2006 Honda Ridgeline Review / Road Test

Honda Ridgeline on Manhattan Beach

It's quite common for a surfboard to fly out the back of a pick-up  in Southern California, apparently.

Which I did not know, though I've been here a good few years.  Getting used to the beach culture having moved from Hollywood to nearer the coast resulted in the aforesaid accident well, near accident occurring when I set out for the beach with four relatives in the cabin of a Honda Ridgeline and a surfboard in the back.

I thought I had secured it by laying a couple of beach chairs over the top of it.  But somewhere en route to the beach, I looked back past the three heads in the back seat to the flat-bed to discover, lo, there was no longer a surfboard in the back.

As soon as I found out I circled round; of course it took about  five minutes to find a safe place to turn.  Which the Ridgeline accomplished in much less distance than I thought, but more of that later.   Bad  and good news followed: there was no sign of a surfboard but, thankfully, no driver was pulled over with a surfboard sticking out of their car (probably weighing a lawsuit).

It was a shame we didn't find it, as, even if it was broken, I could've used it as a piece for the wall or something. Or boasted I'd busted it on a 15-foot wave.  Instead, nothing. Nada. Not even a fin. Happy surfing on a broken board, whoever picked that up.

Almost everyone I later spoke to had a similar story to tell; they lent a friend one who had the same experience, or it happened to a buddy, or suchlike. The wife was the sole exception: she roundly blamed me for it.

It was her board, after all.

Anyway, we move on, notably wiser for the experience. And we moved on beachwards, five of us in the  cool, roomy comfort of the Ridgeline, this year's pretty near universally-awarded truck of the year and a very strong move by Honda into the most traditionally domestic of markets (and perhaps one of the toughest to crack).

On road or on sand

Radical, hybridized styling

Couple of things:  this is an excellent product, proficient in everything you could ask of it, right down to the splendid dash dials which looked great at night and the sculpted bad-boy looks that every truck has to have to appeal to its target market.  It's angular, futuristic, and ticks all the other design boxes; the biggest one being that it looks absolutely nothing like a Toyota.

Which leads into the second point: usually when you're driving something, you pay particular attention to vehicles of the same type on the road. Hence Prius owners waving to each other, a bizarre phenomenon much like the British used to do in MGs and Minis (when they were still UK-built).

This time, though, I'm not sure I even saw one other Ridgeline on the road during my week spent driving all over LA and Orange County.  I saw it emblazoned across myriad billboards above freeways, just never driving on one.

Honda disagrees. Gary Flint, the Ridgeline's chief engineer, on the Honda owners' site says that, through August, some 22,474 units have been sold across the US, with sales growing consistently month-on-month. He also points out that just about all of these buyers come from other established brands, in a sector where brand loyalty is particularly fierce.

Sweet lines

Imposing, muscular front grille

But back to what makes the Ridgeline sell. It's comfortable and practical inside,  stylish outside, and exceptionally maneuverable for its 4059-pound curbweight and 207-inch length, meaning it's useful around town and in car parks alongside putting up some serious numbers for the heavier duty crowd.

Its innovative unibody - essentially the chassis integrated with the frame and shell, also known as monocoque -  undoubtedly has something to do with this, offering best performance and lightest weight. It can tow over 5.000 pounds and has a payload of 1550 pounds.

This is also the first four-door truck to be awarded five stars by NHTSA safety scientists for front and side-impact rating. It also gets more than 22mpg combined.

On road, its torquey 3.5-liter Honda engine and remember, making engines is what Honda does best    gives good acceleration while its innovative suspension allows for maximum load-spread ensuring longer life for your hard-earned, as welll as providing a fairly smooth ride.

One thing to be aware of about the Ridgeline, though, especially for the customizers out there: if you fit non-Honda wheels, you basically void the suspension, wheel and shock warranty. In fairness, Honda believes it has intricately balanced all its components and any such intrusion would upset it all.

So in that respect, you may be roped in to the Ridgeline, just as surfboards should be, too.

Flatbed, minus surfboard

Roomy cabin seats five

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