- Above-average ride and handling for a pickup
- Roomy and comfortable cabin
- Dent-resistant bed with innovative trunk compartment and two-way tailgate
- Top crash test scores
- Modest off-road and towing capabilities
- Lackluster power and fuel economy from V6
- Only one body style available
- Longish braking distances
The balance between form and function is something automotive designers are constantly wrestling with. In the case of the 2010 Honda Ridgeline, function is the clear winner. The midsize Ridgeline pickup may lack the macho attitude of many rivals, but it compensates with a healthy dose of pure unadulterated practicality. The result is a well-rounded midsize pickup with a unique combination of strengths.
Built on the same unibody platform as the Odyssey minivan and previous-generation Pilot SUV, the Ridgeline trades the enclosed rear cargo areas of those models for a 5-foot-long truck bed. Using these lighter-duty underpinnings gives the Ridgeline a number of advantages over traditional body-on-frame pickups, starting with noticeably better handling and a more carlike ride. A lower overall height also makes it easier to get in and out of the comfortable five-passenger cabin.
The Ridgeline's main attraction, however, is that 5-foot bed. Made out of a steel-reinforced composite material, the bed makes rust and dents a non-issue. While it's short by full-size pickup standards, there's still enough room for a pair of dirt bikes or an ATV with the tailgate lowered. It also incorporates two innovative features -- a large under-floor "trunk" compartment and a tailgate that both flips down and swings out like a door -- that are so useful, they make you wonder why nobody thought of them sooner.
While the Ridgeline is all the truck many pickup buyers will ever need, it's not for everybody. The standard all-wheel-drive system (there's no low-range gearing) and light-duty suspension make it unsuitable for serious off-roading. The mandatory V6 is adequate in normal driving, but it's noticeably less punchy than the V6s and V8s available elsewhere. Two other downsides are a modest 5,000-pound towing capacity and braking distances that are longer than normal for this class of vehicle.
Buyers who like to weigh all their options might also want to consider the midsize Ford Explorer Sport Trac and full-size Chevrolet Avalanche. Both represent similar efforts to re-imagine the traditional pickup truck for personal use, though neither attempt is quite as successful as the Ridgeline. Also, bigger trucks like the Dodge Ram and Toyota Tundra have more workhorse potential, and V6-powered versions of the midsize Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are sprightlier. Still, the 2010 Honda Ridgeline has got the functionality thing nailed for many shoppers in this segment.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2010
Other than a few new color choices, the Honda Ridgeline returns unchanged for 2010.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2010 Honda Ridgeline midsize pickup truck is offered in a single four-door crew-cab body style with seating for five. There are three available trim levels, ranging from base RT to midrange RTS and top-of-the-line RTL. The entry-level RT is reasonably well equipped with standard features that include 17-inch steel wheels, a power-sliding rear window, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split rear seat with under-seat storage, full power accessories, cruise control, a trip computer and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack.
The RTS adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat and an upgraded seven-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Spring for the top-of-the-line RTL and you get 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 115-volt AC power outlet and satellite radio.
The Ridgeline's factory options list is limited to a navigation system package that includes Bluetooth hands-free cell phone compatibility and a back-up camera. Only the RTL model is eligible for this package.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The Ridgeline's interior gets high marks for passenger friendliness, with comfortable seats up front and above-average legroom -- at least by midsize pickup standards -- in back. Taller drivers may wish for a telescoping steering wheel, however.
The cabin also features storage spaces aplenty, including 60/40-split rear seat cushions that fold up to make room for large items you'd rather not leave in the bed. Then there's that 8.5-cubic-foot lockable trunk under the bed, a compartment that's large enough to hold a few sets of golf clubs, though long drivers may pose a challenge. Drain plugs in the bottom allow it to double as a supersize cooler for tailgate parties and such.
One downside to this bed design is that the spare tire is located underneath the floor, which means you may be faced with the prospect of unloading your cargo to get to it if you have a flat.
The Honda Ridgeline's list of standard safety features includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor.
In government crash tests, the 2010 Honda Ridgeline earned a perfect five-star rating for occupant protection in both frontal and side-impact crashes. The Ridgeline did equally well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, receiving the organization's highest "Good" rating in both frontal-offset and side-impact crashes. In Edmunds 60-0-mph brake testing, the Ridgeline required 141 feet to stop, a disappointing figure for its class.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2010 Honda Ridgeline is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 250 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and a standard all-wheel-drive system. In testing, we recorded a 0-60-mph sprint of 9 seconds flat, which is slower than most other midsize V6 pickups as well as V8-powered full-size trucks.
This powertrain has earned EPA fuel economy estimates of 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. Given that a V8-powered four-wheel-drive Ford F-150 is rated at 14 city/20 highway and 16 combined, this isn't very impressive. The Ridgeline can handle payloads up to 1,550 pounds and tow trailers up to 5,000 pounds, both of which are a little below average for a V6-powered midsize pickup.
By pickup standards, the 2010 Honda Ridgeline is surprisingly pleasant to drive. The suspension provides decent handling and a smooth ride on the pavement, though it lacks the travel and ground clearance to handle serious off-road excursions. The V6 is refined and provides adequate power for everyday driving, but it lacks low-end torque and generally feels less lively than rival V6s, let alone the big V8s available in full-size trucks.
While the 2010 Honda Ridgeline might not have the muscle that serious truck buyers demand, its unique combination of a carlike ride and pickup utility makes it all the pickup many buyers will ever need.