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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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee