A rookie in the pick-up truck game and one of the girliest-looking pick-up trucks ever to motor the planet [even beating out the “Militant Soccer Mom” Explorer Sport Trac] the Honda Ridgeline has suffered no small amount of abuse. After snagging the Number 1 spot on Motor Trend’s list of the 15 Worst Looking Cars for 2008, the Honda Ridgeline apparently decided enough is enough.
Trudging home to mother Honda, the Ridgeline performed the automotive equivalent of the Rocky Balboa training montage and is emerging in 2009 a new breed of beast.
Spy shots of the 2009 Honda Ridgeline reveal only a few slight cosmetic modifications. The 2009 Ridgeline’s grill now bears a stronger resemblance to the Honda Pilot’s; daytime running lights and fog lamps are now completely integrated into the front bumper. Taking an aggressive [and smart, given step towards the off-roading, outdoor crowd, the new Ridgeline comes optionally equipped with a motorcycle bed extender as well as a bed-mounted bicycle attachment [definitely a smart move given Honda’s established history in the recreational vehicle market]. While not a drastic departure from previous years’ design, the real changes were made where it counts the most – under the hood.
Still featuring its 3.5L VTEC V-6 engine, larger intake valves and a new, ultra-lightweight magnesium dual-stage intake manifold have added 3 units of horsepower to the Ridgeline’s net power output. It doesn’t sound like much, but a new camshaft profile also means a 10 lb-ft broader torque curve at RPMs as low as 2500. Maintaining its 5,000lb tow capacity, the 2009 Ridgeline boasts a jump in its cargo bed max-payload rating to full half ton. To compensate for the assumed extra weight, and maximizing on the additional engine torque, the Ridgeline’s gear ratios were revised to provide more responsive acceleration. Accordingly, gears 3 and 4 are now about 5% lower [gear 3 from 1.023 to 1.017, gear 4 from 0.729 to 0.765] to facilitate stronger passing performance. As a nod towards Newton’s Law regarding an object in motion, the Ridgeline has also been outfitted for 2009 new, bigger set of anti-lock disc brakes: 12.6″ in the front, 13.1″ in the rear.
Although we give Honda an A for effort, the buyers market isn’t nearly as forgiving. While there might be hope for the Ridgeline in Honda’s base of recreational vehicle customers, with today’s fuel crisis and large-scale vehicles falling out of favor, we wouldn’t count on it. Bottom line: a friend of ours owns several Honda ATVs, a Honda motorcycle, and a Honda trailer – all of which he tows with a Ford F-150 FX4…it’s a thinker.