The H3 was right at home in the fire roads above the Central California coast.
For 2008, Hummer finally made the H3 that we have been clamoring for-a V-8-powered model. Earlier in the year Hummer's H3 Alpha took our 2008 Four Wheeler of the Year competition by storm, earning the H3 a first place finish among its new-for-'08 peers.
As with all OTY winners, the manufacturer is required to loan us a version of the winning vehicle for a year and so it is that our Solar Flare H3 Alpha with Ebony leather interior showed up at our door. Sporting a base price $38,645, the Alpha model includes GM's 5.3L OHV V-8, mated with the corporate four-speed automatic and making an even 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. Other standard features are eight-way power and heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, seven-speaker Monsoon sound system with six-disc CD changer, and oversized carpeted floor mats.
To the Alpha model, we included the $2,670 California Nevada Value package with sunroof and navigation, the $850 rear-vision camera system, $390 trailer hitch and wiring (the Alpha can tow 6,000 pounds), and $295 for the extroverted Solar Flare paint color.
Alpha means V-8 power.
Most importantly, we checked off the $1,375 option box for the Off Road Suspension package that netted us LT285/75R16 (33-inch) Bridgestone Dueler A/Ts, a 4:1 transfer case, an electronically operated rear locker, and specially tuned shocks. Skidplating and recovery shackles are already hallmarks of the Hummer brand.
We also had our friends at Hummer install a few genuine accessories, such as the very functional rocker protection and grilleguard. Although we could have stopped at those upgrades, we decided to ask for the roof lights as well. We think they are so Hummer and really complete the look of the H3, and we have had several people comment about the roof lights on our newest long-termer.
So far we have put a little over 3,000 miles on the H3, mostly around town. But with a couple of trips to Northern California mixed in with a little wheeling at TTC, we have been able to get a feel for highway performance and fuel economy, which has topped out at a respectable 17.27 mpg, besting the 13/16 EPA estimate, while delivering passing power and highway confidence the 3.7L I-5 in lesser H3s can only dream about.
The enormous rearview mirror housing holds the rearview camera screen.
So far the logbook is filled with positive comments, from the fantastic V-8 burble at idle to the excellent highway ride. Our testers have commented that having both an FJ and H3 in the long-term fleet gives us a unique daily perspective between the two. While the FJ is more sporty and firmer, the H3 is more of the Caddy on road with a plusher ride.
Some of the things we wish the H3 offered are more storage, memory seats, and a trip computer. Other testers were bothered by the reverse camera mounted in the mirror housing, which has grown to accommodate the screen and limits outward visibility. Our solution would be to put it in the navigation screen and give us the smaller mirror back.
So far the H3 has performed well with only a couple of little issues. The driver-side mirror glass wiggled at highway speeds and was replaced under warranty by Cerritos Hummer in Cerritos, California, and we had a Stabilitrak fault that appeared and then cleared itself, not to return since. Otherwise the H3 has been problem free and has proven itself to be a great road-trip companion, especially for those of us who like to catch baseball on XM when we are away from home.
The staff is looking forward to getting some trail miles under the H3 for the next report and are anxious to see how the V-8/automatic fuel economy will compare to our '05 H3 with the old 3.5L I-5/manual model over the course of a year. If this H3 experience is anything like the one we had with our 2005 model, it looks like this will be an enjoyable year.
Previous reports: None
Base price: $38,645
Price as tested: $43,090
Four-wheel-drive system: Two-speed, full-time electronic, shift on the fly
Miles to date: 3,053
Miles since last report: First Report
Average mpg (this report): 14.32
Test best tank (mpg): 17.27
Test worst tank (mpg): 12.0
This period: None
Problem areas: Driver's mirror, Stabilitrak anomaly
What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: V-8 power, awesome ride, off-road package
Not: Brakes grabby when cold, giant rearview mirror
-"Wow, that's a huge rearview mirror!"
-"The clearance lights do it for me-they should be standard on the H3."
-"They nailed it on the suspension tuning, it soaks up bumps way smoother than our FJ."
-"I wish the H3 had a trip computer, it would be nice for these long drives."
-"The V-8 sounds great at idle, but is a bit coarse at WOT."