When Honda introduced the Ridgeline pickup, midway through 2005, one of its selling points was that, despite appearances to the contrary, you could carry a full-size motorcycle in the back.
It didn't dwell on the fact that you had to load the bike at an angle – corner to corner – while leaving the tailgate down and nudging the front-end hard against the cab, but, yes, it could be done. There was also enough room back there for an ATV, although it, too, was a tight fit.
But the point Honda was trying to make was that the Ridgeline isn't a working truck in the same way as, oh, a Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado. It was a go-to rig for discretional pickup aficionados who want to get away from it all and take their toys with them. You could even make the argument that it was – and still is – as much an SUV as it is a pickup truck.
It also featured body and ladder frame construction, but with a difference. These two were welded together as one component, so the Ridgeline lacked the traditional body-bolted-to-the-frame construction of most other full-size trucks, and wasn't designed to do any seriously heavy lifting. This is definitely not a fleet vehicle.
On the other hand, it had a few clever features in the form of a dual-action tailgate that opens out to the side or downwards, a built-in lockable storage compartment under the cargo bed, eight tie-down cleats and an additional "hidden" storage compartment under the floor.
Before it introduced the Ridgeline, Honda researched this market thoroughly and discovered that, like the majority of SUV owners, most people simply don't use their trucks for hard work; they primarily use them for fun, and the toughest duty most will see is hauling yard scraps to the dump on Sundays. So, for 99 per cent of the people that needed a truck, it did the job just fine.
In 2009, it featured a 3.5-litre V-6 engine that developed 250 horsepower, mated to a five-speed automatic transmission only, with full-time all-wheel-drive. Although it wasn't really designed to crash through the really rough stuff, it could tow up to 2,268 kilograms and, for dealing with snow and mud, and for most off-road forays, the Ridgeline was more than adequate.
The AWD system featured a front-drive bias, redirecting up to 70 per cent of power to the back wheels. It still has the same drivetrain combination three years later, and the Ridgeline is a classic example of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought.
Made in Ontario, the Ridgeline hasn't changed much over the years. It still seats five adults, and in 2009, Honda discontinued one trim level – the LX model. Still, standard equipment level was high for all three remaining versions, with the usual convenience and comfort features, such as air conditioning, one-touch power windows, tilt steering, remote keyless entry, a sliding rear window, and centre console storage all standard.
Extras included larger 18-inch alloy wheels and tires, power sunroof, eight-way power driver's seat, a dual-zone climate control system, navigation system with Bluetooth, and an additional 115-volt power outlet.
No safety recalls to report, either from Transport Canada or the U.S.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nor are there any technical service bulletins of note for this vintage of the Ridgeline. The short version: this is clearly a reliable truck, from both a safety and engineering perspective.
No surprise then that Consumer Reports loves this one. Aside from some minor issues with "squeaks and rattles," it gets top marks in every category, earning this organization's "best-bet" designation and its highest used-car prediction rating, right across the board. Says C.R: "The car-based Honda Ridgeline is among the best compact pickups we've tested."
Some comments from owners: "Drives like an SUV/large car," "Sturdy and reliable," "I'd buy it again in a minute." You get the picture, but, that said, disappointing fuel economy is a constant complaint here, and some buyers have problems with the unorthodox storage features.
From a mid-$34,000 base price in 2009, the Ridgeline has dropped by about $10,000. It has held its value well and, if you can find one (people tend to keep this one), expect to pay anywhere from the mid-$20,000s to just less than $30,000, depending upon extras, of course. The top of the line EX-L is about $5,000 pricier than the other models.
2009 Honda Ridgeline
Original Base Price: $34,490
Black Book: $23,350-$26,850
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 250 hp/247 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km):14.1 city/9.8 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Chevrolet Avalanche, Ford Explorer SportTrack, Dodge Durango, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma