Honda Ridgeline, 2006: The Weekly Driver Car Review

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A friend recently made the brief comment: “You never really look at a pickup truck and say, ‘Wow! That’s a good-looking vehicle.’  I’d never thought about it his terms, but his words rang true. His comments also made me laugh because we were discussing the Honda Ridgeline, the new compact pickup truck.

When I first first noticed the truck, I immediately thought, “Well, that’s the first Honda I don’t like.”

Introduced last year at car shows and first made available nationwide earlier this year as a 2006 model, the Ridgeline could be categorized as the anti-pickup truck. But I didn’t know that until my weekly test drive.

The Ridgeline just doesn’t look like a Honda, and it looks more futuristic than functional. But just like the Element, which didn’t fit the sports utility mold when it was introduced, Honda’s new pickup up distinguishes itself quickly and on many levels.

My weekly test vehicle was RTL version, the top-of the-line of five options. Like the lower-priced RT and RTS models, the RTL features a 3.5-liter, 255-horsepower V6 with a 5-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. It’s the only powertrain available.

The four-door Ridgeline also features a fiv-foot-long cargo bed. It includes independent rear suspension and a unibody construction. The cargo box is made from dent-free plastic with a steel-enforced floor and locking trunk bin.

Standard throughout the line are 17-inch wheels, bucket seats, a 60/40 split rear bench seat, anti-lock, four-wheel disc breaks and a rear window with a power-sliding center section. The RTL edition also includes a navigation system, leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated power mirrors and universal garage door opener.

The standard features inventory is long and varied, and includes: AM/FM/6-CD changer, MP3 player,  satellite radio, automatic air-conditioning, alloy wheels, map and cargo box lights, and steering wheel radio controls, among numerous other equipment gadgets and technology.

Driving the Ridgeline, however, is even more impressive. In short, it drives like a car. And while  Consumer Guide describes the ride as “exemplary for a pickup,” the qualification isn’t necessary.

With its upright, firm seats, fine steering and handling, expansive leg and head room, smooth and sturdy steering and handling and quiet ride, the Ridgeline simply shines.

A few unique offerings, including deep, plentiful and perfectly located storage compartments and trays, a cavernous and a sliding console between the front seats further add to the Ridgeline’s fine use of space.

The front backs seat rubber floormats are secured with easy-to-use toggles. When not needed, the mats remove easily, revealing stylish carpet.

Honda uses the marketing motto: “We put everything we know into the Ridgeline. What will you put into it?”

That seems like the perfect question. It also quickly defuses any disparaging initial comments made about the vehicle — whether from the public or at least one unknowing car review who’s now been enlightened.

The Weekly Driver: 2006 Honda Ridgeline

Safety Features — Dual front airbags (standard); front and side curtain airbags.

Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 16 mpg (city), 21 mpg (highway).

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/60,000 miles, Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.

Base Price Range — $27,700-$34,640.

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