2009 Hummer H3T Review - First Drive

An Early Introduction To The Hummer H3T

We recently traveled to Fresno, California, to meet up with the Hummer engineering team for a few days of testing, wheeling, and camping with 2009 H3T prototypes, and it would take more than a cooler full of warm steaks to ruin our fun.

After a long day on the trail, as we unwound around the campfire with the firelight dancing off the sides of our development mules and tents, we imagined this is exactly what Hummer has in mind for the owners of its newest product, the H3T. Although the future owners won't be driving through the forest in vehicles cobbled together from the GM parts bin and covered in vinyl, as we were, thanks to the comprehensive real-world testing that Hummer puts its vehicles through before adding the final polish.

Earlier in the day our caravan of H3Ts, including an H3 manual for comparison and a couple of support vehicles, were boulder-hopping in low range, pivoting off of rock rails and squeezing between trees with inches to spare on the 13-mile-long Swamp Lake OHV Trail near Shaver Lake, California. Our only major carnage was a front CV axle that may have been attributed more to driver error than to the part itself. Nevertheless, the Hummer team had the part swapped out and saved for engineering analysis, and had us back underway in less than 15 minutes.

The H3T, which was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show last February, is based on Hummer's successful H3, offering a longer wheelbase and crew-cab configuration, with a true 5-foot box that measures 48 inches between the wheelwells. Our development mules, still decked out in camouflage, had Colorado beds, as the production T beds were not ready in time for our drive. Unfortunately, this meant we didn't get a chance to enjoy the feature-laden production beds that will include integrated side storage cubbies, and a slew of available options that utilize a rail system for configurable bed storage, or racks to hold your bikes or kayaks.

The H3T mimics the H3 in powertrain options with the 3.7L inline five-cylinder as the standard engine, with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual, and can be had with the excellent 4:1 transfer case and 33s with the Adventure package. Also available is the 5.3L V-8 Alpha model, with a four-speed automatic only. New for 2009 across the entire H3 line is one thing we have been asking for, an electronic front locker to complement the rear locker. This makes the credible H3 platform as good as anything out there when the going gets rough.

With an identical view from the driver seat as the H3, you would be hard-pressed to know you were driving the longer and larger T. Thanks to a higher-capacity steering pump from the V-8 on all models and a quicker steering ratio, the H3T drives almost exactly like the H3 over just about any road, save for situations requiring tight turns where the 134-inch wheelbase becomes a bit of a liability. Interestingly, the T only weighs a couple hundred pounds more than the SUV, and because of unique suspension tuning, the added heft doesn't seem to come in to play in everyday driving.

Other modifications that are exclusive to the T are a frame with a deeper section height that allows the fullsize spare to fit between the framerails, as well as a fuel tank that is fully tucked up out of harm's way. A two-position tailgate is one more feature of the Swiss Army bed.

We think the H3T is poised to make a run at the premium end of the midsize truck segment, and there is no doubt that it will be the one to beat when it comes to trail work. It should also be a contender for our Pickup Truck of the Year competition later this year. The 2009 Hummer H3T will be in dealership showrooms sometime this fall.

As we were going to press, the first photos of the production trucks were released showing the final exterior design of the T, as well as the modular bed. We'll have a more in-depth look at the H3T next month.

Vehicle model: 2009 Hummer H3T
Base price: TBA
Engine type: 3.7L I-5
Valvetrain: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Aspiration: Natural
Mfg.'s hp @ rpm: 242 @ 5,600
Mfg.'s torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 242 @ 4,600
Transmission: MA5 five-speed manual
Axle ratio: 4.56
Suspension (f/r): Independent SLA with torsion bar, stabilizer bar/Hotckiss leaf spring, stabilizer bar
Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Brakes (f/r): 12.4-inch disc/12.3-inch disc with four-wheel ABS
Wheels/Tires: P265/75R16 Bridgestone Dueler
Wheelbase (in): 134
Length (in): 211.9
Width (in): 85.5
Height (in): 72.2
Track (in): 65/65.5
Curb Weight (lb): TBA
Ground clearance f/r (in): 9.1
Approach (deg): 37.5
Departure (deg): 28.0
Max Towing capacity (lb): 4,400, 5,900 (V-8)
Fuel capacity (gal): 27
EPA mileage estimates (mpg): TBA
Seating capacity: 5

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