First Test: 2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport
Spare Change: Honda's Midsizer Keeps on Truckin'
Honda's Ridgeline has always been an in-between vehicle. It's a hybrid mix of sport/utility and truck, basically an SUT similar to the Hummer H2 SUT, Chevrolet Avalanche, Cadillac Escalade EXT, and Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Since Honda joined this group for the 2006 model year, a lot has changed -- 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 to go 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 buyers who may be interested in towing on occasion or carrying muddy gear that may stain the carpet in a sport/utility vehicle.
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 struggles 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.
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 certainly 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. But Honda hasn't revealed future plans for the Ridgeline. As long as the truck continues to exist, Honda has opportunities to modernize it.
|2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport|
|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|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4459 lb (58/42%)|
|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|