Redefining a product category, Honda Ridgeline

Probably we will all be talking tommorow about the new $500 Mac, but until then, let’s take a look at Honda reinventing a product category: pick-ups.

Just to get it out of the way, I think the Ridgeline is one ugly vehicle. However, it is an appropriate aesthetic for its market. I think Honda has used their traditional restraint and made a reasonably attractive version of a Hummer pick-up.

The innovation occurs in a couple places: construction and storage.

Construction: The new Ridgeline is a unit body. This means it is lighter and stiffer than other pick-ups. It also features a fully independent suspension. I know the real offroaders out there will not be happy, but for mom to run to the store, or for a soft-roader that wants a pick-up bed, this is a good thing. It means a smoother ride.

On the design front, Honda designs had to struggle integrating a bed into the design without the normal cab-to-bed part line.

Storage: As I’ve noted several times before, security is a big issue in car design. Honda addressed this by giving Ridgeline buyers a lockable storage big UNDER the bed floor. Great idea.

This storage space doubles as a place to hide the spare tire, which rests on a slidable cradle. It’s about time designers learn that it is ridiculous to have users crawl under their vehicle to get a spare tire out.

I would be nice if your image links worked…

Sorry, the website tricked me! Friggin’ images worked when I previewed.

If Honda wishes to redefine the pick-up market, I wish they would go about it with a vehicle that doesn’t resemble GM’s Avalanche/Escalade XLT so closely. While the technical aspects of the Ridgeline are notable, it appears they ran a little short on time and just changed the Avalanche a bit. At least it doesn’t have a ton of tacked-on plastic trim.

Not to mention that the avalanche and escalade are two of the ugliest vehicles on the market, IMO…

I haven’t seen the Ridgeline in person yet, but I’m betting that it is smaller than the Avalanche. With a four door pickup oriented towards family use, I think the oddball proportions of the Avalanche/Ridgeline are going to be about as good as it gets. However, the detailing of the Ridgeline is much more subtle and well refined than the Avalanche.

In the end, I think the Ridgeline will be to the Avalanche what the Element was to the Aztek. The segment DOES exist, it is waiting for the right product.

The Ridgeline is big. Trust me. I don’t know how it compares to the other 2 mentioned, but this guy is massive.

I did some quick research. Here are the important stats:

Honda Ridgeline

Wheelbase (in.) 122.0
Length (in.) 206.8
Height (in.) 70.3
Overall Width (in.) 77.8
Ground Clearance (in.) 8.2

Curb Weight (lbs.) 4552

Chevy Avalanche RWD 5.3L

Wheelbase 130.0 inches
Overall Length 221.6 inches
Vehicle Height 73.6 inches
Vehicle Width 79.8 inches

Curb Weight 5438 lbs

To conclude, the Ridgeline is a lightweight compared to the Avalanche. I think that its proportions will look much better in real life than how it does in pictures. If it is making an appearance in Montreal this week, I will let everyone know my first impressions.

I saw it at the Detroit show the other day. It’s big and clunky to me. It’s only 20" shorter than the Assalanche, which is still pretty large and in charge.

It’s big and clunky to me. It’s only 20" shorter than the Assalanche, which is still pretty large and in charge.

Isn’t that the appropriate aesthetic for a pick up right now?

Only if you want to be “cool”

true, true.

But there is a right way to do it and a wrong way:

Range Rover, the new Ford Sport Trac concept, even the H2 are great examples of great rugged, but designed and refined.

I believe that this model will attract a segway of consumers from the SUV market and the luxury market. To the utility market. The design is distinct and refined even to the details. The removal of the bed to cab seemeless redefines the look and puts the model apart from anything else. What is ahead for the competiition.

Not to flip flop like a cheap beach shoe but…

The more I read about the Ridgeline features the more impressed i am, I think I was all wrong in my initial reation.

I understand your initial reaction. I finally saw the Ridgeline in person…it’s a pretty substantial vehicle to say the least.

Since it was on a rotating table 2-3 metres away, and 1 metre in the air, it was difficult to judge how it would look on the street. I feel though it will look better than Avalanche etc.

I feel though that despite its bulk, its innovation is a breath of fresh air in a rather stale market. Let’s face it, most pick ups are not used to haul dirt or tow a trailer with concrete bricks (ie, everything that is shown in a typical GMC commercial). They are being used to run errands, grab groceries and occasionally camp out. Honda designed the pick up around those users. Huzzah.

Yo: What’s been impressing you the most?

I think it’s basic design is very impressive:

1] choice of unibody construction for better weight, ride, economy (you wouldn’t want your jet plane built like the write brother’s, why would you want your pickup built like a model T, never got that]

2] Independent rear suspension instead of live swing axel set up allows for…

3] concealed trunk under truck bed

4] concealed full size spare under truck bed

5] dual hinge lift/swing tailgate that still supports 300lbs

6] very narrow for a pick up, yet still bed is wide enough for a sheet of plywood

7] roomy interior

8] Honda v6

9] even with the v6 it has good towing abilities, and even with the unibody construction and car like suspension set up it rates pretty decent off road.

Here are the things I don’t like:

1] should have incorporated a midgate like the Assalanche, er ah, Avalanche, or an extendable bed like Nissan and Ford, to accomodate a sheet of plywood’s length

2] interior is not as nice as Dodge, Ford, and not even close to Nissan

I’m neutral on the styling, while I appreciate it is much better than the Avalanche, they could have pushed it further beyond. It is very expected, which maybe is good for their first ever pickup.

Of course Honda styling is always bland. They make a hot design like the s2000 or prelude or Acura CL and wrap it in the paper bag’s exuivalent of form work. Acura is getting better but overal Nissan/Infiniti have way nicer formwork.