Innovative & Gutsy: 2007 Honda Ridgeline Review

This unconventional truck dazzles with brain and brawn power

Mar. 01, 2007 By Katrina Ramser
The Honda Ridgeline makes for a real stumper when it comes to a game of Twenty Questions, automotive style. Is it a half-ton? No, but it has a half-ton bed payload capability. Is it a compact truck then? No, because is has an interior similar to a full-size truck. So it’s an SUV? Close, because it has a connected frame, but no.

You simply have to drive it to figure it out. After a full tank of gas and a few hundred miles, I left this functional automobile a believer. Now in its second year, the Honda Ridgeline is what you get when a company steps forth to suggest a better way of packaging a mid-size truck for the outdoor crowd. It is also the largest Honda ever produced and was named the 2006 North American Truck of the Year.

For 2007, the Ridgeline offers a new RTX trim level that comes with a standard trailer hitch, alloy wheels, an accessory grill, body-color painted door handles, and new exterior colors such as Aberdeen Green Metallic, Nimbus Gray Metallic, Dark Cherry Pearl and Formal Black.

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It has medium off-road capabilities, but was made to pack in off-road vehicles. Photo ORC

Got Guts?
I tested a 5-speed 2007 Honda Ridgeline RTL. Under the hood was a 247-horsepower 3.5-liter SOHC V6 24-valve with a Variable Valve Timing and Electronic Control (VTEC) engine. It was also equipped with the Variable Torque Management® (VTM-4) 4WD System. It has a 5,000-lb towing capacity, 1,550-lb vehicle payload, and a 5-ft bed.

The electronic four-wheel drive system, the VTM-4 also used on other Honda and Acura products, sends up to 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels by providing power to the wheel that has the most traction in conjunction with the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system. The 4-channel VSA monitors cornering safety and integrates traction control, 4WD, anti-lock braking, throttle control and stability control functions by modulating brake power at each wheel.

All models also come equipped with independent front and rear suspension, standard transmission and oil coolers, dual radiator fans, intake air system for towing performance in hot weather, and pre-wiring for 4 and 7-pin trailer hook ups. Honda’s Standard Safety for Everyone features side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, and front side airbags.

The 3.5-liter V6 is a small engine when compared to what competitors are putting out, but do not call it gutless. It displays impressive horsepower for its size. But Honda’s got to expect a little slack for offering only one engine. Fuel economy is standard (16-city/21-highway driving). There’s no Fuel Flexible Vehicle (FFV), ethanol (E85) options. And it cannot compare to the puffed out chests of a GMC Sierra 1500 315-horsepower 5.3-liter V8 or the also young Nissan Titan 317-horsepower 5.6-liter V8. Models mentioned are the Ridgeline’s competitors, but that’s debatable in more ways than one. To get closer to whom Ridgeline is right for and why one must understand it wasn’t designed to win some bodybuilding contest.

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It's a bird ... it's a plane ... it's a Honda Ridgeline. Photo ORC

Medium Duty Off-Road Performance
I drove the Ridgeline to some very remote points on the Northern California coast that had those lovely washboard roads filled with dirt and gravel. The bumps were absorbed no problem. No skidding on the dips and turns. The brakes were excellent and the turning was sharp. 

Honda gets right to the point: The Ridgeline has medium duty off-road capability. Long wheelbase trucks like the Ridgeline generally are not the hardcore off-roader's vehicle of choice because of the compromised 21-degree breakover angle (and these are Honda’s words). It also has 8.2 inches of ground clearance, a 25-degree approach angle and a 22-degree departure angle. 

What you can bring to your off-road destination is where the Ridgeline shines. Honda is one of today's leading manufacturers of power products and the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world (wink-wink, nudge-nudge). The Steel Reinforced Composite (SRC) 8.5 cu-ft bed has been maximized to accommodate more than of 350-lbs of off-road vehicles with six integrated cargo hooks. Inside the front bed wall, floor and tailgate are matching indents for motorcycle tires. With the tailgate down, it can service two of Honda's largest off-road motorcycles, the CRF450R, or one full-size ATV.

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The 2007 Honda Ridgeline RTL comes with a Variable Torque Management® (VTM-4) 4WD System. Photo ORC

Pack in the Fun
The 2007 Honda Ridgelines come is the following trims: RT, RTX, RTS and RTL.

The RTL trim level I drove had monotone leather seating surfaces, a standard power moonroof and – get this – standard XM Satellite Radio®. The RTL includes the HomeLink® remote system, interior compass in the rearview mirror, heated front seats, Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System® with voice recognition and MP3/ auxiliary input jack. The Ridgeline RTS adds alloy wheels, a seven-speaker 160-watt audio system with subwoofer and six-disc, in-dash audio system with steering wheel-mounted controls, dual-zone automatic climate control and an eight-way power driver's seat.

The easy-to-read gages were simple to figure out without having to dig through the manual. The car and seats heated up in seconds on frosty mornings. As a first-time GPS user, I was able to maneuver the vehicle through unfamiliar streets in the city of San Francisco while at the same time figuring out how to use the touch-screen commands in order to locate a grocery store. I found my location in a flash.

Big talk is the Ridgeline's lockable In-Bed Trunk located under the pickup bed. It is basically big enough to store a 72-quart cooler, among other useful things. A dual action tailgate allows for easy loading and unloading. Also, the second row inside is re-configurable for people and/or cargo. Combine all the excellent space with the GPS, and you could go garage sale hopping, off-roading with friends and equipment, and dining at a new-to-you restaurant, all in one day – no extra maps, no extra space, no planning necessary.

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The lockable In-Bed Trunk is big enough to store a 72-quart cooler. Photo ORC

Take Me As I Am
All in all, it was a very sporty drive. It certainly had those fun Honda qualities and genetics. The 5-speed Honda Ridgeline RTL I drove with the VTM-4 4WD System is approximately $34,940.

The Honda Ridgeline taught me there is a fine line between innovative and strange – the Ridgeline being the former. It really does define the word innovative. I realize now what initially threw me off were the uneven or untraditional frame proportions. Now my only design criticism is I think Honda should go with bigger headlights that wrap around the sides of the vehicle to balance out the bulk.

It’s versatile in the sense of its multi-purpose abilities, but not in the sense of its engine and trim options when compared to other vehicles in its class. But then again, the Cargo Handling accessory list is extremely extensive. You could package this vehicle to package anything.

The Ridgeline doesn’t have to worry about what it is and it isn’t – a platform of honesty and functionality will sell this truck. Newsletter
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