Pros: Innovative chassis and suspension design; large passenger space       

Cons: Poor fuel economy; spare tire is inaccessible when bed is filled

Originally out in the U.S. in 2005 as a 2006 model, the Ridgeline has remained virtually unchanged, but for 2012, Honda has added a new Sport model to the Ridgeline lineup. Starting at $29,250, the Ridgeline is available in RT, Sport, RTS and RTL form. The RTL is available with navigation, which includes such features as Zagat restaurant information.

The Ridgeline is based on the same unibody construction as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX. But Honda has added a secondary ladder-truck frame to the Ridgeline, which adds further strength. Differentiating the Ridgeline further from the rest of the pickup market is its four-wheel independent suspension. It creates extra space under the bed that Honda has used for below-bed trunk space.

The Ridgeline has only one engine and transmission combination: a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and a five speed automatic transmission, just like Honda's Pilot SUV.

Comfort & Utility

The Ridgeline features a 60/40 split lift-up rear seat. Lifting the rear seats provides enough additional storage space to accommodate a golf bag or even a mountain bike, if you remove the front wheel.

The tailgate can be opened in the traditional fold-down method, like most modern pickups, but also in a swing-out fashion. This is especially useful for access to the 8.5-cubic-foot in-bed trunk. This trunk area is about the size of a large cooler and, like a cooler, has removable rubber drain plugs that allow ease of drainage.

Behind the passenger cabin is a five-foot cargo bed with eight tie-downs and four lights for use in nighttime loading and unloading of the bed and the in-bed trunk. It has a payload rating of 1,100 pounds.

Technology

Standard features on the 2012 Ridgeline include cruise control, power windows and door locks and a power sliding rear window, keyless entry, a heated wiper zone and a six-speaker, 100-watt audio system with CD and MP3 playback capability.

The 2012 Ridgeline, like the rest of the Honda lineup, is available with satellite navigation with voice recognition. If you choose a Ridgeline with the navigation system, it has a digital compass that eliminates the compass in the rear-view mirror on other Ridgeline models, adding to rear visibility..

Featured on upper-level Ridgeline models are XM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, a multi-information display and a backup camera.

Performance & Fuel Economy

As with its SUV stablemate, the Honda Pilot, the Ridgeline is only available with one engine and transmission combination: a 3.5-liter V6 producing 250 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. The Ridgeline's towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, and it has a half-ton of in-bed payload capacity. Every Ridgeline includes an all-wheel-drive system that saves fuel by primarily operating as a front-wheel-drive system. When the front wheels begin to slip, however, the system sends power to the rear wheels to help with traction.

The combination chassis design is extremely flexible and strong. However, it does add weight, which cuts fuel economy. The EPA has rated the Ridgeline at 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

Safety

All 2012 Ridgelines are equipped with multiple standard airbags and restraint systems, including driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags with passenger-side occupant position detection system, two-row side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, front seat active head restraints; a tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. The Ridgeline also includes Honda's electronic stability control, which applies brake force to a wheel suffering from limited traction and sends power to another wheel with more traction.

Driving Impressions

The Ridgeline is a stand-alone vehicle, because of its design but also because of the way it feels to drive. Unlike other pickup trucks on the market, the Ridgeline has a mostly front-wheel-drive setup. The powertrain, identical to that of the Honda Pilot, feels the same as the SUV to drive. The Ridgeline's power delivery is peppy and smooth, although the five-speed transmission means it suffers in performance at highway speeds.

Aside from the annoyances of having a mid-size pickup truck with torque steer issues, the Ridgeline is quite refined. The driver and passenger seats are comfortable, steering is light and responsive and braking is sharp. For someone looking for the utility of a truck without the feeling of driving a truck, the Ridgeline is perfect. It will be disappointing, though, to those who enjoy and want the true truck-driving feel and experience.

Other Cars to Consider

Chevrolet Avalanche - Starting at $36,800, the Avalanche is stylistically the closest competitor to the Ridgeline. The base Avalanche is rear-wheel drive only and features a 5.3-liter V8 producing 320 horsepower. Surprisingly, in spite of having 70 more horsepower than the Ridgeline, the Avalanche has the same EPA fuel economy ratings.

Suzuki Equator - To option the Equator up to a four-door, four-wheel-drive version, customers will need to shell out $28,699. At that price, the Equator is fitted with a 4.0-liter V6 producing 261 horsepower.

Toyota Tacoma - As with the Equator, to option the Tacoma up to a utility level equivalent to the Ridgeline, customers will be looking at paying $27,335. The double-cab four-wheel drive Tacoma has a 4.0-liter V6 producing 236 horsepower coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission.

AutoTrader Recommends

Aside from the addition of navigation, the Ridgeline doesn't change much as customers ascend the model range. We recommend buyers stick to the basics with the base RT model, priced at $29,250.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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