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For Off-Roading It Blazes (If Tailgating Counts)

A pickup truck that could change the art of tailgating.
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Shaking off a post-wedding-reception haze, I journeyed to the Delaware River Valley, a low-key patch of countryside with a quiet river that separates the Poconos from the Catskills (and Pennsylvania from New York). My quest was to see an enchanted cottage for sale. The not-so-enchanting price tag could have ended the voyage on a reality-based down note, but piloting the four-door, five-seat Honda Ridgeline through the modest Catskill Mountains provided its own wonders. The truck handled the twisting, rugged back roads with aplomb.

Honda's first-ever pickup is ingeniously designed for the Accord crowd. With its spacious interior and plenty of beverage holders and power outlets, it's as comfortable as a rec room. And it has a why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-before 8.5-cubic-foot lockable trunk below the bed. Finally, a grill, charcoal, a slab of ribs, slaw, lawn chairs, a croquet set, and a 72-quart cooler coexist peacefully in the back of a truck. An age-old problem solved. But the Ridgeline is unlikely to live up to its advertising. No matter how many sweaty men appear in the commercials hauling mud-encrusted dirt bikes, most drivers will probably use it as I did when I drove to that wedding: to haul suitcases and baby strollers.

Sticker price: $27,700 for the basic model, up to $34,640 for the fully loaded RTL version that we tested, which includes a moon roof and XM radio.

Vital stats: 3.5-liter 255-hp V-6 five-speed automatic; four-wheel independent suspension; 122-inch wheelbase; 21/16 mpg.

Nice touches: A tailgate that opens flat or to the side; back seats that easily fold up; an easy-to-master navigation system in our RTL.

Drawbacks: Honda says the Ridgeline can tow 5,000 pounds and carry a 1,100-pound payload in the bed, but I found the pickup in this pickup solid, not overwhelming. And the bed is only five feet in length.

Second opinion: "The Ridgeline's look is awkward and clunky," says Trisha Hessinger, host of Car Care & Repair on the DIY Network. "Behind the wheel it gets better. The independent rear suspension with coil springs offers a carlike ride. The interior amenities are impressive."

Last updated: Jul 1, 2005




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