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Fri, Oct 31, 2014

Honda Ridgeline is truck for non-truck buyers

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Honda Ridgeline is truck for non-truck buyers | honda, ridgeline, auto, connect

The 2014 Honda Ridgeline. (Photo courtesy of Honda)

The Honda Ridgeline pickup seems to be one of those ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ vehicles. We happen to be in the “love it” column because it’s not like a typical pickup, rather it’s like and SUV or crossover with a pickup bed instead of a cargo area.

To us, that translates into being a bit more comfortable, easier to get into and…well… less truck-like. It’s not that we have anything against full-size trucks, they are amazing with all their capabilities and there are models that are plush and comfortable, but they are just so…big.  
 
From a technical standpoint, the Ridgeline is different than a normal pickups because it rides on unibody platform and has a V-6 engine mounted sideways under the hood.

The Ridgeline is powered by Honda’s 250-hp 3.5-liter SOHC VTEC V-6 engine. The engine produces an 8.3 second 0 to 60 mph time which is adequate for the average driver. The EPA rates fuel economy at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. We averaged 16.7 mpg during a week of normal city and highway driving.

The Ridgeline has a heavy-duty five-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive as standard equipment. The VTM-4 (Variable Torque Management-4 Wheel Drive) system has a manually-locking rear differential that can divert up to 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, which is especially helpful during low-speed conditions.

Structurally, the unibody platform is a closed-box-frame which dramatically cuts noise and creates a more rigid body structure to enhance the ride and handling characteristics. The suspension is four-wheel independent, which improves the ride, handling and stability.

For truck-like capabilities, the Ridgeline has a payload capacity of 1,500 pounds, which makes it a true three-quarter ton truck. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds making it tough enough to handle a toy box full of adult toys. The cargo box is made from steel-reinforced composite, which is twice as strong as steel, and it has a non-slip surface that resists scratching and corrosion, so no aftermarket bed liner is needed.

One of our favorite features is under the cargo bed – a lockable and fully waterproof 8.5 cubic foot trunk. It will hold a couple sets of golf clubs or pieces of luggage. Or you could carry emergency gear or a bunch of camping equipment so you’re always ready to go. Another handy feature is the tailgate that either folds down or swings to the side for easier access into the trunk space. The Ridgeline bed also has several strategically placed lights making it easier to find things at night.  

With its four doors and large rear seat, the Ridgeline easily carries five adults in a space that’s about 10 cubic feet larger than the interior of a Honda Accord and the same size as a Mercedes S-Class sedan. The rear seats are split 40/60 with the bottom cushions folding up to allow cargo to be easily stacked on the floor when more cargo space is needed. The interior also has plenty of handy places in the doors and center console for the must-have’s you can’t leave home without.

We’ve always thought the Honda navigation/entertainment system is one of the best in the business because it’s so user friendly. However, we are still somewhat illiterate when it comes to giving verbal commands to the system, however we communicate easily with the touch screen controls. The satellite-linked system which accesses data through a smart phone also has Bluetooth and the hands free-functions. The audio includes SirusXM satellite radio, AM/FM and a six-disk CD changer. The system also includes the ‘must have’ rear backup system we’ve come to think of as a necessity.  
The Ridgeline got a makeover two years ago and adding a new Sport trim. For 2014, a top level SE was added with a fancier trim; that took the model mix to five. Prices for the Honda pickup range from $30,405, including the destination charge, for the RT model up to $38,335 for the new SE version with leather seating and the navigation system.
Last year there were rumors that Honda would be dropping the Ridgeline, but in December Honda announced an all-new Ridgeline within two years and hinted at a more conventional truck styling. Ridgeline sales have never had the sales strength even close to large American brand trucks but they were on an upswing in 2013.

Consumer Reports gives the Honda Ridgeline a recommended rating in its annual ratings and lists it as their favorite compact pickup – they use their own size designations.

We think the 2014 Honda Ridgeline is an excellent alternative to the full size pickups that dominate the market, especially if the buyer doesn’t need all the heavy duty capacity. It’s an enjoyable vehicle to drive and a more convenient size while still having a large capacity. We like the convenience, the quality and reputation. If there’s anything we can criticize is it doesn’t get very good mileage, other than that we love it.

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