’ve got to be kidding. Drop the gate and put in three dirtbikes. Put a rack on it and it will carry ten kayaks and maybe seven boaters for an hour’s shuttle, and pull a trailer. Very decent offroad and good milage for a truck this size. This vehicle is more capable than similar F150 or chevy avalanche style trucks. Get over the Hummer name and it seems like a versatile truck. It is a compromise in both interior storage and bed length, but it will probably suit many people. Plus, it won’t explode. Those fireballs are very un-green

  27. OMR February 13th, 2009 11:39 am

    Hey Gloor, nice defensive answer. Ever heard of sarcasm? By all means, drive your hummer. I didn’t say anything about brand or green sh*t, just critical of the the bed-size. For me if you can’t sleep in it, it fails a critical test. (i.e. stretched out, full length). Ever try an Alpine start with pesky forset rangers busting the other car-sleepers at a no-camp trailhead? While they’re driving off I’m snoozing peacefully without being noticed. My needs are for skis, bikes (human powered), and sleeping, and my Tacoma covers it all; at half the petrol of the Hummer. Plus, 250 K miles and still running strong. My bet is your hummer will be in the junk yard at little more than 100.

  28. John Gloor February 13th, 2009 5:37 pm

    OMR, sorry I missed the sarcasm, but right back atcha! it can get lost in print. I thought my entry was good natured, at least I meant for it to be. No hard feelings. I mentioned I drive a 4runner in an above reply which shares the same 3.4 liter v6 as Tacomas of the same era, and probably gets the EXACT milage as your truck. I do not get 36 miles per gallon, and neither do you (Hummer X 2). I’m pushing 18-20 with no bikes or kayaks on top, which is very similar to the listed 18 mpg of the H3T. These short bed trucks are a compromise, as I also mentioned in my last posting and which you also noted. They carry people better than all but the largest trucks, but they don’t carry much in the bed. I also carry mtn bikes, but the fact that the short bed of the hummer could work for larger items was my point. Too short for sleeping though, unless you are Mini Me.
    I only mentioned the “green” comment since Lou touched on the Prius and environmental aspect in his starting sentence. The Pinto was Ford’s first compact fuel efficient car I believe, so you may have unintentionally alluded to some green aspect when you said it was as good as the H3. And supposedly they explode when hit from behind, spewing half burned hydrocarbons into our atmosphere. I thought that reference was kind of funny. My bad.
    So, in summary, the H3T gets practically the same milage as your Tacoma, carries people better, but gear not as well, and is probably more competent offroad unless you’ve modified your truck. It is GM so it will not last as long, as noted, but it really is not evil incarnate like many would like us to believe. Ski hard and be safe. John

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