At just under 4500 pounds, the Ridgeline is much more nimble than a Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 that weighs in at over 5500 pounds. But the SuperCrew is rated to tow up to 9200 pounds with its V8 engine. The Ridgeline is not as spirited and off-road capable as a Tacoma DoubleCab 4x4, but it has more interior volume and extra storage options. The Dodge Dakota is much more stylish than Ridgeline, but the Honda offers a brilliant navigation system and standard side-curtain airbags.
The Ridgeline will fit the exact needs of many pickup customers and meet the demands of most others who don’t require severe-duty capability. Yet there is no pickup equal on the market when it comes to on-road manners and expanded utility in the bed.
Key to this remarkable balancing act is a solid frame and body structure. Honda starts with a closed-box, ladder frame, and then integrates into a reinforced unibody. The rear cabin panel is beefed for two reasons: protecting occupants from sliding cargo in the bed and adding stiffness and rigidity to the overall chassis. Honda claims the Ridgeline chassis is 20 times stiffer in torsional rigidity than the “best performing body-on-frame compact truck” and has bending rigidity that is 2.5 times stiffer.
Early reports on the Ridgeline speculated the truck would be a Honda Pilot with a bed. Not true. The Ridgeline shares only a handful of parts with the Pilot. The frame channels alone are 70 percent taller than the Pilot. The suspension design is based on the Pilot, but the components are beefed up considerably and altered as necessary to handle the extra payload and towing stress. The front suspension is a MacPherson strut arrangement while the rear is a multi-link with trailing arm. Teamed with the stiffer chassis/body, this suspension offers a quiet, controlled ride that beats any competitive claim that their truck rides like a car.
For an extra measure of safety and performance, Honda offers most of its high-tech innovations: 4-channel ABS, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and Traction Control System (TCS). Currently the only pickups that offer an electronic stability control are Toyota with its Vehicle Stability Control (VSA+ TRAC) and Nissan with its Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC). These systems are designed to manage the throttle and apply brake pressure to selective wheels to assist the driver in regaining control during certain situations.
As you can see, cross-shopping the Ridgeline will require some education into Honda’s technology and vernacular. Like the VTM-4 all-wheel-drive. This is a fully automatic system that distributes torque to the wheels as needed. For the most part, the truck is driven in front-wheel-drive for fuel economy. The prop shaft to the rear turns as does the ring and pinion, but there’s no open differential in the rear housing. Instead, there is a clutch on each side of the ring gear connecting to a half shaft that turns the respective rear wheel. A computer can engage the clutches when needed to vary the torque distribution front and rear or left to right side. During hard acceleration, torque is sent to the rear wheels to help keep the front from breaking loose. The computer also senses front wheel slip and adjusts the power distribution to the rear as needed. The driver can put the VTM-4 in a lock mode for medium-duty off-roading. At low speed, the maximum amount of rear torque is locked in.