Until recently, Honda had always focused its efforts on passenger cars and SUVs, leaving the Japanese-brand pickup truck market to Mazda, Nissan and Toyota. Upon researching the pickup truck market, Honda discovered that nearly 25 percent of Honda CR-V owners also owned a pickup. While visions of potentially lost market share danced in their heads, the powers that be at Honda decided to finally produce a pickup, and the 2006 Honda Ridgeline was born. Typical trucks have a steel frame that provides strength, and the body is bolted on top to hold the occupants and cargo. Honda took a different tack by integrating the lower frame and upper body into a single structure.
The MDX and Pilot platform was beefed up with seven high-strength steel undercarriage cross members, creating a fully boxed ladder frame integrated into the unibody structure. Developed for the U.S. market, the 2006 Honda Ridgeline has styling that is a departure from the traditional "3 box" (engine compartment, cab, cargo box) pickup truck school of design. Rather than having the bed as a separate piece, the Ridgeline unites it with the cab. The steel-reinforced fiberglass composite truck bed is dent- and rustproof, eliminating the need for a bed liner. Honda raised the floor of the bed, creating a flat surface that can accommodate cargo without the intrusion of bulging wheelwells. The bed is 5 feet long and over 4 feet wide, so it can easily swallow a standard 4x8-foot sheet of plywood with the tailgate down. Traditional truck owners often have to choose between stowing cargo in the unsecured bed or stashing it in the cab.
Honda eliminated this problem by incorporating an 8.5-cubic-foot locking trunk into the back of the bed, which is accessed by lifting a hatch in the floor. The trunk can hold a 72-quart cooler or three golf bags. Bending over a tailgate to pull gear out of the trunk would be difficult, so the tailgate is designed to open down or swing out sideways like a car door. The Honda Ridgeline also boasts an independent suspension for a smoother ride, but there's no V8 option for heavier loads. The Ridgeline's 3.5-liter V6, while smooth and refined, lacks the low-end grunt of other big pickups. With the optional towing package, the Honda is rated to tow 5,000 pounds and can haul 1,550 pounds in the bed, numbers that fall in the gray area between midsize and full-size categories.