2012 Honda Ridgeline Review and Prices

Last Updated: Apr 5, 2012

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2012 Honda Ridgeline Buying Advice

The 2012 Honda Ridgeline is the best pickup for you if your light-duty priorities run to good handling and passenger comfort rather than true-truck cred.

The 2012 Honda Ridgeline gets a new grille appearance, adds a Sport model, and gains 1 mpg in highway fuel-economy ratings. Otherwise, this unorthodox but strangely appealing midsize pickup carries on the same basic design it’s had since its model-year 2006 debut. Few hard-core truckers take this unibody crew-cab seriously. You, on the other hand, may well see the logic of a five-passenger pickup with decent payload and towing numbers and outstanding levels of refinement and driveability.

Should you buy a 2012 Honda Ridgeline or wait for the 2013 Honda Ridgeline? Buy a 2012 Ridgeline if you want to be absolutely certain of actually getting one. To explain: Honda insists reports that the slow-selling Ridgeline is on its deathbed are greatly exaggerated. The automaker says it plans to continue producing the truck for “the foreseeable future." We expect Ridgeline’s future to extend into the 2013 model year. Beyond that, we’ll withhold predictions. In any case, the 2013 Ridgeline would be little more than a retread of the 2012 version except for model-year price escalation -- and the prospect of lame-duck status.   

2012 Honda Ridgeline Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Honda Ridgeline styling improves by subtraction of a goofy grille insert that looked a giant 1950s tie clip. The replacement features less offensive horizontal chrome bars or, on the new Sport model, a quiet-attractive black honeycomb pattern. Otherwise unaltered, the 2012 Ridgeline is no beauty-contest candidate. At least its folded-cardboard shape and sickly proportions are partly explained by engineering that’s wholly unusual for a pickup truck.

Every other pickup, compact or full-sized, uses a traditional form of truck construction in which the body is attached to a separate strong, heavy frame. That’s the accepted formula for a vehicle designed to carry lots of weight and tow big trailers. Ridgeline, by contrast, uses a car-like unibody structure, though it integrates portions of a rigid boxed frame. The Honda gives up no noticeable stiffness to compact-pickup rivals, although lack of a seam between the cab and cargo bed is one outward sign of its unibody design.

The 2012 Ridgeline continues in one body and bed style – a four-door crew cab with a 5-foot bed. The cab nearly matches some full-size crew-cab pickups for usable passenger space. By contrast, Ridgeline’s bed is about as small as pickup beds get. It does, however, conceal beneath its floor a locking, covered “trunk” of 8.5 cubic feet. A two-way tailgate that drops in the conventional manner and also swings open to the side is another Ridgeline exclusive.

The 2012 Honda Ridgeline lineup expands to four models with the addition of the 2012 Ridgeline Sport. The roster again starts at the base Ridgeline RT model, gains the Sport, and ascends through the better-equipped RTS, the leather-upholstered RTL, and the top-line RTL with Navigation system model.

Visually, the 2012 Ridgeline Sport stands apart with that exclusive black honeycomb grille plus black headlight and brake light housings and black-accented 18-inch alloy wheels. Styling differences between the other trim levels run to 17 inch steel wheels and dark exterior trim on the Ridgeline RT, to 17-inch alloy wheels and body-color trim on the RTS, to body-colored trim, fog lamps and polished 18-inch alloy wheels on the RTL models.      

Mechanical: The 2012 Honda Ridgeline recycles the only powertrain this pickup has known: a 3.5-liter V-6 with 250 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. Torque -- think of it as the force that initiates movement – is important in a pickup, and Ridgeline’s V-6 is competitive in this regard. Aided by a smooth-shifting five-speed automatic – the sole transmission offered – acceleration is more than adequate and remains wholly acceptable even with a full load of passengers and cargo.

Traditional pickups are based on rear-wheel-drive designs augmented with available four-wheel drive (4wd). Ridgeline has roots in front-wheel drive engineering but is fortified with standard all-wheel-drive (AWD). Rather than requiring the driver to engage it, like four-wheel drive, Ridgeline’s AWD system automatically shuffles power between the front and rear axles to maintain traction.  

Off the road, Ridgeline isn’t designed to challenge backwoods brawlers such as the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Pathfinder. It lacks the ground clearance and separate low-range gearing for that. But this Honda is more than competent in snow and in light-duty off-pavement work. Credit goes to its stout construction, an automatic locking rear differential, and a dashboard button that maintains engagement to the rear wheels at low speeds.

Ridgeline also is separated from the herd by its all-independent suspension; it’s the only pickup that doesn’t hearken back to the dawn of the motoring age by using a solid rear axle. The result is an uncommonly refined ride for a pickup, with segment-leading handling to boot. Payload capacity is 1,500 pounds and maximum trailer rating is 5,000 pounds – both easily on par with similarly sized V-6 crew-cabs. Among standard safety features are four-wheel disc brakes with antilock capability for more controlled stops and an antiskid system to mitigate sideways slides.

Features: The 2012 Ridgeline is again bound by a Honda policy that bypasses individual options to lock in a set of features exclusive to each model. To get additional features a buyer must ascend to the next model level. The policy simplifies production and ordering but sometimes forces buyers to pay for features they may not want to acquire those they do.

Even then, the only 2012 Ridgeline equipped with the safety and convenience of Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity is the top-of-the-line RTS with Navigation model. And no Ridgeline is available with a USB interface for iPods and other MP3 devices.

These shortfalls aside, the 2012 Ridgeline reprises a good list of features that includes on selected models a power moonroof and heated front seats and on all models, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel. power windows and locks, a power sliding rear window, cruise control, and keyless entry. Ridgeline’s trip computer calculates instantaneous and average fuel economy.

The front center console has a sliding armrest and a sliding lower tray, each with interior storage. A 60/40 split lift-up rear seat with under-seat storage is standard, as well. Safety features include head-protecting curtain side airbags that cover both seating rows and deploy in side collisions or in an impending rollover.

2012 Honda Ridgeline Prices back to top

Price range for the 2012 Honda Ridgeline is $30,060-$37,990. (Prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Honda’s fee for the 2012 Ridgeline is $810.)

Given a model range of just one upscale configuration – an AWD V-6 crew cab -- Honda justifiably considers Ridgeline a “premium” truck and prices it accordingly. Rivals offer less expensive four-cylinder regular-cab pickups, for example, but price differences shrink once you option a Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier 4wd V-6 crew cab to compare with a Ridgeline.     

The 2012 Honda Ridgeline RT base model is priced at $30,060. It includes all the aforementioned standard features plus a six-speaker, 100-watt audio system with a single-disc CD player.

The 2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport is priced at $30,805. This newcomer adds to the RT model the sportier grille and 18-inch alloy wheels plus fog lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, an auxiliary audio input jack, rear privacy glass, and all-weather floormats.

Honda prices the 2012 Ridgeline RTS at $32,765. It comes with the 17-inch alloy wheels and body-color door handles plus an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control, deep-tint windows, and all-weather floor mats. Starting with at the RTS level the audio system is a 160-watt unit with seven speakers, a subwoofer, six-disc in-dash changer, steering wheel controls, and an auxiliary input jack.

That the 2012 RTL model remains Ridgeline’s most popular trim level is clear evidence that Ridgeline buyers tend not to be the off-road enthusiasts, budget buyers, and tradespeople that form compact-pickup core audience. The 2012 RTL is priced at $35,640 and again upfits the RTS with fog lights and the 18-inch alloy wheels, plus leather upholstery with heated front seats, power moonroof, remote garage-door controls, carpeted floor mats, and a compass in the rearview mirror.

The 2012 Ridgeline RTL with Navigation model repeats as the most expensive 2012 Ridgeline. At $37,990 it includes all the RTL features plus a satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition. The system includes Bluetooth cell-phone linking and a backup camera.

2012 Honda Ridgeline Fuel Economy back to top

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Honda Ridgeline are 15/21/17 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s a 1-mpg gain in highway mileage over the 2011 Ridgeline. Honda credits the improved aerodynamics of the revised grille and friction-reduction measures in the engine.

Overall, 2012 Ridgeline fuel-economy ratings are about midpack among similarly sized V-6 crew cabs. This Honda continues to use 87-octane gas.

2012 Honda Ridgeline Release Date back to top

The 2012 Honda Ridgeline went on sale in autumn 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Honda Ridgeline back to top

Ridgeline has never been hugely popular – it’s outsold 7-1 by the Tacoma, for example, but a number of Honda owners are also pickup drivers and Ridgeline keeps them in the fold. Further, Ridgeline shares key engineering details – including its V-6 AWD drivetrain and many interior appointments – with the Honda Pilot SUV. So development costs can be spread out.

As for Ridgeline beyond model-year 2012: Honda says, "Reports in the media that we have plans to discontinue the Ridgeline pick-up truck are false …Ridgeline has a significant role in the Honda line-up and it is expected to continue in the foreseeable future."

A dim view of Ridgeline’s future is not baseless, however. The market for all pickups smaller than full-size trucks such as the Ford F-150 is shrinking steadily. Ridgeline rivals discontinued over the past year alone include the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota. Some reports speculate that the next generation Ridgeline, whenever it may appear, could be a pickup version of Honda’s compact CR-V crossover SUV. Honda flatly denies that plan, too, leaving Ridgeline’s crystal ball more than a little clouded.

2012 Honda Ridgeline Competition back to top

Toyota Tacoma: No four-door crew cab this side of a full-size pickup can match Ridgeline for roominess. But if you don’t regularly carry more than one other person a Tacoma crew cab offers a nice combination of ruggedness and relative refinement. This Toyota is America’s best-selling compact pickup and provides serious off-road capability and a choice of crew-cab long- and short- beds. The 2012 4wd Tacoma crew cabs start at $27,515 with a 159-horsepower four-cylinder engine and $28,395 with a 236-horseower V-6. With automatic transmission fuel economy is 15/19/17 mpg and 16/21/18, respectively. Tacoma is due a restyling for model-year 2013.

Nissan Frontier: Another old-school compact pickup that has many of the same virtues and vices of the Tacoma, though Nissan dispenses with a regular-cab altogether and provides just the extended-cab long-bed Frontier King Cab and the short- and long-bed Crew Cab models. Plus-points include good steering feel and a strong 261-horsepower V-6, though 4wd fuel economy is a sobering 14/19/16 with automatic transmission. The 4wd 2012 Frontier King Cabs start at $26,145, Crews at $26,305. A four-cylinder is also available, but only with 2wd. Frontier also is due a restyle for model-year 2013.