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2007 Hummer H3

Exceeding Even Our Lowest Expectations

    In the interest of full disclosure we must confess we weren’t expecting a lot from the yellow H3 that GM sent our way. It didn’t help that our colleagues were reporting that the H3’s 220-hp I5 engine made for a seriously slow vehicle. We’re talking getting passed by a Chevrolet Aveo with an automatic transmission going uphill into a stiff headwind slow.
     The good news is our tester is a 2007 model, which means it’s motivated by an improved 3.7-liter I5 that bumps horsepower and torque to 242. GM’s lovely 4.2-liter I6 would be ideal for this buggy, but engineers can’t squeeze it in. We’ll have to be content with this variable exhaust valve timing, all-aluminum, 20-valve mill until some changes can be made.
     Carryover transmissions mean a 5-speed manual is still standard with a four-speed automatic boosting the bottom line by $1,695. GM had the good sense to allow access to each gear so hardcore off-roaders can manually select any of the four ratios by sliding the hefty gear selector to the appropriate gate.
     In its defense the automatic seems well-matched to the engine, but we think the do-it-yourself transmission might be fun in this type of vehicle. Of course, we’re in a small minority on that, but if we ever get to test one we’ll let you know if the upgrade is worth all those hard-earned greenbacks.
     This being a Hummer, the requisite off-road hardware is in place. All H3’s come standard with four skidplates and a seriously short 4.56 rear axle ratio. For another $1,875 the Off Road Suspension Package furthers the tough truck image by adding 16” chrome wheels wrapped in knobby 33” Bridgestone Dueler tires, an electronically controlled locking rear differential and a set of specially tuned shocks.
     Combine that hardware with the front and rear recovery hooks, the chunky fender flares and the spare Bridgestone hanging on the rear and the baby Hummer starts to look rather, well, brutish.
     Some of these components negatively affect the truck’s everyday functionality. The location of the spare tire means the rear gate has to swing out to the side instead of up, like on most SUVs. The side-hinged door can be difficult in tight spaces, but at least it opens easily, thanks to a strong gas-pressured shock.
     Serious rock crawlers, or anyone around 6 feet and up, will also want to avoid the $695 chrome side steps. They are prime candidates to receive a serious rock beating and taller passengers that use them will just have to fold themselves down into the cabin anyway thanks to the Hummer’s trademark chop-top style.
     We took the H3 to the muddiest field-access road we could find and it powered through without breaking a sweat, its all-terrain tires covering every inch of shiny surface with mud in record time. We’re positive the H3 would be able to conquer all but the most severe trails. We’re glad to report that the Hummer name still guarantees serious off-road capability.
     Leave the trails behind and merge back into civilization and the H3 copes surprisingly well. No, it’s still not fast, but few 4,700-pound SUVs are. Acceleration is now acceptable, with 60 mph coming in just under 9 seconds, and the same goes for the ride quality. We suspect the soft 285/75R tires absorb a lot of road imperfections; by today’s standards that is a lot of sidewall.
     It certainly rolls and dives a lot if you try to hustle it around corners or lay into the brakes. In fact, during our instrumented testing, we were slightly unprepared for the sudden and unsettling nose-dive and then slight pull to the right during each braking test. It probably felt worse than it actually was—we never left our lane—but an inexperienced driver could overreact in a panic braking maneuver and start sawing at the steering wheel and end up in a serious predicament.
     As you’d expect, there’s tire noise aplenty and a general compilation of other noises resulting from this brick-on-wheels punching a sizeable hole through the air. It’s not as bad as, say, a Jeep Wrangler, but it’ll make you appreciate the good Monsoon 7-speaker stereo system.
     The H3’s interior is probably the area that most exceeded our expectations. Considering the utterly horrid H1 interior and the mishmash of substandard plastics that form the H2’s cabin, we weren’t expecting much from the cheapest Hummer. Ironically, the little bugger has a perfectly adequate interior complete with comfortable leather seats and straightforward climate controls. The plastics on the doors and dash top still feel cheap but the brushed-aluminum looking plates on the center stack and around the clearly marked gauges look good.
     The climate controls couldn’t be easier to use and the thick-rimmed steering wheel looks and feels great. A positively mammoth sunroof is a $950 option. It seems a little overpriced at $3,230, but the Luxury package dresses things up further by adding leather, power, heated seats, a 6-disc Monsoon audio system, and nice floormats. A reasonably priced and easy-to-use navigation system can be had for $1,720 and a roof-rail airbag system with a rollover sensor commands $495.
     Folding the second row bench seat results in a surface that isn’t exactly flat but is covered in plastic so items easily slide into the 55.7 cubic feet of cargo area.
     As our time with the Hummer neared its end and we were forced to stop playing around in the fields and return to civilization, we realized the Hummer was a far better vehicle than we were expecting. It’s got quadruple the style of any other SUV out there, the upgraded engine makes for adequate progress on the highway and the interior is a comfortable place to be. We wouldn’t part with almost $43,000 for our tester, but you can do without many of the expensive options and come up with a capable SUV for under $35,000.

The Good:
Stands out in a parking lot, will get you through the worst winter weather, tows 4,500 pounds.
The Bad:
EPA fuel economy of 15/19 is the best you can hope for, side-hinged rear gate, poor visibility, overpriced luxury package.
The Verdict:
If looking good and going anywhere is your thing, then Hummer has your ride.


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