If you care mostly about safety, reliability and passenger comfort -- and you don't plan to tow an enormous trailer or do any extreme off-roading -- experts say the Honda Ridgeline is the most practical pickup truck you can buy.
It's also the most carlike pickup on the market. Honda builds the unibody Ridgeline on the same platform as its car-based Honda Pilot SUV, so testers say the Ridgeline handles crisply and avoids the bouncy, jittery ride of a traditional pickup. The Honda Ridgeline also features a big luggage compartment under its spacious backseat and even a lockable, waterproof trunk that's big enough to fit three golf bags. The trunk includes drain plugs in the bottom, so you can fill it with ice and drinks for tailgating -- or perhaps a big corroded battery leaking acid, as Colin Mathews at TheCarConnection.com finds during a weekend job. "Hose the compartment out, and you're good as new," he writes.
Only the optional RamBox on the new Dodge Ram 1500 (*Est. $21,270 to $43,240) offers anything similar to the Honda Ridgeline's under-bed trunk, says Thom Blackett at PickupTrucks.com. Testers are very impressed with the trunk, although they point out it would be impossible to access if the bed were loaded with something like dirt or mulch. The spare tire is buried in the trunk, too, so "you'll have to schedule those flat tires for times when you're traveling light," Blackett says.
The Honda Ridgeline comes in a single body style: a crew cab with a 5-foot bed. Testers say the Ridgeline offers plenty of backseat room for two or three adults, with a high-quality interior. Most reviewers say the seat cushions are comfortable, but testers at Edmunds.com and ConsumerGuide.com find the backseat too thin, flat and upright for comfort.
The Ridgeline outclasses its main midsize competitor, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac (*Est. $27,460 to $35,145), in most ways, according to reviews. PickupTrucks.com says the Ridgeline delivers the best ride of any pickup -- smoother than even the much-talked-about coil-spring suspension on the Dodge Ram 1500 -- and more than one tester is pleasantly surprised by the Ridgeline's off-road efforts. It smoothes out a washboard road nicely in one review, and it gamely clambers up muddy and rocky hills in others. Car and Driver finds it "shockingly capable in the dirt," although it's not designed for hard-core off-roading. The Honda Ridgeline pickup's full-time all-wheel drive helps, reviews say; most trucks offer only part-time four-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive makes for poor fuel economy, though. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the Ridgeline will deliver 17 mpg in mixed-use driving (15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway), and some real-world testers see only 15 or 16 mpg. That's no better than a full-size pickup truck, and it doesn't even come close to the most fuel-efficient compact pickups, including the rear-wheel-drive, four-cylinder version of the Toyota Tacoma (*Est. $15,170 to $27,075) at 22 mpg combined.
Towing and hauling aren't among the Honda Ridgeline's strong suits, either. It's rated to tow 5,000 pounds -- enough for a jet ski, pop-up camper or a loaded U-Haul trailer, according to Cars.com. Critics like the Ridgeline's steel-reinforced composite bed, which won't rust or dent, and its wheel well-free shape is wide enough to hold a sheet of plywood. Maximum payload ranges from 1,486 to 1,546 pounds. So the Honda Ridgeline pickup can tow and haul about half as much as the brawniest full-size pickups, such as a maxed-out Ford F-150 (*Est. $21,565 to $44,355). For the most part, even the best-equipped compact pickup truck models will still provide more muscle for less money.
Only one other pickup truck -- the rear-wheel-drive version of the smaller Toyota Tacoma -- can match the Honda Ridgeline's excellent safety ratings. Both pickup trucks earn the highest possible scores in all government and independent crash tests, and unlike most pickups, they're nearly as rollover resistant as the average sedan. The Honda Ridgeline even has a smaller rear blind spot than most trucks in one test, and a backup camera is optional on the top-level Ridgeline.
Finally, there's the Ridgeline's styling. It's unique -- the cab and bed are all one piece, with thick C-pillars that slope into the chunky bed sides -- and it's not to everyone's taste, based on reviewer feedback. "It's not ugly, but neither is it pretty," concludes Mathews at TheCarConnection.com. "Perhaps 'curious' is the word."
Although it costs much more than other pickups' entry models, reviews note that the entry-level Honda Ridgeline RT (*Est. $28,200) comes nicely equipped with a locking rear differential, trailer hitch, power accessories (including a power sliding rear window), cruise control and more. The Ridgeline RTS (*Est. $31,305) adds more standard features such as dual-zone automatic climate control, an upgraded stereo with MP3 jack and alloy wheels. The top-level Ridgeline RTL (*Est. $34,180 to $36,530) includes luxurious touches such as heated leather seats, a moonroof and the ability to purchase an optional in-dash navigation system.
A 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine powers the Honda Ridgeline, together with a five-speed automatic transmission. Experts say it accelerates fine, but it's not powerful enough for heavy-duty use. The Ridgeline is a very reliable pickup truck, according to two major owner surveys. It carries a three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
We found expert reviews covering nearly every aspect of the Honda Ridgeline at ConsumerReports.org, Edmunds.com, ConsumerGuide.com, TheCarConnection.com and PickupTrucks.com (an affiliate of Cars.com). Reviews at Kelley Blue Book and Car and Driver are shorter but just as consistent in their findings as the more detailed reviews. Crash-test results at both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are good. Fuel-economy estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency and owner ratings from J.D. Power and Associates add to the Ridgeline's reputation as an excellent pickup truck value.
ConsumerReports.org's review focuses mainly on reliability, ride quality, handling and safety. A unique aspect of this review is its predicted reliability report, based on past-model-year reader-survey data. This review is available to subscribers only.
Review: Honda Ridgeline, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
Editors here say the Honda Ridgeline isn't the best choice for off-roading or heavy towing, but they like its comfortable cabin, carlike handling and versatile cargo features.
Review: 2009 Honda Ridgeline Review, Editors of Edmunds.com
Cars.com selects the Honda Ridgeline as a Best Bet pickup for 2009. This brief review of the Ridgeline includes a detailed list of pros and cons. Like other reviewers, editors here appreciate the Ridgeline's reliability, carlike performance and storage, and full-time all-wheel drive. A link leads to a much more extensive review by PickupTrucks.com, an affiliated website.
Review: Best Bets: 2009 Pickup Trucks, Editors of Cars.com
Reviewer Colin Mathews tests the Honda Ridgeline on the highway, as a work truck and as a log-hauler for a friend's weekend project. He says he was all set to hate the car-based, small-engined Ridgeline, but it handles all tasks so admirably that it wins him over.
Review: Driven: 2009 Honda Ridgeline, Colin Mathews, March 16, 2009
The Honda Ridgeline is a Recommended pick at ConsumerGuide.com. Editors say the Ridgeline drives more like a car than a pickup. They note that its light-duty truck design is suitable for family needs but may not be suitable for serious truck use.
Review: 2009 Honda Ridgeline: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com
6. Kelley Blue Book
The Honda Ridgeline makes the 2009 Recommended Shopping List at Kelley Blue Book. Editors here praise the Ridgeline's quality, comfort, convenience, full-time all-wheel drive and excellent resale value. They do note that the Ridgeline can't tow or off-road as well as conventional pickups can.
Review: 2009 Honda Ridgeline Review, Editors of Kelley Blue Book
7. Car and Driver
Car and Driver editors choose the Honda Ridgeline as one of the five pickups they'd probably buy for themselves in their 2009 Editors Choice roundup. This full review is short, but it rates the Ridgeline's consumer appeal (eight out of 10) and enthusiast appeal (three out of 10) and notes that the Ridgeline combines carlike manners with toughness and off-road capability.
Review: 2009 Honda Ridgeline, Editors of Car and Driver
8. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The Honda Ridgeline is one of three large 2009 pickups (along with the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra) to earn a Top Safety Pick designation at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To qualify, a vehicle must earn a rating of "good" in all crash tests and include electronic stability control as a standard feature.
Review: Large Pickups, Editors of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
9. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The Honda Ridgeline (along with the rear-wheel-drive Toyota Tacoma) is the pickup least likely to roll over, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tests show. The Ridgeline and Tacoma also earn perfect five-star crash ratings in government tests.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, Editors of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
This chart compares Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy estimates for just about every large pickup on the market. Although some rear-wheel-drive and hybrid trucks get better gas mileage, the Honda Ridgeline is the most efficient four-wheel-drive nonhybrid pickup.
Review: 2009 Standard Pickup Trucks, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
11. J.D. Power & Associates
J.D. Power and Associates names the Honda Ridgeline the most appealing midsize pickup for the fourth straight year. This chart shows how the Ridgeline compares with several other pickups on the market, based on owner surveys. Click on the Ratings tab for more survey results; the Ridgeline gets average-to-good scores for dependability and initial quality.
Review: 2008 Automotive Performance Execution and Layout (APEAL) -- Midsize Pickup, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates