What's New for 2006
The Ridgeline, Honda's first pickup truck, is all-new for 2006.
Until recently, Honda had always focused its efforts on passenger cars and SUVs, leaving the Japanese-brand pickup truck market to Mazda, Nissan and Toyota. Upon researching the pickup truck market, Honda discovered that nearly 25 percent of Honda CR-V owners also owned a pickup. While visions of potentially lost market share danced in their heads, the powers that be at Honda decided to finally produce a pickup, and the 2006 Honda Ridgeline was born. Typical trucks have a steel frame that provides strength, and the body is bolted on top to hold the occupants and cargo. Honda took a different tack by integrating the lower frame and upper body into a single structure.
The MDX and Pilot platform was beefed up with seven high-strength steel undercarriage cross members, creating a fully boxed ladder frame integrated into the unibody structure. Developed for the U.S. market, the 2006 Honda Ridgeline has styling that is a departure from the traditional "3 box" (engine compartment, cab, cargo box) pickup truck school of design. Rather than having the bed as a separate piece, the Ridgeline unites it with the cab. The steel-reinforced fiberglass composite truck bed is dent- and rustproof, eliminating the need for a bed liner. Honda raised the floor of the bed, creating a flat surface that can accommodate cargo without the intrusion of bulging wheelwells. The bed is 5 feet long and over 4 feet wide, so it can easily swallow a standard 4x8-foot sheet of plywood with the tailgate down. Traditional truck owners often have to choose between stowing cargo in the unsecured bed or stashing it in the cab.
Honda eliminated this problem by incorporating an 8.5-cubic-foot locking trunk into the back of the bed, which is accessed by lifting a hatch in the floor. The trunk can hold a 72-quart cooler or three golf bags. Bending over a tailgate to pull gear out of the trunk would be difficult, so the tailgate is designed to open down or swing out sideways like a car door. The Honda Ridgeline also boasts an independent suspension for a smoother ride, but there's no V8 option for heavier loads. The Ridgeline's 3.5-liter V6, while smooth and refined, lacks the low-end grunt of other big pickups. With the optional towing package, the Honda is rated to tow 5,000 pounds and can haul 1,550 pounds in the bed, numbers that fall in the gray area between midsize and full-size categories.
Although old school truck purists may sneer at its lack of a solid rear axle and V8 power, the vast majority of modern-day pickup buyers should appreciate the Ridgeline's many attributes. With its manageable size, solid performance, carlike ride and handling and all-around quality, the 2006 Honda Ridgeline should be another successful market segment invasion for Honda.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
Rather than baffle potential customers with dozens of trim levels and body styles, Honda realizes that most people want four big doors and lots of features on their trucks. To that end, the 2006 Honda Ridgeline is offered in one body style (crew cab) and three well-equipped trim levels: base RT, midlevel RTS and leather-lined RTL. Power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; air conditioning; and a CD player are featured on the RT. The RTS adds a power driver seat, deep-tinted glass, a security system and a six-disc CD changer. In addition to leather upholstery, the RTL provides heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a compass, XM radio and HomeLink. Innovative standard features on all Honda Ridgelines include six steel tie-down hooks in the bed, four flush-mounted cargo lights and an optional power-sliding rear window.
Powertrains and Performance
The Ridgeline draws power from Honda's 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam V6, already used in the Pilot, MDX and Odyssey. The cylinder heads are tweaked to provide more power, and variable-length intake runners help boost bottom-end torque. Output is rated at 255 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. A heavy-duty five-speed automatic with a transmission cooler is standard. An all-wheel-drive system (dubbed VTM-4 for Variable Torque Management four-wheel drive) is also standard. Tow capacity is 5,000 pounds, and the Ridgeline can haul 1,550-pound payloads in its bed.
The Honda Ridgeline's standard four-wheel disc brakes feature the first four-channel ABS system in a pickup, along with BrakeAssist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Side airbags for front occupants and head-protecting side curtain airbags are standard, as are traction and stability control systems.
Interior Design and Special Features
Open the door and the first thing you'll notice are silver grab handles that look and feel like a power saw handle. The front bucket seats are firm, well shaped and comfortable, and the door panels and dash are covered in typical Honda high-quality textured plastic. Other niceties include oversize side mirrors, 12 individual storage compartments (including an expandable center console), six cupholders and plenty of 12-volt power outlets. Rear legroom falls short of that of full-size trucks, but still bests that of midsize pickups like the Tacoma.
The 2006 Honda Ridgeline is comfortable, quiet and easy to drive. Steering is tight with just the right amount of resistance and feedback, and the ride is very soft and carlike. Honda has even managed to eliminate that annoying rear-end "bounce" most trucks get while rolling over speed bumps or potholes. On-road handling is very responsive for a pickup, but off-road trail runs are not the Ridgeline's forte. Likewise, the V6 is smooth with plenty of power for cruising, but lacks the low-end grunt needed for bigger hauling jobs.