The big news for HUMMER H3 fans is the expansion of Alpha series — which represents the division’s pinnacle of performance, both off and on the road.

The H1 Alpha was the first “ultimate” HUMMER engineered in conjunction with GM’s Performance Division.

The 2008 HUMMER H3 Alpha brings with it a 5.3-liter V-8 engine delivering 300 horsepower and 320 lbs.-ft. of torque that expands the H3’s towing capabilities to 6,000 pounds — a 33 percent increase over the base H3 powered by the 3.7-liter I-5 engine.

As you would expect with the Alpha designation, there is also a lot of luxury features added to the long list of HUMMER amenities, which includes 16-inch chrome wheels, special Alpha identification and embroidered “Alpha” insignias in the front headrests.

While that’s the “big news” for the ‘08 H3, HUMMER’s mid-size, four-door, five-passenger sport utility, there are a few enhancements and additions to the popular-selling model.

New child safety locks for the rear doors and easier-to-use power window switches have been introduced while the ‘08 models now feature standard head curtain side airbags.

Standard safety features also include StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, four-wheel anti-lock brakes with traction control, dual front airbags with passenger sensing system, tire pressure monitoring system and LATCH rear child seat anchors.

One of the optional features that I really like is HUMMER’s Rear Vision system that uses a camera mounted in the rear bumper to provide the driver with a real-time view of objects directly behind the vehicle.

Even though the H3 is the smallest vehicle in the HUMMER lineup, it’s not exactly what I would call a small vehicle.

The extra set of “eyes” when backing up comes in handy, especially when the system incorporates a monitor that springs out of the rearview mirror when you put the vehicle in reverse.

Not only does it provide a view of what’s behind the vehicle, the monitor displays a set of guides, which work in conjunction with the steering that shows the driver exactly where the vehicle is going.

For someone who has expanded the 3-point turn into a 42-point maneuver, God bless the folks who came up with this wonderful piece of technology.

Another optional feature is OnStar turn-by-turn navigation. I have become a huge proponent of navigation systems.

I have to say, you really don’t miss the monitor with the OnStar system. And I really don’t miss programming in a destination — which depending on the system can be extremely complex. With OnStar turn-by-turn, all you do is push a button and when the operator comes on the line, tell them where you want to go. The system provides audio guidance every turn along the way. It’s a piece of cake.

HUMMER fans will love the H3 Alpha. For those in the market for a go-anywhere-do-anything SUV, it’s well worth a test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.