HEELS ON WHEELS: 2008 HONDA RIDGELINE REVIEW



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HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser

INTRO TO THE RIDGELINE

I thought you'd never catch me in a vehicle like this (and you might be thinking the same). I mean, exactly what is this vehicle? Is it an overbuilt truck, or almost an SUV? Perhaps the word 'ugly' conjures in your vocabulary when you see it on the road.

The Ridgeline is anything but when you get behind the wheel. It is a vehicle full of helpful surprises; from its dual-hinged tailgate that lifts down but can also swing to the side for entry to the 8.5 cu-ft bed to a lockable In-Bed Trunk located under the pickup bed. It's now in its third year of production. The Ridgeline is the largest Honda ever produced and held the accolades of being named both the Motor Trend Truck of the year and the North American Truck of the Year for 2006. Consumer Report loves it.

Combine all the excellent space with the so-easy-to-use navigation system, and you could go garage sale hopping, an off-road adventure with friends and equipment, and dining at a new-to-you restaurant, all in one day – no extra maps, no extra space, no planning necessary.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: That dual action tailgate allows for easy loading and unloading. The second row inside is re-configurable for people and/or cargo. The RTL trim level I drove had monotone leather seating surfaces, a standard power moonroof, standard XM Satellite Radio®, the HomeLink® remote system, interior compass in the rearview mirror, heated front seats, and the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System® with voice recognition and MP3/ auxiliary input jack.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Honda’s Standard Safety for Everyone features side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, and front side airbags. The brakes are responsive without being too sensitive.

Cost Issues: A 2008 Honda Ridgeline RLT holding a 247-horsepower 3.5-liter SOHC V6 24-valve engine with a Variable Valve Timing and Electronic Control (VTEC) engine and the Variable Torque Management® (VTM-4) 4WD System can run you $35,090; but you could forsake the trim level and get it for $28,000. A platform of honesty and functionality sells this truck.

Activity & Performance Ability: Despite the fact a 3.5-liter V6 is a small engine when compared to what competitors are putting out, it was a very sporty drive and certainly had those fun Honda qualities and genetics. The electronic four-wheel drive system, the VTM-4 also used on other Honda and Acura products, sends up to 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, which means it has better traction components than most. All models also come equipped with independent front and rear suspension, standard transmission and oil coolers, dual radiator fans, intake air system for towing performance in hot weather, and pre-wiring for 4 and 7-pin trailer hook ups. Honda’s Standard Safety for Everyone features side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, and front sid e airbags.

The Green Concern: Fuel economy is only a tad economical for half-ton standards at 16-city/21-highway driving. There’s no Fuel Flexible Vehicle (FFV), nor ethanol (E85) options.

FINAL PARTING WORDS

The Honda Ridgeline taught me there is a fine line between innovative and strange, and to basically not be too judgmental. You simply have to drive it to appreciate its working versatility. My only design criticism now is a hope for bigger headlights that wrap around the sides of the vehicle to balance out the bulk.

©2008 Katrina Ramser

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