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On the Road: Honda Ridgeline [VIDEO]

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My first thought about the Honda Ridgeline is, It’s a Honda Avalanche.

After all, like Chevrolet, they took a popular 4-door SUV, the Pilot for Honda, Suburban for Chevy. They then chopped off the top behind the rear doors and turned it into a pickup truck bed.

The difference is, the Avalanche, which left the lineup a couple of years ago, was based on the Chevy Silverado truck. The Honda Ridgeline is based on the Honda Pilot, which is based on the Odyssey Minivan.

So maybe what we’re talking about is a Honda El Camino. That strange, automotive version of a mullet haircut. Car up front, pickup party in the back.

Whatever it is, the second generation Ridgeline is so much better looking than the first, it is like night and day. But for truck purists, the fact that it’s a unibody chassis and not body on frame, and available in front-wheel-drive means it’s a minivan in a truck suit.

And that’s a shame because the Ridgeline is so much more. It is a comfortable, peppy, very capable urban and suburban, light-duty hauler.

And let’s be honest. Unless you use your truck for work, when was the last time you hauled a really big load? Let’s be even more honest. When was the last time you hauled anything at all? Most trucks you see in the city and around the suburbs are shiny and clean and empty, except for the driver.

The Honda Ridgeline, with 280-horsepower from its 3.5-liter V6, will handle most of the around town chores that most people will encounter. In fact, it’s 19 horsepower more than the real truck Nissan Frontier.

The 6-speed automatic transmission means there’s a gear for every need, and the little truck will haul the groceries to 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds, which leaves the Toyota Tacoma in its dust.

If the idea of a front-wheel-drive truck is just too precious for you, the ridgeline come in all-wheel-drive as well. And, though gas is cheap now, it still nice to get 19/26 mpg (two-wheel drive) and 18/25 mpg (four-wheel drive) EPA city/highway ratings.

The one area that truck purists will point to with glee is what is predictably the only downside of the Ridgeline and that’s towing. 5000 pounds is the limit, which is about 2000 less than the Chevy Colorado, the clear class leader in mid-sized trucks.

But that isn’t the game Honda is playing here. The Ridgeline isn’t just a truck, though it is a very nice one. It’s really a whole new class of utility vehicle. Part SUV, part truck, part car, and very satisfying at all of them.

One thing they even kept, thankfully, from the first generation is the nifty compartment in the bed for hidden storage. It even has a drain so it can be one terrific beverage cooler.

So, if towing a boat or travel trailer is your thing, go for a full-sized truck. But if you are looking for a fast, comfortable, practical, economical light-duty hauler with style, there is only one choice.

The Honda Ridgeline fills a need we didn’t know we had. Now all they need is that El Camino trim package, and I’ll be a happy camper.


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