I recently broke my daily routine and escaped from my icebox of an office to spend a day under the hot sun. Luckily, I picked a good day to spy on our Motor Trend test team at California Speedway as they were about to put the 2008 Hummer H3 Alpha to the test.
To be honest, it was my birthday, and I'd planned to take the whole day off. But a little birdie told me I should stop by the track because they planned to have the massively large MXT International there for testing. I'm not one to pass up a day in the sun, so I woke up early on my birthday to capture that beast in action.
Little did I know the MXT would be a no-show due to some crazy failure it had the previous weekend. But, hey, I was at the track, and we still had a lineup of SUVs and crossovers just dying to get their 15 minutes of blogger fame.
The H3 is the second vehicle in Hummer lineup to be offered with the Alpha package. It comes with a new, 5.3-liter V-8 engine with 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. But to Truck Trend's dismay, the four-speed automatic transmission was nothing more than a slushbox. Our driver did note to me about his dislike for the four-speed available from GM. He said the vehicle would be much more fun to drive if GM replaced the four-speed automatic transmission.
"The new Alpha V-8 package seems to shrink the H3 to even more manageable proportions," says Truck Trend's Thomas Voehringer. "The added horsepower and torque, along with the retuned suspension, translates well to on-road performance despite the additional weight of the 5.3-liter V-8. With only four gears, however, the tranny hunts for the best gear during aggressive driving and passing maneuvers. Off-road, the 4.03:1 low range gives the H3 great versatility."
With the new V-8, the frame was modified to accommodate the size, and a redesigned oil pan, a new steering system, and a modified engine compartment in front of the dash also were part of this engine upgrade.
"Before, it was a big heavy vehicle with a small engine," says Mark Williams, editor of Truck Trend, "Now, it's a big heavy vehicle with a big and heavy engine."
I'm not much of a fan of SUVs; maybe when I'm older I might need something with more room for family and traveling. But I did enjoy my ride in the H3's back seat as we drove it to the various test areas. The Alpha interior is sporty and a nice upgrade -- its front headrests are embroidered with the "Alpha" insignia. While in the back seat, I was messing with the front seatback pocket and realized it's removable. I showed this revelation to editor Williams, and we were both perplexed about the functionality of a removable rear seatback pocket.
Nevertheless, it's still kind of cool.
But what's cooler is the Rear Vision system screen that pops out from the side of the larger than normal rearview mirror. A camera mounted near the rear bumper helps the driver see what's behind before backing up when reverse is engaged.
This midsize performance upgrade was introduced to compete with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota FJ Cruiser, Nissan Pathfinder, and BMW X3. The H3 is sold in 34 countries, with production in the United States and South Africa.
For test numbers, you'll just have to pick up the July/August issue of Truck Trend issue to check that out!