2010 Honda Ridgeline Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 20, 2009

The 2010 Honda Ridgeline is a more road-friendly solution for those who need occasionally heavy-hauling ability.

The editors of TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2010 Honda Ridgeline and bring you impressions and details. In addition, TheCarConnection.com has studied a wide range of reviews covering the Ridgeline, to help you make the most informed choice and make sense of differing opinions.

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.

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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.

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2010 Honda Ridgeline

Styling

The 2010 Honda Ridgeline is odd-looking to say the least, and last year's bevy of changes doesn't take a pronounced step in the right direction.

The 2010 Honda Ridgeline's styling isn't widely loved or appreciated on the outside, but some people warm up to the functionality of the interior.

Honda made a number of small changes to the Ridgeline's styling last year, but the truck's overall look remains the same. Overall, reviewers' responses are lukewarm. Motor Trend says that Honda's pickup offering is "clearly designed to look more familial with the recently released and redesigned Honda Pilot," although some of the styling cues afford "the new Ridgeline a more masculine look." Automobile Magazine reacts a bit more positively, remarking that the styling "works a lot better" than before. Cars.com states bluntly that there are "some problems with the Ridgeline's styling and design," including the fact that "a traditional bed cap or bed-mounted crossover toolbox won't fit, [and] there's a limited selection of tonneau covers." Specifically, updates last year included "a redesigned front fascia, grille, bumper, and taillight assembly," according to Car and Driver.

A number of changes were also made to the interior last year, although the actual location of controls and displays wasn't significantly changed. Automobile Magazine still feels that "whoever was in charge of control placement must have flunked human factors design," thanks to awkward elements, like a sunroof switch sitting next to the tachometer and a dome lamp switch that is isolated from all other cabin lighting controls. Motor Trend delves into the Honda Ridgeline's tiny details to spot "slight changes to the gauge shaping and to the choices of type styles for the tachometer and speedometer." Despite the changes, ConsumerGuide comments that "some radio adjustments require a stretch." On the positive side, Car and Driver points out that this 2010 Honda Ridgeline features "better switchgear throughout," and "it seems like almost everything inside has been revised in some way."

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2010 Honda Ridgeline

Performance

The fuel economy offered by the 2010 Honda Ridgeline isn't any revelation, but on twisty roads or bumpy surfaces, this truck's unusual layout pays off.

While most pickups offer a bewildering range of engines, transmissions, axle ratios, differentials, and four-wheel-drive systems, Honda keeps the 2010 Ridgeline lineup simple, with just one 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, a five-speed automatic, and road-oriented all-wheel drive for its carlike uni-body layout.

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."

Last year, Honda changed some of the ratios for the transmission, which ConsumerGuide calls smooth and responsive, as well as helps it offer "better than adequate go." 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."

The official EPA estimates for the 2010 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."

Nearly all the reviews TheCarConnection.com could find are positive about the overall performance offered by the 2010 Honda Ridgeline. 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.

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2010 Honda Ridgeline

Comfort & Quality

Not everyone will be happy with the overall packaging of the 2010 Honda Ridgeline, and materials could be a bit better, but it's a tight truck with top-notch refinement.

With a spacious interior that feels more like that of a crossover SUV than a serious pickup, the 2010 Honda Ridgeline is extremely comfortable inside. But a number of reviewers are quite critical of the surprisingly low-quality materials in some places and the Ridgeline's small cargo bed.

Those accustomed to riding in pickups will find remarkably little to complain about inside the 2010 Honda Ridgeline cabin. ConsumerGuide reports that "headroom is six-footer adequate with RTL's available sunroof" and "ample otherwise," while there is also "fine legroom" below waist level. ConsumerGuide says that there's "good rear-seat room for two adults" and "three if necessary." Cars.com also comments that drivers are generally able to hop in "and get comfy right away," which isn't surprising considering "there's plenty of room for drivers of most sizes and shapes, and passengers should have room to stretch regardless of whether they're riding up front or out back." Edmunds contends that the Ridgeline "provides sedan-like comfort."

Passenger space is clearly favored over cargo space in the design of the 2010 Honda Ridgeline, but there are some innovative smaller cargo spaces. Cars.com states that the Honda Ridgeline features a "lockable in-bed trunk (8.5-cubic-foot capacity)," and ConsumerGuide says it offers "enough [space] for three regular golf bags." Automobile Magazine adds that "the trunk is pretty huge," but sadly "there is no way to stuff long objects, like a couple of 2x4s, into the bed and close the tailgate." ConsumerGuide also reports the "useful in-cab cargo space beneath [the] rear seat becomes generous with the cushions flipped up," but they note that, even with the Honda Ridgeline's tailgate dropped, "floor length is just 6.5 ft, and rivals offer long-box options."

Few pickup buyers expect delicate materials in their trucks, but Honda underdelivers somewhat when it comes to the 2010 Ridgeline's interior appointments, which a number of reviewers criticize for being too heavy on the hard plastics. Cars.com tries to find a tactful way to call out the materials by noting that "Honda wouldn't be hurting anyone's feelings with a few more padded surfaces-not to mention leather upholstery that jumped up a grade or two." Automobile Magazine more directly declares that the "plastics inside are way too hard, and the substantial panel gaps around the dash pad and instrument panel aren't impressive." ConsumerGuide agrees that the "overuse of hard plastic trim disappoints," but as expected, "assembly quality [is] mostly top notch."

The tight, uni-body construction of the 2010 Honda Ridgeline has its clear advantages. TheCarConnection.com could find no mention of wind noise, and ConsumerGuide feels that overall cabin noise levels are "impressive for a pickup," with the V-6 rising "only to a classy growl at full throttle" and road noise that is "no worse than in most cars."

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2010 Honda Ridgeline

Safety

Compared to other pickups large and small, the 2010 Honda Element is a perfect 10.

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 earning the group's Top Safety Pick designation.

There's an extensive list of standard safety features backing up those results. Side and side-curtain bags with a rollover sensor, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control are all standard. Motor Trend notes that the Honda Ridgeline now offers a set of "new front seat active head restraints that will instantly snap forward to reduce excessive head recoil from a rearend collision." Meanwhile, Cars.com reviewers point out that "Honda's forward-thinking on safety technology is evident throughout the Ridgeline, and it's standard in all trim lines," and Cars.com reviewers call the Ridgeline "extremely safety-conscious."

Visibility is the only complaint, voiced by a few reviewers. ConsumerGuide reports that "the rear-roof design hinders over-the-shoulder vision," while the "thick roof pillars are an obstruction to visibility all around, with [the] view directly aft especially compromised." A rearview camera is available and largely remedies that issue when backing up.

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2010 Honda Ridgeline

Features

Although options are limited and the top RTL trim is pricey, the 2010 Honda Ridgeline comes very well equipped even in its base RT form.

Relative to other pickups, the 2010 Honda Ridgeline is a bit pricey, but with a glance at the features list, you'll feel better about it. The Ridgeline was already well equipped, and last year's refreshed lineup brought even more standard features.

Car and Driver notes that "all Ridgeline audio systems are now MP3/WMA capable, and all but the entry RT model gain auxiliary-input jacks." Cars.com points out that this is one of "the most [welcome] changes" to the Honda Ridgeline, which in base RT form comes with a "trip computer...tilt steering wheel, cruise control, and something that's not standard on most so-called entry-level trucks, a power sliding rear window." Upgrading to the 2010 Honda Ridgeline RTS trim earns upgraded wheels and door handles, as well as a 160-watt sound system. For those who want only the best, Cars.com states that the Honda Ridgeline RTL brings "leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power moonroof," as well as "satellite radio, a Homelink universal garage door opener and a 115-volt power outlet."

The 2010 Ridgeline doesn't offer a lot of options (some are available as accessories), and as can be expected from Honda, many of the best options are only offered on top trims. Car and Driver reports that the Ridgeline RTL "can now be optioned with 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, and power lumbar support." Motor Trend reviewers add that the Honda Ridgeline offers a "backup camera with the nav system option." A number of features, like a full-size spare and cargo adapters, are offered as individual accessories.

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Styling 5
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