First Look: 2009 Honda Ridgeline

A mid-model refresh means no big changes

Mark WilliamsAug 5, 2008
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The formula is simple: Every five to eight years, depending on the manufacturers, engineers get a chance to improve, redesign, and basically rebuild the previous vehicle. In between, those significant upgrade events can be a horrible waiting game for OEs where sales can slump if their buyers don't get something "new and improved." Enter the "Mid-Model Refresh" or mid-model upgrades, or minor midlife change, or whatever else you want to call it.
What we're usually talking about here is the point in the life of the vehicle where marketers get their chance to influence (albeit minor influence) what the vehicle will offer next. When times are tight -- like right now -- you can bet those changes will be conservative, in fact, bordering on miniscule. When budgets are fat, they can be more significant. Can you guess which path the 2009 Ridgeline (three years after Honda's entry to the segment and three years away from a major redesign) has taken? Astute readers already know the answers, but that doesn't mean we won't let you know exactly what's changed and how it's better.
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Probably the most obvious changes to the vehicle for '09 are cosmetic, meaning the front fascia is clearly designed to look more familial with the recently released and redesigned Honda Pilot. Grille and headlights are more integrated with a new color and shape for the front and rear light housings. The front bumpers have a new small stepout, almost like a rim, that melds right into the wheel arch, giving the new Ridgeline a more masculine look -- bigger tire flare and bigger bumpers tend to do that for trucks. The rear bumper continues the bigger bumper theme, as it wraps around the side of the truck and flows right into the more pronounced wheelflares.
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Although the entire engine is carryover, the all-aluminum 3.5L V-6 does have a new Magnesium dual-stage intake manifold that bumps the horsepower and torque up by three and two, respectively. Additionally, Honda keeps the current five-speed automatic, but does offer slightly different gear ratios, in some cases changed only 0.2 percent, to help to improve overall responsiveness. Of note, throttle response off idle is vastly improved, making it feel like the truck has more power off the line because of how strongly it jumps from a stop. A new computer software program works with the new gearing strategy to make it feel like there's more power than the small gains in hp and torque would suggest. Additionally, because the axle gears and weights have not changed, EPA ratings will likely stay 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway-same as before.
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Inside the vehicle, much remains identical but there have been some slight changes to the gauge shaping and to the choices of type styles for the tachometer and speedometer. Honda has also done a better job of integrating bigger temperature and fan controls for the HVAC system and nav screen. Also new for 2009 is the coupling of a backup camera with the nav system option for all Ridgeline buyers. Also helping make the Ridgeline an even safer choice is a new front seat active head restraints that will instantly snap forward to reduce excessive head recoil from a rearend collision.
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In the bed of the Ridgeline, nothing much has changed with the exception of adding two more tie-down points. 2009 models will keep the in-bed storage box and dual-open tailgate. Other changes, such as new colors, an MP3 input jack, a new floormat, are minor at best but do offer the needed upgrades to address certain in-market buyers. Although exact pricing has not been announced, new Ridgelines won't change much, ranging from $28,000 for the base RT model, on up to $36,000 for base RTL models. All Ridgelines will be offered in RT, RTS, or RTL trim (gone is the RTX package). Look for the '09 models to go on sale later this fall.
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2009 HONDA RIDGELINE
Base price $28,000
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD 5-pass, 4-door pickup
Engine 3.5L/250-hp /247-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight 4500 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 122.0 in
Length x width x height 207.0 x 77.8 x 70.3 in
0-60 mph 8.4 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 15/20 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 1.15 lb/mile (est)
On sale in U.S. September 2008

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