Pros: Innovative chassis and suspension design; large passenger space
Cons: Poor fuel economy; spare tire is inaccessible when bed is full
What's New: Backup camera standard on all trims
Originally launched in the U.S. for 2006, the Ridgeline has remained virtually unchanged except for a refresh for 2012 and the addition of a Sport trim. In fact, the base 2013 Honda Ridgeline even keeps its price for the new model year. Starting at $29,350, the Ridgeline is available in RT, Sport, RTS and RTL trims. The RTL is available with navigation, which includes features like Zagat restaurant reviews.
The Ridgeline is based on the same unibody construction as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX, but Honda has added a secondary ladder frame to the Ridgeline for greater strength. Further differentiating the Ridgeline from the rest of the pickup market is its 4-wheel independent suspension. It creates extra space under the bed that Honda uses for storage.
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 with the front wheel removed.
The tailgate can be opened in the traditional fold-down method like most modern pickups but can also swing out from a side hinge. This is especially useful for access to the 8.5-cu-ft in-bed trunk. This trunk area is about the size of a large cooler, and like a cooler, has removable rubber drain plugs.
Behind the passenger cabin is a 5-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 lbs.
Standard features on the 2013 Ridgeline include cruise control, power windows and door locks, a power sliding rear window, keyless entry, a heated wiper zone and a 6-speaker, 100-watt audio system with CD and MP3 playback capability.
The 2013 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, a digital compass eliminates the compass found in the rear-view mirror of other Ridgeline models.
Featured on upper-level Ridgeline models are XM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a multi-information display.
Performance & Fuel Economy
Like its SUV stablemate, the Honda Pilot, the Ridgeline is only available with one engine and transmission combination: a 3.5-liter V6 producing 250 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. 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 Ridgeline's towing capacity is 5,000 lbs, and its in-bed payload capacity is just over a half-ton, the benchmark among full-size pickups.
The combination chassis design is extremely flexible and strong. However, it does add weight, which cuts fuel economy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Ridgeline at 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.
All 2013 Honda 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, 2-row side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor and front seat active head restraints. A tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights further contribute to safety. The Ridgeline also includes Honda's electronic stability control, which applies braking to a wheel suffering from limited traction and sends power to another wheel with more traction.
The Ridgeline is in a class of its own due to its design but also because of the way it drives. Unlike more traditional pickups, the Ridgeline has a mostly front-wheel-drive setup. The Ridgeline's power delivery is strong and smooth, although the 5-speed transmission hampers performance at highway speeds.
Aside from the unusual feeling of driving a pickup truck with front-wheel-drive-style torque steer, 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 feeling like you're driving one, the Ridgeline is perfect. It may be disappointing, though, to those who prefer a true truck experience.
Other Cars to Consider
Chevrolet Avalanche: Starting at $36,975, 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 hp. Despite having 70 more hp than the Ridgeline, the Avalanche has similar EPA fuel economy ratings.
Nissan Frontier: Loading the Frontier up to a 4-door, 4-wheel-drive SV version similar to the Ridgeline costs $27,890. Fitted with a 4.0-liter V6 producing 261 hp, the Frontier has more towing and payload capacity than the Ridgeline.
Toyota Tacoma: Like the Frontier, the Tacoma is priced lower than the Ridgeline; it costs $27,585 with similar equipment. The double-cab, 4-wheel drive Tacoma has a 4.0-liter V6 producing 236 hp coupled with a 5-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is only 3,500 lbs unless you select the optional tow package.
Aside from the addition of navigation, the Ridgeline doesn't change much as customers ascend the model range. We recommend buyers stick to the base RT model, priced at $29,350. It comes well equipped, and shoppers with utility in mind get much of what makes the Ridgeline great at an attractive price.