Performance » 7
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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
The 2011 Honda Ridgeline doesn't have the seemingly endless powertrain combinations that you used to find on Chevy and Ford trucks. Even those pickups have downsized. The Ridgeline's singular powertrain, though, is a standout in the pickup class, nonetheless.
In the Ridgeline, a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine provides all the motivation. It's coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission, and standard four-wheel drive. Since it's somewhat lighter than a true full-size pickup, the Ridgeline feels brisk and energetic off the line, and even when it's laden it musters good passing power.
The four-wheel-drive system feels more sophisticated than the setups in most pickups, save for the Sierra Denali's AWD setup. In the Ridgeline, a rear differential lock will engage at speeds of up to 18 mph, which means all-weather capability is fine. Off-roading isn't really its forte, given its thinner torque down low, but the Ridgeline will haul a decent amount of stuff. The payload's rated at 1,550 pounds, and towing maxes out at 5,000 lb.
The Ridgeline pays back owners who choose its vaguely alternative pickup vibe with a great sense of road feel and good handling. It's better than most other compact and mid-size trucks, and a step up from the dynamics of the full-sizers, though the Ram 1500 has great steering and ride feel. The Ridgeline is true to its SUV roots--it handles more like a crossover vehicle, with well-damped ride motions and steering that carves almost eagerly into corners. The Ridgeline avoids the big-bump watusi that afflicts some big trucks, too, since it's founded on an independent suspension.
The 2011 Honda Ridgeline's drivetrain and suspension give it premium handling for the class.