2009 Ridgeline New Car Test Drive
The mid-size Honda Ridgeline vies for the title of most innovative pickup. Honda's best attributes are here in a pickup truck: refinement, fit-and-finish and innovation the Honda way. The Ridgeline features an easy-to-reach, locking storage box under its bed that no other pickup can match.
The differences between Ridgeline and more conventional pickups go all the way to the core. Ridgeline is the first mainstream pickup with fully independent rear suspension, which improves ride quality considerably. Other pickup trucks have traditionally been built with a separate nose section, cab section, and cargo bed, bolted to a separate ladder frame. Honda's pickup uses both a one-piece unibody and a steel ladder frame, welded together. Its cab and bed are built as one piece, with separate subframes for the engine, front suspension and rear suspension. Honda claims Ridgeline is 20 times more resistant to twisting than any other pickup truck, and 3.5 times more resistant to bending.
We've found the Ridgeline to be one of the nicest pickups to drive when measured by comfort and ease of use. It's smooth, quiet and very maneuverable, with a load of useful features.
Ridgeline cannot do the work of a full-size pickup, but its 1550-pound payload and 5000-pound towing capacity are enough for many buyers.
Ridgeline has changed little since its 2006 introduction. For 2007, Honda added the value-priced RTX model, which provided popular equipment such as alloy wheels and a trailer package, for a relatively small price increase over the base RT. At the same time, the top-of-the-line Ridgeline RTL added a power moonroof and XM Satellite Radio as standard equipment, and traded its two-tone leather for a single-tone look. For 2008, a new machined-look wheel design appears on the RTS and RTL, and the fabric interiors on the Ridgeline RT, RTX and RTS also change from dual-tone to single tone.
The Honda Ridgeline doesn't look or act like any other pickup truck we've driven, and it shouldn't cost an arm and a leg to own or operate. It makes pleasant, comfortable daily transportation, and it's as much pickup as many drivers will ever need.
The 2008 Ridgeline is sold in four different trim levels, with each model adding more standard equipment. There are no exterior badges to distinguish models.
All Ridgelines are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine, generating 247 horsepower, with a five-speed automatic transmission and Honda's VTM-4 all-wheel-drive system. This full-time all-wheel-drive normally proportions 60 percent of the power to the front wheels, but if conditions indicate it will automatically send as much as 70 percent of the engine torque to the rear wheels. Ridgeline also incorporates a limited-slip differential with lock feature.
The Ridgeline RT ($28,000) is the base model. It comes standard with black door handles; steel wheels; manually adjusted front seats, air conditioning; power windows and locks; cruise control; and a 100-watt, six-speaker, XM-ready stereo with CD.
The RTX ($28,500) adds gray-finish alloy wheels, body-color door handles, a unique Sport grille, and a towing package.
The RTS ($30,425) adds power front seats with manual lumbar support; a160-watt, seven-speaker stereo with six-CD changer and steering-wheel mounted controls; dual-zone automatic climate control; outside temperature gauge; a security system; and new machine-finish alloy wheels. It does not come with the tow package, and reverts to the standard grille.
The RTL ($33,090) adds still more standard features, including leather upholstery, heated front seats, power lumbar support for the driver, power moonroof, compass and HomeLink remote integrated into the rear-view mirror, heated side mirrors, and all the hardware for XM Satellite Radio.
The RTL can be equipped with Ridgeline's only factory installed option: Honda's DVD-based navigation system with voice recognition ($2,000). It also offers a dealer-installed DVD entertainment system. But there are dozens of dealer-installed accessories available for all Ridgeline models, including roof rails, the tow package, and even the RTX model's neater-looking grille.
Safety equipment is comprehensive. It includes multi-stage front airbags and side-impact airbags for front passengers, front and rear side curtain airbags for head protection and LATCH child-seat anchors for the three rear seats. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, vehicle stability assist and a tire-pressure monitoring system are also standard.