Dan Edmunds, who coincidentally works at Edmunds.com but has no other relation to the company that happens to have the same name, to me one is of most interesting automotive experts in the industry. His approach to discussing how things, especially suspension things, work is much more detail orientated than anyone else.
Some years ago an editor at Edmunds decided to go to a place called Racetrack Playa which is dry lake in a remote area of the Death Valley National Park. It’s accessible by driving more than 100 miles in the park, on a paved road, and then another 25 miles on a dirt road. But this dirt road is a bit different – it has a dry washboard-like surface but is otherwise free of any challenging obstacles. Looking at the video, it looks like most conventional 2WD vehicles should be get through it. The editor at the time took the first generation Honda Ridgeline.
Once that editor got off the dirt road and back onto paved road he noticed how poorly the vehicle handled. Long story short, the shock absorbers on that first generation Ridgeline failed miserably. The constant prolonged vibrations at speed and in high temperatures were simply too much for the shocks. Ten years later, at the introduction of the new Ridgeline, Dan Edmunds questions Honda engineers about the new shocks. Honda was more than familiar with Dan’s story and said that they applied changes to the new truck based on it.
So now Dan took the new Ridgeline to the same Racetrack Playa in the middle of a hot Death Valley. He drove over the same roads, at the same speeds, in similar temperatures. But he wasn’t convinced that the Ridgeline could take the abuse so he brought along two support vehicles: a new Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road (not TRD Pro, wasn’t available at the time) and Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X. Both vehicles were equipped with their off-road packages, giving Dan confidence in their abilities.
But a funny thing happen. Watch the above video as it is really worth your time. The oscillations of the shocks, the speed, and the temperature yielded some amazing results. Then watch the below video for a less dramatic conclusion.
The only thing I didn’t like about the review was that Dan kept the street tire pressures for the first eleven miles of this dirt road. When they found components failing they took 10-12 psi out of all the tires. This is something that most off-roaders would do right away. I asked him if he has done the same test with cars that had after-market suspensions and he said not yet. That would be very telling if factory off-road packages are worth the money or if buyers should go with after-market set-ups.
I have driven the new Ridgeline and I have to say that I really liked it. I liked it because it was honest, because it wasn’t some macho toy but rather it was all the pickup that most pickup buyers need. One of the reasons why pickup trucks people did not like the original Ridgeline was because Honda marketed as a replacement for the F-150, which is wasn’t. Instead it should have been marketed as a more functional Pilot or Acura MDX, because that’s what it was.
The new 2016 Ridgeline I drove was comfortable and spacious. It drove smoothly and handled well. The cab was typical Honda smart with a ton of space and well thought out layout. The bed was decent size and t had one thing that one other pickup has – a freaking trunk! With 280-horsepower and 5000-pound towing capacity, it is the large CUV of pickup trucks. Throw in a few friends for a tailgate party, tow a small boat, load up the bed with mulch. What more does an honest suburban folk need?