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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Honda Ridgeline RTL is a comfortable workhorse

You either love the look of the Honda Ridgeline or hate it. Not much has changed in the truck since its introduction in 2005 (as a 2006 model) and a midcycle update in '09. The midsize crewcab — though some would dispute it's actually a truck — still is packed with useful standard features.

Appearance: Lyra thinks the Ridgeline has a "sleek urban look." Of course, she's not exactly objective: Lyra owns a 2008 Ridgeline RTS and loves it. (Peter thinks it has an appliancelike appearance.) The Ridgeline has a stout stance and a profile that takes some getting used to — its high frame slopes down toward the back. Up front, the angled headlights, combined with a revamped grille, give it a stern look. Lyra thinks the truck looks better with the optional roof rack and running board.

Exterior: Some call the Ridgeline a sport utility truck. (Chevy's Avalanche, also a unibody vehicle, is another.) The word utility certainly is accurate: The bed, which is wide enough for a 4- by 8-foot sheet of plywood, also has a lockable weatherproof trunk with 8.5 cubic feet of space. (Just know: If you're hauling something in the bed, it's difficult to access this space.) The bed is made of a steel-reinforced composite that resists most of the bad stuff the average do-it-yourselfer can throw at it. The two-way tailgate made us both applaud: It flips down or opens sideways like a door for easy access, and there are eight tie-down cleats in the bed. The Ridgeline is tow-ready, including a trailer hitch, high-capacity radiator and a heavy-duty transmission cooler. But the RT trim lacks a trailer harness for the wiring.

Performance: The unibody construction makes the ride quieter and more stable than a traditional body-on-frame truck. Its rigidity also means better handling, especially in turns. Lyra found the throttle response to be improved over her '08. The 3.5-liter V-6 is Honda's workhorse and has enough power for most (family) uses, but don't expect to put it to work like the competition in the can-you-top-this TV commercials. Even if the Ridgeline isn't made for off-roading, there is all-wheel drive. Still, the little truck can haul — up to 5,000 pounds. Lyra tows her 4,300-pound race trailer just fine. But for a V-6, the mpg (15/20) is weak.

Interior: There's comfortable seating, room for five adults and lots of storage. The rear seats can fold up for extra space, or there's storage under the seats. Honda fixed a few of Lyra's pet peeves in the update: The cruise control button is now on the steering wheel instead of the bottom of the dash. The headlight dial is guarded so you don't accidentally turn it on with your knee when exiting. You can now plug in your MP3 player. Bonus: a 115-volt plug.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Cabin: It's comfortable, like Honda's cars.

Storage: Love the "trunk" in the bed and the two-way tailgate.

Utility: This is the Swiss Army knife of small trucks.

Lyra Solochek

User friendly: In-bed trunk, two-way tailgate, flip-up seats, storage nooks. Fantastic.

Ride: Independent suspension in the rear gives it a smooth ride. "It doesn't feel like a truck," is a common response from passengers.

Reliability: My Ridgeline has never let me down.

The bottom line: Whether the Ridgeline remains in Honda's lineup after this year is a subject of conjecture. For now, this is a right-sized truck that will suit many families' needs for a vehicle that can handle DIY projects and towing.









2011 Honda Ridgeline RTL

Price: $28,900 base, $36,830 RTL start, $37,610 as tested

Powertrain: 3.5-liter VTEC V-6, 5-speed automatic with Grade Logic Control, AWD with Variable Torque Management 4WD system

Horsepower: 250 at 5,700 rpm

Torque: 247 pound-feet at 4,300 rpm

Seats: 5

Curb weight: 4,564 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 122

Length, 207

Width, 77.8

Fuel economy:

15 miles per gallon city, 20 mpg highway

Fuel type:

Regular unleaded

Safety features: Front air bags and side curtains, rollover sensor, Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS, electronic brake distribution, brake assist

Website:

automobiles.honda.com/

ridgeline/

The Daily Drivers: 2011 Honda Ridgeline RTL is a comfortable workhorse 01/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 3:30am]
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