- Handling and maneuverability
- Energetic, refined powertrain
- Excellent safety
- Comfortable ride
- Odd styling isn't for everyone
- Pricey relative to compact trucks
- Bed is too small for some tasks
The 2010 Honda Ridgeline is a more road-friendly solution for those who need occasionally heavy-hauling ability.
Although the Honda Ridgeline was coldly received when it was first introduced in 2005, the vehicle landscape has changed greatly since then. Many of the attributes that made the Ridgeline seem like an outsider at that time now add up to a more appealing choice for shoppers who want the comforts of the big trucks but don't need all their capability (or cumbersome handling).
Last year, Honda rehabilitated the Ridgeline with a host of slight improvements that affected its styling and driving demeanor, yielding a somewhat improved truck overall. Although the basic look is the same, a new grille, plus new headlights and tail lamps on the outside, and a revised appearance inside, all help give it a slightly more upscale feel. Still, to many, the Ridgeline's side silhouette is both its most memorable and maligned feature; the so-called machined billet styling—with no gap between the cab and bed, and the downward sloping bed wall—can come across as a little overwrought and busy. From the rear, the Ridgeline appears neat and tidy, but the odd new front fascia and grille—borrowing from the Pilot SUV's controversial look—don't do the design any favors. Inside, the Ridgeline has a more conventional, straightforward appearance—although the door panels are styled with hints of the exterior and have an awkward grab-handle arrangement.
The 2010 Honda Ridgeline has a single powertrain combination, which is unusual in the pickup market. With a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, a five-speed automatic transmission, and Variable Torque Management four-wheel drive, the Ridgeline has brisk acceleration and good passing response, even with a load, and it's better suited for slippery snow-covered roads than most four-wheel-drive pickups. Although the system isn't designed for serious off-roading, it includes a rear diff lock (VTM-4) mode for speeds of up to 18 mph. All the heavy-duty towing components are included; the Ridgeline can haul a 1,550-pound payload in its five-foot composite cargo bed or tow up to 5,000 pounds.
With a fully independent suspension, the 2010 Honda Ridgeline has a smoother ride and much better handling than other compact or mid-size trucks. Well-weighted steering helps the Ridgeline handle like the more car-oriented SUVs, with a great on-center feel, and it unwinds neatly coming out of corners. The Ridgeline doesn't bang and wiggle over bumps either, as many leaf-sprung pickups do, yet the suspension feels just as secure with a moderately full load as it does when empty, and it's relatively easy to hustle along on a curvy road.
There's only one body style, too. The Ridgeline is only offered in a crew-cab layout, with space for five. Front seats are supportive, if not that soft, but there's plenty of space, and in back two adults will fit just fine. The split-folding, tumble-forward rear seat has an integrated storage area for carrying smaller items securely, and if that's not enough, there's also a sealed 8.5-cubic-foot compartment within the cargo bed, good enough for a large cooler. The tailgate can also either open to the side or conventionally; it can support up to 300 pounds, even while moving; and it's designed to close with contaminates like sand or sawdust in between without damaging the setup. The downside is the cargo bed itself; at just over five feet long, it's not big but it will hold a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood with the tailgate down. An optional bed extender includes more tie-downs and can handle mounting accessories for ATVs, snowboards, surfboards, bikes, and the like.
The Ridgeline has been a longtime overachiever in safety, and that continues for 2010. Front side airbags, rollover-sensing side-curtain bags covering both rows, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control are included across the model line. The Ridgeline achieves top "good" ratings from the IIHS, and is one of just a few pickups getting the group's Top Safety Pick designation.
Three trims are now offered for the Ridgeline: RT, RTS, and RTL. The RT includes air conditioning, cruise control, a power-sliding rear window, and a 100-watt, six-speaker CD sound system. The mid-level RTS brings a refined appearance with machine-finished alloy wheels, body-colored door handles and mirrors, and privacy glass, plus an upgraded 160-watt sound system; at the top of the line, the RTL adds 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, a power moonroof, heated mirrors, and XM Satellite Radio. On the Element's options list are several features that aren't typically available with any but the largest pickups: a voice-recognition navigation system that includes Zagat restaurant information, an off-road tracking function, and a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface.