What's New for 2009
The Honda Ridgeline receives an array of minor but useful updates for 2009. A trailer hitch is now standard on every model, and top-of-the-line RTL models equipped with the navigation system receive Bluetooth and a back-up camera. On the safety front, active front seat head restraints are now standard across the lineup. There are also a handful of exterior and interior styling tweaks.
For those who don't require the biggest and baddest pickup on the market, the 2009 Honda Ridgeline has a lot to offer. Honda's first take on an American-style truck has served as an appealingly carlike alternative to traditional pickups since its debut a few years back. Based on the previous-generation Pilot SUV's unibody chassis, the crew-cab-only Ridgeline handles better and rides more smoothly than most trucks. It falls short in terms of hauling and towing capacities, though, so truck shoppers who require brawny performance may find this Honda less than satisfying.
In addition to its relatively carlike handling and ride, the Ridgeline offers a comfortable five-passenger cabin. It also boasts an innovative steel-reinforced, fiberglass-composite bed that's immune to rust and dents. This unique design features a flat raised load space with an 8.5-cubic-foot locking trunk that's hidden beneath a hatch in the floor and accessed by a convenient dual-action tailgate.
For 2009, the Ridgeline receives a handful of updates aimed at keeping it fresh in the rapidly changing pickup world. Every Ridgeline now comes standard with a trailer hitch, and there are modest stylistic revisions inside and out. Other changes include two additional cargo tie-downs out back (for a total of eight), a 115-volt power outlet on the RTL model, an auxiliary input jack on higher trim levels and a smidge more power under the hood (3 extra horsepower and 2 more pound-feet of torque).
Although it's out of its element when taken off-road or tasked with serious towing or hauling, the 2009 Honda Ridgeline offers lots of versatile space for people and cargo. It's also more driver-friendly than traditional trucks, and we prefer it to the conceptually similar Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Limitations notwithstanding, the Ridgeline is an appealingly unconventional pickup that's well worth a look if you don't need the functionality of a full-size truck.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Honda Ridgeline is a midsize crew-cab pickup truck with seating for five. There are three trim levels: base RT, midlevel RTS and luxurious RTL. Standard features on the Ridgeline RT include 17-inch steel wheels, an integrated trailer hitch, a power-sliding rear window, remote keyless entry, air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, full power accessories, a trip computer, cruise control, a 60/40-split rear seat with underseat storage, and a six-speaker CD stereo with MP3 playback capability. The RTS model adds 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat and an upgraded seven-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer, an audio input jack and steering-wheel-mounted controls. The top-of-the-line RTL adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a moonroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 115-volt power outlet and satellite radio.
A navigation system with Bluetooth and an integrated back-up camera is available on RTL models only. Accessories include a motorcycle bed extender and a bed-mounted bicycle carrier, among numerous others.
Powertrains and Performance
Under the hood of the 2009 Honda Ridgeline is a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 250 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. This power is routed through a five-speed automatic transmission to a standard all-wheel-drive system called VTM-4 (for variable torque management four-wheel drive). The 2009 Honda Ridgeline can tow up to 5,000 pounds and handle payloads of up to 1,550 pounds, which is a little below average for a V6-powered compact/midsize pickup. EPA-estimated fuel economy checks in at 15 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, which isn't very impressive given that a four-wheel-drive, V8-powered Ford F-150 is rated at up to 16 mpg combined.
The Honda Ridgeline comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, active front head restraints, front-seat-mounted side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor. In government crash testing, the Ridgeline earned a perfect five-star rating for occupant protection in both frontal and side-impact crashes. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety bestowed its highest "Good" rating on the Ridgeline for both frontal-offset and side-impact crashes.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Ridgeline's front bucket seats are well-shaped and comfortably firm. Taller drivers will bemoan the lack of a telescoping steering wheel, however. There's above-average rear legroom compared to traditional midsize pickups like the Frontier or Tacoma. Interior storage compartments abound, and additional cargo space can be accessed by flipping up the Ridgeline's 60/40-split rear seat. Beneath the 5-foot bed is a hidden lockable trunk space replete with a drain plug that enables it to double as an ice-filled food or beverage cooler. Pray you'll never have a flat tire with a full load, though, as you'll have to empty the contents of the bed and trunk to get at the spare tire located inside.
The 2009 Honda Ridgeline is very comfortable and pleasant to drive as pickups go. Its speed-proportional power steering offers good response and feedback, and the Ridgeline's ride is smooth and refined, though off-road trails are best left to more purpose-built competitors. The V6 makes sophisticated noises, but it lacks the low-end grunt required for serious truck duty.