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NAIAS 2005: Honda Ridgeline
By: Mike Magda Posted: 01-10-05 02:13 PT
© 2005

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Calling it “revolutionary” and proclaiming it will “redefine what a truck can be,” Honda has introduced the long-awaited production version of the Ridgeline pickup.

With an initial production goal of 50,000 units over 12 months—starting in March when the truck hits the dealers—the Ridgeline isn’t going to revolutionize the order of the sales charts, considering Ford and GM each sell over 1 million pickups a year. But numerous features on the Ridgeline are certainly going to shake up how the industry looks at pickups that they want to sell to families.

The Ridgeline combines work-truck capacities such as 5000-pound towing and 1549-pound payload with upscale minivan features such 4-wheel independent suspension and all-wheel-drive. It also offers a few luxury amenities such as automatic dual-zone climate control, power sliding rear window, power moonroof, navigation and premium audio. Throw in a pair of truly exclusive innovations such as a dual-action tailgate and a large, lockable bed-mounted trunk, and it’s easy to see why the total package will draw considerable attention from active-minded consumers looking for more versatility in their trucks.

“It’s a vehicle designed from the ground up to answer the challenges of this evolving market and redefine what a truck can be,” said Dick Colliver, Honda’s executive vice president who unveiled the truck at the North American International Auto Show.

Honda officials are adamant that the Ridgeline is not designed to compete against hardcore work trucks from the Big 3, nor is it equipped to conquer severe Class 5 off-road trails. There are no stake pockets for utility racks or a proper location for a winch. But Honda also stresses that the Ridgeline is not based on a car chassis, and it isn’t a chopped-up Pilot with a bed. The truck starts with a construction approach that integrates a fully boxed, deep-channel ladder frame structure with a unitized cab-bed body.

“This chassis is 20 times stiffer in torsional rigidity and 2 ½ times stiffer in bending than a typical body-on-frame truck,” said Gary Flint, chief development engineer for the Ridgeline.

From there, Honda adapted its Variable Torque Management (VTM) 4-wheel drive system that automatically distributes torque to all four wheels. The system normally sends power to the front wheels then engages all-wheel-drive when needed. Up to 70 percent of available torque can be directed to the rear wheels. Flint said the all-wheel-drive setup is similar to the Acura MDX but the 5-speed automatic transmission is exclusive to the Ridgeline. Standard on the Ridgeline will be a locking rear differential and Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control. The latter helps the driver maintain control under severe cornering.

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