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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
3.5-liter V-6 pulls this thing around fairly well
Throttle response off idle is vastly improved
Drives more like a car or minivan than a typical pickup
With the Honda Ridgeline pickup, Honda has taken a very nontraditional approach to truck design. Unlike most competitors, the 2009 Honda Ridgeline is available with just one engine and transmission option, and the crossover-like unibody construction imbues this 2009 Honda with very impressive (for a truck) road manners.
All three trims of the 2009 Honda Ridgeline come with "a 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a five-speed automatic and four-wheel drive," according to Car and Driver. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com contain a lot of praise for this engine, which Automobile Magazine says "pulls this thing around fairly well, although quick sprints require revving it into its upper limits." Car and Driver notes, "for 2009, the engine receives new camshafts, larger intake valves, and a lightweight magnesium dual-stage intake manifold" that helps boost the horsepower "from 247 to 250, and torque is now 247 lb-ft, up from 245." Despite the minor power improvements, Car and Driver reports that the 2009 Honda Ridgeline's "tow rating remains at 5000 pounds."
The standard V-6 on this 2009 Honda routes its power to all four wheels through a five-speed automatic, which is similar to the setup on previous versions but with a few tweaks to improve overall performance. Motor Trend reports that the transmission offers "slightly different gear ratios, in some cases changed only 0.2 percent, to help to improve overall responsiveness." The results are impressive, according to ConsumerGuide, which claims that the Honda Ridgeline offers "better than adequate go, thanks in part to a smooth, responsive transmission." Automobile Magazine raves that the Ridgeline's "all-wheel-drive kept things well-planted" on their test drive, "even in a few washboarded dirt corners."
Although the 2009 Honda Ridgeline shares the same basic design as many crossovers, thanks to its V-6 engine and unibody construction, don't expect crossover-like fuel economy. The official EPA estimates for the 2009 Honda Ridgeline are 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, which disappoints a lot of critics in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Automobile Magazine in particular points out that "if you're going to sell a unibody pickup with a V-6 on the basis of fuel economy, then you've got to do better than 15/20 mpg."
Despite its lack of V-8 power and dismal fuel economy, the Honda Ridgeline still manages to win many supporters thanks to its incredibly comfortable ride. Automobile Magazine feels that "driving the Ridgeline is a lot like piloting an Accord with a porch on the back," which means there's "only a slight handling penalty, not bad when you take into account the usefulness of the small bed." ConsumerGuide calls the ride quality "exemplary for a pickup" and credits the Honda Ridgeline's "independent rear suspension [that] cushions bumps better than nearly all solid-axle-equipped competitors." Cars.com similarly raves about the "comfortable ride" and "precise handling" that are the trademarks of this 2009 Honda. The only major complaints in this category come from ConsumerGuide reviewers, who point out "a fair amount of body lean and noseplow in fast turns," but the fact that the Ridgeline's "braking is strong and sure" helps keep things in check.
Opting for V-6 power doesn't bring much better fuel economy, but it's nice to see that the 2009 Honda Ridgeline's unibody layout pays off on twisty roads.