We are big fans of the Hummer H3 and recently had a chance to drive the new-for-2008 Hummer H3 Alpha for a day over highways and trails in and around Durango, Colorado. We came back impressed with the upgrades to the smallest Hummer.
At the heart of the Alpha package is an all-aluminum 5.3L V-8, making 300 hp and 320 lb-ft or torque and backed by GM's venerable four-speed automatic. To fit the V-8, Hummer had to modify the framerails, motor mounts, and firewall, as well as make some changes in suspension tuning, which is still remarkably supple, considering the added mass of the V-8 over the front axle. Tow rating is up 1,500 pounds to 6,000 pounds, despite the higher 4.10:1 axle gears.
Both on and off the trail, the V-8 feels just right in the H3, no longer requiring drivers to plan for the incline ahead or strategize how to pass on a two-lane road. To handle the added torque, the front diff housing has been upgraded to cast iron, and yes, it will swap into older H3s in case you were wondering. Alpha models also come with the same rear diff-lock, 4:1 transfer case, and 33-inch tires as the I-5-powered Adventure package, so trailability off the showroom floor continues to be as good as it gets without being in a Wrangler.
Many of our previous complaints centered around lack of power, lack of visibility, and seat and window switches that were difficult to access. To these points Hummer added the new engine, made a backup camera available, and redesigned the door panels.
It is hard to find fault in the H3, especially after Hummer addressed nearly every one of our original complaints about the first generation. If there still are any nitpicks to be had, it is that the H3 still relies on Brake Traction Control instead of a front locker, the V-8 is not available with a manual transmission, and the automatic should be a five-speed. Lastly, there should be an audio jack for our iPods.
The H3 Alpha might be the best Hummer to date, and we'll test it out thoroughly in our 2008 Four Wheeler of the Year competition in the February '08 issue.
-Sean P. Holman