Day 1:
It’s a car; it’s a truck…….. it’s a Honda? It is the much debated Honda Ridgeline! You can call it a truck or a car or an SUV with a box, or a caruck or whatever you want; I’ll refer to it as the Ridgeline from here on in. The Ridgeline is a full sized cab (5 seater) vehicle with a short box similar to the Ford Sport Trac. It is built on the Pilot / MDX chassis and is configured with a fully independent rear end; as a result it rides more like a car than a truck.

Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
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So you can argue if the Ridgeline is a true truck or not till you are blue in the face, Honda calls it a truck and it has won numerous truck awards such as Canadian Truck of the Year, North American Truck of the Year and Motor Trend Truck of the Year! As of this writing it is still winning Truck of the Year even with all the debate on our very own forums, see poll here.

I’m not much of a truck guy; I like my low riding low cars that handle well. Probably because that is mostly what I have driven my whole life, I like to “feel” the car and having the edges of the vehicle closer gives me more of a sense of oneness with the vehicle, so this may be an interesting week for me. I’ve already realized my driveway which can fit 3 small cars fits only 1 Ridgeline with little room to spare.

Initial Impressions……

Likes:
Personally I like the chiseled look, I know some don’t …..
Space and versatility, those rear fold up seats have already proven usefull
I’ve got a fully decked out model the leather and interior is great so far.
Seems to ride and handle smoothly, like a VERY large car, but does bump a long, somewhat truck like.
Doesn’t make me feel like a hick in my suburb.

Dislikes:
Auto locking doors, ugh, is this so it is like an American vehicle? Drives me nuts and when I get out the rear door is locked so I have to push the remote button to get my bag from the rear.
It beeps / bongs incessantly if you leave the rear window open when exiting the vehicle.

Honda Ridgeline MSRP: $35,200
Price as Tested: $43,900

For more information on Honda and their models please visit Honda Canada

Updated April 11th 2006
Day 2:
I did some poking around today on the inside of the Ridgeline while waiting for Costco to open so I could drop off my tires to get mounted. The Navigation System / HVAC controls and Radio controls each have their own separate control panels but they are all integrated into the Navigation system for voice activation. Although I’m not sure how practical using the voice commands really is, it takes about one tenth of the time to just hit the appropriate button than to command the computer and have it repeat what you said than actually complete the action.

Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
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Assuming it understands you in the first place that is!

After trying it for a bit, the voice activation isn’t that bad, it understood “Tune Radio to 106.9 FM” but sometimes it changes it to 100.9 FM, other times it is way off and changes it to AM 590. It is like learning another language as there are specific commands you have to remember like “Climate Control Off” or “Climate Control full Auto”, the list is fairly extensive. Although I will point out the radio control buttons are hard to reach from my driving position I have to bend over taking my eyes off the road completely. The ergonomics are not perfect, it seems they tried to create a boxy feel like other trucks and for the smaller controls in the Honda it just doesn’t work right.

So like I said before I’m not much of a Truck guy although I’m getting use to driving the Ridgeline around, it was very convenient for me today. I needed to bring my tires and rims to get them mounted it would have been a major pain to try to stuff these into my little Subaru and even a wagon or SUV would have been a fairly tight fit. They fit nicely in the bed of the Ridgeline and entry and exit is a breeze as there is a little step where the license plate is to allow for easy access. The tailgate folds down like any other pick-up but it also swings out to the left allowing for easy entry and access to the interior trunk. I loaded the bed folding the door down but emptied it opening it outward. Outward was most definitely more convenient for step up entry and step down exit from the box. I also noted this evening when opening the trunk the box lights come on lighting the trunk and a good area around it, excellent for loading and unloading cargo at night.

Navi & HVAC Controls
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Tires in Bed
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Updated April 12th 2006
Day 3:
Storage space, the Ridgeline has storage space a plenty, Honda really put some thought into how to utilize the available space in this vehicle. Starting with the center console which has 2 cup holders and the usual flip up lid for CDs and a few storage items, into the rear with flip up seats and available space under them and going all the way back to the trunk hidden under the bed allowing for weather proof and lockable storage out of the way of peering eyes.

Ridgeline
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Ridgeline
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I want to talk about these rear seats, they are similar to the ones in the new 2007 Honda Fit, they fold UP out of the way giving you a huge amount of space behind the front seats as well as a fairly flat area to store items. I have found myself putting my groceries back here or any box I might need to carry they flip up with a quick release of the handle and are easily put back down with a little push. When down they have about 8 inches of clearance under them for small items you may want to hide away without having to go to the trunk. Not only is there a ton of storage there is room back there for a 6 foot tall person with plenty of room to spare.
Onto the front seats and front storage compartments. The front seats are really comfortable and the power drivers seat works well, the passenger seat unfortunately is not adjustable and anyone over 6’ 2″ tall may find head room to be a squeeze. The driver’s seat lowers a few inches more than the passenger seat allowing taller people to drive in comfort. There is one issue though, the seats are fairly narrow, typical Japanese type seating and not built for the larger North American rump, so if you’re a big guy or girl and you are into trucks…. the seats may not be that great for you.

There are little cubby holes all around the front of the vehicle. The map pockets are large and deep, there are some rubber coated places for pens and such above the glove box and the center console is a cornucopia of fun hiding places, it slides and pushes and slides again for an extended or short box area and there is the perfect space in front of it for my lunch bag on my way to work and home. The interior really feels solid and feels like it will wear well over time, the climate control knobs are glove friendly, although you could always just say “Temperature 22 degrees”.

Updated April 13th 2006
Day 4:

I’ve been fairly impressed with the Ridgeline so far I believe it is an excellent urban vehicle for someone that does a lot of home improvements or needs to haul things around once and awhile. Although realistically unless you need a truck like vehicle constantly, the Ridgeline is large to maneuver around and it certainly is not Civic like in fuel economy. It is not perfect though there are a few things that Honda possibly did not think through fully when building the Ridgeline.

Ridgeline
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Ridgeline
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The ride is fairly ………… interesting in the Ridgeline. It drives like a car but does have some Truck characteristics to remind you it is not a small car. Obviously the large square hood and high seating positions are the first thing that tips you off while driving that it is not a car, but the springs are fairly stiff and need to be in order to carry any type of cargo. As a result it does ride somewhat truck like although it is not nearly as bouncy as a true truck with leaf springs and a solid axle. Honda also tuned the exhaust to sound truck like which I do enjoy, when you get on it, it certainly has that low end torque feel and grunt to the engine.

The handling on the other hand is more definitely car like in nature. The steering controls are precise and fluid and I find myself turning corners faster than I would dare to in any other truck. The brakes are crisp and responsive as well, if it wasn’t for the higher seating and the large squared off hood, I could forget that I wasn’t driving an Accord around.

Onto the box and trunk in the rear, I have provided some pictures so you can see exactly how this works. There are a couple of flaws with this design that really do need to be mentioned. The major one is the tailgate and the fact that it does not lock! This is a fairly large oversight by Honda, they sell a $2095 tonneau cover to hide your large items in the bed but then do not provide a lock for the tailgate, a lot of “truck” people find this to be one of the biggest downfalls. The other issue is the spare tire location. Typically on a truck the spare tire is under the vehicle, yes it gets all muddy and dirty but it is accessible if your truck bed is full of timber or gravel or whatever you happen to be hauling when you get the unexpected flat. Personally I don’t mind the spare tire issue that much, driving in suburbia getting a flat while hauling would be a very rare occurrence, but if one was actually to use the Ridgeline in a harsh environment where nails and debris could be picked up it could be an issue.

Ridgeline
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Ridgeline
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Ridgeline
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Ridgeline
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Updated April 14th 2006
Day 5:
According to wikipedia most trucks (with the exception of the car-like minivan) are built around a strong frame called a chassis. It goes on to define the Ridgeline as a car-based truck with the Subaru Baja being the only other car-based pick-up truck sold in North America. So there you have it, it IS a truck, a car-based truck. I showed the Ridgeline off to a few people over the last few days. All were impressed by the interior space the practicality of the in trunk bed and the swing out rear tailgate.

Ridgeline
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Some impressive stats were determined today. 0-100km/h in 9.5s. That is pretty impressive for a vehicle of this size, stopping distance was 157ft from100km/h, this is about 20 feet more than the Volvo XC70 I tested last week. The Ridgeline certainly did not feel as abrupt when stopping and it stopped in a true straight line without need correcting, I found the Volvo stopped harder and slightly faster but seemed to be squirming all over the road as it did so.

A few more statistics to lay out on the table that might impress. I traveled approximately 250 kilometers city driving and the same on 400 series highways traveling at an average speed of 110km/h. I averaged 12.5 L / 100km for the entire tank, and approximately 10L/100km on the highway. This is superior mileage than I achieved with the Volvo, also for approximately 150km of travel I was hauling 400 pounds of tires around in the bed. Because of this I am going to give the Ridgeline four stars for fuel mileage based on the category and size of the vehicle.

In my never ending search for unique ideas for my reviews I plan on hauling some rather large items with the Ridgeline this coming weekend, despite my blog for the week being complete I will update with pictures and a short commentary on how the Ridgeline handles the task.

Rating out of 5:

Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi
Acceleration wheelwheelwheelhalfwheel
Handling wheelwheelwheel
Comfort wheelwheelwheelwheel
Interior wheelwheelwheelwheel
Audio System wheelwheelwheel
Gas Mileage wheelwheelwheelwheel
0 – 100km/h 9.5 seconds
100-0km/h 157 feet

Honda Ridgeline EX-L Navi MSRP: $43,900

For more information on Honda and their models please visit Honda Canada

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