Along with its eye-catching looks, the 2008 Hummer H3 provides a surprisingly competent drive both on-road and off. However, competitors offer a better blend of performance, fuel economy and cargo capacity.
From afar, the 2008 Hummer H3 is hard to discern from its bulkier H2 brother. And that's the idea; the smaller Hummer H3 has all the brand's signature styling cues -- the industrial grille, the massive wheel flares, the armored car-style windows -- that make these life-size Tonka trucks so appealing to so many consumers.
But the whole point of the H3, and the reason why it's Hummer's best-selling model, is that it's much more reasonable in terms of size and cost. The H3 is a little more than half the cost of the H2, and it's easier to park as well. Off-road, the H3 can still rock with the best of them. With its aggressive approach and departure angles, generous ground clearance, standard skid plates and optional 33-inch off-road tires, there's no denying the H3's extreme capabilities on rugged terrain. Hard-core off-road enthusiasts can even opt for a 4:1 low-range gearing that allows the H3 to creep down very steep trails without using the brakes.
However, the smaller H3 also carries on another unfortunate Hummer tradition: a heavy curb weight. Even though it's the junior member of the Hummer family, it still weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. And although its 3.7-liter inline-5 was pumped up last year to 242 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque, it's still not enough to move with any verve something that weighs more than a Lincoln Town Car. Alas, a savior comes this year in the form of a new Alpha trim level. Its muscular 5.3-liter V8 engine cranks out 300 hp and 320 lb-ft. Hummer claims a 0-60-mph time of 8.0 seconds for the new Alpha, which is a respectable time but hardly thrill-inducing.
Although it may not be speedy, the H3 is not without its daily charms. In the real world of after-school activities, big box stores and commuting to work, the H3 proves surprisingly adept. The ride is smooth over broken pavement and the seats comfortably accommodate four adults, although as with the H2, rear-seat headroom is tight.
As such, the 2008 Hummer H3 can be a satisfying vehicle to own, especially for those drawn to its distinctive styling and macho image. But there are better overall midsize SUVs out there. Other models like the Nissan Xterra, Toyota's FJ Cruiser and 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee offer stronger performance, better fuel mileage, a nicer interior and more generous cargo capacity.