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Honda Ridgeline - 2006 Pickup Truck Buyers Guide

2006 Honda Ridgeline New Vehicle Test Drive
Martha Hindes

Honda Ridgeline
2006 Honda Ridgeline

Sometimes it takes courage to break the mold. Honda stepped beyond the boundaries of tradition when it developed its midsize Ridgeline, its first ever pickup sold in the U.S. As a newbie in time for '06 auto honors awards, Honda surprised few by gobbling up some notable blue ribbons handed out by industry and critics. The votes were for a strikingly different view of a pickup that attempted to meld sedan handling and comfort with a sturdy rough duty capable truck.

Ridgeline prices start in the $27,700 range for the base RT model, adds the mid-range RTS, then the premium RTL with moonroof, XM Satellite radio and Nav system topping at $34,600. As usual, Honda offers an extensive spec sheet of standard features, capabilities and dimensions (247-HP aluminum V-6 powerplant averaging 16/21 MPG, with five-speed automatic for example). Options are few and far between.

The biggest difference between Ridgeline and most everybody else is its single unit built body that's more often found underscoring automobiles or crossovers. Getting the strength and ability from such construction takes some doing. The biggest plus is the comfort and handling that can result. Honda says it gains both with a combination of unibody undergirded by a truck-like ladder structure.

It's doubtful Ridgeline would please a pickup purist. At about a five-foot depth, the bed is too short (although even full-size pickups with oversized cabs trade shortened truck beds for more creature comforts up front). Ridgeline's bed rim angles up to the roofline with no discernible break between the two. Will it really have the heft to haul a load of wood or tow a powerboat to the shore? Honda says a resounding "yes."

This vehicle would seem pleasing to someone living the country life in style rather than working the country work life in sweat. But those who swear by it cite the distinctive car-like handling from its easy riding independent rear suspension, neat locking cubbies, under-bed storage area, standard all-wheel driving system, dual duty liftgate that drops down or swings aside, and ability to accommodate a 4 X 8 sheet of construction material with gate down. Now they wait to see if it starts a trend.