Once upon a time, I owned a Chevrolet El Camino because I liked a vehicle with the comfort of a car that could carry my dirtbike. The Chevy did that with style and ease. Then came the Subaru Brat, which did the same thing with better gas mileage and lower insurance rates. That covers the ’70s and ’80s, but there weren’t many developments of any consequence in comfortable bike transport until Honda introduced the Ridgeline in March of 2005. It was met with mixed reviews from the automotive brain trust. Evidently, automotive brains don’t need to be cocooned in a civilized, luxurious vehicle while carrying a motorcycle.
Last winter, I drove more than 4000 miles in a 2011 Ridgeline while carrying a dirtbike or pulling a 3500-lb. travel trailer. For the most part, I love this vehicle. It has nimble handling like a car, albeit a large one. Though capacities are modest by American pickup-truck standards, it will still tow 5000 lbs. or carry up to 1546 lbs. of payload. And the Ridgeline is much more versatile than your average pickup. It seats five, and folding the rear seats down reveals a cavernous amount of luggage space. The tailgate opens vertically or horizontally, and there’s another 8.5 cubic feet of lockable cargo area beneath the bed, along with three 12-volt power outlets. There’s also a 115-volt socket in the center console to charge your laptop or other electronic devices.
Performance is less than stellar, but more than adequate. The 3.5-liter, SOHC, 24-valve VTEC V6 sends 250 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque through an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission and Honda’s VTM-4 all-wheel-drive. That power normally drives the front wheels, but the system automatically diverts torque to the rear wheels when needed. This worked very well when pulling a trailer over icy Colorado roads without chains. The closed-box, unitized-body design supports the four-wheel-independent suspension and forms the foundation for its stable handling under load, even in adverse conditions. It even comes with an integrated Class III trailer hitch.
Honda gave the Ridgeline a racing pedigree with a Stock Mini-Class win in the 2010 Baja 1000. So, what’s not to like? Fuel mileage: The EPA estimates 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway, but I saw just 14 mpg city and 18 highway. And Honda recommends premium unleaded when towing more than 3500 lbs. Measured against similar vehicles, that’s not horrible, but considering Honda’s reputation for outstanding fuel economy, I would have liked a few more miles out of every gallon, especially in an empty truck at highway speeds.
The Ridgeline isn’t exactly cheap, either. Prices start at $28,900 for the base RT, and a fully equipped RTL with a satellite navigation system and rearview camera will set you back around $36,830. But if you’re in the market for a four-wheel-drive truck that seats five, carries your motorcycle and drives like a car, the Ridgeline is literally in a class of its own.
Invisible until it’s opened, a lockable compartment built into the Ridgeline’s bed can kee
Honda’s Dual-Action tailgate can support up to 300 lbs., and opens like other pickup truck
|Price (as tested)
||SOHC, 24v i-VTEC
||250 bhp @ 5700 rpm
||247 lb.-ft. @ 4300 rpm
||Multi-Link with Trailing Arms
||Dual 333mm ventilated discs w/ABS
||Dual 320mm solid discs w/ABS