Expect a More Truck-Like Ridgeline from Honda

Honda is taking a serious crack at the U.S. pickup-truck market – an arena that has proved exceedingly difficult for this and other major Japanese car makers.

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Honda’s Ridgeline racing truck hints at how the street version will look.

The company said it will unveil a redesigned version of its long-running but lukewarm-at-best Ridgeline pickup at the Detroit auto show on Jan. 11. The vehicle, which has been designed, developed and built in the U.S., is part of a broad revamping of Honda’s light-truck lineup.

Honda said the reworked Ridgeline is meant to “offer something new and fundamentally better suited to the way many buyers use their truck,” but that is roughly the same company line we heard a decade ago when the original version rolled out.

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The first-generation Ridgeline was an odd duck among pickup trucks.

While the first Ridgeline’s novel crossover design, car-like ride and convenience features initially caused a sensation, it was less than a blockbuster with buyers, who often wound up choosing either traditional full-size pickups or enclosed crossover utility vehicles instead.

As a pickup the Ridgeline lacked the towing and hauling capacity of larger American trucks but wasn’t as comfortable as many SUVs. Its appearance didn’t help, either. The sides of the cargo bed angled upward, and awkwardly, toward the passenger cabin, giving the impression of an SUV whose roof was torn off.

By 2011 industry watchers increasingly speculated that Honda would scrap the truck.

Teaser photos suggest the angled sides are gone, and I imagine the towing capacity will be higher when the new Ridgeline makes its debut. The vehicle is expected in dealerships during the first half of 2016.

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