Honda is great at filling in the niches within the niches. Case in point, Honda’s Ridgeline pickup truck neatly gathers the finest attributes of its cars and SUVs, and then adds a pickup truck bed to create a vehicle oozing with familiarity, yet completely new.
That said, a lot of people still don’t “get” the Ridgeline. They look at the size and power of a traditional pickup truck and say the Honda Ridgeline is a poor substitute for one. However, Honda didn’t build the Ridgeline to compete with, or supplant the F-150—well—in the traditional sense anyway. Ridgeline is a casual pickup for urban/suburban drivers who occasionally need the utility, but don’t need the bulk and power of a traditional body on frame pickup truck.
In other words, if you’re an avid gardener, or a jet-ski enthusiast, or dirt bike rider, or have some other light duty need for a truck, but you really prefer the comfort and driving attributes (as well as the fuel economy) of a car, Honda’s Ridgeline is the vehicle you need.
Introduced in 2005, as a 2006 model, there has been but one generation of the Ridgeline to date.
Honda Ridgeline: 2006 - Current
Available in only one body style—four-door crew cab, five-passenger—you either like the Ridgeline, or you don’t. The only pickup truck based on a car platform offered in North America, if you dig deeply into the Ridgeline’s DNA, you’ll find a Honda Accord. You’ll also find the Ridgeline employs unibody construction, unlike every other pickup on the road, although it does incorporate the ladder box frame most pickups use as well.
This combination gives the Honda Ridgeline exceptional rigidity and contributes to a solid feeling on the road, the likes of which you’d be hard pressed to find in a conventional body-on-frame pickup truck. Contributing in no small part to this solid feeling, as well as Ridgeline’s comfortable ride and agile handling is an all-independent suspension system.
Ridgeline’s motivation comes by way of a transversely mounted, 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. The engine generates 247-ft-lbs of torque at 4,300 rpm on regular gasoline. This gives the Ridgeline the ability to tow 5,000 pounds (when properly equipped) and a 1,500-pound bed capacity. Yes, a ¾-ton pick will snicker at those numbers, but the fact is most people really don’t need much more than that.
All Ridgelines are all-wheel drive and they all use a five-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel drive system operates primarily as a front-drive system in steady state situations. When additional traction is needed, it sends torque to either or both of the rear wheels. It also incorporates a rear differential lock which also enables locking the transmission in first, second or reverse at speeds under 18 miles per hour.
Honda Ridgeline: Trims
Honda has offered four trim levels of the Ridgeline over the years, RT, RTX, RTS, and RTL. As standard equipment, the base-level RT trim included anti-lock brakes, heated windshield wiper parking zones, four wheel drive locking mode, a power sliding rear window, VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) with an off switch (for driving on soft roads), and side-curtain airbags.
Introduced in 2007, and dropped in 2009, the RTX trim was distinguished by the presence of gray-painted alloy wheels, a different grille treatment, door handles painted the same color as the rest of the vehicle, and a tow package installed at the factory
Go up to the RTS trim level you’ll get a power driver's seat which is adjustable six ways, a six-disc CD changer feeding an audio system incorporating a subwoofer, mirrors painted the same color as the body of the Ridgeline, silver-painted alloy wheels, and a dual zone climate control system. Pop for an RTL, you’ll get leather, and if your Ridgeline RTL was built in ’07 or later it will also feature a moonroof and satellite radio.
Ridgeline offers a number of innovative features to improve its utility. Thanks to the independent rear suspension design, there’s enough room beneath the Ridgeline’s trunk bed to incorporate a lockable trunk. Useful for storing items likely to be stolen, the trunk also has a detrimental side effect. Honda chose to place the spare tire inside the trunk. If you have a flat with a full bed of cargo covering the door to the trunk—yeah, well, you get the picture…However, it’s equipped with drain holes, so it can also serve as a mobile cooler for your favorite frosty beverages.
Another innovative feature of the Honda Ridgeline is its dual action tailgate. Capable of opening vertically, the way a traditional pickup tailgate does to effectively increase the length of the truck bed, it also swings open horizontally like a door, to ease access to the integrated trunk—as well as the rest of the truck bed. Speaking of the truck bed, it comes with a composite liner from the factory, so there’s no need to purchase a separate bedliner for it, although some reviewers have noted the liner scratches rather easily.
Honda Ridgeline: Current Model
Changes to the Honda Ridgeline have been far from abundant over its life cycle. However, that’s a testament to the basic goodness of the vehicle, Honda got pretty much everything right the first time with the Ridgeline.
Honda Ridgeline: Summary
Pleasant to drive, easy to handle and possessing a useful degree of utility, the Honda Ridgelineis an economical, reliable and unique approach to the pickup truck genre. Excellent on pavement, and decent on soft roads, (don’t try to seriously offroad a Ridgeline, you’ll be disappointed) it is all the pickup truck most city dwellers will ever need.
There have been a few recalls for various model year Ridgelines over the years. To find out which ones affect the particular model you’re considering, run an Internet search for “Honda Ridgeline recall”, incorporating the model year of your interest.
And, as always, subject any used car you’re seriously considering purchasing to a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted professional mechanic, one specializing in the vehicle of your choice.