Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2011 Honda Ridgeline If...
If you’re looking for an open bed to occasionally haul stuff, but don’t require significant towing capability (or the perceived baggage that comes with driving a pickup), the Ridgeline is – at this point – the only game in town. Its accommodation, comfort and on-road composure are first-rate, and its all-season capability works in both Yakima (WA) and Yuma (AZ).
You May Not Like The 2011 Honda Ridgeline If...
If you need a pickup to be a TRUCK, with hauling and towing capabilities appropriate to that descriptive, the 2011 Honda Ridgeline may not fully meet your needs. And while its 4WD system is standard – and capable of sending up to 70 percent of available power to the rear wheels – it does not offer a low range; for boulder hopping you’ll need to go elsewhere.
Still fresh from its redesign in 2009, the 2011 Honda Ridgeline carries on with no major changes. Of note, not even its press release was changed…
We’ll channel Mr. McGuire’s one-word piece of advice to Dustin Hoffman’s Benjamin Braddock – "Plastics" – because the Ridgeline interior is absolutely full of them. To be sure, most cars and trucks in 2011 are ‘plastic’, but the Ridgeline’s use of same seemingly dates back a whole generation in car and truck design. The Honda’s hard plastic dash has an almost industrial look, although (to its credit) industrial use of plastic makes for generous storage bins throughout the interior. Additional utility is provided by a rear seat that will fold up and out of the way, accommodating one mountain bike or – hypothetically – two unicycles. The utility is excellent, but the design execution is more "utility closet."
Choose any angle – front three-quarter, rear three-quarter or in profile – and you’ll find the Ridgeline significantly different from anything else in the U.S. market. With the redesign for 2009 the Ridgeline’s skin – shared (to a degree) with Honda’s Pilot – became more angular. While outward visibility is good, the B and C pillars are overtly thick, and give the Ridgeline – in profile – a somewhat bulky appearance. The bed, although but five feet long, can accommodate dirt bikes on top – and riding gear (via the in-bed trunk) down below. In both proportion and sheetmetal, however, the Ridgeline is beginning to look like a product with a set-to-expire freshness date.
With its unit body, reinforced frame and an all-independent suspension, the operative word for the Ridgeline’s handling is solid. Curb weight is 4,500 pounds, and while Honda’s 3.5-liter engine is reasonably efficient, an EPA rating of 15/20 is some 15 percent beneath that of Ford’s new F-Series V6. It is – in short – not a relaxed power delivery, and that comes through in more over-the-road mechanical intrusiveness. The unit construction and all-independent suspension do contribute to a more car-like feel when compared to conventional trucks, but in the Ridgeline it’s a "big car" feel – the biggest of any American-spec Honda.
For those accustomed to domestic pickup dealers offering thousands – or tens of thousands – off of the window sticker, the 2011 Honda Ridgeline will provide a shift in paradigm. The base RT has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just under $30,000, while the top-of-the-line RTL with navigation takes you to almost $38,000. In an era of the $50,000+ Ford F-Series this may not give you pause. Conversely, if your last Honda purchase was an ’89 Civic it may give you a nervous tick. Be sure to check kbb.com’s Fair Purchase Price for an indicator of what consumers are paying for their Ridgelines in your market area. And while the Ridgeline – like all Hondas – will perform respectably at trade-in time, it performance is only on par with 4WD crew cabs like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, and a few percentage points better than Chevrolet’s Avalanche.
For activity-oriented adults with an outward bound sense of adventure, Honda Variable Torque Management 4WD (VTM-4) is the most significant embellishment on the Ridgeline’s standard menu. Comfort and convenience amenities, of course, are also included in the window sticker, even on the base RT. Additional standard equipment includes A/C, cruise control, an integrated trailer hitch(!), power windows and door locks, power sliding rear window and six-speaker, 100-watt audio system.
Honda – as is customary – keeps it simple with but three trim levels: Base RT, mid-level RTS and up-market RTL. The RTS adds alloy wheels, 160 watts of audio, dual zone climate control and an eight-way power driver’s seat. The RTL provides you with leather seating, 18-inch alloys, moonroof, XM Satellite Radio and HomeLink remote. On the RTL navigation with voice recognition is available. And there are dozens of available dealer-installed accessories.
Variable Torque Management (VTM-4) 4WDFor today’s confident explorer, few things maintain that confidence better than 4WD. And despite its lack of a low range, VTM-4 does an admirable job of navigating the logging trail, winter snow or seasonal downpour. And in diverting up to 70 percent of available power to the rear wheels, power goes exactly where it should go when towing a trailer.In-bed TrunkIf more trucks offered independent rear suspension (rather than a live axle), we’d hope more trucks would offer an in-bed trunk. It’s an absolutely great idea that expands the utility of the Ridgeline almost exponentially. You have miscellaneous gear? Put it back there! (Noisy children riding with you? Put ’em back there!)
Under the Hood
The 2011 Honda Ridgeline’s 3.5-liter V6 offers ample horsepower (250), but that power is relatively high – 5700 rpm – on the tach. And at a time when Chrysler’s Ram truck brand is offering its Hemi V8 as a no-cost option, the Honda’s well-regarded V6 might seem somewhat inadequate. Over the road, however, you’ll enjoy the V6’s car-like refinement and oh-so-reliable longevity.3.5-liter V6250 horsepower @ 5700 rpm247 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/20
It is to Honda’s credit that, when the decision was made to enter the truck market in the U.S., they began with a clean sheet of paper, and subsequently came up with a clean sheet approach. The Ridgeline is wholly unique in the U.S. pickup segment, and has more in common (at least conceptually) with car-based El Caminos and Rancheros of the past than body-on-frame Silverados and F-150s of today. Its unit body, all-independent suspension, transversely mounted V6 engine and in-bed trunk all run counter to typical U.S. truck spec, yet its load and towing capabilities are perfect for weekend warriors and – more relevantly – those that own Honda’s own motorcycles and ATVs.