Honda Ridgeline

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Honda Ridgeline
2006 Honda Ridgeline RTS -- NHTSA 2.jpg
Manufacturer Honda
Production 2005–2014
Model years 2006–2014
Assembly 2005-2008: Alliston, Ontario, CA
2008-2014: Lincoln, Alabama, US
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size sport utility truck
Body style 4-door truck
Layout Transversely-mounted front engine, four-wheel drive
Related Honda Pilot (31% shared parts)[1]
Engine 3.5 liter V6
2005-2008: 247 hp, 245 lb-ft
2009-2014: 250 hp, 247 lb-ft
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 122 in (310 cm)
Length 2006-2008: 206.8 in (525 cm)
2009-2011: 207 in (526 cm)
2012-2014: 206.9 in (526 cm)
Width 77.8 in (198 cm)
Height 70.3 in (179 cm)
2012-2014 RTL: 71.2 in (181 cm)
Curb weight 2006-2008: 4,500–4,552 lb (2,041–2,065 kg)
2009-2011: 4,504–4,564 lb (2,043–2,070 kg)
2012-2014: 4,491–4,575 lb (2,037–2,075 kg)

The Honda Ridgeline is a mid-size sport utility truck (SUT) produced by the Japanese automaker Honda. The Ridgeline was released in March 2005 as a 2006 model and is Honda's first foray into the North American pickup truck market. The Ridgeline was built in Alliston, Ontario, Canada (HCM) and in 2008 its assembly was moved to Lincoln, Alabama, United States (HMA).[2] Production ended in mid-2014.[3][4]

In December 2013, the automaker announced an all-new Ridgeline is planned for release within two years.[4][5]


2004 Honda Ridgeline SUT concept exterior (Note how the rear-bumper folds out to support the tailgate, the through-hull exhaust, and quad style panoramic skylight. The side panels are similar in design to the product vehicle)
2004 Honda Ridgeline SUT concept interior (Note the interior's dashboard layout, poded speedometer, door handles, and flat load floor design are similar to the production vehicle.)

The Ridgeline is "Honda's first foray into the true heartland of the American automotive way of life."[6] The vehicle was designed and engineered in Honda R&D Americas facilities in Raymond, Ohio.[7] A team of 37 engineers was led by a former General Motors designer who previously worked on the Chevrolet S-10 pickup, Gary Flint, developed the Honda vehicle in over four years at under $250 million.[8] The design was first revealed as the Honda SUT concept vehicle in 2004.

Illustration of Ridgeline's closed-box unibody frame and rear cab wall design

According to Gary Flint, Honda's large project lead and Ridgeline's chief engineer, the Honda team "were springing off from other model developments --both Pilot and MDX-- where we had some of the structure modeled. We used that as a base to start building what we targeted as additional truck structure back into the vehicle."[9] The team created three complete body model iterations and performed a lot of full validation work with them before settling on a design.[9] In the end, the accepted design included a high-strength steel reinforced closed-box unibody frame[9][10] with a rear suspension design that provided space for a storage area below the bed,[11] what Honda calls an In-Bed Trunk®, an industry first.[12] The final mass production ready Ridgeline was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 10, 2005 as a 2006 model year vehicle.[12]

Sheet metal[edit]

2011 Honda Ridgeline RTS (Note the bed's uniquely shaped side panels, rear roof garnish, and tailgate height. All work in concert to reduce air turbulence in the bed while maintaining visibility.)

According to Ridgeline's chief engineer, the sheet metal design of the Ridgeline's engine hood allowed engineers to build windshield wipers that are protected from the wind; they also built in automatic heating elements into the lower windshield to help improve wiper performance in cold weather.[13] This hood design also allowed the engineers to build a patented cold air intake system for the engine that's mounted high in the compartment, above the radiator, to support torque production during high engine temperature conditions[14] and supports deep water fording.[15] According to one of Gary Flint's video interviews, the sheet metal design of the Ridgeline's bed wall, roof garnish, and tailgate were built to maintain good aerodynamics and reduce turbulence between the cab and the tailgate while maintaining driver visibility. This aerodynamic design allowed them to create a rear garnish that shields the rear glass window so when it's opened at speed there is no buffeting or rainwater intrusion.[13] The Ridgeline's sheet metal design was also engineered to support vehicle-to-vehicle and pedestrian collisions. The truck's front bumper is designed to absorb collisions from vehicles of varying heights while maintaining passenger safety. The Ridgeline's hood and fenders are also designed to significantly deform when contact is made with pedestrian.[10]


Animation of Honda Ridgeline's dual-action tailgate, In-Bed Trunk™ & spare tire storage system

The Ridgeline's drivetrain, frame, and suspension design allowed engineers to build the "industry's first"[12] lockable, watertight and drainable 8.5 cu ft (240.7 l) In-Bed Trunk® at the rear of the bed that also provides access to the temporary or full-size spare tire. The spare tire is accessed via a service tray which slides aft from its storage position forward of the In-Bed Trunk®, between the rear differential and the bed's steel crossmembers. This design also allowed engineers to build a flat load floor in the second row passenger area with 2.6 cu ft (73.6 l) of under-seat storage[16] or 41.4 cu ft (1.2 m3) of storage space when the 60/40 split bench seat's bottom cushions are stowed in the up, or retracted, position.[17] Additionally, this configuration allowed engineers to build a truck with 8.2 in (20.8 cm) of ground clearance with approach, departure and breakover angles of 24.5º, 22º[16] and 21º respectively;[10] all while providing a low cab entry and exit height for passengers.

The 5 ft (1.5 m) cargo bed is integrated with the body, similar to the Chevrolet Avalanche, which can be extended to 6.6 ft (2 m) with the tailgate in the down position. The bed's width between the wheel-wells is 4.1 ft (1.2 m) --with little wheel-well intrusion into the bed, the overall width is about the same-- and is sufficient to accommodate the hauling of full sheets of plywood or a large all-terrain vehicle. The bed has six (2006-2008 models) or eight (2009-2014 models) tie down cleats in a high/low configuration, rated at 350 lb (159 kg) each, and has special guides built into the bed to help accommodate two large off-road motorcycles. The Ridgeline’s bed is also equipped with four bed lights that are integrated into the bed's walls and are engineered to provide a minimum of ten lux of illuminance anywhere in the bed.[18] In addition to built in lights, one of the bed's walls has a hidden spare tire mount --on the right side of the bed wall by the cab's rear window-- that can accommodate either a temporary or full-size spare for times when access to the spare tire service tray is impractical.[19] The Ridgeline has a payload capacity ranging from 1,559 lb (707 kg) to 1,475 lb (669 kg), depending on trim,[16] and its tailgate is designed to handle dynamic loads of up to 300 lb (136 kg).[10][18] The Ridgeline's bed is a steel-reinforced composite with steel crossmembers and a non-slip, scratch resistant, corrosion resistant surface.[20] The Ridgeline's tailgate has a unique dual-action hinging system that allows it to be opened like a traditional tailgate but can also be swung open either 30º or 80º to the side, like a car door, to provide easier access to the bed and the In-Bed Trunk®,[18] a similar design to the GMC Envoy XUV's tailgate.

Honda lists a 5,000 lb (2.3 Mg) maximum towing capacity for the Ridgeline. When you take into account the Ridgeline's curb weight and gross combined weight rating (GCWR), Honda accounts for passengers and/or additional payload (between 510 lb (231 kg) and 594 lb (269 kg), depending on trim level) while towing its maximum capacity.[16] To support the Ridgeline's maximum towing capacity, all models come with a heavy-duty radiator, integrated transmission and power steering coolers, dual 160W radiator fans, and are pre-wired for a trailer brake controller.[13][16][18] A class III tow hitch with a four and seven-pin wiring harness was standard equipment with the RTX trim level[21][22] until the introduction of the 2009 model year where a new class III tow hitch and seven-pin wiring harness became integrated into the rear bumper making it standard equipment on all trim levels.[23] Prior to that, Honda offered an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) class III tow hitch as well as a four and seven-pin wiring harness as dealer installed optional equipment for the 2006 through 2008 RT, RTS, and RTL trim levels.[19]

The Ridgeline has a four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link design, with trailing arms, in the rear.[16] According to Ridgeline's chief engineer, the truck's rear suspension was designed with upright springs and dampers using an "exclusive geometry" to better support "saver loads."[13] The Ridgeline has four-wheel disk brakes with 13.1 in (33.3 cm) ventilated front disks, with floating twin piston calipers,[24] and 12.6 in (32 cm) solid rear disks with integrated emergency/parking brake drums; the rear brakes use floating single piston calipers for the disk brakes and dual uposing brake shoes for the emergency/parking brake drums.[13][25][26] The disk brakes are controlled by a tandem-type vacuum booster with two 9 in (23 cm) diameter booster chambers and is supported by a four-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.[10] Although 60 mph (97 km/h) to 0 stopping distances of 117 ft (36 m)[27] to 195 ft (59 m)[28] have been reported, the average appears to be between 140 ft (43 m)[29] and 147 ft (45 m).[30]


According to Gary Flint, the truck's Variable Torque Management® Four-Wheel Drive (VTM-4®) system "provides front-wheel drive for dry-pavement cruising conditions and engages all-wheel drive when needed to improve stability or maneuverability"[31] and supports medium duty off-road use[10] via an electromagnetically driven clutch-operated differential (Honda partnered with BorgWarner for its development[32]). Gary wrote, "After studying various all-wheel and four-wheel drive systems," "Ridgeline engineers concluded that virtually everyone had functional shortcomings and was undesirably bulky and heavy. The direct result of that research was to use Honda’s innovative fully automatic VTM-4® system." The VTM-4® system distributes torque to the axles and wheels that need it most based on driver input (the accelerator), driving conditions, and wheel slippage. The clutches in the rear differential can be manually engaged (VTM-4® Lock) in first, second or reverse gears and will gradually decrease the amount of rear wheel torque as driving speeds increase; at 18 mph (29 km/h) the lock is automatically disengaged but will re-engage when speed drops below 18 mph or until VTM-4® Lock is turned off.[31]

The Ridgeline's four-channel Vehicle Stability Assist® (VSA®) system (Honda's version of electronic stability control[33]) is designed to enhance control during acceleration, cornering and sudden collision-avoidance maneuvers. VSA® works in conjunction with the VTM-4®, ABS and the vehicle's electronic throttle control by applying brake force to each of the Ridgeline's four disc brakes independently while also managing the throttle system. An additional benefit of VSA® is the limited-slip differential effect it provides for the front and rear wheels by applying braking force to a slipping wheel thereby redirecting driving force to the wheel with more traction. The VSA® system is fully functional in four-wheel drive mode and can be turned off when desired.[10][31]

The Ridgeline is powered by a transverse mounted J35A9 (2006–2008) or J35Z5 (2009–2014),[23] 3,471 cc (211.8 cu in) (advertized as a 3.5 liter) V6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission and comes standard with a 22 US gal (83 l) fuel tank; no powertrain variations were offered.[16] Both V6 engines have a 60 degree V aluminum block design with cast iron liners, aluminum heads, belt-driven Single-Overhead Camshafts (SOHC), roller-type rocker arms, 24-valve Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control® (VTEC®) system, 10.0:1 compression, direct injection with Honda's Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system and dual-stage induction manifold.[10][23] The five-speed automatic transmission utilizes a four-shaft design with a flat lock-up torque converter and has wide gear ratios. Torque converter lock-up and shift timing are managed by a PGM-FI Central Processing Unit (CPU) that maintains a communication link with the engine's CPU. Clutched idler gears provide five forward speeds as well as a one-way clutch for first gear. A direct-control real-time pressure management system coordinates engine and transmission operation to minimize driveline shocks during shifts. Also a Grade Logic Control (GLC) system prevents gear hunting when climbing hills or when more engine braking is required.[10]

The Ridgeline's exhaust system incorporates several key elements that work in concert with the engine’s unique cylinder heads to help with performance and emissions with low weight. Major system components include two close-coupled catalytic converters, a secondary underfloor catalytic converter, a centrally positioned high-flow resonator and a muffler. The close coupled catalytic converters provide almost double the surface opening of a single underfloor unit and are mounted directly to the cylinder head. The catalysts, muffling element, and piping are all sized for high-flow and low-restriction. High-chromium content stainless steel is used throughout the exhaust system.[10]

All of the aerodynamic and drivetrain design as well as the overall weight of the Ridgeline produced a truck that, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing, can achieve 15 mpg-US (15.7 L/100 km) city, 20 mpg-US (11.8 L/100 km) or 21 mpg-US (11.2 L/100 km) highway (depending on model year), and 17 mpg-US (13.8 L/100 km) combined.[16][34][35]


Animation of Ridgeline's center console operation

In addition to all of the features described above, the Ridgeline also came standard with front and rear tow hooks, a tire pressure monitoring system, a digital information display, two 12V DC outlets in the dash's center stack, multiple airbags (two front, two seat-mounted, and four side curtain airbags with dual-stage deployment, passenger position, and rollover sensors), front bucket seats, multi-function center console (includes multi-position armrest, two large cup holders, storage organizers, two rear facing air vents, one rear facing 12V DC outlet, and two rear facing cargo hooks) and a split 60/40 fold-up rear bench seat (includes fold-down center armrest with two integrated cup holders and activity tray) with Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) system for up to three child seats, and a large cup holder and activity tray integrated in each rear door. All Ridgelines also come with power door locks, power windows (including the rear glass window) with automatic up/down driver's side window and child window lock. It also came standard with large power adjustable side mirrors that can be manually folded against the door panels to facilitate parking.[13][17][19] The Ridgeline was produced in five different trim levels: RT, RTX, Sport, RTS, RTL, and Special Edition (SE).[16] The RTX trim was introduced for the 2007 model year[21] and was discontinued with the introduction of the 2009 model year.[23] Soon thereafter, the Sport trim was introduced with the 2012 model year replacing the spot once held by the RTX.[16][36] The SE trim was introduced in the Ridgeline's last year of production (2014).[37]

The short lived RTX trim added gray-painted alloy wheels, body-colored door handles, and factory tow package.[21] while the Sport trim added blackout treatment on the bezels surrounding the headlights and brake lights, a black sport grille, 18-inch machine finished black painted alloy wheels, unique sports badging, and some interior enhancements such as an MP3/auxiliary input jack and steering-wheel mounted audio controls.[36] The RTS added a 6-way power driver's seat, a 160W stereo with 6-CD changer and subwoofer, body-colored mirrors, silver-painted alloy wheels, and dual-zone climate control system (no MP3/auxiliary input jack on RTS until 2009[23]). The RTL added leather trimmed upholstery, heated front seats, XM Satellite Radio, digital multi-function information display, HomeLink® remote system, ambient console lighting, rear-view mirror compass, a moonroof, 18 in (45.7 cm) machine-finished silver alloy wheels, and fog lights. Optional on the RTL was Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation with voice recognition (which deletes the rearview mirror compass).[19] The SE trim was the top of the line model which included every option available for the 2014 RTL and added a unique black grill, unique polished aluminum 18-inch wheels, special badging, and a black monochrome interior with matching leather upholstery.[16]


Power and Torque improvements with the introduction of the J35Z5 engine

The Ridgeline was upgraded for the 2009 model year with over 50 changes. Some of the more noticeable changes were a new front end with daytime running lights, new brake light covers, factory tow hitch, two additional bed cleats, a redesigned engine, a revised transmission, new instrument cluster, a new steering wheel, and more. The RTS trim got the MP3/auxiliary input jack that use to only be available in the RTL. The RTL trim received a 115V/100W AC outlet and the RTL trim with GPS navigation received a rearview camera and Honda's Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® system. The new J35Z5 engine was equipment with a magnesium dual-stage induction manifold (previously aluminum), a retuned camshaft for low-end torque, larger intake valves, a six-degree crank pulse sensor, airflow meter within the air intake tract, optimized engine block coolant passages, new Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) valves, and a faster starter motor. These improvements helped the new engine produce three more horsepower and up to ten more foot-pounds of torque at lower revolutions per minute (RPM) than its predecessor. The revised transmission was re-geared to take advantage of the new engine's power curve and increase overall towing performance with the greatest differences found in both third and fourth gear with approximately five-persent lower ratios.[23]

For the 2012 model year, Sport trim was introduced as were new grills for the RT, RTS, and RTL trims. Also, aerodynamic improvements were made to the body and friction reduction measures were made to the J35Z5 engine; these improvements helped increase highway fuel economy by 1 mpg-US (2.4 L/km), according to EPA testing.[36]

For the 2013 model year, Honda begin including rearview cameras in as many vehicles as they could, which included all of Ridgeline's trim levels. For those Ridgelines not equipped the GPS navigation, the rearview camera monitor is imbedded in the left side of the vehicles’s rearview mirror.[16][38]

For the 2014 model year, the last year of the first generation Ridgeline, Honda introduced a top level SE trim.[7][37]

This animation illustrates the Ridgeline's interior changes that occurred with the 2009 model year. The image with rear 60/40 split bench seats folded up is the 2006-2008 RTL (with nav.). The image with rear seats unfolded is the 2009-2014 RTL (with nav.). This animation also highlights the Ridgeline's flat load floor (no transmission tunnel intrusion).


When attempting to compare one vehicle to another, one can look at the manufacturer's numbers as well as independent testing. Given that environmental conditions can change on any given day, looking at real-world tests that were performed at the same time, at the same location, with like configured vehicles should yield the fairest set of results. All comparisons referenced below are made with four-wheel drive, crew-cab, short box versions of the same model year Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Suzuki Equator, Dodge Dakota, Ford Explorer Sport Trac and GM's Colorado/Canyon; the exception to this is the super-cab version of the Ford Ranger (no crew-cab models were produced for the North American market).

When you compare the Ridgeline's advertized interior/passenger volume and payload with the mid-size trucks listed above, the Ridgeline has greater interior space and hauling capacity than its competition. However, when comparing the manufacturer's tow ratings, --even when performing a towing, curb weight and GCWR calculation to get a more accurate number-- the Ridgeline falls short putting it at the bottom of its class for towing. Otherwise, the Ridgeline falls in the middle, if not in the top two or three, of its competition's published specifications.[16][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46]

The Ridgeline is the first four-door pickup truck to win the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) five-star safety rating for both front and side impact crash test performance and it had the highest rollover resistance of any pickup NHTSA ever tested.[47] Also, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the Ridgeline with its highest crash safety scores giving it the "Top Safety Pick" designation[48][49][50] while its competition (listed above) had one or more less than good rating(s).[51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58]

In 2012, conducted a mid-size truck comparison with six of the eight trucks listed above (minus the Dakota and Sport Trac) and the Honda Ridgeline. With the exception of a 2011 super-cab Ford Ranger (last year of production), all test vehicles were 2012 models and all but one had V6 engines (the Colorado was equipped with the LH8 small-block V8).[59] The head-to-head tests focused on numerous attributes including objective tests on 0-60 mph (97 km/h), 60-0, and quarter-mile (0.4 km) times (empty and with maximum payload),[60] dynamometer tests[61] and real-world fuel economy tests;[62] towing performance was not measured. Subjective tests included expert driver impressions, best value estimates,[63] and an off-road course.[64] Of the seven mid-size trucks tested, the Ridgeline ranked third overall.[65] Of the objective tests, the Ridgeline had the highest scores for payload[60][63] and real-world gas mileage[62] while ranking lowest in torque delivery at the wheels;[61] otherwise, the Ridgeline ranked in the middle of the other objective tests.[60][61][62][65] Of the subjective tests, the Ridgeline was judged second in expert impressions,[63] third in best value[63] and last in the off-road course.[64]

Awards and accolades[edit]

Marketing and sales[edit]

The automaker was slow to enter the minivan market as well as the SUV market, so "given that track record it is no surprise that Honda has just now [2005] gotten around to building a pickup truck" that is not designed to compete against the traditional F-150, Silverado, or Ram domestic models, but to "give the 18% of Honda owners who also own pickups a chance to make their garages a Honda-only parking area."[74]

The Ridgeline is more aptly classified as a sport utility truck with the only direct rivals being the full-size Chevrolet Avalanche and the smaller Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Other less direct rivals include the four-wheel drive, crew-cab, short box versions of other mid-size pickups of that era such as the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Suzuki Equator, Dodge Dakota and GM's Colorado/Canyon. All eight of these trucks follow the more traditional body-on-frame pickup design.[39][40][41][42][44][46][75]

2009 Honda Ridgeline RTL --with OEM brush guard, roof rack, body side protectors, and splash guards-- towing a 2005 Sea Ray 220 Sundeck --with aftermarket wakeboard tower and anti-fouling paint-- via a KKBT-4800-DB-8-L Karavan Trailer
Hanover Police Department's custom 2009 Honda Ridgeline RTS police cruiser[76] on safety patrol

Honda hoped buyers would find it an attractive alternative to large SUVs, and conventional pickup trucks.[47] Some in the press that have evaluated the Ridgeline consider it "one of those odd vehicles."[77] wrote, "The Ridgeline can't really do what most people who like trucks need it to do."[77] While wrote, "Sure, some homeowners and weekend warriors may actually need a 10,000-lb towing capacity, but the Honda Ridgeline is probably just right for most."[78] Others in the automotive press, such as The Driver's Seat TV, call the Ridgeline, "the Swiss Army Knife of trucks," due to its functionality, and "the anti-truck," due to Honda's lack of following the rules when it comes to truck design; they summarized the truck as scoring "high on practicality but very low on image."[79]

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "Since its March [2005] debut, Honda's first pickup for the U.S. market is slow to gain traction. Nissan's full-size Titan pickup also has fallen short of sales targets in this all-American segment, which ... is proving tough for outsiders to crack."[80] According to Bloomberg Business, early slow sales can partly be attributed to the expense of the vehilce, which some considered "over-priced." Consequently, dealers began to discount the truck and sales increased.[47] Regardless, sales were still slow compared to other Honda vehicles[81] Despite the Ridgeline's slow sales, Honda gave it a facelift for 2009 and added a lower-priced Sport model for 2012, but sales remained "lackluster," according to[82]

Parts shortages, due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, put production on hold and "this setback likely impacted sales of the already slow-selling pickup," but the company announced that the Ridgeline would "continue production through 2013."[83]

Automobile Magazine wrote, "The reaction among pickup buyers has been a collective yawn." "Volume dropped by half from 2008 to 2010 and then fell another 40 percent last year [2011]. In fact, a few months ago, Honda felt compelled to post on its media web site an open letter from the company's head to truck product planning, denying rumors that the Ridgeline would be dropped and insisting that a pickup truck will remain part of the company's portfolio."[84]

Sales Figures for United States & Canada
Calendar year US sales[81][85] CA sales[81][85]
2005 42,593 3,512
2006 50,193 4,988
2007 42,795 4,519
2008 33,875 3,987
2009 16,464 3,546
2010 16,142 3,200
2011 9,759 1,713
2012 14,068 2,226
2013 17,723 2,122
2014 13,389 1,803

As of 2014, the Honda Ridgeline was only available in the left-hand drive (LHD) configuration.[citation needed]

Second generation[edit]

On July 12, 2013, Honda announced that the Ridgeline will end production after the 2014 model year.[5] The automaker planned to continue production until the replacement was introduced; however, "slow sales of the truck have prompted the automaker to pull it sooner than expected."[86] A redesigned model is expected in 2016, and is not known if the replacement will be an SUT or a traditional body-on-frame truck.[4][5]


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