2008 Hummer H3 Alpha: Latest in the evolution of an icon
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Monday, February 11, 2008
At Hummer, the division of GM devoted to refining and marketing the rugged civilian truck that was inspired by the military HumVee (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), they continue to make the right moves. Creating an icon that is second only to Corvette in GM’s toy and accessory sales, the latest Hummer incarnation, the H3 Alpha, continues the line of vehicles that are made more user-friendly with each generation.
The original HumVee was an American General vehicle, and it took the truck’s 1991 Desert Storm celebrity public as a huge, wide, brawny $140,000-status symbol. The H1, marketed by General Motors in 1999, was the first step toward mainstreaming a military and movie hero.
Step two, the H2, broadened the vehicle’s appeal by making it more conventional. Beginning in 2002, the H2, still larger than the average road warrior, was a $60,000 buy that helped turn the 8-bar grille into a “must-have” for the trendy affluent.
GM saw this as a bridge toward the affordable, traditional everyman vehicle that carries a special iconic tag to it. The next step in the Hummer’s evolution was the H3, which is, for the most part, a conforming mid-size SUV, albeit, with its signature grille, wide, flat-sided appearance and extra-tough suspension. And it was priced aggressively, at under $30,000.
Hummer followed that up with last year’s H3X, a street-wise urban-inspired unit that was tricked out with lots of chrome, non-functional hood louvers, embroidered headrests and upgraded sound system and electronics.
This year, Hummer has brought the evolution one more step forward with the introduction of the 2008 Hummer H3 Alpha. The second Hummer model to bear the Alpha tag, joining the H1 Alpha, the H3-A was engineered in conjunction with GM’s Performance Division.
The Alpha is ostensibly an H3, but with more power, special trim and badge, and improved suspension and chassis pieces. But it is the power alone that sets this Hummer apart from its siblings. Replacing the standard H3’s anemic 242-hp in-line, 5-cylinder plant, is a muscular 5.3-liter cast-aluminum V-8 engine. The set-up, which, for you old-school cubic-inch devotees, works out to about 325 cubic inches, rumbles out 300 horses and 320 lbs.-ft. of torque. That was enough power to get my 4854-lb. test vehicle from zero to 60mph in a tick under eight seconds – the standard H3 is a mid-11-second vehicle from zero to 60. The system is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission and it has enough kick to garner a maximum tow rating of 6,000 pounds.
Make no mistake, the H3 Alpha is still not an econo-car, and while it has improved light years over the H1’s 9mpg and the H2’s 12mpg, my H3 Alpha came with an EPA rating of 13mpg/city and 16mpg/highway on regular unleaded fuel. My seven days of tough testing on highways, city streets, mountain passes and off-road obstacles across Central Pennsylvania got me a solid 15.1mpg average.
To accommodate the larger, beefier engine, Hummer added a heavy-duty front differential and beefed-up springs, and the frame and engine compartments were adapted to efficiently house the V-8. A new steering system and special oil pan were developed for better on-center feel and to ensure constant oil pressure when driving on steep grades, and a cast-iron differential case, new engine mounts and higher torsion bar rates were installed to support the extra torque output and increased mass.
The steering and suspension provide legendary on- and off-road stability. The independent front suspension is tight with SLA torsion bars, 46-mm monotube gas-charged shocks, and 36mm tubular stabilizer bar. The rear suspension utilizes Hotchkiss design multileaf, semi-elliptic dual-stage leaf springs, 46mm mono-tube gas-charged shocks and 25mm rear solid diameter stabilizer bar. While the ride might feel rough for some, it is confident, quiet and smooth.
However, as it is a large, high vehicle with flat sides, despite its stable ride, heavy winds in the Central Pennsylvania-Northwestern Maryland corridor often buffeted around the military-inspired sports-ute without respect for its proud history.
Safety is a Hummer watchword, and the vehicle gained the maximum five stars in government frontal and side crash tests, though roll-over tests achieved only a 3-star rating.
All H3s come with four air bags, including front and rear head-protection curtains – the dual front air bags have a passenger-sensing system. Also standard are four-wheel antilock brakes with traction control, tire-pressure monitors and StabiliTrak electronic stability control. The Alpha also has a tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle-to-vehicle crash compatibility and LATCH rear child seat anchors.
Inside, with chrome, leather and upgraded sound and electronics throughout, you get seating for five, 39.9 inches of front headroom (37.9 in row two), 41.9 inches of front leg room (35 inches behind), and 53.9 inches of front shoulder room (53.5 in the second row). While rear sightlines are blocked and blind spots are large, the H3 lets you sit up high, with a captain’s view of the road ahead.
My Solar Flare Metallic (dark-orange) test ride was base priced at $38,645, off-road suspension, rear camera and sunroof options pushed the final sticker to $43,120.
The H3 Alpha … powerful and brawny, it continues the Hummer evolution.
# # #
Journalist note: Information about the Carlisle Events Group, its event listings, auction offerings and expo center is available to journalists by phone:
Carlisle Event Marketing Dept.
# # #