Honda Ridgeline — Created for weekend tasks and adventures

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It seems incredible that Honda’s first foray into the pickup truck world — the un-truck-like Ridgeline with a unibody chassis — is into its fifth model year and has been in showrooms for the better part of six years.

What has remained the same over those six years is our opinion that the Ridgeline, based on the previous Honda Pilot/Acura MDX SUV platform, is still a great choice for the suburban family who occasionally needs the utility of a pickup bed and the towing capacity capable of hauling a boat, motorcycle trailer or a pair of jet skis to weekend getaway spots.

• The Ridgeline can tow up to 5,000 pounds. We got a first-hand demonstration of this back in 2005 when Honda officials directed us to tow a nearly 5,000-pound trailer through a cone-marked course in the parking lot of San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. The exercise was an eye-opener.

• All Ridgelines come with an all-wheel drive system that moves torque from front to back as needed making the truck mo
re user friendly, for instance when hauling a boat out of the water on a wet boat ramp. The system has no low range but a dashboard switch will lock in rear-wheel torque for tough situations, and should work well on winter streets.

• The Ridgeline four-door has a spacious back seat that can easily accommodate three adults. As in most mid-sized vehicles, two people in back are much more comfortable, but here leg room and shoulder room for three is very adequate.

• Gear can be stored out of the weather when four or more passengers are on board by utilizing a unique lockable storage area in the truck bed just forward of the tailgate. Within easy reach, it will accommodate a large 72-quart cooler or three sets of golf clubs or a couple of suitcases and duffel bags. It also has a drain plug which means it can be loaded with ice and drinks for a tailgate party. And it can be hosed out. Even after six years, the competition doesn't have anything to match it.

• The tailgate can be folded down in conventional manner, or can be opened from the side. Honda officials point out that this feature makes it a snap to clean dirt and debris from the gap between the tailgate and the bed.

• And the truck has a comfortable ride and possesses the handling of a mid-to-large sized sedan because, unlike a typical body-on-frame truck, the Ridgeline is basically a unibody sport utility with a five-foot-long pickup truck bed carved out of the rear third of the vehicle.

Although the Ridgeline is hundreds of pounds lighter than most conventional pickup trucks its size, it still weighs in at portly 4,564 pounds and takes a beefy engine to successfully move it forward in an expeditious manner.

Nothing has changed in this regard since it was introduced in 2005. The Ridgeline carries on with Honda’s much-used 3.5-liter V-6 generating 250 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque with the aforementioned standard all-wheel drive. The power is directed through a five-speed automatic transmission.

The engine in our estimation is barely just big enough to adequately handle the truck under moderate-to-heavy loads. After our towing demonstration several years ago we concluded that the Ridgeline is indeed capable of successfully pulling things up to its 5,000 pound limit. But accomplishing that feat while loaded to its 1,550 payload limit might prove a bit taxing.

The Ridgeline offers no performance bragging rights. And even with its all-wheel drive setup, it’s not an off-road vehicle. We will class it a good all-weather companion. And you might be dismayed at the Ridgeline’s fuel economy, which was mid-pack six years ago, but really falls short by 2010 standards.

For performance comparison, the unloaded Ridgeline can climb from 0-to-60 in 9 seconds and complete a quarter mile in about 17 seconds reaching a speed of 82 mph.

While we didn’t have a problem with performance for what it is, we were a bit dismayed at the Honda’s brake feel. The Ridgeline brakes felt a big mushy, especially compared to the three vehicles we had road tested in the 10 days before taking delivery of the Ridgeline. One magazine test of a 2009 edition, reported a rather longish stopping distance— especially for a vehicle weighing less than 5,000 pounds — of 140 feet from 60 to 0. Just know it takes increased foot pressure pounds to stop the Ridgeline so there are no surprises.

Then there is the mileage bugaboo in this age of once again increasing gas prices. The Ridgeline is expected to achieve 15 mpg in city driving and 20 on the highway using regular gas. That's the same rating as a full-sized four-wheel drive Chevrolet Silverado with a 5.3-liter V-8 engine. Disappointing considering it’s a Honda.

In the six model years since introduction there have been few major changes of importance and that is the biggest disappointment. Not that Ridgeline is bad, it’s just not as modern as it could be, magnified by the expectations we have of Honda.

On the other side of the coin as you would expect from a Honda vehicle, the interior is very inviting, comfortable and user friendly. The driver’s seating position is excellent and visibility is good. Controls are straight forward and fall nicely to hand. The driver’s seat at first felt a bit firm, but after the miles peeled away, the seat actually became more comfortable. We didn’t go a long distance without a stop, but we believe we could without discomfort in the Ridgeline.

There are numerous well-thought-out features for the front-seat passengers. We particularly like the large, unique grab handles built around the door handles. They are located exactly where your hand wants to go to pull the door shut. Storage bins abound including an open bin above the glovebox.

The rear seat bottoms can be folded up flush with the seatbacks in a 60/40 configuration for considerable cargo storage. When the seats are used for passengers, they will find adequate leg room and plenty of head room. While the seatback rake is acceptable, it may not be comfortable enough for long-distance travel, however.

There are four trim levels — RT, RTS, RTL and RTL with navigation. Prices start at $29,160 including destination and work up to $37,490 in top trim.

As with many Honda products, you purchase the trim line to get the options you want. There are no individual option packages available. And as you might expect, even the base RT edition comes with a myriad of standard equipment that should suit most buyers.

Our top line RTL with navigation carried a $37,490 bottom line.

We think the Ridgeline is still a good fit for the guy who occasionally has to pick up a load of supplies at Home Depot, carry the mower over to grandma ‘s house for yard cleanup, carry the kids to school or who enjoys pulling his camper or boat for weekend getaways. But if you’re a heavy commuter get a Civic and park the Ridgeline for use on those free days.


Base price: $29,160; as driven, $37,490
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 250 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 247 foot-pounds @ 4,300 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 122 inches
Length: 207 inches
Curb weight: 4,564 pounds
Turning circle: 42.6 feet
Luggage capacity: 9 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 22 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 20 mpg highway, 15 mpg city
0-60: 9 seconds (
Also consider: Chevrolet Avalanche, Toyota Tacoma crew cab, Nissan Frontier crew cab

The Good:

• Agile handling and refined ride for a truck
• Innovative storage compartment under cargo bed
• All-wheel drive standard

The Bad:

• Only one engine available

The Ugly:

• Gas mileage anemic