Ridgeline a New Type of Truck
By Jim Bray
It looks like a truck, acts like a truck, and has a truck’s utility.
But it’s a Honda.
Honda calls its Ridgeline a new type of truck, and it’s hard to argue
with that assessment. Who, after all, has seen a truck that comes with a trunk?
Or the type of “magic tailgate”
that used to be a standard fixture on North American station wagons of the
1960’s, opening either sideways or down in the traditional way, depending
upon which latch you use?
It’s the kind of original thinking combined with creative
“mimicking” that helped the Japanese manufacturers reach the heights
they currently occupy, taking inspiration where warranted and blazing their
own trail in other ways.
The result is a Honda pickup truck that’s utilitarian, tough, comfortable,
and even pleasant to drive. It’s quite remarkable. I’m not a truck
guy, but I could easily live with the Ridgeline. And while truck aficionados
might look down their noses at the Ridgeline, I have a feeling there are thousands
of others who need a truck’s utility periodically but who want a comfortable
and civilized vehicle the rest of the time. For them, the Ridgeline may be
the perfect compromise.
My week with this innovative Honda began with my first impression that this
relatively ugly new beast, aesthetically, was also a sloppy new beast, with
loose steering and a soft suspension. But that impression was formed in no
small part by the fact that I had just stepped out of a week in the Mazdaspeed
Miata, a car so tight it almost seems to handle by brain power (yeah, I know,
but I managed to drive it anyway). Once the Miata magic wore off I came to
appreciate the way the Ridgeline drives, whether in urban areas or out on the
didn’t take it off road, alas, but expect it would perform well there,
too, within reason. Remember, though, that no low-range feature is available,
so serious off roaders may find the Ridgeline wanting. People who only need
casual off road use probably won’t mind, though.
The Ridgeline’s overall appearance seems to be inspired by the Chevy
Avalanche and its stable mates, which is not necessarily a good thing. Its
boxy body is possibly Honda’s least attractive (okay, there’s the
Element, too), but this could be a deliberate attempt on the company’s
part to craft an image for the Ridgeline as a strong and utilitarian machine – which
The Ridgeline is powered by Honda’s 3.5 liter V6 ULEV engine that cranks
out a healthy 255 horsepower @ 5750 rpm and 252 lb.- ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
that gets the horses to the road via a smooth five-speed automatic transmission.
The truck does have plenty of get up and go. It’s tow-rated for 5000
pounds and features Honda’s drive-by-wire throttle system. I didn’t
haul or tow anything of substance in the Ridgeline and so can’t comment
on its performance in this respect, however.
The half-ton payload capacity Ridgeline features an integrated closed-box
frame with unibody construction, four-wheel independent suspension and Honda’s
on-demand VTM-4 all wheel drive system. The five-foot-long bed comes with a
coating that is supposedly dent and corrosion resistant, which could eliminate
the need for a bed liner. My tester had been around the block a few times and
the bed had some scratches and signs of wear, but nothing outrageous and nothing
you wouldn’t expect from such a vehicle.
marvelous trunk is recessed below the floor of the bed, offering about nine
cubic feet of space that you can lock. And it’s waterproof, with a drain
at the bottom, so if you’re into tailgate parties it would make a fabulous
cooler to fill with ice and beer. The spare tire is also in there, on a raised
shelf that’s hard to reach, so you may have to search for some lost beer
cans if you don’t load the trunk just right.
But what a great idea! In one swell foop, Honda has given truck owners a space
outside the cab in which you can lock valuable stuff that otherwise could be
stolen from the bed.
The bed also features such nifty touches as heavy duty tie-down cleats, integrated
bed lights with an off timer, and even motorcycle wheel indents, just in case
you want to haul a motorcycle (preferably a Honda, undoubtedly).
Inside, the cab is truck like, but not truck like at the same time
– and doesn’t that sound nonsensical? It’s roomy and comfortable
yet utilitarian, with high seating positions and it includes typically Honda
thoughtful touches such as a big center console that’s configurable in
an amazing variety of ways and which would probably be an excellent place to
smuggle contraband until the customs folk figure it out.
tester had the optional 8 way power driver’s seat that was also covered
in leather and equipped with a bun warmer. The driving position is very good,
though there are also some bad blind spots that can rear their ugly heads when
you’re merging into traffic and/or shoulder checking.
The inside front doors have strange-looking “chromish”
handles surrounding the real door handles that look like they should be the
door handles, but which are actually ideal for grabbing on and holding when
you’re hitting rough patches in the road. They look weird, and they
make getting at the real handles a little more difficult (but only a little),
but they work well and make good conversation pieces on boring drives.
My tester also came with dual zone climate control, cruise control, power
windows, and cruise control activated by steering wheel-mounted controls (there
are audio controls on the steering wheel as well).
The optional audio system in my test Ridgeline featured 160-Watts of reasonably
clean power and 7 Speakers including a subwoofer. There’s also an MP3/digital
media auxiliary jack. The system features an AM/FM radio and a separate CD
6 disc changer that sits behind the LCD screen, which saves space in the dash
but is a pain in the butt to use.
just to exacerbate the damn lawyer’s screen that comes with the navigation
system, when you lower the screen to access the CD changer, the screen displays
a warning icon reminding you not to use it as a shelf – as if there’s
room for that anyway!
The navigation system works well, but I had a couple of weird experiences
with it. The first one was when I was approaching a simple right turn and the
virtual babe told me to turn left and then burn a U-turn (!), while the second
was merely a matter of the data being out of date and indicating a left turn
onto a freeway on-ramp that has since been rebuilt to a standard cloverleaf.
The rear seat, accessible by large doors, is roomy and comfortable for two,
and okay for three. Its high bottom cushion splits 60/40 and folds up out of
the way to offer a pretty large hauling space behind the front seats.
Thoughtful touches include a power sliding rear cabin window, keyless remote
entry, a security system, a reasonably large but “road noisy” power
moonroof, variable intermittent windshield wipers with a heated wiper zone
on the windshield.
Driving the Ridgeline garnered all sorts of looks from other drivers, perhaps
because it’s so new and unique. Even better than that, driving the Ridgeline
was about as pleasant experience as I can imagine getting from a pickup truck.
Honda appears to have knocked its first pitch at the pickup market right out
of the park, in its own unique way.
Having watched Honda evolve over the past thirty years, I’m not really
The Ridgeline sells for $27,000–$32,000 US/$34,800 Cdn. ($43,900 Cdn. “as