2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

Competitors
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Dodge Dakota
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Ford Explorer Sport Trac
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Hummer H3T
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Nissan Frontier
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Toyota Tacoma

Manufacturer’s web site
Honda Canada

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2009 Honda Ridgeline

Surrey, British Columbia – A lower base price, new trim levels and better fuel economy are highlights of the 2009 Honda Ridgeline, the “un-pickup”. The Ridgeline is not a truck in the traditional sense, as it’s not a body-on-frame vehicle with a separate cab and cargo box. And its fully independent rear suspension is something you won’t find in a traditional pickup truck.

That said, the Ridgeline can do almost anything a traditional light-duty pickup truck can do, and more. Aimed primarily at the recreational truck user, it offers a more comfortable ride and is a more passenger-oriented vehicle. Its dual-action tailgate and a large lockable storage box under the cargo bed are prime examples of its unique user-friendly features.

Under its chunky pickup styling is a one-piece body with an integrated steel ladder frame, all welded together. The Ridgeline’s cab and cargo bed are built as one piece, with separate front and rear sub-frames that cradle the engine and hang the front and rear suspensions. Honda claims this makes the Ridgeline 20 times more resistant to twisting and about 3.5 times more resistant to bending than a typical pickup truck.

Its cargo bed is made of a steel-reinforced SRC plastic-composite material that’s both rust and dent resistant. The cargo bed is 1.5 metres (5 ft.) long with the tailgate up, which when folded down can carry a 137-kg (300 lb.) load. An extender gate is also available. Inside the bed are eight tie-down cleats and four bed-lights with an automatic off timer, and under the bed floor is a 240-litre (8.5 cu. ft.) hidden storage area. The two-way tailgate can also be opened like a door that swings right to left, when a concealed latch on the right side is used.

Pricing and standard equipment
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

Last year, Honda Canada offered the Ridgeline in both LX ($35,820) and EX-L ($40,520) trim levels. For 2009, the LX trim has been deleted and there are now three trims: DX ($34,490), VP (Value Package – $35,790 – which is exclusive to Canada), and EX-L ($40,790).

The base DX trim has 17-inch steel wheels, but is otherwise well equipped with such things as cloth seats, air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and a 100-watt sound system with six speakers.

A move up to the VP adds 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a trip computer, heated/folding side mirrors, a compass, privacy glass, and auxiliary input jack.

The top-line EX-L comes with 18-inch tires and alloy wheels, a power sunroof, dual climate-control air conditioning, a six-disc in-dash CD changer and subwoofer, a leather trimmed interior, power adjustable seating and a 115-volt power outlet. You can also add a navigation system and a back-up camera package to this edition of the Ridgeline.

Interior impressions
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

The generally rugged theme of the Ridgeline’s interior design is typified in the prominent over-sized door pulls. They don’t look out of place, as the front doors are also big, and they do come in handy when you have to heave a door shut.

The rear seating area is surprisingly roomy and the seatbacks even have a moderate rake to them, which is not the norm in a pickup. The seat cushion (split 60/40) also has a handy flip-up feature, if you want to use the area for cargo instead of people.

There’s no shortage of storage spots and the most impressive one is between the front seats. It’s an extra-large multi-level console with a pull-out cup-holder tray and all sorts of compartments.

2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

Standard safety equipment includes multi-stage front airbags, active head restraints and side-impact airbags for front passengers. Side curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers are also provided and this system includes roll-over protection. On the active safety front, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control and a tire-pressure monitoring system are all standard.

Driving impressions

The 2009 Ridgeline is powered by a 3.5-litre SOHC 24-valve VTEC V6 engine that can generate 250 horsepower, up three horsepower over the 2008 model. A five-speed automatic with a grade-logic feature is the only transmission and it’s mated to Honda’s VTM-4 all-wheel-drive system. This full-time all-wheel-drive system normally proportions 60 per cent of the power to the front wheels and can re-direct as much as 70 per cent to the rear wheels when it senses front wheel slip. If you need some extra traction to get moving there’s a driver-selectable lock (up to 29 km/h) incorporated in its limited-slip rear differential.

2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi. Click image to enlarge

The engine is impressively smooth and quiet and it has decent power at low revs, although peak torque (247 lb-ft) is at a rather high 4,300 r.p.m. Acceleration to 100 km/h is under 10 seconds and fuel economy (14.1/9.8 L/100 km (city/hwy) is pretty good for this size and type of vehicle. That’s an improvement over last year’s 14.4/10.1 L/100 km (city/hwy) rating.

While not in the same league as a full-size pickup, the Ridgeline can haul a 705-kg (1554 lb) payload and tow 2,268 kg (5,000 lb). It also comes pre-wired for towing (including trailer brake) and has an integrated chassis hitch plus all the heavy-duty components needed for towing.

As you might expect, the driver’s seating position is higher and more upright than in a car. The steering wheel tilts but does not have a telescoping feature and I would have liked a little more rearward travel in the seat. Vision is generally good, aided by good-sized side mirrors, but the large C-pillars can be a little restrictive in some driving situations. A power sliding rear-cabin window is an unusual but handy feature; its control switch is on the driver’s armrest with the other window switches.

The Ridgeline delivers a very pleasant driving experience and its body has a nice tight and solid feel that’s noticeable on rough roads. The steering is more responsive than in most trucks and has a strong centering action to ensure it tracks a straight line.

Ride quality is possibly the Ridgeline’s best attribute. The absence of a heavy rigid rear axle flopping about under the vehicle is certainly a factor. That said, there are truck-type driving situations when a fixed rear axle might be preferred.

Verdict

The versatile Honda Ridgeline is more than enough truck for most owners, especially when it also has to do double-duty as a passenger vehicle.

Pricing: 2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
  • Base price: $40,790
  • Options: $ 2,200 (Navigation system with English or French voice recognition)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,560
  • Price as tested: $44,650
    Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

    Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Honda Ridgeline
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