Selling Points: Standard all-wheel drive; roomy cab for five adults; roomy trunk under cargo bed; dual-action tailgate
Deal Breakers: Uncomfortable front seats; no expandable cargo bed; can’t tackle difficult off-road terrain; low towing capacity
Our Advice: The 2006 Honda Ridgeline is the perfect daily driver for weekend do-it-yourselfers with lighter loads to tow. Commercial truck buyers, people with heavy payload and towing requirements, folks who need serious off-roading capability, and men overcompensating for something will still choose a Chevy, Dodge, Ford, GMC, or Nissan.
Most personal-use truck buyers spend their time driving alone, on dry pavement, with nothing in the bed or hanging off the trailer hitch. So it should come as no surprise that wily Honda has targeted exactly that user with its first pickup truck ever, the 2006 Ridgeline. Now, the Ridgeline has taken plenty of knocks from traditional pickup truck drivers. They claim that it can’t compete without a V8 engine, lacks true off-roading capability, and can’t tow or haul enough weight. If you’re buying a truck for towing or for serious off-roading, well, Honda cannot help you, that much is true. But the 2006 Honda Ridgeline absolutely excels at single-occupant commutes, possesses best-in-class handling on pavement, and can easily take a family of four to the beach, or the mountains, or the local Home Depot on the weekends. And in a pinch, it can tug or tote more weight than most people need. That’s why the Ridgeline is our Autobytel Editors’ Choice for 2006 Truck of the Year, and why it has also won accolades from other publications and the North American Truck of the Year panel of jurists.
The 2006 Honda Ridgeline is offered in RT, RTS, and RTL trim level, starting at $28,250 (all prices listed here include a $550 destination charge). The Ridgeline RT comes with the standard – and only – 247-hp V6 engine, VTM-4 all-wheel drive, stability and traction control, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with EBD and brake assist, and both side-impact and side-curtain airbags. Additionally, the RT is equipped with everything most folks want, like air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, power windows (including the rear slider), power door locks, cruise control, and keyless entry. Also part of the base price is a heated wiper-rest zone, a 100-watt audio system with a CD player, all-weather floor mats, cargo bed lighting, a manual driver’s seat height adjuster, and steel wheels. Step up to the $30,625 Ridgeline RTS to enjoy alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, a more powerful 160-watt audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, dual-zone automatic climate control, and an outside temperature gauge. The $31,490 Ridgeline RTL gets leather seat upholstery, a HomeLink programmable transmitter, a compass, and heated front seats. The RTL trim level is also your ticket to options like a power sunroof, XM satellite radio, and a navigation system with voice recognition. Standard on models with navigation is an auxiliary input jack for your iPod so you can listen to your music library through the Ridgeline’s speakers. A loaded Ridgeline RTL runs $35,190, and if you’ve still got money in your pocket your dealer can install roof rails and, on the RTL, an on-board DVD entertainment system for the rear seat.
We test drove two different 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTLs with the optional navigation system. The first truck was an early-build unit, and was driven around the Los Angeles area by our staff, including an off-roading trip to the Wildomar Off-Highway Vehicle Park near Lake Elsinore. The other test truck was used for cruising around in the Chicago area by your author, covering pockmarked city streets, suburban neighborhoods, and rural two-lane roads. Aside from my vociferous complaints about long-distance seat comfort, some build quality issues with the California test truck that the whole crew noted, the lack of an expandable cargo bed, and a fussy navigation system, we found very little to complain about with the 2006 Honda Ridgeline.
But, as pick-em-up purists would tell you, that’s because we ain’t haulin’ or towin’ nothin’ up to a backwoods deer camp in a November blizzard. For that, we’d need a V8, a low-range transfer case, and – because the fellas at deer camp can get mighty lonesome at the onset of winter – a few bottles of stiff whiskey and a bootleg copy of “Brokeback Mountain.”