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Honda Gets Tough 

by Clint Burgess

As a rule, certain car companies are known for specific models and typically excel at what they do within a specific type of vehicle. For example, Dodge is known for its trucks, Toyota for its sedans, Mazda for its sports cars and so forth. In the new world of vehicle marketability, there can be no idea left undone. That is why Honda is now a player in the truck market. That's right, the manufacturer known for the longevity of its vehicles is making a move on a market they have previously left to American auto makers. The result is the 2006 Honda Ridgeline. If your Accord isn't enough Honda for you, this truck is.

While the truck market isn't Honda's area of expertise, it exhibits a forward-thinking strategy from the Japanese auto giant. The company has already dominated the midsize-sedan classification and is now looking to bolster its dominance in different areas of the business. Honda made this transition the right way. Years of research and design make this first-generation Ridgeline a hot commodity right out of the box. There will be some fine-tuning that comes about as a result of driver response, but for the time being, the Ridgeline will leave customers satisfied. Another attractive quality buyers will find with this truck is the price: Starting at $27,000, the Ridgeline won't leave your finances in disarray.

If there was a hybrid vehicle that blended the style and handling of an Accord with the brawn of a full-size pickup, this truck just might be it. Initial reviews have drawn praise for the road-worthiness of the Ridgeline. The interior ride yields a quiet environment seldom found in a truck of this size. Everything you would expect from a Honda can be found in this truck. An ergonomic layout makes the interior cab feel familiar and offers a ton of storage space. This may be a truck but the inside feels like a well-appointed sedan with all the trimmings. Air conditioning, power windows and a CD player are all standard on the entry-level model and the options increase with price from there.

Instead of offering a regular and extended cab, Honda offers the Ridgeline with just an extended cab. This makes more sense, as the majority of truck users are also hauling passengers. It also makes choosing a model less of a headache. Some of the areas that this Honda is lacking in, however, may cause buyers to look elsewhere for a truck in this class. For example, there is no V8 option for the Ridgeline, an issue Honda will hopefully address in future models. Some consumers have also noted that this truck is more suited to cruising and light hauling than tearing up trails and hunkering down on a heavy load. The V6 may lack the towing capacity and torque of larger engine, but don't be completely detracted by an smaller engine size, as many comparable trucks come equipped with the same-size engine.

The ride alone of this truck makes it worth buying. Throw in more options like standard four-wheel drive, a 5,000-pound towing capacity and a generous bed for hauling, and the Ridgeline starts to look like a contender in the pickup arena. This truck also has a penchant for safety. Traction control assists in handling during sticky situations and the first-ever appearance of anti-lock brakes on a pickup can be found here. Side and curtain airbags round out the safety features on this model and are comparable to similar trucks in its class. With all the bases covered, look for the Ridgeline to make an impression with Honda enthusiasts as well as across brand boundaries.

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