Honda Ridgeline RTL Review

by Admin
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honda ridgeline rtl review

Strolling through one of Honda's vanilla dealerships and coming across the new Ridgeline is a bit like happening upon Mike Tyson supping Earl Grey tea at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Not that you'd say it out loud, but the word that springs to mind is 'fugly'. Which doesn't really do Honda's first-ever pickup truck justice. For better or worse, the Ridgeline is right hook to your aesthetic expectations, instantly redefining the pickup genre in both form and function.

Even at first glance, the Ridgeline's design makes it abundantly clear that we're not in Marlboro Country anymore. Dead on, the pickup's pointy proboscis mates an overgrown heating element salvaged from a fancy toaster with a pair of disagreeably squinty headlamps. Dramatic, over-square fenders, scalloped door skins and signature buttresses (connecting the Ridgeline's cab with its five foot composite bed) continue the outré theme. Out back, the look is somewhat cleaner, courtesy of a body-colored step bumper bracketed by elegant, wrap-around tail lamps. Unusually, the Ridgeline's tailgate lip is slightly lower than the bed's side rails; which greatly aids rearward visibility when reversing.

Inside, Honda's newfound proclivity for exaggerated design continues with an oddly peaked instrument binnacle hood, elephantine carabiner-esque metal-effect door pulls and oversized knurled switchgear. The expanding-drawer center console offers drivers a wide selection of compartments to lose things in. Fortunately, the Ridgeline's ergonomics are as sensible as the design is extreme. All the controls are well-designed and well-placed, though many plastics feel decidedly discount in light of the RTL's price tag and raised specification. Our army-surplus green tester came loaded to the sills with power leather chairs, dual-zone HVAC, moonroof, sat-nav and a thumpin' six-cd stereo with XM. The flip-up seat squabs in the back are the cabin's only real disappointment; they're stiffer than a porn star and more tiresome than a Senate filibuster.

The Ridgeline is the first mass market pickup built with a closed-box hybrid ladder frame (picture a traditional pickup ladder frame mated to a unibody like stinkbugs in heat). This novel architecture delivers much greater bending resistance than the average pickup, which enhances the truck's payload capability. It also leaves room for a sophisticated independent rear suspension, employing a multilink with trailing arm and anti-roll-bar. At a stroke, Honda's boffins have finally solved the genre's mid-corner axle tramp and stiff-legged ride (especially when the bed's vacant).

The new technology also raises the handling bar. While the Ridgeline is no S2000, it'll certainly scupper Toyota Tacomas in the twisties. The Ridegline's remarkable rear end composure gives drivers enough confidence to take liberties with the speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion helm. And while the 17" 245/65 Michelin LTX's high profiles take a toll on ultimate cornering progress, they break away predictably and with minimal drama. For the truly overzealous, Ridgeline's standard stability control is a comforting safety net, and it isn't overly intrusive when driving at 8/10ths.

In fact, the Ridgeline's handling envelope is similar to Honda's own Pilot. Unlike the latter, the Ridegline will gamely tow up to 5,000 lbs. worth of 'lifestyle accessories' and hobbyist detritus. (Figure a couple of Ski-Doos or something small, fragile, and smote with Lucas electrics.) Of course, you'll have to leave stump pulling to conventional full-sizers, but don't expect urban cowboys to be crying into their soy lattes about it.

The Ridgeline's party trick is its first-for-a-pickup integrated trunk. It's a clever invention that inspires illicit thoughts of border-trafficking in even the most law-abiding of citizens. The lockable coffer will also swallow a weekend's worth of camping provisions for two, or enough Canadian pharmaceuticals to keep grandpa's nursing home in hydrocortisone for months. Access is easy, courtesy of a clever dual-action tailgate that swings wide like a car door. Better still, the tailgate can support some 300lbs. when lowered, an important detail given the Ridgeline's abbreviated bed.

Although it's down a couple of cylinders on the big boys, Honda's 3.5L V6 still has sufficient grunt to haul your sundries without complaint. Whether or not it could charge through mountainous terrain when loaded with ALL and sundry remains an open question. Unlike Honda's other 3.5L installations, the Ridgeline's drivetrain offers genuine aural character. The five-speed slushbox's super-smooth kickdowns create the kind of meaty growl that pickup truck aficionados covet. And when it's time for the soundtrack to stop, the Ridgeline's four-wheel discs– nannied by four-channel ABS, stability control and electronic brakeforce distribution– are the business.

In the end, the price of Ridgeline's utilitarian brilliance is aesthetic overload. Which makes the Honda Ridegline a fine choice for iconoclasts, provided they don't mind enduring the occasional truck guy barb about its (ahem) challenging visuals. To which there is only possible retort: "She ain't much to look at, but she sure can cook". Or, if you prefer, Ridgeline is Japanese for Git 'Er Done.


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 1 comment
  • The Ninjalectual The Ninjalectual on Jul 19, 2007

    I think the Ridgeline is the perfect truck for somebody who has no business driving a truck, but wants one anyway.

  • Canam23 I moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and half the time the air was unbreathable. It is 100% better now thanks to the work of the AQMD. If you remember, when the first pollution controls were mandated in the 70's, Detroit said it was impossible to meet them. The Japanese just started working on the problem and just did it. All the tougher laws to mandate air pollution have resulted in not just cleaner air for our children, but also much more efficient engines in our vehicles. So Stellantis, I'm not buying it.
  • Theflyersfan Nope. Has nothing to do with Gladiator sales falling off of a cliff and having 5-figure discounts. Or...YTD 2023 compared to last year:Compass +7%Wrangler -14%Gladiator -31%Cherokee -25%Grand Cherokee +6%Renegade -35%Wagoneer -31%Grand Wagoneer: -14%End of 3Q 2023: 490,106 Jeeps soldEnd of 3Q 2022: 541,297 Jeeps sold490K is still a decent number of expensive SUVs sold, especially Grand Cherokees, but it's still a decline. And people want the 4xe models, so that could reverse the trend if they crank more of them out. But let's blame the government for everything. It'll lead a news cycle on any red hat network.
  • VoGhost California is the reason Dodge and Chrysler were starved of new models for the past decade. OK...
  • Random1 I don't know what the "right" price for transit/tolls/driving should be. I'm currently a commuter from Westchester, and it is cheaper for me to commute by car on days my wife is working (she's part-time so 2x/week, I'm 5x/week). Those costs, if you care, are $18/park and a somewhat optional $6.94 toll (pay or spend about 10min to take a free bridge) vs 23.50 round-trip each on Metro-North. That's absurd, either a)transit is too expensive(and we don't need to add subway/bus like many do) or b)driving/parking is too cheap, or c) bothFWIW, the congestion charge means I'll more or less never drive in again, so I guess it'll work?
  • SCE to AUX I'm not understanding the linkage between the old State v Federal domain debate, and layoffs at Stellantis.Stellantis has serious portfolio issues, so I'm inclined to blame layoffs on them.