A lot of people have seen the TV commercials, print and cyber ads plugging Honda's Ridgeline pickup. You know, four-wheeling across a rugged landscape, two red & white dirt bikes riding shotgun. Anyway--cool picture--but let's fill in the blanks.
Production was on schedule with our yearly trip off-road in Colorado. So we got hold of a 2006 Ridgeline, American Honda's first and only pickup. Next, keeping with genetic protocol, was Honda Motorcycle Division's all-new four-stroke off-road bike, the 2005 CRF450X. Home base was deep in the Rockies at Crested Butte, Colorado. Circuits consist of ATV and single-track motororized trails crossing the Gunnison National Forest.
The Ridgeline crewcab concept aims at the passenger accommodations of an SUV, with the cargo capacity of a pickup, while still leaving plenty of room to close the garage door. A key feature is the trunk/spare tire compartment fixed underneath a steel-reinforced composite bed. It supplies 8.5 cubic feet of lockable storage area, and being both watertight and drainable, doubles as a built-in cooler.
Honda's 4x4 pickup fits the midsize truck segment. However, in place of a truck-standard body-on-frame, they've integrated a closed box ladder frame with unibody construction--a beefed-up version of the Odyssey minivan platform.
A five-speed automatic transaxle, bolted to a single-speed AWD transfer case, and driven by a transverse-mounted 3.5-liter 255 horsepower V-6, all come standard.
Our test-vehicle was the Ridgeline RTL S/R, a high-end trim package with leather seating and a majority of the luxury amenities, priced at $32,640 with the moonroof and XM Satellite Radio, minus the Satellite-Linked Navigation System (base RT models start at $27,700).
We put the CRF250X through its paces last year in the Routt National Forest. Since then, we've been anxious to test-ride big brother CRF450X. The 250X's lightweight chassis demonstrated its competence over some brutal terrain. But a bit more forceful dig from the "thumper" engine would've been icing on the cake. Conversely, there were questions regarding the 450X's 255 pound dry-weight--22 pounds heavier than the 250X--overshadowing its advantage in power with somewhat less nimble handling.
Two of us headed for the mountains with the Ridgeline, westbound out of Denver (elevation: 5,278 ft.). The rest of the crew hauled their bikes in from the West Coast.