2009 Honda Ridgeline RTL

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14,505
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Top of Virginia
So, I bought the Ridgeline in this thread: http://www.bobistheoilguy.com/forums/ubbthreads.php/topics/3755790/1 I've driven it a few hundred miles over a few days since Saturday, and I'm quite enjoying it. There are some things about it that I really like, and there are some things that I'd change. These are my thoughts on it so far, with some limited pictures. I'm working on some of the body issues, and will post exterior pictures in time. Going front to back I suppose... Headlamps: fantastic. These are probably the best halogen headlamps I've used. Despite being a similar design and nature to the ones on our old CR-V (both use HB2 bulbs with a similar reflector style), the Ridgeline's headlamps cast an extremely wide and consistent beam of light (no bright or dark spots). There's also very nice down-road distance. I'm really quite impressed. OEM bulbs are Japan-made Koito...interesting. Our CR-V had Philips bulbs from the factory. Engine/powertrain: I love a Honda J-series engine and this one's even better than what's in our MDX. It's a new-for-2009 J35Z5 model, and refinements include larger intake valves, different camshaft profile for better low end torque, and some other sundry items. One of the things I like about it most is the big intake scoop on top of the radiator shroud. Honda tuned it so the driver could hear it (they wanted the "noise experience"), and there are no hidden resonance chambers or silencer boxes. The scoop goes straight to the filter box, and then to the intake tube to the throttle body. When the intake runners switch to short length at about 3,600 RPM, it begins to speak in a real basso profundo pitch, and when the big cams kick in at about 4,800 RPM, it honks a real deep bellow. And with the low speed cam profiles, there's push-and-go power everywhere in the power band. It has quite a different character than our MDX's engine (which feels smoother, perhaps due to the active engine mounting, but is a little lazier around town). The transmission shifts okay -- some of the shifts feel a little notchy. Knowing the previous owners, I'd say that there's a good chance that the fluid is still original (97k miles), and I will be blending new fluid in over time. Interior: I've long been a critic of the Ridgeline's interior, and still am to some degree. In terms of functionality, I find it to be far more intuitive and useful than it looks. It has some weird shapes to it, and there is indeed lots of hard plastic. I'm not sure it's completely out of character for a truck, though, and the graining and satin finish on the plastics offer a nice impression. The center console is really cool -- about everything on it slides like an accordion. The top armrest slides fore and aft...the main section with the cupholders slides fore and aft...the lower section cover (under the cupholders) slides fore and aft. It's a real interesting design. The cupholders are super deep, so even the tallest drink will never turn over out of these. The one component (or pair of components) that really stand out, and in a bad way: the door pull handles. Not the pull levers themselves, and not the pull slots down lower by the arm rest, but the big door pulls at the top front of the doors. These (not my picture): The fit-and-finish of these is horrible. There's a silver-colored face on them (that you see in this picture) and a black-colored "base". The interface between those two is not good -- there are a number of sharp mold and cut lines on the pull assembly and the execution is just not good at all. They could have really done better, here. Other dislikes include the mirrors: they're too narrow for the truck. The mirror glass surface needs to be about an inch wider. And the interior review mirror...it has a manual adjustment for day/night (probably not appropriate for a top line leather trim model) and it has a really hokey directional compass that illuminates one or two cardinal directions about a center crosshairs. If you're driving north, you can see the crosshairs and N illuminated. If you turn northeast, the N and E are both lit. If you turn east, the N goes out and the E stays lit. It's pretty silly if you ask me, and it's the only attempt that I know of you make a "graphical" compass in a mirror. The interplay between the sunroof and power sliding back window is really nice. Open both, and you get a playful breeze through the cabin, but it's super quiet -- you can drive 60 mph with the sunroof and back window open, and hold a normal conversation in the cab. In fact, it's louder if you close the rear window and have just the sunroof open. Our kids love the opening rear window and their HUGE side windows that retract all the way into the door. The MDX's side windows lower about 3/4 of the way and stop. They love having those windows roll all the way down. Chassis: I love it. I swear that it corners flatter than our CR-V did (and certainly flatter than our MDX, with 125k mile dampers). It's not as small-car nimble as the CR-V, but it still changes directions like a fly. The steering is quick and very appropriately weighted. I enjoy the steering. Road feel in the steering wheel could be a TICK more pronounced, but steering feel overall is very agreeable to me. The ride is quite firm -- firmer than I expected. It's odd -- it's both firmer and less jarring than the CR-V's ride. I guess that's curb weight for you. Bed/trunk: I really like this feature. I love the dual action gate -- it lowers or swings, depending on which lever you use. The in-bed trunk is really cool. I have a lot of plans for customizing that for my needs. The spare tire lives in there, and the tray is designed to accommodate a full-sized spare, which is smart. Honda also designed a spare tire mount in the bed so you can locate your spare there in case you have a load in the bed and need your spare tire. It will reduce capacity in the bed, sure. You can't have it all. They call the bed a "composite" bed, but the only traditional plastic in it are the top rails and blade on top of the tailgate. The actual bed surface and bed sides appear to be a sort of Rhino-lined metal. Bed lighting is remarkable. There are no fewer than four cargo lights, two up in the flying buttresses and two at the rear, which illuminate the back of the bed and the trunk when it's open. This trunk is lit better than any sedan trunk I've had before. I think it's going to be an impeccable family vehicle for us. Little plusses: the Michelin LTX M/S tires (P245/60R18) are in great shape, with only about 10k miles on them. They'll last a good while still. And the original owner bought a lifetime XM subscription when he first got it, so I'm good to go on that. The original owner paid $35,5xx out the door new. I bought it from my brother for $9,750 and paid $1,475 total to ship it out here ($225 to the broker plus $1,250 COD for the carrier). My total cost is $11,225 plus $150 NC highway use tax to register it.
 
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1,092
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ohio
Looks like excellent buy! I also made the switch from small suv to truck (03 sierra ECSB) 2 years ago, and i have never looked back. I can haul the family and use it as a truck (win win). I look forward to seeing timing belt change picks if it hasn't been done.
 

Hokiefyd

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14,505
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Top of Virginia
I mentioned in another thread how, despite being based on the Pilot/MDX chassis, the Ridgeline has an exclusive rear suspension design. Here are two pictures that show that. The first is of our MDX, with the "original" design. Each wheel is controlled by four links, but the large trailing arm acts as two links, since it's bolted to the knuckle in two places, providing rotational control. The coil spring rides on the rear lateral link, with a separate shock absorber connecting the knuckle to the body. (2011+ Odyssey owners, you'll notice "your" Michelin Primacy MXV4s here; these have about 25k miles on them, giving you an indication of how well they're wearing for us.) The Ridgeline throws that out for a new lateral link design with a coil-over-shock system that integrates the damper and spring into one assembly. The bottom of the coilover bolts to the lateral link and the top rides directly on the frame. Other aspects of the design are similar, though it shares zero parts. Also visible in the second picture is the drain plug in the trunk of the Ridgeline. It's often noted that you can use the trunk as a large drink cooler or similar -- fill it with ice, do your thing, and just open the drain plug when you're done.
 
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W WA
Excellent write-up. You have a flair for this stuff. The Ridgeline is a great, if quirky, vehicle and I have considered it carefully over the years. However, the bed doesn't make sense for me. Maybe the redesigned '16 or '17 will change that.
 

Hokiefyd

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Thanks. One more thing...I can't stand red turn signals in the back of a vehicle. In fact, I've stated before that that's a go/no-go gauge for me -- I simply will not buy a vehicle that doesn't have them. I feel that strongly enough that they offer enough of a safety advantage that I will avoid a vehicle that doesn't have it. Hypocrite!! Indeed, this truck has red turn signals. The 2006-2008 Ridgeline, however, had amber turn signals, and the wiring is identical and the units are otherwise the same, so I will be switching these out for earlier units. Some guys with the older models like these red ones to update the look of their truck, so I will try to find someone who just wants to trade. Otherwise, I'll have to spend some cash.
 

Hokiefyd

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I dug through the service history of this vehicle last night. Lots and lots of Jiffy Lube oil changes. Yep, the original owner was a steady customer of his local Jiffy Lube. They appear to have taken reasonable care of it. Oil used was always Pennzoil 5W-20 or Formula Shell 5W-20, with their Proline filter or whatever it is. I have the Proline filter that was on it...will probably cut that this weekend to have a peek. The engine looks spotless looking through the oil fill hole in the front cam cover. It has needed at least four replacement windshields. I guess they took a lot of rocks out there. Even the current one has a small chip in the lower passenger side. The current one is a Pilkington windshield with blue stripe on top. Interestingly, there are NO rock chips in the hood paint or front grille area. It had a replacement battery in 2012. Not unusual for modern Hondas -- it seems that factory batteries don't last very long in them. What's in there is a "Power Start" 600 CCA battery (low for a group size 24, but typical for the desert southwest probably). The tires are Michelin LTX M/S with thick tread. They were replaced at about 85k miles (97k on it now). The original set (also Michelin LTX M/S) lasted that full 85k miles. This is common for the OE Ridgeline tires -- some owners get over 100k miles out of them. Mine (made in 3113) already have some light cosmetic cracking -- but I reckon that sitting ungaraged in southern Arizona and driven only 7,000 miles in a year is tough for a set of tires, regardless of brand. Other than (four!) windshields, one set of tires, and oil changes, nothing's been replaced on this vehicle. The brakes are squeaky, and I took a peak in the front brakes the other day and they were good. I understand that the Ridgeline will wear the rear brakes faster, due either to pad material or brake force distribution...it may need new rear pads, and I'll check on that this weekend. If it does, I'll have the rotors turned and will likely install Akebono Pro-ACT ceramics.
 

Hokiefyd

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Top of Virginia
Originally Posted By: IndyIan
Looks very nice and that's a great price! Can you lock it into 4wd manually?
Sort of. It has the VTM-4 system, which has a lock button on the dash. It's not a mechanical lock, but one that locks the clutches in the rear differential unit. It's a "soft-roader" type system, not intended to conquer the Rubicon Trail.
 

Nick1994

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Phoenix, AZ
Yup, Phoenix is actually labeled as the windshield replacement capital in the country. Being in the desert, and all of our highways are gravel on each side (no grass whatsoever) there's lots of rocks that break windshields. My car has had I believe 7 windshields. The battery being 2012 will probably die soon, they don't live long out here, usually 3 years max.
 
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WI.
all these Honda AWD V-6's are great if you don't mind wasting alot of time and money on maintanence and fuel.. I got 11-15 mpg on my '10 Pilot here in frozen tundra howling wind commutes. changing the pumpkin oil every 30k is a $30 PIA, or a $100 trip to the Honda Service waiting room. AWD system scrubbs off tires real good. Timing dodad 6-4-3 is a POS Timing belt (and your due) worth 380 gallons of fuel. Yes, some nice features but the above is a deal killer for most.
 
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Hokiefyd

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dblshock, I've had a different experience than you, with two of these types of vehicles now. But that's what an internet forum is all about, right? Sharing experiences and perspectives with others... I'm so far averaging 19.1 mpg, and I'm happy with that. Our MDX gets similar, though on premium fuel. VTM-4 fluid is simple to change -- it takes about 15 minutes with a pair of Rhino Ramps. I'm doing that and the ATF this evening I think. I suspect that both are original to the truck. It is annoying that you have to buy a gallon of VTM-4 fluid to drain-and-fill 3 quarts. Our consolation prize, I guess, is the fourth change is free! I disagree that the AWD system itself scrubs tires...but poor alignment sure can. We got 50k out of the Michelin Cross Terrains on our MDX and replaced all four early due to a sidewall puncture in one at about 4/32" of tread. The OE Michelin LTX M/Ses on the Ridgeline lasted 85k miles. This is only the second set of tires the truck has had (first replacement set). They have 12k miles on them and hardly look worn. I expect an easy 60k miles out of them, unless they rot out first (a distinct possibility). A timing belt and spark plugs together cost $450 from an online Honda dealer (about 180 gallons of fuel in today's dollars) and are a pleasant Saturday morning in the garage. I did our MDX's timing belt in 2014. I'll do the Ridgeline's timing belt next spring probably. I do agree with you on the VCM -- a lot of people apparently have a problem with it. Neither of our machines have it.
 

Hokiefyd

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Originally Posted By: Nick1994
Yup, Phoenix is actually labeled as the windshield replacement capital in the country. Being in the desert, and all of our highways are gravel on each side (no grass whatsoever) there's lots of rocks that break windshields. My car has had I believe 7 windshields. The battery being 2012 will probably die soon, they don't live long out here, usually 3 years max.
I didn't know that about Phoenix. That is where this vehicle was bought new (actually, Tempe Honda). It lived north of Scottsdale, right near Pinnacle Peak, until this time last year, when it went to live with my brother in Tucson. A three year life span on the batteries correlates with what this truck has experienced -- the OE battery lasted three years before it was replaced. This one is three years old, but my brother drove it only 7,000 miles last year, and now it's in a cooler climate, so maybe it'll live to see another year.
 

Hokiefyd

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Originally Posted By: Vikas
To the best of my knowledge, none of the Honda AWD V-6's have VCM. Can anybody give contrary examples?
Most of them do now. I think the all Pilots have had VCM since the 2008 model year. My folks' 2014 MDX (with SH-AWD) has VCM. In fact, I don't think you can buy a non-VCM V-6 from Honda now, regardless of drivetrain, but I could be wrong on that. The Ridgeline never did get VCM, all the way through 2014. Acuras never had it, either, until 2014. Honestly, you can't tell it's even there on my folks' MDX. Maybe the newer systems are better than the old ones. Or maybe it just hasn't broken yet.
 
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17,136
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NH
Originally Posted By: Nick1994
Yup, Phoenix is actually labeled as the windshield replacement capital in the country. Being in the desert, and all of our highways are gravel on each side (no grass whatsoever) there's lots of rocks that break windshields. My car has had I believe 7 windshields. The battery being 2012 will probably die soon, they don't live long out here, usually 3 years max.
Interesting. I always thoughht Maine was hard on windshields, and the rest of New England not far behind, due to our road sand usage.
 

Hokiefyd

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14,505
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Top of Virginia
I've had this truck for a few months now, and it just turned 100,000 miles. None of my initial impressions have really changed -- it's a very enjoyable vehicle to drive. The handling is out-of-class for a truck, but the towing capacity is also out-of-class (the other way). Trade-offs! What really resonates with me is how hard Honda tried with this vehicle to make it feel like a truck. My personal opinion is they went a little too far with the ride firmness. It has a firmer ride than a 2WD half-ton tuned for the boulevard, which I think is unfortunate. The plus side is it still doesn't have any of the "after shake" associated with the solid rear axle and separate bed. There's a lot of room between the seat centerline and the door sill, so it feels wide. The hood has quite a center bulge in it as well, trying to hint at it being a truck. Despite being a nearly identical engine to that in our MDX, the 3.5L V-6 in this vehicle acts like a different animal. It's got more torque just off idle, and the intake tract is relatively unmuffled, so it actually does sound like a larger engine than it is. Fortunately, it also has plenty of go-power and willing transmission gearing and programming, so it also goes better than you'd think 3.5 liters' worth of six cylinder should in a 4,500 pound brick. Its wheelbase is a far cry longer than our MDX (over a FOOT longer, and halfway between a Tahoe and a Suburban), so it has less of a playful feel than the MDX has. I also think it's funny how Honda copied domestic ergonomics with this vehicle, which is sort of counter to the passenger car class -- where headlamp switches are moving from the dashboard to the turn signal stalk and the wipers are moving to the right side of the column. The Ridgeline's large rotary headlamp switch is on the dash (it's a reach!) and the wipers are on the turn signal stalk. Having grown up on GM cars, it's funny how quickly I re-acclimated to this layout. I look forward to doing the valve adjustment this winter. This engine has been run exclusively on either Pennzoil or Formula Shell 5W-20 from the Jiffy Lube around the corner from where the previous owner lived. Looking inside the oil fill hole, it's absolutely spotless, and I really look forward to getting those cam covers off to see what lies within. I suspect it'll completely validate to me the experience others have had with conventional 5W-20s in desert heat -- even at MM intervals (8-10k miles), it's just no problem with the right engine.
 
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