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2006 Honda Ridgeline RT Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Honda Ridgeline RT at SEMA


SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Honda


MODEL: Honda Ridgeline RT

ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 244 hp @ 5750 rpm/240 lb.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 122.0 in.
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 206.8 x 87.3 x 70.3 in.
TIRES: P245/65R17 all-season
FUEL ECONOMY: 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway
STICKER: $35,155 (includes $515 destination and handling charge)

My constant feeling about Hondas comes from my initial experience many years ago. That car was small, with a high-revving four-cylinder engine that reminded me of a Swiss watch in its feel. It was what one would expect from a motorcycle manufacturer who had decided to turn to car production.

So I was somewhat perplexed by this week’s tester, the Honda Ridgeline pickup truck. It isn’t small – although it’s classified as a compact pickup it feels like a full-size. It doesn’t have a four-cylinder engine; it has a 3.5-liter V6 that sounds and feels like a much larger one. And it’s a truck, Honda’s first. So it’s easy to understand why I was perplexed by this vehicle.

Putting all that aside, the Ridgeline is pure Honda. I appreciated the solidity of the truck in all senses. What impressed me the most about the Ridgeline was its car-like qualities. Unlike most trucks, the Ridgeline gives a car-like ride in that it is smooth and relatively noise-free. Generically, trucks are noisy and offer a “truck-like” ride (duh). In the Ridgeline, I wouldn’t quibble about being asked to take my granddaughter’s car-seat long for a ride without waking her. In fact, I’ll be the Ridgeline is quieter and rides softer than many sedans, if there is a way to make that comparison.

And the Ridgeline has a rear seat, along with four doors for better access. The rear seats are full. While they’re not overly padded and offer minimal side support, they do accommodate two to three adults, or a couple of car seats. Legroom in the rear is more than adequate for most adults as well, making it a reasonable ride for the extra adults you may want to stow back there.

Stowage is another key term for the Ridgeline. It has a 6-1/2-foot bed, which is more than adequate for most carrying jobs. It’s also a deep bed, with unique sail panels that extend from the back of the cab to the tailgate. But what is truly unique is the lockable “trunk” in the base of the bed with, according to Honda, enough capacity (8.5 cubic feet) to store three golf bags. It’s also waterproof, so if you want to stow fish you just caught, or a case of soda (yeah, right) you want to take to a party, you can do that, too.

You can also flip the rear seat cushions for added in-cabin storage. Pickup trucks usually suffer because of wide-open cargo areas that can be invitations to people who might want to “borrow” what you have there. With the “trunk” and adequate in-cabin storage, the ridgeline eliminates some of these problems.

Before I received the Ridgeline, I was somewhat concerned about those sail panels. In know in some cars they tend to reduce rearward vision. But in the truck, they’re far enough away from the mirrors, and they’re only seen through the smaller rear window, that they might as well not be there. It’s a case of getting all the advantages without the penalties.

The 3.5-liter V6, rated at 255 horsepower, is more than adequate for the 4,494-pound truck. Our tester had the standard 5-speed automatic transmission that was fine. Our tester was the RT trim version that also offers four-wheel drive. This isn’t hard-nosed four-wheel drive that you’d want for serious off-roading, but it will serve you well for most normal off-roading adventures, like to a favorite fishing hole of hunting camp.

Our tester was also equipped with a Honda navigation system that was okay. It was wired for XM satellite radio among the audio options, but it didn’t’ have a subscription. Audio controls were mounted on the steering wheel. If you’re planning on using the Ridgeline for towing (it has a 5,000-pound towing capacity, but with the V6 you might not want to get too close to that number), there is a pre-wired trailer connection.

While I was initially hesitant about the Honda Ridgeline, in the final analysis it proved to be a more than adequate pickup truck with enough unique features (and a great ride) to make it a good choice for compact pickup buyers. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to anyone.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate