2011 Honda Ridgeline First Look

Great Idea Long Past Its Expiration Date

2011 Honda Ridgeline Side

Honda's Ridgeline was a bold new take on the pickup truck when it debuted. In fact, when the truck arrived, it was crowned Motor Trend's Truck of the Year. That was for the 2006 model year. Six model years later and the Ridgeline's sales have declined considerably, perhaps because of the limited changes made to the vehicle over its lifecycle.

Despite its age, there's no denying the Ridgeline's strengths. Honda's attempt at a midsize truck has a number of innovative truck ideas that no doubt make Ridgeline owners happy about their purchase. Those owners are likely to be light duty truck users who want a reliable and easy-to-drive pickup that is not as large as best-sellers like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado.

Since the Ridgeline has always been a niche truck offering, you won't see the same type of engine and bed size variety found on the full-size trucks. With the 2011 Ridgeline, there's one engine, transmission, and drivetrain. The engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 - also found in the Odyssey minivan and Pilot SUV - making 250 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 247 pound-feet of torque at 4300 rpm. A five-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive are standard equipment on all models: the basic RT, RTS, and more luxurious RTL with an available navigation system. Prices on the 2011 Ridgeline range from just under $29,000 to about $38,000.

Fuel economy for the Ridgeline hasn't changed from the 2006 to the 2011 model year, with the EPA rating the truck 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. For comparison, the larger 2011 Ford F-150 four-wheel-drive model with a twin-turbocharged direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6 is rated 15/21 mpg.

There are no changes to the Ridgeline for the 2011 model year, so the towing capacity remains 5000 pounds and the payload rating is 1100 pounds. What sets apart the unibody Ridgeline is its independent front and rear suspension and creative solutions. In the five-foot-long cargo bed with steel-reinforced composite material, for example, are eight tie-down locations and four lights that illuminate the bed and another unique truck idea: the in-bed trunk. Under the cargo bed, Honda has designed an in-bed trunk that can hold 8.5 cubic feet of stuff and is lockable as well as weatherproof. Honda claims the trunk is big enough for a 72-quart cooler or even golf bags.

Another distinctive Ridgeline feature is the dual-action tailgate that flips down or swings to the left side of the truck.

"Think of the Ridgeline as the Accordification of the truck concept," the magazine wrote in the truck of the year article. "Visually stroll through some of its feature highlights, including its drop-down, swing-out tailgate, lockable watertight below-bed minitrunk, or well-illuminated cargo hold that helps you secure gear even on pitch-black nights. Makes you wonder why it's taken the truck business a century to think of all this stuff."

These many interesting Ridgeline details weren't the only reasons Motor Trend called the 2006 Ridgeline the Truck of the Year. The magazine also cited good handling, strong brakes, and a smooth ride. Unfortunately for Honda, since the Ridgeline debuted, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, and Dodge revamped their full-size trucks, making the Ridgeline less competitive.

One field in which the Honda does well is safety. The 2011 Ridgeline has not been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since the organization introduced tougher crash tests for the 2011 model year, but the truck still performs well. The 2006-2010 models received a five-star rating (out of five stars) in the front driver, front passenger, side driver, and side passenger categories. The rollover score was four stars.

This late in the Ridgeline's lifecycle and with the minimal changes Honda has made since the 2006 model year, the truck is best left to those who absolutely can't live without its innovative features. Honda enthusiasts might be satisfied, but it's difficult for us to determine the Ridgeline's value since the car-based mid-size truck still essentially competes in a class by itself.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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