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2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL S/R Review

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By Bob Gordon

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Honda Includes ALL SPECs, Side by Side Comparisons, Service Bulletins, Recalls, More

I thought it would be kinda fun to test a modern pick-up truck, after all I used to sell International Harvester trucks back in the early sixties and believed that a truck is a truck is a truck...well guess what it’s not any more.

Before we get too far into this journalistic tome I would like to keep my youngish readers from leaving this read and go Googling International Harvester Trucks...hey kids that was a brand of truck that was made here in the U.S. for almost 80 years...just stay here.

Ok back to the story you are all waiting for.

I picked up the 2006 Honda Ridgeline at the Denver airport, and as always the fine folks from Specialty Transport had everything arranged and my test ride ready shinning and filled-up with fuel for this truck review.

My first impression was even though the Ridgeline has 4 doors and seating for 5, “it’s big”, it really is a truck, just how big? I whipped out my trusty ruler and found that the Ridgeline stands 70” high and that although the cargo bed measured 60", it can still carry a 4’x8’ plywood panel in the box with the tail gate down/open.

A unique benefit from the out of the box thinking engineers in Marysville Ohio, is the Ridgeline’s lockable trunk placed into the floor of the cargo bed. Honda measured the space as 8.5 cubic feet which is as big as many car trunks, and passes the “it holds two sets of golf clubs” criteria, not bad for “extra space”.

But there is one problem with this space; if you live in a part of the country where snow is a regular feature of the winter, then the “trunk” will be buried beneath snow and ice for a good part of the year...oh well there is enough space on the back bench seat to stack as much luggage as you could ever use.

The interior of the Ridgeline Pick-up was finished Car and SUV like; the dash and doors were covered in a dark grey rubber-like material. The dash laid out well and the cab offers many little extra storage areas, not unlike the Honda Odyssey or Pilot.

Its power everything; cruise control; heated front seats; satellite radio; compass and temperature gauges; leather-wrapped steering wheel; etc., etc., etc., contributed to the pick-up’s luxury car feeling. And the Ridgeline price of about $35,000 is in keeping with its class

The Ridgeline has a column mounted shift lever and 5 speed automatic transmission (the only one available) with automatic oil cooler; a nice feature if you plan to tow up to its 5000 the way this baby also has a Heavy Duty Transmission cooler to keep its variable assist power steering as cool and comfortable as the passengers in the Dual –Zone Automatic Climate Controlled and filtered environment.

But I digress, its time to go...enough of this heavy analysis, time’s a waste’n (pick-up talk I guess).

I started the truck and was surprised that the 24V, 3.5L, VTEC, aluminum alloy V-6, rated at 255hp and 252lb-ft. was so smooth and quiet as a luxury car. Many times during my test I had to look at the tachometer to check if the engine was running...smooooth.

So off I went, the Ridgeline sounded car-like but initially felt truck-like to me. With its 17” wheels and P245/65 All Season Rubber...yup, I said to myself this sure is a truck. (more Pick-up talk). But after a few hours of driving, the truck feeling left and I felt like I was driving a luxury car...until I had to park it in a crowded parking lot...yup it’s a truck, car-like but still a truck.

The Ridgeline was terrific as an around town family vehicle, with its quiet and smooth well behaved ride, all its bells and whistles and enough space for 5.

But the Ridgeline was unbelievable as an off-road 4x4. I neglected to tell you that my Colorado stay included three days with my son Mark and his family in Vail...and that the Ridgeline fit in well among the luxury SUV’s and pine forests.

One of our adventures included an off-road trek to Lost Lake, elevation 10,300’.

We strapped my grandson Sasha into his car seat placed in the center of the rear seat...I am happy to report that the standard LATCH system made the installation a breeze, for my son.

I was not concerned about driving off-road with my grandson, because the Ridgeline is a safe place to be in case of a crash, it's the first 4-door pick-up to achieve a 5-star frontal and side crash rating from NHTSA.

Our route to Lost Lake would take us up from sophisticated upscale Vail at 8150’ via Red Sandstone Road, an un-paved but a still tame pathway up the mountain, and then further up via Forest Service Road FS 786, which was un-tame at its start, and even wilder as we penetrated deeper into the wilderness that is the Colorado Rockies.

4WD, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control are standard on the Ridgeline. All work together and contribute their part to the Ridgeline’s exceptional road manners that allowed me to feel comfortable and confident as we maneuvered around boulders, pot holes, washboard, and narrow turns.

In only one place on the road, a steep muddy rock filled incline, did the “smarts” built into the drive system have to butt-in and take over to get us up and over...we never even had to use the VTM-4’s electronic locking rear differential to get us where we needed to go.....sweet!

We found Lost Lake right where the map said it would be, and I found a new respect for off-roading, boy it was fun and I felt confident that what ever the trail ahead offered, the Honda Ridgeline could take with ease.

Although the owner’s manual did not recommend off-roading in the Ridgeline, I would like to hear the test engineers’ stories as they pushed this new entry into the family of top-line offerings by Honda, to its limits.

The 2006 Honda Ridgeline is like Vail Colorado, upscale, sophisticated, top-notch, yet wild and wonderful...a fine combination for a great place to live and a great new vehicle...thanks Honda.

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