To Pack The Trunk, Honda Ridgeline Owners Gather In Ohio
Mike Levine Posted:
06-25-08 00:59 PT
© 2008 PickupTrucks.com, Photography by Frank Tuttle, Tuttle Images
weekend, members of the Ridgeline Owners Club (ROC) gathered
at American Honda Motor Co., Inc. facilities in Ohio to talk about
their trucks with fellow Honda Ridgeline enthusiasts, and
to meet some of the people responsible for engineering and building
this unique pickup.
owners haven't had it easy. While the mid-size sport utility
truck has won awards for ground-breaking design elements and features,
like unitized construction, an independent rear suspension
and secure in-bed trunk, traditional truck buyers have laughed
off the Ridgeline's strange looks, light payload, towing and off-road
capabilities and lack of a V-8 engine.
the Ridgeline has remained a niche model among pickups. It's never
sold more than about fifty-thousand units in a single year while most
of its competition sold tens of thousands more trucks annually.
Ridgeline sales only recently
started outpacing some traditionally stronger rivals.
as different as the Honda Ridgeline is from conventional pickups, some
of its owners share at least one key trait with other truck buyers
- a strong passion for their pickups.
the Ridgeline went on sale in 2005, Ridgeline owners have congregated
online at RidgelineOwnersClub.com where
they can share their enthusiasm. The site was started by Honda vehicle
enthusiast Tom McAllister. It currently has over 14,000 members.
was the third annual get together that Mr. McAllister has organized
to celebrate the Ridgeline. It's the first time it's been held
on Honda property.
day of the two-day event was a tour of Honda's East Liberty, Ohio manufacturing
plant, where the Honda Element, CRV and Civic are built.
day was dedicated to showing off the Ridgeline's capabilities at Honda's
Transportation Research Center (TRC). The TRC
is a 4,500 acre proving ground that has a 7.5 mile long high-speed
oval track, off-road trails and a variety of other tracks with different
road surface types, from cobblestone to ceramic tile.
to demonstrate some of the same tests the Ridgeline was tortured with
before it went on sale was the Ridgeline's original project leader
and chief engineer, Gary Flint (pictured below). Mr. Flint
worked as an engineer at General Motors before he joined Honda. It
was Mr. Flint who
first proposed to Honda management in 1998 that the company build
at TRC included: a rock drop demonstration, where big rocks were rapidly
dumped into the back of a Ridgeline several times to show the toughness
of the composite bed and sturdiness of its in-bed trunk; a two-wheel
ramp test, where the Ridgeline was propped up on one side to show off
its torsional rigidity and how well the doors closed while half the
truck was resting at an angle; and a ride and handling course, where
ROC members were invited to ride shotgun as a Ridgeline was slalomed
through a coned course with 1,000 pounds load in its trunk. The Ridgeline
was also driven through a deep water trough.
to Mr. McAllister, the highlight for most ROC members in attendance
at TRC was the split-mu, low friction surface demonstration (pictured
(written as µ, pronounced "mew")
is a Greek letter used to indicate the coefficient of friction between
two surfaces or the ratio of force required to move a truck forward
relative to the truck's weight on a given surface. The higher the µ the
stickier the surface. Too much µ and your truck isn't going to
budge. Too little µ and your truck will spin in place.
wheels on dry pavement and two on wet ceramic tile, simulating icy
road conditions, a Honda engineer drove a Ridgeline up a steep split-µ grade. The
Ridgeline's Variable Torque Management (VTM-4) 4WD system worked like
a virtual limited slip differential, using the Ridgeline’s
Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) traction control and ABS systems to
reduce throttle and brake slipping wheels, while directing power
to the partner wheels on the dry surface. The Ridgeline
climbed halfway up the slick hill, stopped completely and then climbed
the rest of the way with minimal wheel slip and traction loss - forwards
and in reverse.
At the end
of the weekend, ROC members left Honda more excited about their trucks
than when they arrived. Although it wasn't shown to them, an updated
2009 model is just around the corner. They're hoping that
like the Ridgeline they saw gaining traction on TRC's slippery hill,
the new truck gains traction in the marketplace so more Ridgeline owners
join ROC and attend the gathering next year and beyond.