THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Hummer H3 Alpha midsize SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: The all-new performance-oriented H3 Alpha boasts not just off-road capabilities but also on-road manners that may be the envy of many competing SUVs. The ride is solid but smooth, soaking up potholes and other road irregularities with confidence and poise.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 5.3-liter V-8 engine boasts a healthy 300 horsepower at 5200 rpm and cranks out 320 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. The engine is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, which results in a responsive drive train. And get this: The H3 Alpha can scoot from 0 to 60 mph in a mere eight seconds. Thanks to an independent suspension consisting of a front SLA torsion bar and a rear multi-leaf spring, the SUV exhibits excellent balance and stability. Towing capacity is notable at 6,000 pounds. The brakes, which are equipped with 12.4-inch front and 12.8-inch rear discs, convey an unyielding pedal feel. They operate inside 16-inch wheels shod with 265/75 tires. The SUV has a maximum approach angle of 39 and a departure angle of 37, which is plentiful to tackle the deep ruts on an off-road trip.
LOOK & FEEL: Sitting on a welded steel frame, the H3 is "chromed out," starting with chrome on the horizontal seven-slot grille, exterior door handles and mirror caps. More evidence of the Alpha model is apparent with badging on the tailgate as well on the horn pad badge and embroidered front headrests. Ebony leather on the cushiony seats, steering wheel and bulky shifter knob conveys a tasteful appearance. Also a part of the standard Alpha package are eight-way power front seats, AM/FM stereo with 6-indash CD player, seven-speaker Monsoon system, fold-flat rear seats and air conditioning. I found the inside rearview mirror with its auto-dim feature, compass and temperature indicators invaluable.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system.
OUT THE DOOR: $38,645, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. The $850 rear vision system - a hidden camera automatically pulls out from behind the rearview mirror while backing up -is well worth it.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P265/75R16; wheelbase, 111.9 inches; length, 186.7 inches; weight, 4,854 pounds; fuel capacity, 23 gallons; city, 13 mpg; highway, 16 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Heading off to a rough terrain for some off-roading? Or maybe you're just heading to work at city and highway speeds. With the H3 Alpha, you can enjoy both drives while firmly ensconced in a comfortable and performance-oriented SUV. The Hummer tagline, "Like Nothing Else," sums it up well.