Honda’s unique pickup entry

Published 9:39 am Monday, March 9, 2009

It’s been three years since the Honda Ridgeline broke into the truck market with its unique interpretation of a “lifestyle pickup.” With Honda’s typical innovative design and quality execution, the bold-looking Ridgeline uses features like a unibody platform and novel In-Bed Trunk to set itself apart from the full and mid-size pickups that dominate the market. Honda may have built a better mousetrap with the Ridgeline, but the world hasn’t exactly beaten a path to the dealerships. Sales have declined annually since the peak of just 50,000 in the first year to about 34,000 last year.

We think the Ridgeline makes a lot of sense for most buyers unless they need to haul big loads or pull heavy trailers. The unibody construction creates a more spacious and comfortable interior space with room for five adults. It is loaded with convenient storage compartments in the doors, center console and there is even compartment under the rear seat with enough space to hold a golf bag. With the rear seats folded up there is enough room to carry a full-size mountain bike with the front tire removed.

The five-foot-long cargo bed is wide enough to carry standard 4×8-foot sheets building material and the bed is 79-inches long with the tailgate down, making the load hang out a few inches, but it’s workable. The bed is also nicely suited for carrying a couple of dirt bikes or other adult toys, which can easily be secured with the built-in system of eight tie downs. Ridgeline has a payload capacity of just over 1,500-pounds and is rated to pull up to 5,000 pounds. The feature that gets the most attention from first-time lookers is the In-Bed Trunk, which holds 8.5 cubic feet of cargo in a lockable watertight compartment under the rear section of the bed. It is a great space, but don’t put things you need often down there if you’re carrying something else in the bed.

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Available in three trim levels, RT, RTS and RTL, all the Honda trucks are powered by a 3.5-liter, 250-hp VTEC V-6 engine, with a five-speed automatic transmission and a Variable Torque Management® four-wheel drive system. Zero to 60 mph acceleration takes 7.7 seconds and fuel economy is rated at 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. We averaged 19.1 mpg in mostly highway driving. The four-wheel independent suspension provides a smoother ride than in conventional pickups plus it has better handling characteristics.

All models get a full complement of standard safety equipment including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist. Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control helps prevent spins and rollovers. It also has a tire pressure monitoring system.

Pricing starts are $28,870, including destination for the RT, and goes to $34,850 for the RTL. The navigation and Bluetooth adds $2,350 to the price of the RTL. The RTL model is equipped with a power moonroof, leather seating, heated front seats, XM radio, fog lights and 18-inch alloy wheels. Like all Hondas, there are no options other than color.

The Honda Ridgeline is basically an SUV with a pickup box on the back and is well thought out and versatile. We especially liked the ride comfort, performance along with easy entry and exit. We are both fans of Honda’s user-friendly navigation system.