The 2009 Hummer H3T is possibly the last, and by default the best Chevy-based Hummers. It rides on the crude Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon crew cab architecture (with a wheelbase stretched nearly eight inches) and available with those pickups' 3.7-liter I-5 or 5.3-liter V-8 engines. The "T" turns the H3's paltry cargo area into a useful pickup bed, good for mountain bikes and other outdoor gear you can throw in back to mitigate the emissions-spewing image. That's something you can't get in the bigger H2T, which has a useless bed for the truck's size.
Forget the V-8-powered Alpha, which comes only with a four-speed automatic. Ours also came with an as-tested sticker price of $45,195, making it the antithesis of value. It's no quicker to 60 mph and only slightly more refined than the I-5, which, at least, is available with a five-speed manual. Technical director Frank Markus prefers the Alpha's 4x4 system, which engages 4H Lock and 4L Lock easily, and it goes where you point it through deep sand and ruts. The H3T can equal most Jeeps off-road, except that its long chassis translates into a poor break over angle. Markus continues. "The passenger seat rocked so violently on the axle-hop hill that I wondered if it was missing a mounting bolt or two."
Its off-road capabilities are as good as the best out there; Jeep and Land Rover and maybe the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. Like the Jeep, the H3T gets better the farther away you are from any pavement.
Every staffer preferred the I-5 stick to the Alpha automatic. Even with its less sophisticated 4x4 system, the base I-5 "feels, and is, lighter than the Alpha," senior editor Ron Kiino says. "Engine is anemic and course; GM's 3.6-liter V-6 would be a big improvement."
The general feel and quality of the cabin didn't help, much. While we like the white contrasting double stitching on the leather seats of the overpriced Alpha, the blocky, chopped-top look of the Hummer brand works no better on the H3 than on the H1 or H2.
Can the 2009 Hummer H3T overcome its flaws to score the 2009 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award? Find out on Tues., Dec. 16
Photography by Brian Vance, Julia LaPalme, and William Walker