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If you understand what we just wrote, you'll also understand why we recommend the 5.3-liter V8 over the standard 3.7-liter inline 5-cylinder engine.
Even though hard core off roaders will appreciate the I5's 70:1 crawl ratio, it only has 242-hp and 242 lb-ft and a 4.56 rear axle (what is this, a HD pickup?). We think you’re going to find yourself out of gas, so to speak, at speeds over 65-mph with the I5. The V8's extra horsepower and torque are well worth the extra few dollars because you’ll get better overall performance on and off-road. However, it’s disappointing only a four-speed automatic transmission is paired with the 5.3-liter V8, because if a 6-speed gearbox was available it would likely benefit the H3T with improved fuel economy (which hasn’t been announced yet) and off-roadability.
A Hummer rep tells us the H3 family will receive GM's new 3.6-liter V6 gasoline direct injection (GDI) motor in the not too distant future. We expect this will be the end of the I5 in the Hummer lineup.
On the back half of the trail Hummer engineers take the H3T from our novice hands to demonstrate its extreme capabilities in two optional 'challenges'. The first is "Hell's Gate" and the second, amusingly, is called "Tip-Over Challenge". Both require the use of the H3T’s front and rear e-lockers.
Picture Hell's Gate like a big horseshoe, where the open side marks the entry and exit points and the round part is pointed downhill, at what looks to be a 25 to 30 degree angle. The descent follows a V-shaped rift in the sandstone, where the gap is reasonably centered between the H3T's wheels. It's coming back up the other side of Hell’s Gate that's incredibly difficult (you can see it in the video on page 1). The rift on the far side changes to a shape like a V leaning to one side – with one wall near vertical and the other at a shallow angle. Ascending requires a spotter to help the driver keep the passenger side wheels on just the right line. If the line is lost, the vehicle can slide down the wall leaving its passenger side flush with the rock – not good for the vehicle or forward motion. The spotter also serves as the eyes of the driver because all the person steering can see is blue sky. It takes two tries, but the H3T manages to slowly walk its way up Hell's Gate. At times only three wheels are touching the earth.
Tip-Over Challenge doesn't appear difficult at first glance. The giveaway is its large cloudy patch of tire blackened rock, instead of two neatly spaced worn rubber lines. A sandy base doesn't provide much traction before hitting its slick slanted face. Even with both lockers engaged the H3T quickly overcomes the rock's static coefficient of friction, making the tires squeal in protest as they slip. Still, the truck slowly climbs up the challenge. Lesser rigs that have tried this obstacle have flipped over on their backs, like desert tortoises falling on the tops of their shells.
The rest of the drive was difficult but manageable. Several times we bottomed out the H3T's extended wheelbase but the underbody shielding protected the delicate parts. By the end of the trail, except for a bent rear license plate, the truck wasn't worse off for the wear.
It's difficult to imagine a more capable factory off-road pickup than the Hummer H3T. With front and rear electronic locking differentials, a 5.3-liter V8 and a footprint that places it somewhere in between mid-size and full-size pickups, Hummer has created a class all its own. This is the truck for serious rock hounds who work their truck hard during the week and even harder on the weekends. Jeep wishes they had this truck.
Assuming the American Axle strike doesn't last through the summer, the first Hummer H3Ts should arrive at dealers by September. Pricing hasn't been announced.
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