While American-made rigs have ruled the roadways across the U.S., automakers abroad have been infiltrating the American asphalt in recent years — most notably the Japanese automakers. While Japanese automakers have produced trucks for years, their primary focus has been on small pickups. They sold gobs of their tiny trucks, but never fought with the American big boys. Well, times are changing. Nissan and Toyota now produce half-ton trucks, and now Honda has entered the big truck arena with its all-new Honda Ridgeline.
Unlike Toyota and Nissan, however, Honda put a V6 in the Ridgeline. It was all part of thinking outside the box. Honda says the Ridgeline is a versatile truck that can work when needed. We spent a week with a Ridgeline and liked almost everything about it (more on the dislikes later).
The fully-loaded Amazon Green Metallic Honda Ridgeline we tested was powered by a 3.5-liter, 24-valve, SOHC VTEC V-6 engine. Honda says the engine churns out 255 hp at 5750 rpm, and should get about 2 mpg better on the highway and 3 mpg better in the city than the Chevy Avalanche 1500 4WD and Ford F-150 Super Crew 4×4. Honda says the Ridgeline gets 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.
A smooth, five-speed automatic transmission transfers power to the wheels, and a heavy-duty automatic-transmission cooler keeps the drivetrain in check.
The Honda Ridgeline measures 206.8 inches long by 77.8 inches wide and has a 122-inch wheelbase. The Ridgeline has a 1,550-pound payload capacity. When the tailgate is down, the Honda’s bed stretches to 79 inches, but when it’s up, it’s 60, which isn’t long enough for a trip home from the lumber yard. However, the 49.5-inch cargo bed width (between the wheel wells) will accommodate a sheet of plywood so long as the tailgate is down.
The interior had 38.7 inches of front headroom because it came with the power moonroof. Without the option, the Honda Ridgeline has more than 40 inches of headroom. Despite the reduction, even our 6-footers on staff never felt cramped. The Ridgeline seated four people comfortably.
The rear seats had more than 36 inches of legroom. Plus, when carrying only two people, the Ridgeline’s 60/40-split rear seat created more storage space.
One of the finest things about this truck is its recessed, in-bed trunk. The hidden compartment holds up to 8.5 cubic feet of cargo.
Another unique feature is the dual-action tailgate. This configuration allows the tailgate to open in the traditional manner or by swinging it from the side, making trunk access easier.
Our truck was fitted with a Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition, which directed us on the roadway.
This truck also was designed with additional interior storage spots. Most notable are the passenger-side storage tray, door-pocket storage bins and a multi-use center console.
With XM Satellite Radio, the 160-watt audio system, complete with seven speakers, including a subwoofer, never failed to keep us rockin’.
Nothing about this truck really bugged us except the ugly interior door handles. The oversized door handles served as additional hang-on spots for off-road operation, or so we think.
Our load test included towing a loaded enclosed trailer that had an estimated weight of 3,000 pounds. We were more than half of the Ridgeline’s 5,000-pound tow vehicle rating and it handled the load. The engine was noisier than expected and worked extra hard. The engine strained to pull the load up hills, but managed the job. Even though its power on paper is in the ballpark, overall the engine didn’t pull as heartily as a V8.
With and without a load, the Honda Ridgeline is one of the smoothest vehicles — let alone trucks — we’ve ever driven. Even the harshest highway potholes felt more like a roadkill mouse than a jarring jolt. The P245 65-R17 105S all-season tires, 17-inch alloy wheels and suspension provide a silky smooth ride. Up front, the Honda is outfitted with a MacPherson strut suspension. A multi-link suspension with trailing arms soften the harsh blows and bumps in the rear.
The steering is ultra-smooth, too, and much more like a car than a truck. Things like ABS brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution, Vehicle Stability Assist, Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems, child safety devices and airbags (front, side and curtain) were added to create a safer vehicle.
Because snow cover is difficult to find in the summer months, we took the Ridgeline to the sand. Honda and its Variable Torque Management 4-Wheel Drive System and locking rear differential surprised us. We thought we would get it stuck, but that never happened. In fact, the Honda was more agile in the soft stuff than we expected.
Even pulling a loaded trailer, the Ridgeline never failed to amaze us as it churned through the sand. We purposely slowed the truck’s momentum on a slight uphill and it still pulled the load without burying itself.
When it comes to trucks, we, like most truck owners, love big trucks with higher capacities and capabilities. In the case of the Ridgeline, however, we are willing to accept that it’s only a V6 and not really a “work” truck. We don’t care if Honda didn’t conform to the bigger theory. We like this truck for its amenities and its functionality. We are still getting accustomed to its Avalanche-like look and inner door handles. We are willing to overlook those features for the ride and convenience it produced. It gets an “A” for effort and an “A-” for some of its styling and overall engine power.