Let me start by saying I have owned a total of 4 Jeeps in the last 10 years. I had 2 Wranglers, one with the 4 cyl, one with the straight 6, 1 Cherokee Pioneer 4cyl, and a Grand Cherokee with the 318....
Let me start by saying I have owned a total of 4 Jeeps in the last 10 years. I had 2 Wranglers, one with the 4 cyl, one with the straight 6, 1 Cherokee Pioneer 4cyl, and a Grand Cherokee with the 318. When I owned them I thought they were the greatest thing in the world and no wannabe Hummer driving panzie was going to tell me different. Which starts me off with the biggest con of owning an H3: Jeep Fanboys. As a former ill informed Jeep lover - please allow me to tell you exactly what's up with the H3.
The motor: 3.5L Straight 5, some call it lackluster, unimpressive or downright bad. I think those are a little exaggerated. When compared with ANY Wrangler the H3 has much more usable power throughout the entire speed range. Compared to a Grand Cherokee with a 318 or 360 of course it's not going to keep up.
The Tranmission: 4 spd Auto, Old tech lifted from a larger Silvarado series, yes it's heavy and shifts like any larger GM pickup. It's also tough as nails. When paired with the 4:1 low range transfer case with push button selection it'll provide enough power to the wheels to do whatever you need.
Front End: Has an aluminum housed differential with half shafts for independent suspension held up by easy to adjust torsion bars. Pretty standard stuff here, but if you're looking for tough go with the 2009 with the adventure package which is a stronger housing with an electric locker in it.
Rear end: Standard straight Axle sitting on leafs. The Adventure package gives you an e-locker in the rear for 2006 all the way up through.
Body styling: Massive tow hooks that are tight enough so they don't rattle, big fenders, love it or hate it. Metal skid plates are great and are standard, chrome coated side steps provide easy access and double function as rock sliders.
Interior: On par with most Cadillac or other high end luxury vehicles. Very nice leather, nice looking dash, good heating and cooling system. The optional Monsoon sound system sounds great. On startup the dash comes to life - the warning lights seem to stay on for a while which makes me think GM skimped on an ECU. Nonetheless everything functions great. Some of the seat control buttons are hard to get to.
On the road: Very quiet interior, pretty nimble, and handles as though it's much smaller, though the view out the front would have you believe you're driving a yacht. Very tight turning radius, compliant suspension. Not as good as a Lexus or Cadillac, but better than the Jeeps.
Off road: It's as close as you can get to a 4 Door Wrangler X in capability while still having a vehicle that's nice to drive. The wheel base is a little longer than 2 dr. Jeeps, which means planning your turns. the stance is also a little wider though, so it allows for more stable driving on a slope. It feels very sure footed whether in mud, snow, climbing rocks or driving through deep water. I'd say it's as good as any stock Jeep and can hold it's own with many of the lifted Jeeps in the area.
All in all, I see why people hate the H3. It is very comfortable and capable. Now that they're all a few years old and struts are starting to wear out and they are becoming more affordable I can't wait to see what happens when people set them up to be even better off road.