With this new Ridgeline pickup truck, Honda has taken everything that's good about the Odyssey minivan, the Element SUV and Pilot SUV, and made the newest, most innovative pickup truck on the American market.
The all-new 2006 Honda Ridgeline doesn't look or act like any other pickup truck we've ever driven. It has a family storage solution in its bed that no other pickup truck can match. And it won't cost an arm and a leg to buy or to operate. Honda says the main competition for the Ridgeline comes from Dodge Dakota, Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Explorer Sport Trac and Toyota Tacoma on size and function.
Pickup trucks have traditionally been built with a separate nose section, cab section, and cargo bed, bolted to a separate ladder frame, but this first Honda pickup uses both a welded unibody construction and a steel ladder frame, welded together, with the cab and cargo bed made as one piece, with separate subframes for the engine, front suspension and rear suspension. Honda says it is 20 times more resistant to twisting than any other pickup truck, and 3.5 times more resistant to bending. Honda says the Ridgeline can carry 1550 pounds of cargo or tow up to 5000 pounds.
The Ridgeline is one of the nicest midsize trucks we've driven in terms of comfort and ease of use, though some of the others in this class have a bit more dash and flash inside. At the high end, Ridgeline will be offered with a DVD satellite navigation system, displayed on an eight-inch-wide screen, plus XM Satellite Radio, leather seating surfaces and a moonroof.
The Ridgeline will be sold in three different levels of standard equipment, but there are no exterior badges on the tailgate to indicate the model.
The RT ($27,700) is the base model, followed by the RTS ($30,075) and RTL ($31,490) versions, topped by the RTL with a navigation system, XM Satellite Radio and a moonroof ($34,640).
RT has black bumpers, black door handles and steel wheels while the other two use body-color handles and bumpers and alloy wheels. RT has manual seats, RTS and RTL power seats. RT has no lumbar support, RTS has manual lumbar, and RTL has power lumbar. The base RT audio system pumps 100 watts, the other two 160 watts and seven instead of six speakers. RTS has alloy wheels, 6-disc changer, dual-zone climate control, and eight-way driver's seat. RTL has heated leather seats, HomeLink, and XM.
Options include XM Satellite Radio, an MP3 digital interface, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls on RTS and RTL, satellite navigation and a roof-mounted DVD entertainment system.
All models are powered by the excellent Honda 3.5-liter engine, all models will have a five-speed automatic transmission, and all models will have Honda's automatic VTM-4 all-wheel-drive system that normally proportions drive 60 percent to the front wheels, 40 percent to the rear, and can go to 30/70 when necessary. It incorporates a limited-slip differential and a Lock feature.
Safety equipment standard on Ridgeline includes anti-lock brakes, traction control, vehicle stability assist, standard all-wheel drive, front multi-stage airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, lap and shoulder belts for all seating positions and LATCH systems for each of the three rear seating positions. It adds up to more safety equipment than any other truck in its class, according to Honda.
We said that the Ridgeline doesn't look or act like any other pickup, whether it's from America or Japan, and it doesn't. The grille, the front end, the cab shape, the buttresses coming down off the rear of the roof to join the integrated pickup bed, all seem to have been deliberately designed to be shockingly different.
The standard grille looks busy, but an optional grille is available through the Honda accessory program, one of about 50 items already developed for dealer installation. The profile view features a lot of metal sculpturing from end to end that normal pickup trucks with separate beds don't have.
Ridgeline's bed is made of steel-reinforced SMC plastic, not steel with a sprayed-on or slipped-in liner. The cargo bed is five feet long with the tailgate up, and six and a half feet long with the tailgate down, enabling it to carry two dirt bikes or a large ATV. A tubular aluminum cargo bed extender is available for longer loads. There are four large retaining chocks for cargoes, one in each corner of the bed.
The cargo bed features a tailgate that opens normally but also opens like a door, with a hidden latch on the lower right side and hinges on the left, so users don't have to lean across the tailgate to store or retrieve items in the bed or in the storage trunk. The tailgate is retained by a conventional cable on the left and a patented, hidden retainer on the right.
At the rear of the bed is the single feature that separates the Ridgeline from all the rest, a covered, sealed and lockable 8.5 cubic-foot storage compartment that will hold a 72-quart cooler, several sets of golf clubs, or what-have-you, with the compact spare tire mounted forward of that on a sliding, locking tray. The trunk is fitted with a drain plug for those times when ice turns to water, or when accumulated crud needs to be hosed out.
Inside, the Ridgeline is all about comfort, convenience and space, which Honda says it has more of than any other truck in the class. Bucket seats come standard in front with a center console. The split folding 60/40 rear seat is actually comfortable for two adults, with a 24-degree backrest angle, more like a front seat. A 6-foot male driver would be able to fit behind himself in the back seat with ample leg room and knee room.
We found the driver and front passenger seats to be roomy, comfortable and supportive, with plenty of adjustment range for rake and travel. Although the rear doors are shorter than the fronts, standard practice in this segment, there's no problem getting in or out, and the rear seat is nearly as roomy and versatile as the front, with a split/fold feature for large covered cargoes and under-seat storage like an airliner for even more family stuff.
The instruments and controls follow the Odyssey, Pilot, and Element trucks in style and layout, with large, easily readable graphics throughout. The 8-inch screen navigation system, optional on our RTL test model, is a paradigm for size, brightness, contrast and overall ease of use.
The Honda Ridgeline is a relatively heavy vehicle with its four doors, five seats, all-wheel-drive system and independent front and rear suspension, but the V6 engine is low-down powerful, gutsy and flexible, without the thrashiness of some V6s. The transmission upshifting and downshifting was instantaneous, decisive, and nearly imperceptible. ABS brakes were sure stoppers in an unladen condition with one passenger.
The incredibly high stiffness and strength of this body and chassis combination and the isolation of the drivetrain and suspension from the cab make the Ridgeline a joy to drive. It is quieter and more refined than all of the major competition, all of which we drove on the same day over the same course, without a lot of jarring inputs reaching the driver's seat or fingertips. Independent suspension front and rear is an industry first in this segment, and the ride over choppy surfaces or off-road is excellent.
The stiffness of the body and chassis contributed to crisp, sure handling over twisty two-lane roads in San Diego County. The combination of all-wheel-drive and the industry's only vehicle stability system on a midsize truck lets the driver fly around corners with abandon. It felt lighter on its feet than the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Toyota Tundra TRD, and Chevy Colorado.
The new Honda Ridgeline borders on the revolutionary, from its dramatic new look to its tailgate and storage innovations to its combination of body-on-frame isolation and unibody stiffness, all at very reasonable prices. We'd like to have more power, but we found little here not to like, bizarre front-end styling aside. Honda says it will have 50,000 of these to sell over the next 12 months, and we say you'd better hurry. For those contemplating a family recreation or commuting pickup truck for the first time, this one goes to the top of the shopping list.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Jim McCraw filed this report from San Diego.
|Model Line Overview |
|Base Price (MSRP) |
|Model lineup: |
|Honda Ridgeline RT ($27,700); RTS ($30,075); RTL ($31,490) |
|255-hp 3.5-liter V6 |
|5-speed automatic |
|Safety equipment (Standard): |
|ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, traction control, Vehicle Stability Assist; front multi-stage airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, lap and shoulder belts for all seating positions, LATCH |
|Safety equipment (Optional): |
|Basic warranty: |
|3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: |
|Alliston, Ontario, Canada |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): |
|Honda Ridgeline RTL ($31,490) |
|Standard equipment: |
|air conditioning, power steering, power disc brakes, power windows, power locks, bucket seats, center console, cruise control, message center, trip computer, floor shift |
|Options as tested: |
|XM Satellite Radio, navigation system, moonroof |
|Destination charge: |
|Gas Guzzler Tax: |
|Price as tested (MSRP) |
|all-wheel drive |
|3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): |
|255 @ 5750 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): |
|252 @ 4500 |
|5-speed automatic |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: |
|16/21 mpg. |
|122.0 in. |
|206.8/76.3/70.3 in. |
|Track, f/r: |
|67.1/66.9 in. |
|Turning circle: |
|Seating capacity: |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: |
|40.7/57.6/40.8 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: |
|39.1/57.2/36.4 in. |
|Cargo volume: |
|Towing capacity: |
|5000 lbs. |
|Suspension F: |
|independent, MacPherson strut |
|Suspension R: |
|independent, multi-link with trailing arms |
|Ground clearance: |
|8.2 in. |
|Curb weight: |
|4494 lbs. |
|Brakes, f/r: |
|disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist in. |
|Fuel capacity: |
|22.0 gal. |