2009 HUMMER H3 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
December 18, 2008

The 2009 HUMMER H3T is the off-roader's dream of a factory-built pickup that is practical during the workweek and capable of outrageous off-road fun on weekends.

Truck experts from TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2009 HUMMER H3T on- and off-road in both its standard and Alpha forms. TheCarConnection.com's editors have then combined these experiences with careful readings of other trusted editorial write-ups to create this comprehensive review. What's presented here is a useful appraisal of HUMMER's first true pickup truck.

The 2009 HUMMER H3T is not an SUV with an abbreviated cabin and tiny bed (like the HUMMER H2 SUT). This smaller (in a relative sense) HUMMER weighs in at 2.5 tons and is nearly 18 feet long. Oblivious to today's gas prices, the 2009 H3T is HUMMER's first traditional pickup—meaning it has a four-door crew cab and a separate five-foot bed. Unlike other lines of pickups that offer many configurations, the H3T comes with only one cab/box combination.

The H3T has a wheelbase that’s some 22 inches longer than the standard H3 SUV. The HUMMER truck is also longer than the crew cab iterations of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size trucks on which all H3s are loosely based. On paper and in person, the 2009 HUMMER H3T is not a small vehicle.

However, compared to today's crop of full-size trucks, the 2009 HUMMER H3T might be what many pickup buyers are looking for. It's shorter than a full-size crew cab pickup by over a foot, and there's not another truck out there with the H3T's trademark styling. With the exception of the pickup bed, the H3T looks a lot like the H3 SUV, with a highly detailed appearance, including a very imposing, vertically straked grille, a high beltline, and boxy, Tonka-truck proportions. TheCarConnection.com likes the chopped look of the roofline, but those narrow windows do take some getting used to regarding outward visibility.

Review continues below

Inside, the 2009 HUMMER H3T shares the same front seats and the instrument panel as the H3 SUV. Neither is as exciting inside as it is outside; the instrument panel styling is remarkably generic, with rounded edges that contrast with the exterior, and doesn’t scream “HUMMER” in any way except for the brand badges. The rear seat of the H3T is unique to the HUMMER line, but is otherwise standard pickup fare with a three-person bench that folds up to open up floor space for cargo (total seating is for five). The Alpha's accented seat piping adds some visual interest to an otherwise duty-driven interior.

If you're an average driver who will never set a tire on anything so dirty as dirt, this HUMMER (or any HUMMER) is not for you. Ditto if you define yourself by 0-60-mph times. However, if you're inclined to go off-roading, the brand of performance in the 2009 HUMMER H3T is nothing short of remarkable.

As TheCarConnection.com discovered while rock climbing in Utah, a totally stock HUMMER H3T is capable of conquering trails that would strand, cripple, or tip over virtually any other unmodified four-wheel-drive truck or SUV. The H3T could tackle trails that were once the rarified domain of highly modified buggies, trucks, and SUVs.

However, most drivers don't go off-road, so their predominant experience will be on-road. In this environment, the 2009 HUMMER H3T's standard 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder feels anemic. This engine produces 242 horsepower with either a five-speed manual or an old-school four-speed automatic. That’s plenty for most vehicles its size, but the H3T weighs slightly more than 5,000 pounds. The Alpha-level 5.3-liter V-8 with 300 horsepower is optional. The V-8's 300 horsepower is welcome, but the four-speed automatic (in this age of five-, six-, and seven-speed automatic transmissions) seems like a missed opportunity for a transmission upgrade.

While the above equipment literally makes the H3T a rock star, day-to-day on-road comfort is still worth considering. The shape of the HUMMER H3T doesn't look aerodynamically svelte, but it does slip through, the wind generating very little wind noise that one can hear in the cabin. Additionally, the ride is rather soft, especially on smooth pavement. This means the truck can often deliver a comfortable drive. However, the huge tires dumb down the feel through the rack-and-pinion steering and reduce the truck's cornering ability.

TheCarConnection.com has found fit and finish on several test vehicles to be spot on, and even when punishing the truck on tough off-road trails, the body and interior of the HUMMER H3T remain squeak-free.

The 2009 HUMMER H3T has not been crash-tested at the time of this filing, although the H3 SUV has done very well in federal crash tests, where it earned four- and five-star results for frontal impact and five-star ratings for side impact. Regarding safety, the H3T helps drivers avoid potential accidents with standard stability control, anti-lock brakes, and traction control, though as tall as it is, the H3T does have a low three-star rating that indicates a higher-than-normal chance of rollover. Front and two-row head curtain airbags are standard.

When it comes to features, the 2009 HUMMER H3T is a pickup truck first and foremost. This is not intended to be an all-things-to-all-people vehicle. But recognizing that the driving public likes advanced gadgetry, HUMMER takes advantage of its access to the goodies in the vast GM toy box. Various configurations of OnStar are available, as are multiple entertainment systems and a voice-activated navigation system. Bluetooth connectivity to the audio system is standard. Given the H3T's limited outward visibility, the optional rearview camera system is a welcome option.

Behind the cab, the five-foot box incorporates GM's functional bed-rail accessory mounting system, as well as a removable tailgate. The bed in the 2009 HUMMER H3T is plenty big and can easily accommodate an ATV, a PWC, a snowmobile, or a pair of dirt bikes. Electrically locking front and rear differentials are optional, something off-roaders will appreciate.

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2009 HUMMER H3

Styling

Tonka-tough, military-grade, suburban tank—take your pick, since all are pretty apt descriptions of the 2009 HUMMER H3T's styling.

If you want a vehicle that looks tough enough to serve in the military, then you should shop from a brand that got its start designing military vehicles. If you want your military styling with a dose of pickup practicality, then the 2009 HUMMER H3T just might be the vehicle you've been looking for.

Edmunds writes that the new HUMMER H3T "is a midsize crew-cab pickup truck that's available in two trims levels: base and the more powerful Alpha." The exterior of the 2009 HUMMER H3T is, for better or for worse, one of the most distinctive in the pickup market, and both the base and Alpha versions of the HUMMER H3T are identical from the outside. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com generally appreciate the tough styling of the 2009 HUMMER H3T, which Automobile Magazine says has been stretched to make room for "a five-foot bed instead of making do with whatever would have fit on the H3's shorter wheelbase." Car and Driver says that the HUMMER H3T finally brings "visually correct proportions" to the H3 lineup and features a "boxy fuselage" that "is, by design, rather well suited to a boxy bed." Jalopnik describes it as "boxy and kinda cute like a GI Joe toy," while Edmunds says that "you'll likely dig the rugged styling cues (which include the industrial grille, the massive wheel flares and the armored-car-style windows)."

The inside of the 2009 HUMMER H3T is purposefully styled, but unfortunately it lacks the visual impact of the exterior. Edmunds calls the "overall design ... fairly handsome" but notes that the HUMMER H3T's "rather plain interior doesn't quite match its macho exterior." On the positive side, Jalopnik reports that "the instrument panel lighting is attractive and easy to read." One styling cue that is rather unique to the HUMMER H3T and other HUMMER trucks is what Autoblog describes as a "quirky rear-view camera" that displays its image "directly on the left side" of the rearview mirror face, which they say is "a much more graceful arrangement than the previous pop-out version."

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2009 HUMMER H3

Performance

It's hard to find a more capable stock off-roader than the 2009 HUMMER H3T.

Vehicles that are meant almost exclusively for off-road driving should be judged on their off-roading abilities, and that's why the 2009 HUMMER H3T, which can be woefully underpowered on the street, still manages to rate so highly in the performance category.

The 2009 HUMMER H3T lineup offers two engine choices. According to Edmunds reviewers, base HUMMER H3T models "are powered by a 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder engine that makes 239 hp and 241 lb-ft of torque," while the HUMMER H3T "Alpha features a 5.3-liter V8 (with 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque)." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the base engine's five cylinders are disappointing on the road but more than capable off-road. On the road, Car and Driver says that "the five-cylinder version is slow and ponderous and makes quite a fuss getting up to speed," but the big V-8 on the HUMMER H3T Alpha "brings acceleration into the acceptable realm," though "the 5069-pound hulk is far from quick." Off-road is where these trucks, and engines, truly shine though. While driving on trails winding through the Sierra Nevada mountains, Autoblog reports that the HUMMER H3T "has plenty of power to get up and over rocks" and "simply plowed on" over a variety of terrain. The 2009 HUMMER H3T Alpha is even more impressive, and Jalopnik says that "when put into Crawl Mode the holding power of the gears and engine braking are enough to keep the vehicle under control on grades up to 60 percent."

There are two transmissions available for the HUMMER H3T, but some reviewers are disappointed to learn that the 2009 HUMMER H3T Alpha only offers one of those two. Edmunds reviewers say that "the standard transmission is a five-speed manual" on the base model, while "a four-speed automatic is optional," and the HUMMER H3T Alpha gets only "a four-speed automatic transmission." Autoblog writes that the automatic transmission on the HUMMER H3T Alpha is "the equivalent of fire-and-forget" since you simply "put the truck in Drive, and pick a good line." However, Cars.com cites the "V8 engine and four-speed transmission" combination as one of the major weaknesses of the HUMMER H3T. They go on to say that "it's disappointing only a four-speed automatic transmission is paired with the 5.3-liter V8, because if a six-speed gearbox was available it would likely benefit the H3T with improved fuel economy," as well as better off-roading credentials. The HUMMER H3T base model's standard five-speed manual is a hit with Car and Driver reviewers, who love that "the unbelievable crawl ratio provided by the manual makes it remarkably tough to stall, even when traveling less than half-a-mile per hour."

Like most heavy trucks, the 2009 HUMMER H3T sucks down gas like a thirsty camel. Even with the low-output five-cylinder engine, the EPA estimates that the HUMMER H3T will get just 14 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway with either transmission. The V-8-powered HUMMER H3T Alpha fares even worse, scoring a measly 13 mpg city and 16 mpg on the highway.

Aside from its impressive off-roading abilities, the 2009 HUMMER H3T affords pretty decent on-road handling. Edmunds reports that the HUMMER H3T "performs admirably on pavement, with decent stability at speed." Despite its hefty curb weight, Jalopnik claims that the HUMMER H3T's braking system features "big discs at each corner [that] slow this thing down in a hurry."

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2009 HUMMER H3

Comfort & Quality

The cabin of the 2009 HUMMER H3T is comfortable, but the lack of bed length options is a disappointment.

HUMMER, like most GM brands, has benefited from an increased emphasis on interior design in recent years, and the 2009 HUMMER H3T boasts one of HUMMER's best interiors to date.

Cars.com reviewers write that the 2009 HUMMER H3T is capable of "seating five adults comfortably in a level of luxury that has become the signature of the brand." While it's true that the HUMMER H3T's rear seat has three seat belts, AutoBlog reviewers say that they "wouldn't want to be the guy in the middle for a long haul." When it comes to the front bucket seats, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the HUMMER H3T offers a very comfortable seating arrangement. Edmunds says that the "seats are comfortable," and Car and Driver adds that the HUMMER H3T "is quite comfortable inside." Autoblog also mentions that "the center seating panels are a mesh-like material, which looks good and is damn comfy." In terms of rear seat space, Edmunds writes that "rear-seat passengers enjoy ample legroom and decent support, but taller folks may find themselves uncomfortably close to the roof."

For a pickup truck with its generous proportions, the 2009 HUMMER H3T doesn't offer quite as much cargo space as you would expect. Edmunds says that although "the cargo box is about five feet long," which "is about the same as the offerings from the H3T's chief rivals," most of its competitors also "typically offer six-foot boxes as well." Jalopnik reviewers criticize the HUMMER H3T for its "enormous dimensions for relatively little storage space" and claim that "a plain old pickup would be cheaper and more practical."

Despite the fact that some reviewers drove pre-production test versions of the HUMMER H3T, all are impressed by the high build and materials quality on the 2009 HUMMER H3T. Car and Driver claims that the interior is "as nicely hewn as other recent products from GM, which is a compliment." Edmunds adds that "build quality is solid, but the H3T's competitors utilize nicer materials." While some other reviewers echoed this minor complaint, overall the comments on the materials are positive.

Like many vehicles that can boast high build quality, the 2009 HUMMER H3T offers a relatively quiet, isolated driving experience. Jalopnik is surprised to find that "the cabin is well-insulated from road noise." However, the five-cylinder engine on the base HUMMER H3T can get quite noisy during hard acceleration. Autoblog reviewers claim that if you "head up a steep incline...the engine turns into that guy at the gym whose moaning lets everyone know how hard he's working." Otherwise, the H3 is smooth sailing, by most accounts. Edmunds reports a "surprisingly smooth" ride, while Car and Driver agrees, recognizing "a measurable improvement in ride quality, thanks to the stretched wheelbase and a surprisingly low amount of wind noise."

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2009 HUMMER H3

Safety

The electronic safety systems on the 2009 HUMMER H3T are nice, but would it hurt to throw in some bigger windows?

The 2009 HUMMER H3T has not yet been crash tested by the governing bodies in the U.S., but various reviews and road tests read by TheCarConnection.com show that the HUMMER H3T is one safe, capable truck, especially off-road.

The 2009 HUMMER H3T incorporates an impressive list of safety features, most of which are aimed at buyers who will be taking their HUMMER H3T off the beaten path. Edmunds writes that "the OnStar communications system and full-length side curtain airbags" are standard on the HUMMER H3T, and OnStar should prove particularly helpful in the event of a major problem while off-roading. In addition to that, Autoblog says that "Hill Start Assist, Traction Control, [and] Electronic Stability Control" are also included on all 2009 HUMMER H3T pickups. During their road test, Car and Driver reviewers certainly appreciated the "hill-start assist, which holds the brakes for two seconds after pedal release," and they claim that "even off-road novices can appreciate how handy" the feature is.

While the 2009 HUMMER H3T offers enough off-road safety features to keep even the most demanding drivers satisfied, it is sorely lacking in one critical safety area—visibility. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously panned what Edmunds describes as "lousy outward visibility." Fortunately, Autoblog notes that a "rear-vision camera is a $550 option" that will definitely improve visibility to the rear of the 2009 HUMMER H3T.

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2009 HUMMER H3

Features

The 2009 HUMMER H3T offers countless bed configurations thanks to its endless accessories list and most of the requisite high-tech goodies.

The 2009 HUMMER H3T, like most pickups, is highly customizable. While it doesn't come in a wide variety of trims and body styles, it does make up for that with a tremendous options list.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the standard features on both the base HUMMER H3T and the 2009 HUMMER H3T Alpha are essentially identical. Edmunds reviewers report that both versions of the HUMMER H3T get "full skid plates, air-conditioning, cruise control, OnStar telematics, [and] Bluetooth connectivity" standard. Edmunds goes on to list "keyless entry, full power accessories and a six-speaker CD stereo with satellite radio" as the most noteworthy of the other standard features found on the 2009 HUMMER H3T. While that list is respectable, some reviewers object to the large price tag on the HUMMER H3T while some key standard features are left behind. Jalopnik, in particular, asks, "Where's the iPod jack? XM is great and all, but c'mon, even Aveo's have an AUX input jack these days."

When it comes to optional features and accessories, few vehicles can match the 2009 HUMMER H3T. Car and Driver writes that there are approximately "a kazillion accessories" available for the HUMMER H3T which "will allow lots of different drawers, cages, and enclosures to be attached to the bed or the roof." Two major options packages are also available for the 2009 HUMMER H3T. Edmunds describes the two options as an "Adventure Package [that] adds an off-road suspension, a shorter-geared transfer case...33-inch off-road tires and a Monsoon audio system," while "the Luxury Package comes with the Monsoon system, leather upholstery, power and heated front seats and oversized floor mats." Jalopnik lists the remaining standalone options as an "entertainment/nav system" and "rear vision system with camera built into the bumper and screen built into the rear view mirror."

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