Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

WARREN, MI – General Motors Corp. will show the ’09 Hummer H3T, a 5-passenger pickup that fits between the midsize and fullsize segments, at next week’s Chicago Auto Show.

The vehicle arrives at dealers in the third quarter.

Carl Zipfel, director for Hummer design, says the H3T combines the brand’s pillars of distinctive styling and tremendous off-road capability with an extra dose of cargo space and more agreeable driving dynamics than its big brother, the H2T.

“Our No.1 priority is off-road,” he tells Ward’s during a preview of the H3T at GM’s design and technical center here. “It’s superior to any (vehicle) in the segment. And it’s a little longer with the cargo box, but still a great everyday driver. It’s a nice balance of size and proportion, given its capabilities.”

From the B-pillar forward, the H3T resembles the H3 SUV with which it shares a platform and manufacturing site in Shreveport, LA. But to accommodate its 5-ft. (1.5 m) cargo bed, GM stretches the H3T’s wheelbase 22 in. (55 cm) compared with the H3.

Zipfel says the cargo bed will hold any number of outdoor-oriented “toys,” and shows it off to the media holding his personal motorcross bike. The cargo box boasts roughly 36 cu.-ft. (1,010 L) of space.

A number of available accessories punctuate GM’s characterization of the H3T as an “escape vehicle.”

These include removable and lockable bed-mounted storage boxes, an adjustable bike chock to securely fasten mountain bikes or motorcycles, a bed extender to optimize the cargo-management system and a rail system for ladders or skis.

Zipfel says the accessories goal is to accommodate any “lifestyle component” owners might want to put in the cargo bed. GM mounts a spare tire beneath the bed to free up more space.

The crew-cab design retains the H3’s capacity for five adult passengers. A 60/40-split rear bench offers additional cargo-carrying options. The H3T also borrows the H3’s contemporary interior styling, a polished execution that focuses on premium materials and top-notch fit and finish.

GM placed an overriding priority on the H3T’s off-road capability in an effort to maintain a brand character that dates back to the first H2 in 2002 and the military-bred H1 from 1992.

The H3T will arrive with full-time 4-wheel drive, 32-in. tires and four skid shields as standard equipment. Customers can add optional front and rear locking differentials and 33-in. tires that provide 102 ins. (259 cm) of ground clearance.

A body-on-frame with fully boxed components contributes superior strength and stiffness, GM says. The auto maker will offer two suspensions: a heavy-duty handling and trailering setup that balances on-highway comfort and off-road capability, as well as an off-road package designed for more aggressive performance.

GM lists its approach angle at 38.7 degrees and the departure angle at 30.1 degrees with the 33-in. tires. This refers to the steepness of a slope or obstacle a vehicle can climb without contacting the underbody. Those dimensions allow the H3T to climb a 60% grade, 40% side slope and ford water 24 ins. (61 cm) deep.

Powertrain combinations include a standard 3.7L inline 5-cyl. engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission that produces 242 hp and 242 lb.-ft. (328 Nm) of torque.

An optional 5.3L V-8 with a 4-speed automatic transmission provides 300 hp and 320 lb.-ft. (434 Nm) of torque, with a towing capacity of 6,000 lbs. (2,721 kg). Both combinations use regular gasoline, although fuel-economy figures have not been released.

While the auto maker intends to downsize the Hummer range and raise its environmental profile as the brand expands internationally, E85 capability remains noticeably absent from the H3T’s powertrain options despite a proliferation of flex-fuel engines in GM’s portfolio of cars and trucks.

The blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline trims greenhouse-gas emissions with a small sacrifice in fuel economy, GM says. Hummer General Manager Martin Walsh promises a complete lineup of flex-fuel powertrains – E85 in the U.S. and biodiesel overseas – for the brand by 2010.

“We’re making progress on that (target),” Walsh says during the H3T preview. “We’ll live up to that commitment.”

The H2 will receive the lineup’s first flex-fuel capability in the ’09 calendar year in the U.S.