All-Star: 2007 Honda Ridgeline

This nutty truck is the perfect choice for that one useful vehicle in the automotive connoisseur's dream garage. We're sure Honda's design team wasn't thinking nutty when they penned the Ridgeline's oddly carved front flanks, but then, we're not sure what they were thinking. Styling remains a weak point, but clever design reigns. Show anyone in the heartland who hasn't seen the Ridgeline's locking underbed trunk/ice chest (and we're convinced that most of the heartland has not seen it), and they'll go positively giddy. What took so long? And why doesn't every other pickup truck on the planet have one, too? That and the two-way tailgate that opens down or out as you choose.

There are Home Depot truck people among us as well as the sort who need serious ground clearance and towing capability. Though it's no contractor's super-duty brick hauler, the Ridgeline has a respectable 8.2 inches of ground clearance and a towing capacity good for 5000 pounds worth of boat and trailer. With the tailgate down, you can add an optional $259 extender (adding sixteen inches) to the five-foot bed, allowing you to easily haul any outdoor sporting machine from snowmobile to motorcycle in the back.

The 60/40-split back seat, when not comfortably holding a row of oversize men, can be flipped up on either side with one finger and locked away with a push and a click, opening up more storage space. With the seats up, you can stick a bicycle's tires in the slot that runs east-west on the floor for quick and secure transport.

The Ridgeline has won over all of us. It's in line to be one of the most popular vehicles in twenty years of our Four Seasons long-term tests. Its high mileage attests not only to its great usefulness but also to its long-distance comfort. We have loaded it, thrashed it, hill-climbed it, and driven it on a few fancy dates. Women are relieved by its Honda-ness in terms of storage spaces all over the cabin and the carlike refinement of that environment.

Being the only mid-size pickup truck out there with unibody construction gives the Ridgeline a tight, rattle-free structure and the ride quality of a big car. That and the clever trunk is all most of us really need.

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