Preview: '06 Honda Ridgeline
Honda Has a pickup Truck?

by John Stewart
The long-rumored Honda pickup, now officially known as Ridgeline, will come to market in March as an '06-model 1/2-ton. The Ridgeline is a daily driver/weekend warrior, especially designed to please riders who own a Honda motorcycle or ATV.

It's a unitized-body pickup, but it also has a unique seven-crossmember ladder frame, heavily braced and made from fully boxed steel. The Ridgeline is about as long as a compact pickup or SUT, such as the Explorer Sport Trac or Toyota Tacoma double cab, but nearly as wide as an F-150. The bed itself is 5 feet long - 6-1/2 feet with the tailgate down - meaning it can fit plywood sheets or haul two of Honda's largest off-road bikes, or one fullsize ATV.

Versatility will be the primary benefit. The Ridgeline, with a wide interior and innovative storage layout, can carry five people in comfort and significant cargo payloads, with towing capability of as much as 5,000 pounds. The tailgate opens both ways - swings or folds - and has a 300-pound load capacity. A fulltime four-wheel-drive system, which Honda calls Variable Torque Management 4-Wheel Drive, is intended to supply all-weather traction, plus improve off-road and towing performance.

The "secret weapon" is a lockable trunk under the bed, which keeps clean cargo, such as helmets or golf clubs, separate from dirty cargo in the bed. (We also notice the trunk, which has a drain plug, can accommodate one full keg on ice, or two half kegs.)

Inside, the two rear seats fold up against the rear wall, so something such as a mountain bike can fit lengthwise inside, where it can be locked. There is also a large storage area under the rear seats that can fit a golf bag, shotguns, and toolboxes - anything that needs to be locked up, out of sight. We tested the rear seats ourselves, and there seemed to be plenty of legroom, even with 6-footers up front.

On the road, the Ridgeline drives more like a high-end SUV. The interior space is large and quiet, with the kind of advanced airbags and antiskid technology usually reserved for SUVs.

The engine is a 3.5L V-6, developing 255 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. Honda does not make a V-8 as yet, but small engines are a Honda specialty. This engine is highly advanced, with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, dual-stage intake, direct ignition, and drive-by-wire throttle system. Backed by a five-speed automatic transmission with a low First gear, the engine gets loads started easily and comes on strong in the midrange. We had a chance to drive the Ridgeline loaded with 1,550 pounds of gravel and tow a 5,000-pound trailer. Both tasks were accomplished with ease. With no load, the Ridgeline seemed more comfortable - and more fun - than any 4x4 we've driven lately.

We also tried an off-road course, the kind of loose-dirt track you might find on the way to a remote trailhead. The Ridgeline doesn't have the ground clearance or Low-range gearing to rockcrawl, but thanks to a locking rear differential, it will readily slog through muddy crossings and claw up loose hills. Fitting larger tires will be difficult due to wheelwell space, but we think the Ridgeline is more likely to be lowered for street use. The suspension uses MacPherson struts with 7.3 inches of wheel travel and a 0.9-inch stabilizer bar. Although Honda engineers seemed dubious about improving the stock suspension, Honda executive Dan Bonawitz noted, "The Ridgeline will make a great platform for customization, and we think people will be truly surprised by the capabilities of this new Honda truck."

SPECIFICATIONS
Engine: J35A91
Type: 60-degree V-6
Displacement: 3,471cc
Horsepower: 255 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 252 @ 4,500 rpm
Redline: 6300
Valvetrain: SOHC 24-valve VTEC
Induction: multipoint EFI
DRIVETRAIN
Type: 5-speed automatic
Ratios: 2.693:1 (1st)
1.566:1 (2nd)
1.023:1 (3rd)
0.729:1 (4th)
0.531:1 (5th)
1.889:1 (rev)
Front differential: 4.533:1
Transfer case: 0.537:1
Rear differential: 3.384:1
BODY
Type: integrated closed-box frame with unibody construction
Front suspension: independent/MacPherson strut
Rear suspension: independent multilink with trailing arm
Steering: variable-ratio power rack-and-pinion
Turning circle: 42.6 ft
BRAKES
Type: power disc, with 4-channel ABS
Front: 12.6x1.1-inch discs, dual caliper pistons
Rear: 13.2x0.04-inch discs, single caliper pistons
WHEELS & TIRES
Size: 17x7.5J styled steel
Tires: P245/5R17 All Season radials
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase (in): 122
Length (in): 206.8
Height (in): 68.1
Overall width (in): 76.3 with mirrors folded
Track (in, front/rear): 67.1/66.9
Bed length (in): 60
Bed depth (in): 20.7
Bed width (in): 49.5 between wheelwells
Max bed length (in): 79.0 w/ tailgate down
Bed tie-down cleats: 6
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS
Seating capacity: 5
Headroom (front/rear): 40.7/39.1
Legroom (front/rear): 40.8/36.4
Shoulder room (front/rear): 63.2/62/6
LOAD RATINGS (LBS)
GVWR: 6,050
Curb weight: 4,503
Towing capacity: 5,000
EPA DATA
Mileage (est.): 16/21
Fuel tank (gal.): 22
Max range: 462 miles
Emissions: Tier 2 Bin 5/ULEV-2