Vehicle Overview
To the surprise of some, Honda has joined the pickup truck market with its new four-door Ridgeline, which doesn't look like an ordinary pickup. The truck doesn't fall squarely into a size category; Honda claims the Ridgeline has a full-size interior but a midsize exterior. All-wheel drive is standard.

New variations and four-door models will edge aside traditional pickups, said Dan Bonawitz, Honda vice president of planning and logistics, adding that 18 percent of Honda owners also have a pickup. Many buyers are expected to be "young guys [in an] active and aggressive stage of life," Bonawitz said.

This is the first pickup truck ever with a secure storage compartment built right into the cargo bed. According to Honda, it's also the first midsize pickup with an independent rear suspension, which is intended to improve ride quality.

The Ridgeline is meant for medium-duty offroad use; it can run up a 28-degree hill or, when properly equipped, tow a 5,000-pound trailer. Three trim levels are available: RT, RTS and RTL; the latter can be equipped with a moonroof and navigation system.

Nearly all pickup trucks look roughly the same, with a traditional three-box design on a simple ladder frame. Honda has taken a different route, promising a "modern technical appearance" that includes an integrated cargo box. The top of the cargo box incorporates angled sections that yield a "sail panel" profile, and Honda claims the Ridgeline's torsional rigidity is more than 20 times stiffer than that of a conventional pickup truck.

Built on a relatively long 122-inch wheelbase, the Ridgeline is 206.8 inches long overall. The cargo box is 49.5 inches wide and 5 feet long. Made with steel-reinforced composite material, the bed can hold up to 1,100 pounds of cargo. Four bed lights and six tie-down cleats are installed. The dual-action tailgate flips down or swings open like a door.

Honda's weather-resistant in-the-bed trunk has 8.5 cubic feet of storage space. Made to open with either a switch or the key, it can hold up to 300 pounds of secured cargo and incorporates a drain plug.

Up to five occupants can fit inside the Ridgeline. The rear seat has a 24-degree seatback angle, which is identical to that of the company's Accord sedan. Beneath the backseat is 2.6 cubic feet of storage space, and the rear compartment can hold a mountain bike. The 60/40-split backseat can flip up for storage. The gauges are deep-set but easy to read. The front doors include massive grab handles.

Honda has installed plenty of storage space inside the Ridgeline, including a huge glove box. A powered rear window is standard. Leather upholstery and heated front seats are included in the RTL edition. Honda's optional navigation system uses an 8-inch screen and has voice-recognition technology.

Under the Hood
The Ridgeline's 3.5-liter V-6 develops 255 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 252 pounds-feet of torque at 4,500 rpm. The engine teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard.

Four-channel antilock brakes include electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. Honda's Vehicle Stability Assist electronic stability system is standard, and every Ridgeline includes side curtain-type airbags with rollover sensing and side-impact airbags.

Driving Impressions
Refinement and solidity top the list of Ridgeline characteristics. Other than some engine noise when accelerating, even moderately, few trucklike sensations are evident. On the other hand, the Ridgeline has a somewhat heavy feel overall and doesn't maneuver as smartly as some compact pickups. Still, a fully-loaded Ridgeline can run through twists and turns without balking, and this pickup tows a trailer of maximum capacity without undue strain.

Despite ample engine output, passing power isn't quite as exuberant as expected. Highway wind noise is noticeable; although the ride is comfortable most of the time, certain road surfaces can transmit considerable commotion to occupants.

The seats deliver excellent support. Knee space is marginal in the rear, but headroom and foot room are ample. Other than a bit of impairment by the left-side B-pillar, visibility is fine. The In-Bed Trunk is a useful innovation that makes you wonder why no one thought of it before, though it's not so useful if the cargo bed is loaded.