|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|
|Engine||3.5 liter V6
2005-2008: 247 hp, 245 lb-ft
2009-2014: 250 hp, 247 lb-ft
|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)
The Honda Ridgeline is a mid-size sport utility truck 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 (HCM) and in 2009 its assembly was moved to Lincoln, Alabama (HMA). Production ended in mid-2014.
The Ridgeline is "Honda's first foray into the true heartland of the American automotive way of life." The vehicle was designed and engineered in Honda R&D Americas facilities in Raymond, Ohio. 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. The design was first revealed as the Honda SUT concept car in 2004.
According to the Gary Flint, 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." The team created three complete body model iterations and performed a lot of full validation work with them before settling on a design. In the end, the accepted design included a closed-box unibody frame with a rear suspension design that provided space for a storage area below the bed, what Honda calls an In-Bed Trunk™, an industry first. The final mass production ready Ridgeline was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 10th, 2005 as a 2006 model year vehicle.
The 5 ft (152 cm) cargo bed is integrated with the body, similar to the Chevrolet Avalanche, which can be extended to 6.6 ft (201 cm) with the tailgate in the down position. The bed's width between the wheel wells is 4.1 ft (125 cm); given very little wheel well protrusion, that number is close to the maximum width of the overall bed. The bed has multiple tie down cleats, rated at 350 lb (159 kg), and has special guides built into the bed to accommodate two large off-road motorcycles or one large all-terrain vehicle. The Ridgeline’s bed is also equipped with four in-bed lights designed to support a minimum 10 lux light level anywhere in the bed. The Ridgeline has a payload capacity ranging from 1,559 lb (707 kg) to 1,475 lb (669 kg), depending on trim, and its tailgate is designed to handle dynamic loads of up to 300 lb (136 kg). The Ridgeline's bed is a steel-reinforced composite with steel crossmembers and a non-slip, scratch resistant, corrosion resistant surface. --When comparing this payload capacity with other mid-size body-on-frame trucks of the same model year, such as Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and GM's Colorado/Canyon, the Ridgeline has greater capacity than its competition.-- 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 to one side, like a car door, to provide easier access to the bed and the In-Bed Trunk™.
Honda lists a 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) 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. --Even when performing the same towing, curb weight and GCWR calculations on its rivals, the Ridgeline still falls short putting it at the bottom of its class for towing.-- To support the Ridgeline's maximum towing capacity, all models come with integrated transmission and power steering coolers and are pre-wired for a trailer brake controller.
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. According to Ridgeline's chief engineer (Gary Flint), the Ridgeline's rear suspension was designed with upright springs and dampers using an "exclusive geometry" to better support "saver loads." The Ridgeline has four-wheel disk brakes with 13.1 in (33 cm) ventilated front discs, with floating twin piston calipers, and 12.6 in (32 cm) solid rear discs, with floating single piston calipers. Although 60 mph (97 km/h) to 0 stopping distances of 117 ft (36 m) to 195 ft (59 m) have been reported, the average appears to be between 140 ft (43 m) and 147 ft (45 m). --Edmunds.com wrote, "The Ridgeline's stopping distance is notably longer than that of other trucks we've tested."-- In comparison, Edmunds.com's braking tests performed on the 2009 Nissan Frontier showed 60 mph (97 km/h) to 0 braking distances of only 128 ft (39 m).
The Ridgeline's drivetrain, frame, and suspension design allowed engineers to build the "industry's first" lockable, watertight and drainable 8.5 cu ft (241 l) In-Bed Trunk™ at the rear of the bed that also provides access to the temporary or full-size spare tire, which is accessed via a service tray from its storage position forward of the In-Bed Trunk™ between the rear differential and the bed. --Since accessing this In-Bed Trunk™ would be difficult with a loaded bed, the Ridgeline has a temporary mounting location for the spare tire on the right side of the bed wall by the cab's rear window.-- This design also allowed engineers to build a truck with 8.2 in (21 cm) of ground clearance while providing a low entry and exit height for the cab. Additionally, this setup allowed engineers to build a flat load floor in the second row passenger area with 2.6 cu ft (74 l) of under-seat storage or 41.4 cu ft (1 m3) of storage space when the 60/40 split bench seat's bottom cushions are stowed in the up, or retracted, position.
According to the 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. 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. According to Gary Flint, the sheet metal design of the Ridgeline's bed was built to maintain good aerodynamics and reduce air turbulence between the cab and the tailgate while maintaining driver visibility.
The Ridgeline is powered by a transverse mounted J35A9 (2006–2008) or J35Z5 (2009–2014), 3.5 l (214 cu in) V6 engine with a five speed automatic transmission with transmission and power steering coolers, which are standard equipment on all models.
According to the Ridgeline's chief engineer, 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" via an electromagnetically driven clutch-operated differential (Honda partnered with BorgWarner for its development). Gary Flint wrote, "After studying various all-wheel and four-wheel drive systems offered by the wide variety of pickups on the market today, 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." VTM-4's fully automatic design 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 reengage when speed drop below 18 mph (29 km/h) or until VTM-4 Lock is turned off.
In addition to heated windshield wiper zones, the Ridgeline came standard with anti-lock brakes with an electronic brake distribution system, tire pressure monitoring system, daytime running lights (for the 2009-2014 model years), four-wheel drive lock mode, a vehicle stability assist system with off switch (for off-road use), digital information display, two 12V DC electrical outlets in the dash's center stack, multiple airbags with rollover sensor, 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 power 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), child safety seat anchors for up to three child seats, and a large cup holder and activity tray integrated into each rear door. All Ridgelines also come with power door locks, power windows (including the rear class window) with automatic up/down driver's side window and child window lock. It also comes standard with large power adjustable side mirrors that can be manually folded against the door panels to facilitate parking in tight spaces. The Ridgeline was produced in five different trim levels: RT, RTX or Sport, RTS, RTL, and Special Edition (SE). The RTX trim was introduced for the 2007 model year and replaced by the Sport trim for the 2009 through 2014 model years. The SE trim was introduced in the Ridgeline's last year of production (2014).
The short lived RTX trim added gray-painted alloy wheels, body-colored door handles, and factory tow package. while the Sport trim that replaced it added blackout treatment on the bezels surrounding the headlights and brake lights, a black sport grille, 18-inch machine finished black painted alloy wheels, and unique sports badging. 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. The RTL added leather trimmed upholstery, heated front seats, XM Satellite Radio, a 115V/100W AC electrical outlet, digital multi-function information display, HomeLink® remote system, ambient console lighting, a moonroof, 18-inch machine-finished silver alloy wheels, and fog lights. Optional on the RTL was GPS navigation with voice recognition. In 2009, Bluetooth was added to the RTL trim with navigation and all but the RT model received the RTL's MP3/auxiliary input jack. The SE trim was the top of the line model which included every option for the RTL and added a unique black grill, unique polished aluminum 18-inch wheels, special badging, and a black monochrome interior with matching leather upholstery.
The Ridgeline's was upgraded for the 2009 model year with over 50 changes. These included a new front end with daytime running lights, factory tow hitch, two additional bed cleats, backup camera, a redesigned engine, revised transmission gear ratios, an updated instrument cluster, new steering wheel, and the addition of Bluetooth. The new engine (J35Z5) produces three more horsepower and up to 10 more foot-pounds of torque at lower RPMs while the revised transmission was re-geared to take advantage of the new power curve and increase overall towing performance.
Marketing and sales
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  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."
The Ridgeline is more aptly classified as a sport utility truck with the only other rivals being the Chevrolet Avalanche and Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Other rivals may include the four or all-wheel drive, crew-cab, short box versions of other mid-size pickups such as the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and GM's Colorado/Canyon; all four follow the more traditional body-on-frame pickup design.
Honda hoped buyers would find it an attractive alternative to large SUVs, and conventional pickup trucks. Some in the press that have evaluated the Ridgeline consider it "one of those odd vehicles..." Pickuptrucks.com wrote, "The Ridgeline can't really do what most people who like trucks need it to do." When you compare the Honda to full-size trucks, this mid-sized Ridgeline does fall short. 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.
An Autotrader evaluation of the Ridgeline described "trucks such as the Chevy Silverado and even the new 2015 Ford F-150 are just too much truck for most people. 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." The Ridgeline's specifications and performance numbers are competitive against other mid-size trucks of the same model year.
Since its debut, "Honda's first pickup for the U.S. market is slow to gain traction" with the Nissan Titan pickup also falling short of sales targets and "even mighty Toyota ... keeps going back to the drawing board after stumbling with undersized and underpowered early truck offerings in this all-American segment," while the domestic automakers are succeeding "by responding swiftly to their customers' changing demands and offering good service and a wide variety of models and engine sizes."
Sales of the Ridgeline were initially slow, partly because it was considered over-priced. Consequently, dealers began to discount the truck, and the average selling price has come down steadily according to J.D. Power. Despite the Ridgeline's slow sales, Honda gave it a slight facelift and added lower-priced Sport model, but the "four-door pickup's sales have been lackluster since its 2006 model year debut."
The automaker took the unusual step of addressing the gossip about the Ridgeline being dropped from the line up with an official statement confirming the truck is "here to stay."
By 2011, the truck's "sales, which were never great to begin with, lately have been in a free fall" prompting Honda's official media web site to include "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."
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 again announced that the Ridgeline "may continue production through 2013."
The automaker's first entry "into Truck Mountain was met with slow sales," but at the end of 2013, Honda announced plans for a second generation in two years' time.
|Calendar year||US sales|
On July 12, 2013, Honda announced that the Ridgeline will end production after the 2014 model year. 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." 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.
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