Despite all of the hullabaloo, the Honda Ridgeline really isn't anyone's "truck of the year." And a good thing, too.
For what the Ridgeline brings is a beautifully melded sports utility with a pickup bed and the manners of a Honda Accord.
So it's a SUC -- sports utility combo. Or a SUA -- sports utility Accord. Or a SUL -- sports utility luxury.
But trucky it ain't, although the bits that are that way enhance its utility.
The side mirrors are big and trucky, the driving position is high and drivers can view most of the hood. The five-foot bed will accommodate hauls from the hardware store, or garden center or (more likely) the antique shop.
This is not your basic work truck. It is designed, as Honda says, for those who need a vehicle "to support their active, outdoor oriented lifestyle." Prices range from $27,800 to $34,940.
Translation: It hauls motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes. They are accessible via a tailgate that drops down or swings away -- just like some station wagons used to do.
The lockable In-Bed-Trunk affords storage beneath the truck bed for golf clubs and such. Ridgeline will tow 5,000 pounds and comes with a trailer hitch. There are standard transmission and oil coolers and heavy-duty brakes. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, and brake assist are there, too.
Inside the four doors lurks the soul of a sports utility vehicle, with available goodies like navigation system, compass, leather seats, cruise control on the steering wheel, tilt steering wheel, power windows and door locks. There's even a power sliding rear window. A six or seven speaker, 100- or 160-watt audio system can rattle the power windows.
Powering the Ridgeline is a 247-horsepower V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. It gets 0 to 60 mph in around 9 seconds. Fuel economy is 16/21 -- an un-Honda like figure but not bad for a vehicle weighing just under 5,000 pounds.
What is definitely good is the way the Ridgeline drives and handles. It's a tall Accord that moves deftly amongst traffic and smoothes out the open road. There's lean on curves -- this isn't an Accord coupe. But the Ridgeline doesn't tax the driver, nor tire him out.
The on-demand four-wheel drive helps out in gravel as well as snow. It won't embarrass anyone on the two track (one for each row of tires) trail. There's no low 4WD for more adventuresome off roading, but who takes their antiques off road?
There have been other combinations of sports utility and pickup trucks -- the Ford SporTrac, Chevrolet Avalanche and Subaru Baja, for three. There's no dearth of fancy crew cab pickups, either.
But the Ridgeline breaks new ground with its car-like handling and passenger cosseting. Don't tell anyone the chassis stems from a minivan.