New Car Reviews

2009 Honda Ridgeline RTL

Wow. Despite my indifference at the time of its launch, I’m actually impressed with the Ridgeline. In no way do I think it will draw people away from full-size trucks on refinement alone (perhaps the new coil-sprung Ram will do that), but I do think it’ll attract crossover owners who hanker for a cargo bed.

And there’s the great thing about the Ridgeline – it drives neither like a car nor a pickup, but like the chunky crossover it’s built from. I’ll attribute the solid feel to the over-engineered hybrid unibody/box frame structure out back, which likely adds a considerable amount of weight.

Still, the 3.5-liter V-6 pulls this thing around fairly well, although quick sprints require revving it into its upper limits. All-wheel-drive kept things well-planted, even in a few washboarded dirt corners I managed to throw the truck into. A well-sorted, well-composed ride – I can’t knock that, even though the slow, heavy steering is a bit too “trucky” for this thing.

I have issues with a few things, however:

  1. 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 mph city/highway. May I suggest a sixth gear – or perhaps shedding some weight?
  2. Plastics inside are way too hard, and the substantial panel gaps around the dash pad and instrument panel aren’t impressive.
  3. Whoever was in charge of control placement must have flunked human factors design. Why is the sunroof switch next to the tachometer? Why is the dome lamp switch on the other side of the steering column from all the other lighting controls?

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

I had the Ridgeline for the weekend and did what all owners should: fill the in-bed trunk with beer and ice and sat around a bonfire. The trunk is pretty huge and easily swallowed several cases of beer and enough ice to keep the beverages cold overnight. I was a little disappointed that the drain plug didn’t let all the water drain at once, it would be nice if there was a little slope built into the trunk that would send the water to that corner.

Driving the Ridgeline is a lot like piloting an Accord with a porch on the back. There’s only a slight handling penalty, not bad when you take into account the usefulness of the small bed. My big complaint is there is no way to stuff long objects, like a couple of 2x4s, into the bed and close the tailgate. I’d love to see some sort of midgate, a la the Chevy Avalanche, to make this possible. Such a feature would make the Ridgeline appeal to a lot more potential buyers.

I can’t figure out how Honda stuffed a V-6 in this trucklet and still only manages 15/20 mpg. The with a V-8 gets about the same gas mileage and it weighs at least 500 pounds more. I do not have a problem with a unibody truck, but there needs to be a significant increase in fuel economy to make up for the reduced capability of this truck or I’m not sure how many people will be able to justify the purchase. Either give me more fuel economy or give me more power that justifies the average mpg figures.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

Phil, I am very jealous. You’re a much more committed beer drinker than I. During the year that we had our 2006 Four Seasons Ridgeline, I kept meaning to fill that handy underbed trunk with icy brew, but I never did it. My deepest respect, sir.

It was refreshing to get back into a Ridgeline after nearly two years. I was again impressed by the big Honda‘s carlike comportment and its brilliant packaging. The Ridgeline has been face-lifted since the initial design, and I think it works a lot better. (Compare this dark cherry truck’s grille and taillights with our blue Four Season Ridgeline)

That short bed can be an issue, though, as Phil noted: I picked up a seven-foot folding closet door from Lowe’s, and I had to drive with it leaned up against the closed tailgate. In a bigger truck, a door like that could lie flat.

The biggest letdown, though, I agree, is the V-6’s fuel ecomony. The combined EPA rating is 17 mpg, and that’s exactly what we got over nearly 29,000 miles in our departed 4S example. (Heck, if the Ridgeline did get better fuel economy, I’d be highly tempted to buy a used one, since the Ridgeline will tow and haul just about anything that I or most people could throw at it.) And while that truck was decently peppy, it quickly became burdened when asked to tow any sizable freight. Honda’s pickup is not a truck for truck-lovers.

I totally dig the interior, though, Evan. The chunky layout and big buttons are clear and easy to use, and I think the hard plastics work nicely in this quasi-workhorse. Honda generally takes a different approach on ergonomics, though, I’ll admit.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor


Base Price (with destination): $37,000
Price as tested: $37,000

– Navigation (Incl. with RTL/Nav model; base RTL is $33k)

Fuel Economy: 15 / 20 / 17 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: V6 3.5L SOHC 24-valve
HP: 250 HP
Torque: 247 lb-ft

Transmission: 5-Speed automatic

Weight: 4504 lbsWheel/Tire Info:
18″ x 7.5″ alloy wheels
(size) P245/60 R18 104T all season tires

Buying Guide
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15 City / 20 Hwy

Towing (Max):

5,000 lbs.

Payload (Max):

1,546 lbs.