What's New for 2012
The 2012 Honda Ridgeline features a new grille design and aerodynamic improvements, along with engine tweaks that improve its highway mileage by 1 mpg. A new trim level, the Ridgeline Sport, slots in between the RT and RTS trims.
Trucks were created to provide serious utility, but these days there are probably just as many to be found lounging in the parking lot at Home Depot as there are doing hard time on construction sites. For shoppers seeking a truly domesticated take on the pickup truck, there's the 2012 Honda Ridgeline.
The Ridgeline's appeal lies in its ability to cruise the middle ground between a car's comfort and a pickup's versatility. With its unibody structure and independent front and rear suspensions, it can honestly claim sedan-like handling and ride dynamics. Open the door and you're greeted by a cabin that's comfortable in every measure, with spacious dimensions and ample storage opportunities. And while the suburban do-it-yourselfers who comprise the bulk of the Ridgeline's demographic have more modest hauling needs than the traditional pickup buyer, this Honda's 5-foot, dent-resistant bed -- with its nifty, lockable trunk located just underneath -- is rugged enough to provide stalwart service when needed.
Traditionalists will grumble that since the 2012 Honda Ridgeline is offered only in crew-cab configuration, it offers less flexibility in body styles compared to the typical pickup. The Ridgeline's powertrain could also be a disappointment. While the V6 delivers adequate thrust, the engine is less peppy (and is rated for less towing capacity) than V6 powertrains found in serious trucks. Also, with no low-range gearing and a lightweight suspension, the Ridgeline is more about all-weather capability, not all-terrain mobility.
If these shortcomings are meaningful to you, then you'll want to consider a choice with true truck DNA. In the midsize category, the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma are equally smart choices. For a full-size truck, the Ram 1500 stands out for its ride comfort and nicely trimmed interior, while the Ford F-150 is surprisingly fuel-efficient with its optional turbocharged engine. Overall, though, we imagine that many shoppers in this segment would be well served by the Ridgeline's thoughtful mix of features.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Honda Ridgeline midsize pickup truck is offered in a single four-door crew-cab body style with seating for five. There are four available trim levels: RT, Sport, RTS and top-of-the-line RTL.
The entry-level RT is reasonably well equipped with standard features that include 17-inch steel wheels, a power-sliding rear window, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat (with under-seat storage), full power accessories, cruise control, a trip computer and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo.
The Sport adds 18-inch black alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, foglights, a unique black mesh grille, black headlight and taillight housings, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and an auxiliary audio jack.
With the RTS, you get everything in the RT, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, rear 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.
Spring for the top-of-the-line RTL and you get 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sunroof, leather upholstery, ambient console lighting, heated front seats, a 115-volt AC power outlet and satellite radio.
The Ridgeline's factory options list is limited to a Navigation System package that includes Bluetooth hands-free cell phone compatibility and a back-up camera. Only the RTL model is eligible for this package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Honda Ridgeline offers only one engine choice, a 3.5-liter V6 generating 250 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. Power flows through a five-speed automatic transmission and a standard all-wheel-drive system. In testing, we recorded a sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in 8.3 seconds, which is a little slower than most competing trucks.
EPA estimated fuel economy is 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined, which is mediocre considering the truck's modest power. The Ridgeline can handle payloads up to 1,546 pounds (1,497 in RTL models and 1,486 in RTL Ridgelines with navi) and tow trailers up to 5,000 pounds. Both payload and towing capacity are a little below average relative to those of other V6-powered midsize pickups.
Every Ridgeline comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags (with rollover sensor) and front seat active head restraints.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the Ridgeline received the organization's highest "Good" rating in both frontal-offset and side-impact crashes. The Ridgeline required 133 feet to stop from 60 mph, a little long for a midsize pickup.
Interior Design and Special Features
"Big" is the name of the game when it comes to the controls and surfaces within the 2012 Honda Ridgeline. Control knobs are king-size, as are the puffy, square control pads for the electronic controls on the steering wheel. Of course, their large size serves a practical function, as these controls can be easily used while wearing work gloves. Overall, there's something charming in the Ridgeline's comfortable yet rugged cabin that seems eager to please.
You also won't lack for storage space since useful nooks and bins abound within. There's a 60/40-split rear seat that folds to make room for large items you'd rather not leave in the bed. An 8.5-cubic-foot lockable trunk under the bed is big enough to hold most golf clubs, and features drain plugs in the bottom that allow it to serve double duty as a supersized cooler for tailgate parties.
The Ridgeline's unique bed design comes with one drawback: It places the spare tire under the floor. This means you may be faced with the prospect of unloading your cargo to access the spare if you have a flat.
Relative to most other pickups, the 2012 Honda Ridgeline offers a pleasant driving experience. Though its suspension isn't rugged enough for the most punishing off-road duty, it acquits itself well on pavement, facilitating decent handling and a smooth ride. The V6 presents refinement and adequate power for everyday travels. However, it lacks low-end torque and generally feels less lively than rival V6s, let alone the big V8s available in full-size trucks.