According to just about anyone I know of the Prius exalting persuasion, the Hummer SUV is the most evil manifestation of capitalist over-consumption to ever roll our planet. In their view, it epitomizes the hilarious albeit grim sticker you might see on many a Hummer rear bumper : “Earth First — We’ll Wheel the Other Planets Later.”
Perhaps the mongo military derrived H1 is such evil, at least when used as a street truck. And the H2 model is burly as well though much more reasonable. But in the case of the H3 version, Hummer has been radically downsized and re-engineered to something much closer to that “trailhead approach vehicle” (TAV) all of us backcountry skiers have love/hate relationships with (some, like myself, more on the love side, but whatever.) Sure, the H3 is not a Prius (or a Nissan Versa like ours). But then again, it’ll tow your snowmobiles — and reach the upper South Colony trailhead in summer without being drawn and quartered.
So, when the GM marketing folks ask me if I wanted to review a Hummer, I said “sure, but does it come with a gas card?”
Turns out I still needed the gas card, but was pleasantly surprised by a truck that could easily class as a useful TAV. The latest model downsized Hummer we received, HT3 Crew Cab Alpha, is a baby brother of the big monsters. At a curb mass of 4,384 lbs it’s lighter in weight than a full sized pickup, and the EPA highway mileage rating of 18 mpg (3.7 liter Vortec 5 cylinder engine) isn’t bad for a true 4×4 like this (though you won’t be breaking any records in fuel economy).
Coolest thing about this rig? If you buy it with the Off Road Suspension package, you’ll get FRONT and rear locking diffs, more complete skid plating than I’ve seen as stock under any SUV, and 33 inch tires. This all yields a nimble off-roader with about 10 inches of ground clearance. Worry free and fun for all but the gnarliest trailhead approach roads, and easily run on most recreational 4×4 trails as well (though in the latter case you’d probably want aftermarket bumpers, real rocker guards and a winch).
Least coolest thing? Unfortunately, what makes a Hummer a Hummer is the unique body styling. Yet the only reason I can see for tiny windows and Tonka exterior is to imitate the original military look — a form in function kind of thing that came from the need for more armor and a lower profile in a fire fight.
All the funky design stuff is fine if aesthetics are your only care and you like that sort of thing. But what if you have to drive it? I’m here to tell you that those tiny windows are indeed a pain. They need to shed those from the design as quick as the next model year rolls around.
Heck, just getting out of the parking lot at the ski resort, I found myself jamming my head and shoulder out the side window like a drowning man trying to exit the porthole of a sinking ship, craning my neck for a view that would have been casual with a conventional window layout. Luckily our rig had a reverse videocam on the rearview mirror, as hanging out and looking to the rear from those tiny windows would challenge a circus contortionist.
But let’s get back to performance. As a highway cruiser that’ll rock crawl or snow bust, H3T is the trick. Steering feel is solid and tracks nicely on the pave — indeed, you’d think you’re in something smaller and lower. Better still for our purposes, get the Hummer on ice or packed snow and look out. Honestly, with all season tires and however they’ve tuned the suspension of this thing, you can rip on slick surfaces. Not that I like driving overly fast when stopping quick is impossible, but a bit of “testing” in that vain reveals how a truck will do during one of those ten hour storm drive epics, say getting from Salt Lake City back to Denver during a big one. (Some of this happy on-road verve might be due to the longer wheelbase of the pickup model H3 we tested, so keep that in mind.)
H3T is also available with a ripping 5.3 liter V-8 that at 16 MPG on the highway will definitely work your plastic to the max. Other reviewers have written that with the 3.7 liter power plant the H3 is a bit less than “snappy.” Seems that’s a common complaint these days with most SUVs when driven with their lower powered yet more economical power package. But one of the only ways to get true gains in fuel economy for most drivers is to remove the consequences of lead footing, so at this point I think we just need to re define what we mean by “snappy.” And if you do actually need more power (for maxing out the tow rating, or pulling Colorado passes with a full load of family people and camping gear), you can of course purchase with the larger engine.
Conclusion? The small windows and tiny pickup bed of the H3T are less than ideal. Beyond that, if you’re looking for a truck-like TAV with adequate but not massive storage, that can handle the burliest trails yet carve the pave, yeah. And the day you get to jerk your neighbor’s Prius out of a snowbank? That will be a good day.
Our tester MSRP is $44,745, but keep in mind that recent troubles in the automotive industry may result in a firesale. Depending on your trim level and option choices, all the usual navigation, sat radio and stuff like that are available for the H3T. We liked the sat radio. Perhaps an essential for a TAV? And nope, you’re not going to haul a long track snowmobile in the back of this thing, though it has plenty of tow capacity (4,400 lbs) for a sled trailer.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.