2014 Honda Ridgeline

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2006 Honda Ridgeline

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Honda finally enters the pickup market with a polarizing, innovative design.
Pros:
  • First Honda pickup
  • Innovative
  • Lively and comfortable
Cons:
  • Peculiar styling
  • Some cost cutting
  • Marginal fuel economy

Honda is well-known in America for every type of popular vehicle except a pickup truck, when pickups have been the top-selling vehicles here for decades.

Nobody really seemed to notice Honda's absence because its cars, sport-utility vehicles and minivans have been extremely popular. But the Japanese automaker finally was spurred to offer a pickup after discovering that some 50,000 of its customers annually bought pickups from other car producers.

That's just too many customers—and too many profits—to ignore.

Honda didn't have a potent V8 or rugged truck frame for a conventional pickup, but has managed to put one together as an early 2006 model, which recently went on sale.

The midsize Ridgeline is a car-like 4-door truck for those who want a roomy interior with good utility, along with the Honda nameplate. The all-wheel-drive Ridgeline has a "crew cab" body and a short 5-foot-long cargo bed.

The Ridgeline isn't meant to compete with burly full-size pickups such as the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram or Nissan Titan V8 models.

Three Trim Levels
Three trim levels are offered. The entry RT costs $27,700, while the midrange RTS is $30,075 and the top-line RTL lists at $31,490—or $34,640 with a moonroof, XM satellite radio and a navigation system.

All trim levels have plenty of comfort, convenience and safety features. There's even a power sliding rear window and side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor. The RTS adds such items as alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control and a better sound system, while the RTL adds features including leather upholstery and heated front seats.

However, there's obvious cost-cutting. For instance, the steering wheel tilts, but has no telescopic feature. And there's no driver vanity mirror on the sunvisor, although the front passenger has one that is lit.

Fun to Drive
Like most Hondas, the Ridgeline is fun to drive. Its quick, firm-feel steering provides confidence. The firm-but-supple ride is comfortable, helped by a long 122-inch wheelbase and car-like all-independent suspension.

Handling is sharp, and a stability/traction-control system is there if a driver gets in over his or her head. The anti-lock all-disc brakes work well, controlled by an easily modulated pedal. While designed mainly for on-road driving, the Ridgeline can handle moderately rough off-road terrain.

There's no V8, but a 3.5-liter 247-horsepower V6 with good torque delivers lively acceleration, at least with a moderate load. The engine sounds a little rough when pushed to high revs, but provides good 65-75 mph passing and is backed by a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission.

However, fuel economy is only an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway, partly because the Ridgeline weighs about 4,500 pounds. However, a 22-gallon fuel tank provides a decent driving range.

This new Honda has an offbeat appearance. There's an aggressive front end, no traditional pickup "break" in the body between the cab and bed, slanted bed sides and square-top wheel openings. Also, the tailgate top is lower than the adjacent sides of the rather high cargo bed, resulting in an ill-fitting look.

Fairly Handy Size
The Ridgeline is about as long as a Toyota Tacoma crew cab short-bed model, at about 207 inches. Thus the Honda is fairly easy to park, maneuver and garage, although it's nearly as wide as a full-size pickup at 76.3 inches. Count the width of the side mirrors and the figure jumps to 87.3 inches, although they can be folded flat against the front door glass.

Despite its polarizing styling, the Ridgeline looks solid. It feels the same way, thanks to car-like unibody construction said to offer about 20 times the torsional rigidity of traditional body-on-frame truck designs. But Honda still adds a truck-style ladder frame to help beef things up.

Innovative Features
The Ridgeline has excellent utility and innovative features. For instance, a car-like independent rear suspension allows room for a lockable 8.5-cubic-foot trunk under the rear cargo bed floor that can hold three sets of golf clubs or a 72-quart cooler.

The tailgate drops down conventionally, but also swings open sideways to allow easier loading of the trunk.

The bed is designed to be dent- and rust-resistant, with no need to add an aftermarket bed liner to protect it. While short, the rather high bed can hold mountain bikes or swallow a 4-foot-wide plywood sheet.

The 70.3-inch-high Ridgeline stands rather tall, so a little extra effort is needed to climb into its quiet, upscale interior. But all doors swing open wide.

The bottom of the 60/40 split rear seat easily lifts and locks against the seatback to create a large in-cabin cargo area.

Roomy
There's plenty of room up front, where occupants can enjoy supportive seats and where a driver faces a car-like dashboard with oversized gauge numbers and hefty major controls—but small sound system controls.

There's also plenty of room in the rear compartment, although the center of the back seat is too hard for comfort for a third adult occupant.

Front cupholders are large and placed to avoid spills, while the big fold-down center rear armrest contains deep cupholders. An interior grab handle conveniently put on the right windshield post can help front passengers get in and out. But an old-fashioned prop rod holds up the hood, which opens to reveal a sideways mounted engine and nicely designed engine compartment.

Towing Ability
The Ridgeline can tow up to 5,000 pounds. That makes it fall short of competitors such as the Dodge Dakota and Toyota Tacoma. But Honda found that most pickup owners who tow trailers don't haul more than 5,000 pounds, anyway. All Ridgelines come ready to tow, with no special towing package needed to provide such items as heavy duty brakes or a transmission cooler.

The pickup truck market isn't known for much creative thinking, so the truly different Ridgeline is a breath of fresh air.

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BB04 - 7/10/2014 3:50:02 AM