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2009 Honda Ridgeline EX-L NAVI Review

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Pickup trucks are the most popular type of vehicle in North America. It’s a lucrative segment for the domestic automakers, and outsiders that try to steal some sales away from them aren’t finding it very easy. Toyota and Nissan have even built assembly plants in the USA to produce their Tundra and Titan full-size pickups, both of which are selling below expectations.

By the way, the most visible difference between last year’s model is a redesigned front fascia.

But the compact and mid-size pickup segment isn’t as strong as the full-size one. Unlike the other Japanese brands that sell conventional models, Honda is trying its luck at offering something different. The Ridgeline is the pickup truck from Mars and looks like no other. By the way, the most visible difference between last year’s model is a redesigned front fascia.

Hybrid chassis
The Ridgeline is built on a platform that mixes a unibody structure with a conventional-for-a-truck ladder frame. The latter is encapsulated in a closed box and integrated within the unibody frame, which Honda claims is the best of both worlds; the rigidity of a pickup truck with the packaging and handling traits of a car.

What does that mean for you and me? Not much. Is it a car disguised as a pickup, like the late Subaru Baja or a Chevy El Camino? Not really.

Unibody or not, the Ridgeline can still perform utilitarian tasks we expect a pickup to do, like haul or tow heavy loads; the Honda’s payload capacity bests all small pickups expect the Dakota, although its 5000-lb (2,268-kg) towing capacity is the lowest by a small margin. Since we’re on the subject, a note in the Ridgeline’s specification sheet recommends premium unleaded when towing over 3,500 lbs (1,588 kg).

The big advantage the Ridgeline has over its competition is the underbed storage bin, which holds about 240 litres of stuff; it’s lockable and quite handy for leaving valuable but dirty items out of view. The clever tailgate can also be opened vertically or horizontally.

The Ridgeline can still perform utilitarian tasks we expect a pickup to do, like haul or tow heavy loads.