Just as the first robin announces spring, the arrival of a Special Edition Honda foreshadows the arrival of an all-new model.
Honda’s short-bed Ridgeline pickup ($30,405, including destination) is due for its first full makeover since debuting in 2006.
To sweeten the pot until the 2015 Ridgeline arrives, Honda gives us the new, top-of-the-line Special Edition (SE) trim ($38,335). The SE incorporates the stepped upgrades built into the Ridgeline’s five-trim strategy and adds navigation with voice recognition; Bluetooth phone connectivity; and a handful of cosmetic upgrades.
The SE is the full-meal deal, with 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, sunroof, leather upholstery, ambient console lighting, heated front seats and side mirrors, a 115-volt AC power outlet and satellite radio.
Unibody construction provides car-like ride and handling and the Ridgeline cabin is as quiet and comfortable as any crossover’s. Honda’s latest infotainment and telematics systems aren’t here, though; they won’t be available until the new model arrives.
There’s no such thing as an under-equipped Ridgeline. All trims get a power-sliding rear window, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split lift-up rear seat (with under-seat storage), a rearview camera, full power accessories, cruise control, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with CD player.
The Ridgeline is available in a single four-door, five-passenger body style. It’s powered by an all-aluminum 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 250 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. All Ridgelines are equipped with an integrated trailer hitch, oil and transmission coolers, heavy-duty brakes, dual radiator fans and the necessary prewiring for a 7-pin trailer hookup. Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.
All-wheel-drive is standard. The system can be locked in AWD mode at speeds of up to 18 mph.
The five-speed automatic transmission makes good, sure shifts and Grade Logic Control minimizes gear-hunting in hilly country. Its powertrain is dated, though, and produces anemic EPA numbers: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg combined.
The Ridgeline’s broad seats provide abundant thigh and lumbar support and the rear bench accommodates two adults. Large knobs and buttons are easy to reach and to use. There’s plenty of storage for CDs and enough power sources to keep phones and tablets charged.
One rides high in the Ridgeline cab and sight lines are ideal. The cabin is quiet at speed, body lean is minimal in turns and the unibody rides lightly over broken surfaces.
The Ridgeline’s footprint is smaller than that of a conventional pickup, so it’s lighter on its feet and less of a handful in a parking lot.
For all its strengths, though, I hadn’t fully grasped the Ridgeline’s appeal until now. Its 5-foot bed seemed too short to be of real value.
But this time around, I piled my black Ridgeline tester full of pine branches and serviceberry limbs and carted them in the snow to the burn pile. I fetched firewood from the barn. I carted my bike to Portland for a grandson weekend.
Neither fully fish nor fowl, car nor truck, the Ridgeline occupies a middle ground where comfort and versatility meet. Suburban ranchers, boaters and light-duty haulers can all find something here to like.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 Honda Ridgeline SE
Vehicle base price: $29,575
Trim level base price: $37,505
As tested: $38,335
Optional equipment: The Ridgeline SE is a fully equipped trim level; our test vehicle included no options.
EPA ratings: 15 city/21 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified