Long Term

Dear Honda, don't stop making naturally aspirated engines

Our long-term 2018 Ridgeline proves why people gush about Honda engines

One of the signs that smaller displacement turbocharged engines are here to stay is that Honda is rapidly adopting them. And the reason for this is because of how doggedly the company stuck with naturally aspirated engines. It didn't fit a turbo engine to a Civic Type R until 2015. It tried a turbo on the first-generation RDX about 10 years ago, but it never spread to other North American Honda models, and was even discontinued. But now, every Accord is turbocharged, most Civics and CR-Vs are turbocharged, and Acura is getting its own turbocharged V6s.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. These new turbo engines are fun on their own, providing torque like no Honda has seen before, and they present impressive opportunities for modifying. But I hope Honda doesn't stop making naturally aspirated engines, and that's because of how lovely the V6 is in our long-term 2018 Honda Ridgeline.

The Ridgeline's 3.5-liter V6 exemplifies many of the virtues that made the world fall in love with naturally aspirated Honda engines. First among them is its remarkable smoothness. There's never a harsh vibration or shudder from under the hood, and it emits such a soft gentle mechanical purr you'd swear there was a sleeping kitten in place of the engine. And that's when you can hear it. When cruising on the highway, it's darn near silent.

But when you wake that kitten up, you experience the other side of the Honda engine coin, the amazing intake noise. There's an intense, urgent growl from the engine as you mat the throttle. And it builds all the way to redline. But again, it's never brash or uncouth. It's like a lion in a tuxedo.

Well, maybe it's more like a lion cub in a tuxedo. For all its refinement and aural joys, the V6 only feels adequate in terms of power in the Ridgeline. But that seems to be more of an issue with the application than the engine itself. In a vehicle weighing 4,500 pounds, the V6's 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque loses the edge that it had in the slightly less potent previous-generation Accord. But then most truck owners aren't looking for outright speed, anyway.

But I'm starting to get into practical things, and this post isn't necessarily about that. This post is about how wonderful a smooth naturally aspirated engine with a healthy voice can make for a great driving experience, even when it isn't a high-horsepower performance engine. And this post is also a plea to Honda to keep some naturally aspirated engines in its lineup into the future, at least as long as possible.

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