The Ridgeline is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 255 horsepower at 5750 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The engine has numerous high-tech features such as variable valve timing and dual-stage intake manifold. It’s certainly one of the cleanest pickup engines with a ULEV rating (ultra-low emissions vehicle). Underneath is a 5-speed automatic transmission.
Inside the cab, the Ridgeline’s interior is one degree of separation from a Honda Odyssey. There are few if any traditional pickup cues on the dash. Even the center console looks as if it was lifted from a minivan. The cab is extremely functional, spacious and comfortable. There are plenty of storage options, and the rear 60/40 seat folds up to support cargo as large as a mountain bike. Sound options are not impressive but certainly accommodating with available XM satellite and available 160-watt, 7-speaker audio system. Honda also offers a satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition on a large 8-inch display.
Truck owners, however, want to know about cargo hauling and towing when it comes to trucks. The Ridgeline features a 5-foot-long composite bed that is supported with three steel crossmembers. The inside of the bed is covered with a non-slip surface. The bed was certainly designed to make motorcycle owners feel special. There are guides for the front wheels in the front of the bed, and the six tie downs are positioned to secure motorcycles. The bed is just over 48 inches wide, so it passes the obligatory 4x8 plywood test. Total payload rating for the Ridgeline is just over 1500 pounds.
The bed doesn’t have provisions for 2-tier loading or cargo dividers. In the minds of Honda engineers, those are stop-gap measures. They used the extra space under the bed that was opened up with the unique chassis and suspension design to incorporate a deep 8.5 cubic foot secured storage area. The locking lid can be opened with the handle or electronically from inside the cab. The storage area holds three sets of golf clubs or a few cases of soft drinks. A drain makes cleanup easy. The spare tire is also located in the cargo compartment and is mounted on a sliding tray for easy access.
The Ridgeline’s bed is also distinguished by a dual-action tailgate that will be a dream come true for busy moms who load plants at the nursery or dads who need to wash out debris from the bed. In addition to folding down in a conventional manner, the tailgate can also swing out. The bed’s four courtesy lights illuminate whenever the swing mode is used (the lights can be turned on from inside the cab as well). The tailgate will support 300 pounds while the vehicle is driving. The dynamic rating is to compensate for extra forces that be magnified by hitting bumps. The Ridgeline’s bed is unequaled in utility and convenience. The competition is already going back to the drawing board to develop similar features.
Honda put considerable effort into building in necessary tow features. The radiator is bigger with dual high-power fans. The Ridgeline already comes with necessary oil coolers and 7-pin wiring for a trailer brake. All the customer needs is a receiver hitch. Honda rates the Ridgeline towing capacity at 5000 pounds, but that rating also includes two vehicle occupants and 175 pounds of cargo. In the fine print of most other pickups, the maximum tow rating is restricted to certain configurations, engine/transmission/rear axle ratio choices and with just the driver in the vehicle. But Honda’s research showed that 84 percent of truck owners tow less than 5000 pounds. Honda’s strategy was to meet that mark in a real-world manner.
One of the keys to testing trucks is to analyze the intent of the manufacturer and see if the company delivered on its mission. Not every truck can be as fun off-road as a Tacoma with the TRD package, as fast a Dodge Ram SRT-10 or as stylish as an F-150 King Ranch. Honda has definite customer in mind with the Ridgeline, and he’s not just someone who’s outgrown a CRV.
We’ll take a closer look at the Ridgeline trim levels, options and features in an upcoming road test. (Some information was already discussed in the Detroit Auto Show story.) I intend to test the truck the same way Honda’s targeted owner might. I’m asking for a Honda ATV to take up to an off-road area, and I’ll be arranging to tow a boat to the lake. I know how the Ridgeline drives. Let’s just see how it works.