- Above-average ride and handling
- Roomy and comfortable cabin
- Dent-resistant bed with innovative trunk compartment and two-way tailgate
- Modest off-road and towing capabilities
- Lackluster power and fuel economy from V6
- Only one body style available
- Longish braking distances
Entering its sixth year of production, the Honda Ridgeline continues to be the alternative choice of the pickup world. It's not trying to be a truck normally found at construction sites, rodeos or in beer commercials. Built with a unibody structure and independent front and rear suspensions, the Ridgeline combines the ride quality of a sedan with workhorse utility.
Those workhorses just happen to be smaller horses. The Ridgeline's V6 puts down 250 horsepower and a modest 247 pound-feet of torque. That might not be enough grunt to free tree stumps from their roots, but it's enough to pull a 5,000-pound trailer or 1,500 pounds of mulch in its 5-foot-long bed. And with 8 inches of ground clearance and an all-wheel-drive drivetrain that shifts power to the rear wheels during low-traction situations, the Ridgeline makes a fine choice for most situations.
While the 2011 Honda Ridgeline is all the truck many pickup buyers will ever need, it's not for everybody. First off, there's only one body style, so if you're looking for a regular- or extended-cab truck, the Ridgeline's no help. Also, the lack of low-range gearing and the light-duty suspension make this Honda unsuitable for serious off-roading. And while the V6 is adequate in normal driving, it's noticeably less punchy than the V6s and V8s available elsewhere.
As such, more demanding shoppers should compare the Ridgeline to more traditional choices like the midsize 2011 Toyota Tacoma or full-size trucks like the 2011 Ram 1500 and 2011 Ford F-150. Chevy's Avalanche is another option given its innovative configurable midgate design. Still, outside of the rodeos and beer commercials, the Ridgeline will surprise you with its ability to get the job done.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2011
The 2011 Honda Ridgeline is unchanged.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2011 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-folding 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
Controls and surfaces inside the 2011 Honda Ridgeline run big -- as in Tonka big. Big climate control knobs, a bulbous knob on the column-type shift lever, puffy square pads for steering-wheel-mounted controls and a big speedometer are what you'll find here. No need to pull off the work gloves; just reach down and grab a couple fingerfuls of A/C blower. There's something charming in the Ridgeline's rugged, work-ready eagerness to please.
The cabin also features storage spaces aplenty, including 60/40-split-folding rear seat cushions that when folded, 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 supersized 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.
Every Ridgeline comes standard with antilock brakes (with brake assist), stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor and front seat active head restraints.
The 2011 Honda Ridgeline has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. However, its 2010 scores (which aren't comparable to the new tests) were a perfect five stars 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 2011 Honda Ridgeline offers only one engine choice, a 3.5-liter V6 generating 250 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. Power flows through 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.
EPA estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, which is mediocre considering the truck's modest power. 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 2011 Honda Ridgeline is pleasant to drive. The suspension provides decent handling and a smooth ride on the pavement, though it lacks the travel and ruggedness 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.
The 2011 Honda Ridgeline doesn't have the muscle that serious truck buyers demand, but its combination of a carlike ride and pickup utility make it all the pickup many buyers will ever need.