If there's one brand General Motors has to ax in order to keep the lights on, it certainly isn't Hummer, one of the last automotive brands solely devoted to the truck-based SUV.
Under normal circumstances, this is a weak argument. For an automaker that bet so heavily on large SUVs instead of creating a competitive, diverse lineup, for a company that oversold to rental fleets and destroyed resale values with incentives, and (circle all that apply) the problems with the unions/economy/gas prices/environment, Hummer is the obvious red ink on GM's balance sheets.
Never mind Hummer's Congressional-level approval rating. Most people can't tolerate looking at this testosterone-fueled beast, let alone park next to it in a cramped lot. The drivers are often labeled idiotic, wasteful, and mean to mother earth. Anti-SUV zealots dump gas and throw matches. Regular drivers and pedestrians pray these absurd vehicles don't crush, chomp, and spit them out. None of this looks good for Hummer.
But when all hell rains and everyone else slips and gets stuck, the world gets a little kinder to the 2009 H3T Alpha. Envy replaces hate. Admiration drowns out contempt. People stop staring at the extraterrestrial pulling into a space (now covered with a foot of snow). The driver is suddenly practical, benevolent even, as he pushes a friend's Mazda with a light feathering of the gas. Such is the grace and power of a 9.5-inch ground clearance, 32-inch tires, and front and rear locking differentials. Such is GM's near-perfection in building heavy-duty trucks, a superiority that isn't worth selling.
With XM radio tuned to classic jazz and the heater humming, driving an H3T in a winter storm is like relaxing with a cup of cocoa in your living room. You see flakes and the temperature gauge reading 20 degrees, but you don't feel a thing. The cabin is quiet and well-insulated, the transfer of torque seamless. Crusty plow snow piled along side streets are no barriers, slippery U-turns across Green Line tracks no stress. It isn't until you get out and see the slush-caked tires, frost-covered roof and icicles hanging off the steel tow hooks that you realize what you've been through.
While I don't speak four-wheel drive, a few simple dash buttons provided extra grip when the H3T spun its wheels where regular cars and SUVs would have died. Shift the transmission into neutral, activate low speed, and just for fun, lock the rear differential. A few revs from the 5.3 liter V-8 and the H3T shakes loose. I wanted to tempt the baby Hummer into a really deep rut, and then laugh as its beefy frame struggled to climb out, but the truck was unfazed by some of my more foolish antics.
That said, Hummer drivers may still be idiots. But they're the ones who will make it home - every time.
(Can you guess my fuel economy? Hint: It's under 20. Stay tuned for more Hummer updates.)
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