Test Drive: 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport

Review and photos by Lesley Wimbush

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport honda 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport. Click image to enlarge

Pardon me while I don my fire-retardant suit, because there are sure to be some flamethrowers aimed my way.

The last time I reviewed the Honda Ridgeline, I was drawn and quartered by the trolls of the internet and pretty much accused of being on Honda’s payroll.

It seems that a lot of people would rather hate the Ridgeline for what it isn’t, than appreciate it for what it is.

The Ridgeline’s unusual looks incited a lot of debate when it was first launched in 2005.

Pickup truck owners are a pretty conventional lot – the really avid ones like their cars, beer, and women domestic, baseball caps on front to back and their racing done in a straight line, or at most, a straight oval.

At the time I was a moderator on a domestic truck forum where the rivalries were summed up by whomever Calvin was urinating on in your back window. The debut of the Ridgeline was like an alien invasion.

As if its styling wasn’t enough – those “flying-buttress” C-pillars that render it into a sort of automotive push-me-pull-you (you have a hard time telling whether it’s coming or going), there was its unconventional architecture. In a boxed-ladder frame world where manly trucks had pumpkins between their live rear axles, the Ridgeline’s hybrid-unibody-on-frame and IRS (independent rear suspension) setup earned it jeers and derision.  But worst of all, the Ridgeline featured a front-wheel-drive biased drivetrain.

And I, the proud owner of a push-rod driven hunk of genuine Detroit iron, had to admit that I wasn’t exactly taken with its decidedly un-masculine sounding powerplant.

But a funny thing happened during that first week spent with the Ridgeline. Its balanced, car-like manners and ability to soak up bumps without skittering its backside across them left my beloved Dodge feeling downright primitive by comparison. Okay, so maybe that integrated truck bed wasn’t so weird after all – apparently the platform provides twenty times the torsional rigidity of a traditional box on ladder frame.

Test Drive: 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport hondaTest Drive: 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport hondaTest Drive: 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport hondaTest Drive: 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport honda 2013 Honda Ridgeline Sport. Click image to enlarge

While the inside was exceedingly plain, it was an ingenious design in utility. Cubbies and storage were plentiful, and located exactly where I needed them, as if the engineers had read my mind. Best of all, the back seat bottoms flipped up in a simple motion – creating a wide open cargo space complete with flat, easy-to-clean rubber load floor.  Perfect for my bicycle, smelly horse equipment or camping gear. My only real quibble was that the clever storage compartment in the pickup bed also housed the spare wheel.  Imagine getting to it with a full load in the event of a flat tire?

During our annual Car of the Year testing, we snickered at the idea of the Ridgeline tackling the off-road course – a rigorous trail comprised of gravel pits and deep mud, with plenty of logs and rocks to clamber over.

Naturally, we were shocked that despite having the only V6 in the comparison group, the lowest ride height and no skid plates – the Ridgeline completed the gruelling course with ease.

Gradually, the odd truck with the crossover handling began winning over fans. Just like loyalists of underdog nameplates laud their quirky favourite’s attributes, Ridgeline buyers were fiercely defensive of their purchase.

Fast forward to 2013 and the truck world has changed immeasurably.

Not so the Honda Ridgeline.

Amid rumours of its imminent demise, the Ridgeline returns in 2013… with a backup camera. Where others in the segment boast incredible gains in energy efficiency and aerodynamics, fabulous technologies such as air suspension, independent rear suspension, and interiors to rival the luxury sedan market – the Ridgeline remains virtually unchanged.

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