Do you remember the days when the SUT was big news? (It was long enough ago that a reminder of what the acronym stands for -- Sport/Utility Truck -- may be appropriate.) There were the Hummer H2 SUT, the Chevrolet Avalanche/Cadillac Escalade EXT, and the Ford Explorer Sport Trac. It was a hot category, one that Honda joined for the 2006 model year. Since then a lot has changed with that category -- all but the Avalanche/Escalade are gone, and those may disappear in a year or two -- but not much has changed with the Ridgeline. That led to rumors that the unibody half-ton was also going the way of the rest of the SUT category.

However, not only does Honda not refer to this as an SUT (Honda calls it a pickup), it also says it has no intention of discontinuing the model. As Sage Marie, manager, Honda Truck Product Planning, said in a statement a few months ago, "In no uncertain terms, the reports in the media that we have plans to discontinue the Ridgeline pickup truck are false. To the contrary, Ridgeline has a significant role in the Honda lineup and it is expected to continue in the foreseeable future." Honda dealers like having a pickup to offer, and this one was created to be, really, the Honda of pickup trucks. That's great for Honda people who may be interested in towing on occasion or carrying muddy gear that may stain the carpet in a sport/utility vehicle, but falls short for hard-core truck people.

Another part of Marie's statement was the announcement of a new trim level of the Ridgeline, known as the Ridgeline Sport. There haven't been many changes to this truck since it first came out -- the most significant was when horsepower went from 247 to 250 and torque increased by two to 247 lb-ft -- so we were curious to see what was new about the truck.

In terms of price, the new trim level slots in just above the RT, but below the RTS, RTL, and RTL with Navigation. Ours, priced at $30,805, came with styling cues exclusive to the Sport, such as the black 18-inch wheels (base Ridgeline wheels are 17-inch and steel), black grille and surround, foglights, leather steering wheel with stereo controls, and an aux jack.

For those who like the Honda version of an SUT, this vehicle is still great. It does offer the same versatility that it's always had and a smaller package than something like the Tundra. But the Ridgeline hasn't changed all that much, and half-ton pickup trucks have passed it by. Trucks like the F-150 and Ram have both been significantly updated since the Ridgeline came out. Ride quality is not nearly as nice in the Honda as it is in the F-150, and the Honda's power, while certainly adequate, is less than that of even the F-150's base V-6 (302 horsepower, 278 lb-ft), and the 3.5-liter V-6 is backed by a five-speed automatic, not a six. The engine certainly offers respectable power, but it did struggle a bit on grades. At the track, the Sport reached 60 mph in 8 seconds flat. Oddly, that number is three-tenths of a second slower than the last time we tested the Ridgeline in 2009, and that truck weighed more than the 2012. The F-150 and the Ram 1500 now have a nicer ride than the Ridgeline, and more capability as well. There was also more cabin and wind noise than expected.

Perhaps it makes more sense to look at this truck as a compact/midsize competitor. It isn't designed to tow more than 5000 pounds, has more horsepower and torque than the Tacoma V-6 (but is still slower than the Toyota by 0.6 second to 60), has similar dimensions to the Double Cab Tacoma, and, according to the EPA, gets comparable fuel economy. As trucks get bigger and the Ridgeline stays the same, it has slipped into the compact/midsize category. That's interesting, considering that when it first came out it was supposed to be an alternative to the F-150, Silverado, and Ram.

But the Ridgeline still offers what Honda buyers like: sport/utility interior and trucklike bed, in a well-executed package. The foundation is good, but it could use some tweaking. The styling is not universally liked, the engine could use more power, and it could definitely benefit from a six-speed automatic. One staffer who drove the Ridgeline said that getting into the interior was like stepping into a time machine. Controls, color schemes, and interior options could all benefit from a sprucing up. As long as the truck continues to exist, Honda has opportunities to modernize it.


2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport
BASE PRICE $30,805
PRICE AS TESTED $30,805
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 3.5L/250-hp/247-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 5-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4459 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE 122.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 206.9 x 77.8 x 70.3 in
0-60 MPH 8.0 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.3 sec @ 85.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 128 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.77 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.8 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 15/21 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 225/160 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.13 lb/mi