Honda's Ridgeline sport utility truck, introduced in early 2005, is similar in concept to the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and Chevrolet Avalanche, in that it has a cargo bed integrated with the SUV-style cab.
That makes it look more like a sport utility with an open cargo area than a conventional pickup truck. It's essentially the same vehicle as the Honda Pilot crossover, but with the cargo area cut open to create the small pickup bed.
The Ridgeline has room to seat up to five people comfortably - two up front and three in the rear.
For 2012, Honda added another Ridgeline trim, the Sport, which brought some special exterior touches to the RT line, such as 18-inch black alloy wheels with planed aluminum face and all-season tires; black honeycomb grille with black surround; black headlight and taillight housings; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls; auxiliary audio input jack; rear privacy glass; black all-weather heavy-duty floor mats; and fog lights.
There are now five trim levels, with 2012 prices ranging from $29,350 to $37,280. There are several options available. My tester was a striking Crystal Black Pearl four-wheel-drive Sport with black-textured cloth seats.
Under the hood is a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, connected to a five-speed automatic transmission with grade logic control, which holds the transmission in lower gears when on hills.
Also included are heavy-duty transmission and power-steering coolers, a heavy-duty radiator with two 160-watt fans, an immobilizer theft-deterrent system, and a VTM-4 four-wheel drive system, which allows the driver to manually lock the rear differential for starting in low-traction conditions, such as mud, snow and loose gravel.
The Ridgeline is EPA rated at 15 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway. According to the onboard trip computer, I averaged 19.7 mpg overall during my week in the vehicle. Much of that was freeway driving on my daily commute.
As usual with Honda products, the Ridgeline comes with lots of storage. The steel-reinforced composite cargo bed, with one-half-ton capacity, needs no liner; it comes with a non-skid surface for impact, corrosion and scratch resistance.
Steel cross-members underneath add strength and integrity. The dual-action tailgate swings open to the side or flips down for easy loading of large items such, as plywood or drywall, and will support 300 pounds -think four-wheeler, motorcycle or lawn tractor.
There is also a locking in-bed trunk for smaller items that might otherwise roll and slide around the bed - or get stolen.
The cargo bed has numerous tie-downs and hooks for securing an assortment of oddly shaped or bulky items. There are four lights in the cargo bed with auto-off timer and a power-sliding rear window with privacy glass.
A cargo bed cover and a net are available options. The Ridgeline would be perfect for a drive-in movie, a picnic on the beach, or camping under the stars.
Storage in the cab includes space under the rear bench-style seat, which also folds up manually in a 60/40 split against the back of the cab to open up the rear floor area for cargo. Folding was a little difficult for me, because of the strength required, but bigger and stronger folks should have no problem.
There was a fold-down center armrest in the rear with two cupholders and a small storage bin. There were map pockets and bottle holders on the door panels. The rear of the front console had bag hooks, a floor light, a power outlet and air vents.
The rear seat was comfortable, with lots of legroom (36.4 inches), headroom (39.1 inches) and good visibility. The seat cushion was like sitting in a comfortable chair at home.
A multifunctional center console in the front with sliding armrest was amazing. It had multiple levels - some felt-lined, some rubber-lined - and dividers, removable trays, CD storage, two cupholders, a "phone/fry" tray, and a sliding/expanding area with a sliding cover. Front occupants had 40.7 inches of headroom and 40.8 inches of legroom, and the sport bucket seats were very comfortable.
The Ridgeline received a "Good" safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with dual-stage, multiple-threshold front air bags, front side air bags with passenger-side occupant-position detection, side-curtain air bags with rollover sensor for both rows, head restraints and three-point seat belts in all five seating positions, and side-impact door beams protecting occupants.
The tester didn't include navigation or satellite radio, although both are available as options.