2008 HUMMER H3 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 24, 2008

Unless you love the style or genuinely value the off-road capabilities of the 2008 HUMMER H3, it doesn’t realistically make a very good everyday SUV.

TheCarConnection.com’s SUV experts read the latest reviews on the new 2008 HUMMER H3 to put together this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com’s experts also drove the HUMMER H3 and include more information and opinions where relevant. This review compares the 2008 HUMMER H3 with other vehicles in its class, to provide you with the best advice and to help you decide which reviews to trust.

HUMMERs used to be big and bad. Remember the awe-inspiring if impractical HUMMER H1? With military heritage and genuinely amazing off-road capabilities, this giant Class 8 truck launched General Motors' HUMMER division. HUMMER has been downsizing ever since. Slotting in under the still huge HUMMER H2, the H3 debuted in 2006. Since then, the 2008 HUMMER H3 finally gains what it's needed: a V-8 engine.

The experts at TheCarConnection.com weren't overly impressed with the first HUMMER H3. With a 3.5-liter inline-five cylinder engine, the 4,700-pound SUV felt completely out of its element on regular roads. It was slow and handled poorly compared to more conventional SUVs.

Things got a little better (very little) when the larger inline-five was introduced. It displaced 3.7 liters and produced 242 horsepower. Those who are good at math will quickly see that the HUMMER H3's power-to-weight ratio with the five-cylinder is still nothing to brag about. Responding to complaints about the H3's lethargic on-road character, HUMMER added a 5.3-liter V-8 to its H3 sport-ute for the 2008 model year. The engine is stuffed into a new model dubbed the H3 Alpha.

Review continues below

The 2008 HUMMER H3 Alpha version--the latest in a series of Alpha models spun off the H2 and H1 utes--spins out 295 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque through a heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The drivetrain boosts the H3's towing capacity to 6,000 pounds. Editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven both HUMMER H3 models back to back, and they vastly prefer the power of the V-8 (sourced from GM's full-size trucks and SUVs). However, the H3 is still a heavy lump, so even with the V-8, this is not a quick SUV, although now you won't get smoked from a stop sign by a kid on a Big Wheel. A modern six-speed automatic would help matters.

As unhappy as the 2008 HUMMER H3 may be on-road, conversely it is thrilled when taken off-road. There, every detail engineers sweated comes into play as the SUV goes places that only a handful of stock vehicles would ever intentionally venture and expect to return unscathed.

All H3s come standard with an electronically controlled four-wheel-drive system sporting traction control, underbody shielding, an optional rear locking differential, and the buyer's choice of two tire packages: Goodyear 32-inch, all-terrain tires or Bridgestone 33-inch off-road tires. All H3s have 9.1 inches of ground clearance, and serious off-road performance is also aided by the maximum approach angle of 40 degrees and maximum departure angle of 37 degrees.

For 2008, safety equipment is upgraded to include side curtain airbags, stability control, and tire pressure monitors. A rearview camera and a navigation system are optional. Rear parking assist and navigation systems are available, as is OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation.

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2008 HUMMER H3

Styling

The 2008 HUMMER H3 has the chiseled good looks of its H2 sibling and an upscale interior.

The 2008 HUMMER H3’s styling is tough and ready to rumble off-road, according to reviews from across the Web and the resident HUMMER experts at TheCarConnection.com.

Smaller than the H2, the 2008 HUMMER H3 is "hard to discern" from its big brother, Edmunds points out. The HUMMER H3 has all the regular styling elements such as "the industrial grille, the massive wheel flares, [and] the armored car-style windows," but at half the cost and size of the much larger H2, hence the attraction. “The H3 exudes toughness to the point of being almost ridiculous,” Cars.com observes, “what with its bulging fenders, short side windows and massive tires.” Automobile says, “You can easily imagine the design stamped across the chest of some caped character with disproportionately large biceps,” though Motor Trend notes that “the baby Hummer offers a design consistent with the larger H2--so much so that it tends to be invisible when driving around town and not get nearly as many gawks the H2 once did.” Alpha versions, Cars.com adds, get “chrome door handles and mirrors, as well as 16-inch chrome wheels and a badge on the swing gate.”

Inside the 2008 HUMMER H3 is a more sedate cabin than you might expect. ConsumerGuide appreciates the numerous "soft-touch surfaces" in the HUMMER H3 2008, as well as the "simple white-on-black gauges" and the ease with which they can be read, while Car and Driver simply calls it “cleanly styled.” Automobile reports “the opulent cabin is expectedly upscale,” while Motor Trend believes “the interior design is just about the best on a GM truck in a long time. The simple center stack and superior materials on knobs and flush surfaces set a new standard for Hummer.” Edmunds quibbles, “the H3's rather plain interior doesn't quite match its macho exterior,” though.

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2008 HUMMER H3

Performance

The 2008 HUMMER H3 is slow going in five-cylinder trim, but V-8 versions are unstoppable off-road and surprisingly balanced on the street.

The 2008 HUMMER H3 offers a choice of engines, but with either, lousy fuel economy clouds its otherwise competent on-road handling and truly impressive off-road capability.

MyRide.com elaborates on what's under the hood, noting the base model HUMMER H3 2008 contains a "3.7-liter five-cylinder engine that offers 242 horses and 242 lb.-ft of torque," while the H3 Alpha has a "5.3-liter, 16-valve aluminum engine pushing 300 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 320 lb.-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm."

For city driving, says Edmunds, the 2008 HUMMER H3 has "sufficient punch to handle the cut and thrust"; however, when faced with inclines and merging on the freeway, it grows a little "winded." At 4,700 pounds, the HUMMER H3 is missing the power to pull the weight. Motor Trend feels “the I-5 is just adequate for on-road driving in five-speed manual form and is just plain anemic when equipped with the four-speed auto, especially in urban running.” In the V-8 version, Cars.com notes, “Hummer says the Alpha can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in about 8 seconds, which isn't bad when you consider the SUV's near 5,000-pound curb weight.” Edmunds adds the engine makes it "sound like Bigfoot." Automobile observes, “The new engine's capabilities are even more impressive when you look at the standard H3's barely adequate inline five-cylinder engine, which has been known to frustrate drivers on long ascents and highway on-ramps.”

Cars.com notes that the five-cylinder HUMMER H3 is "the first HUMMER offered with either a manual or an automatic transmission." The Alpha version, Edmunds reports, comes only with a four-speed automatic. A "four-speed automatic transmission works with a full-time four-wheel-drive system," says MyRide.com, "featuring a low range, optional locking rear differential, and the added strength of a cast-iron front differential housing." When all of these components are put together, you end up with "a rig now capable of towing up to 6,000 pounds (the five-cylinder H3 tows up to 4,500 pounds)." Motor Trend explains further: “The four-wheel-drive system itself is full-time, splitting engine torque 60/40 (back to front) during normal pavement conditions, but is able to send as much as 100 percent of available torque to the front or rear wheels when needed.” All H3s have 9.1 inches of ground clearance, and serious off-road performance is also aided by the maximum approach angle of 40 degrees and maximum departure angle of 37 degrees.

Fuel economy is an issue, of course, with the brawny HUMMER H3. Automobile says, “Like all Hummers past and present, the H3 Alpha's V-8 will be criticized for its combined government fuel economy rating of 14 mpg. But there is a bright side; all that extra power comes with only a 1 mpg penalty compared to the significantly weaker in-line five.” The EPA rates the HUMMER H3 at 14/18 mpg with the five-cylinder, and 13/16 mpg for the eight-cylinder. According to ConsumerGuide, the HUMMER H3 2008 "averaged 17.1 mpg in a mix of city/highway driving"; however, the Alpha trim level "averaged 13.1 mpg in city driving."

Gas guzzler or not, the HUMMER H3 handles well. Edmunds says the HUMMER H3 2008 has "serious off-road ability" and provides a "smooth ride on pavement" along with stable handling. “While there's no hiding its considerable curb weight in the corners it feels surprisingly stable, with predictable body roll,” they report. Even so, MyRide.com notes the "On-road ride is harsh." ConsumerGuide points out the "H3 is prone to bobbing at high speed," but it is "reasonably agile with no excessive body lead in turns." The steering is "responsive," though some testers experienced "mushy brake pedal action." However, “off-road, it really shines,” Automobile observes, “Its feel is certainly less truck-like and more comfortable than the uplevel H2, making it a fine choice for hauling kids, cargo, or going off on weekend road trips.”

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2008 HUMMER H3

Comfort & Quality

Tall passengers might be cramped in the 2008 HUMMER H3 and cargo space is a bit skimpy, but seats are comfortable and materials are of high quality.

The 2008 HUMMER H3 sports a comfortable cabin that suffers from some visibility issues due to its unique design; engine noise is noticeable, too.

Edmunds touts the "comfortable seats" in the 2008 HUMMER H3 and says that this "tough truck" just might be ideal for a family who takes the occasional road trip. There is "ample legroom" with "decent support" in the HUMMER H3 2008 for those riding in the back, but those who are taller "may find themselves uncomfortably close to the roof." If you opt for the Alpha, MyRide.com says "those seated up front" will be "comfortable," plus there is "decent overall room and a padded center armrest." However, shorter passengers may have an issue getting up into the HUMMER H3. Also, the rear bench "lacks thigh support" for passengers, and the window sills are hard. The door armrests are plastic, and there is no center armrest.

ConsumerGuide praises the "large rubber-floored cargo area" in the HUMMER H3 2008, commenting it's "usefully shaped." However, the "side-opening single piece rear hatch is large and heavy"--problematic in tight spaces. Cars.com on the other hand appreciates it, noting it is "great for loading" and that the "cargo area is 37 inches tall and 42 inches wide," with a maximum length of 63 inches. Despite all the cargo room, however, interior storage in the cabin is "limited" with just the glove box, "tiny door pockets, and small center console." Edmunds reports, “Cargo capacity, at 29.5 cubic feet (seats up) and 55.7 cubes (seats folded) is below average for this class, though the side-hinged cargo door provides easy access.”

Edmunds says that the build quality on the HUMMER H3 2008 is merely "ok, but its competitors utilize nicer materials." According to Cars.com, the fit and finish of HUMMER H3 suffer compared to the H2, while Motor Trend reports the opposite: “Seating materials feel durable and are of higher quality than current H2 interiors." MyRide.com is less forgiving, calling the plastic covering on the back sides of the front seats "crummy"; Cars.com notes, “The backs of the rear seats are finished in hard plastic, which should make it easy to slide cargo on them, but also makes them easier to scratch.” However, Consumer Guide argues that the "assembly of test models has been very good."

As for engine noise in the H3's cabin, ConsumerGuide says it is "surprisingly well-muffled" and there is "Generally little highway wind noise." Edmunds says the “low, muscular hum from the V8's exhaust is just about right for a butch SUV like the H3” but calls the five-cylinder H3 “raspy.”

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2008 HUMMER H3

Safety

The 2008 HUMMER H3 has good crash protection, but visibility can be a problem.

Great crash scores and safety features make the 2008 HUMMER H3 a safe SUV.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the 2008 HUMMER H3 a score of five stars in crash tests for frontal driver protection and side impact passenger protection; the H3 earned four stars for frontal passengers protection and side impact driver protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the HUMMER H3 a rating of "acceptable," though, in its more stringent tests.

According to Edmunds, "Antilock disc brakes, traction control, stability control, the OnStar communications system and full-length side curtain airbags" all come standard on the H3.

Several optional safety features are available for the HUMMER H3 2008, including a "back-up camera display screen, which hides within the rear view mirror housing, and automatically slides out into view when summoned," says Automobile.

When it comes to visibility in the HUMMER H3 2008, ConsumerGuide has much to complain about, noting, "Aft visibility is compromised by thick roof pillars and narrow glass openings." Likewise, the "hatch-mounted spare tire" on the HUMMER H3's exterior "blocks much of the rear window."

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2008 HUMMER H3

Features

The 2008 HUMMER H3 has plenty of features to help off-roaders, though families may long for a rear-seat entertainment system.

Uncomplicated extras and useful basics make the 2008 HUMMER H3 stand out in the feature department, according to TheCarConnection.com's experts.

Edmunds notes the three trim levels available on the 2008 HUMMER H3. The base model includes "6-inch alloy wheels, full skid plates, air-conditioning, cruise control, [and] OnStar telematics, keyless entry, full power accessories and a six-speaker CD stereo with satellite radio." With the H3X, you'll add the "Monsoon audio system with CD changer, leather seating, power and heated front seats, a host of chrome accents and 18-inch chrome wheels" to the HUMMER H3 2008. Should you opt for the Alpha, you'll get "a V8 engine and the interior luxury features of the H3X, but [it] has 16-inch chrome wheels and lacks the exterior gingerbread of such things as the chrome brush guard and side steps." However, as Cars.com observes, if you wish to have the luxuries of the H3X trim level on your HUMMER H3 2008 along with the Alpha trim level, you now can do so.

Other features include a climate system that only uses three large dials, says MyRide.com. The controls to the Monsoon audio system are also "logically placed" and "well-labeled." ConsumerGuide calls the HUMMER H3 package "sensibly-sized," though the optional navigation system has "fussy buttons."

Two option packages can be applied to the base HUMMER H3 2008 model. They are the Adventure package and the Luxury package. The Adventure package includes "off-road suspension, a shorter-geared transfer case for better hill climbing and descending, a locking rear differential, 33-inch off-road tires and a Monsoon audio system with a six-CD changer," says Edmunds. Meanwhile, the Luxury packages adds the Monsoon system to the HUMMER H3 along with "leather upholstery, power/heated front seats and oversized floor mats." A navigation system and rearview camera can also be added.

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