2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport Review By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport Review
Since its debut in model year 2006, the Ridgeline, Honda's unique take on the pickup truck, has carved out a solid niche for itself in what is usually thought of as a conservative field. And it has recently expanded its lineup with the addition of a mid-level Sport model aimed directly at people who would likely buy a more typical pickup.
Other pickups are the last bastion of truck tradition, with body-on-frame construction and solid rear axles, usually sprung by leaf springs. Although plenty get used as personal transportation, pickups are the most popular work vehicles in the country, as a quick glance around anytime you're on the road can tell. For heavy hauling and towing, body-on-frame construction makes sense -- it's strong, tough, and more easily repairable than a unibody. Poorer ride and handling qualities, from the heavy rear axle, are outweighed by the benefits.
2012 Honda Ridgeline For work.
For everyday use, more comfort and quiet readily win. Honda has made cars, crossovers, minivans, motorcycles, lawnmowers, generators, outboard motors, even aircraft -- but never trucks. But Honda is no stranger to innovation, and the Ridgeline is plenty innovative -- it's based, loosely, on the same platform as the Pilot crossover SUV, but with considerable reworking. The lower part of the structure is comprised ofseven high-strength crossmembers that create a fully-boxed ladder frame that is integrated into the unibody structure, so it's capable of safely towing up to 5000 pounds. If the bed is shorter than those of some other pickups, it's still long and wide enough, with the tailgate down, to hold two offroad motorcycles or one ATV -- Honda preferred, of course. (Street bike? Trailers are *so* much easier!) Suspension is fully-independent, so even unladen the Ridgeline is as comfortable as a modern crossover.
And no other pickup has the Ridgeline's "In-Bed Trunk"®, a locking compartment under the bed floor large enough for a couple of acoustic guitar cases, or a golf bag, or a good load of luggage, or lots of ice and cold drinks and food for a tailgate party -- no water problem thanks to drain holes. Attention to detail is important. Just as useful is the two-way tailgate, which can open by means of hinges on the side or bottom depending on what's more convenient. If that's not enough, check out the rear seat, which not only offers space in comfort for three people but has a split cushion that can fold against the back for secure inside cargo storage.
Power is from the 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 also found in the Pilot and Odyssey minivan. All Ridgelines come with the "Variable Torque Management"® (VTM-4®) single-range four-wheel drive system for secure traction delivery in nearly any weather condition. The Sport trim level has been added between the base RT and upper-midrange RTS. Compared to the RT, the Sport adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, a unique black honeycomb grille, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, an audio input jack, fog lamps, rear privacy glass, and rubberized all-weather floor mats.
It's not overly fancy, and that should fit the needs of its intended customers just fine. There's no shortage of power for acceleration, towing, or hauling, plenty of exceptionally versatile space, and a more comfortable drive experience than is available from any other pickup. The Ridgeline is Honda's toolbox on wheels, and the Sport model adds useful features for people who don't want luxury in a truck, at a $2,000 savings compared to the RTS.
APPEARANCE: Changes to the Ridgeline since its debut have been minor, on the order of grille and headlight shape. Its difference from other pickups shows most from the sides, where there is no gap between the cab and bed. The bed sides start high and slope downwards toward the rear, and prominent fenders and a pugnacious nose give it an appropriate look.
COMFORT: This is crew cab, not extended cab. There is more than ample room for five people, with the convenience of four door access. Styling is contemporary, and the interior is very functional. A column shift allows space for a huge multi-configuration front console box. The Sport's upholstery is a high-grade cloth and the seats are manually-adjustable, with good comfort and support. Windows, mirrors, and door locks are power-assisted in all trim levels. The rear seat is split 60/40, with cushions that flip up as in the smaller Fit. A golf bag can fit underneath, or a bicycle can fit inside with both cushions up, if its front wheel is removed. Ever wonder what happened to Honda's rubberized floor mats after the Element was discontinued? Here they are! There are convenient small and not-so-small storage spaces galore throughout the cabin, but the best storage feature is underneath the cargo floor. Open the tailgate - it's easier using the side hinges for this purpose - and unlock the panel that covers the 8.5 cubic foot In-Bed Trunk. Inside is a space-saver spare (a full-size spare is available and will fit) and room for several golf bags, or at least two guitar cases, or a large cooler, or any number of large items you will want safe from prying eyes but not necessarily in the cabin. The bed is made of strong sheet-molded composite (SMC) material, which also serves as a built-in bedliner. At five feet long (tailgate up) or six and a half feet with the tailgate down, and with over four feet between the wheel wells, it compares well with the competition, and if something won't fit, a trailer may be a better solution anyway. With a 5,000-lb towing ability, a trailer isn't likely to pose a problem to the Ridgeline.
SAFETY: All Ridgeline models come with dual-stage front, front side, and side curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and traction control, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, and brake assist. It has scored a five-star rating in frontal- and side-impact tests by the NHTSA, and has a "Top Safety Pick" rating from the IIHS.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Truck not felt here. The Ridgeline may look like a pickup, and work like a pickup, but on the road it feels like a good crossover. No chassis flex, no squeaks and rattles, and no stiff, jouncy solid-axle truck ride. The fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink suspension does an admirable job. That independent rear suspension also saves space and allows the In-Bed Trunk. The Ridgeline is designed for everyday use on pavement, and up to medium-duty off-road use. As on the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX, the VTM-4 automatic four-wheel drive system operates with a front-wheel drive bias normally, sending power to the rear wheels when needed. I haven't driven a Ridgeline off road, but I have driven MDXes in slick mud and in snow, where they performed well, so I would expect similar abilities from the Ridgeline.
PERFORMANCE: Unlike other pickups, drivetrain choice for a Ridgeline is easy -- a 3.5-liter single overhead cam, 24-valve V6 with 250 horsepower (at 5700 rpm) and 247 lb-ft of torque (at 4300 rpm) matched with a five-speed automatic transmission and the VTM-4 single-range four-wheel drive system. The VTEC variable valve timing and lift system ensures the good low- and mid-range performance needed for a truck. Acceleration is not a problem, nor is towing ability. Fuel economyâ€¦ this is a 4500-pound 4WD vehicle and it shows in EPA ratings of 15 mpg city, 21 highway. I saw 16 overall.
CONCLUSIONS: The Ridgeline, Honda's toolbox on wheels, continues to offer a unique solution to the needs of a civilized pickup buyer.
2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport
Base Price $ 30,095 Price As Tested $ 30,986 Engine Type aluminum alloy SOHC 24-valve V6 with VTEC variable cam control Engine Size 3.5 liters / 212 cu. in. Horsepower 250 @ 5700 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 247 @ 4300 rpm Transmission 5-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 122.0 in. / 206.9 in. Curb Weight 4504 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 18.0 Fuel Capacity 22 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P245/60 R18 Michelin LTX m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, VSA standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink Drivetrain transverse front engine, all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 21 / 16 0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec Towing Capacity 5000 lbs Payload Capacity 1546 lbs total (including passengers) OPTIONS AND CHARGES Rear Under-Seat Cargo Tray $ 61 Destination Charge $ 830 Wheel Locks $ 67 Destination Charge $ 730