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Honda Ridgeline outperforms Chevy and Dodge 4x4 in winter driving conditions

Simply put, Honda has engineered the 2014 Ridgeline to outperform Chevrolet, Dodge, Toyota and others in the ½ ton 4x4 pickup classification, with traction second to none. How did they do it? Look to Honda’s VTM 4-Lock drivetrain engineering for the answer.

Spending the past four days living under record early winter weather conditions, this reporter found himself challenging sub freezing, ice road conditions in a last century Volvo 80 S. The Scandinavian sled performed better than expected due to a road condition limited slip differential activated by the push of a button. Good stuff.

Flying around town in the frozen white stuff, gave me much time to study the winter driving skills of my neighbors, many of them challenged by vehicles that were not equipped to combat the ice and snow. More than one 4x4 slipped through a red light or two with the binders fully engaged.

With one exception, the Honda Ridgeline. I followed one for a few miles on Monday and was amazed by its obvious exceptional handling as well as skid and slip-free starting and stopping. Both, without the benefit of snow cables or chains. So, I decided to study Ridgeline specifications for clues as to why this small car-truck could move over icy roads with great control and ease.

What I discovered is that the company that produces the best selling sedan and small car in North America as well as the most powerful production Hybrid, also produces a superior 4x4.

Honda’s success in superior off-road, snow and muddy condition ride and handling comes via the Ridgeline’s exclusive (VTM-4) Variable Torque Management 4 wheel drive system and lock control. No one else in the industry has it.

The aforementioned allows the driver by the push of a button to lock the rear differential for up to 18 mph in forward or reverse. No one else in the industry offers this system as a standard feature on a light truck. Stuck in the snow, bogged in the mud, Ridgeline will work its way out of the hole.

It also offers a superior weight to power ratio via a high torque V6. Standard on all trim packages is the 250 hp. 3.5 liter, 24 valve SOHC V.6 delivering 270 torque at a very usable 4300 rpm.
Weighing in at 4513 Lbs, the Ridgeline out powers the Chevy and Dodge’s V6 and encroaches on V8 territory.

A programmed optimum shift point 5 speed automatic completes the package resulting in a “ light” ½ ton package that is hard to beat in inclimate weather conditions.

Although Ridgeline is a small truck and doesn't deliver the anticipated economy of the Honda Accord or Civic, it will easily carry 1000 lb while towing a 1500 lb trailer; try that with your Civic. None the less, the Honda Ridgeline does deliver an estimated average mpg 15/21 while performing the duties of a superior urban transformer.

With a “ suggested start price” of $29,575.00, the Ridgeline may be a stylish car- truck-like alternative for those wanting the best of both worlds for $6,000 less than a comparably priced Chevrolet Silverado 4x4.


SShaw (not verified)    March 17, 2014 - 12:47AM

Not sure the Honda system had anything to do with what you saw ... Probably more so skill of driver. The VTM-4 system is trying to replicate what all truck based 4wd systems have - when u put it in 4-Hi, all four wheels are powered. With AWD, only two are powered until the vehicle detects slip. VTM-4 gives you the capability to lock up to 18 mph. Most truck 4wd systems you can lock at any speed (though not recmended to use routinely above 45 mph). Also no low range on ridgeline.

Secondly with a F150 with general grabber II tires on back wheels and sand in bed have had almost no slip, fish tailing or otherwise loss of control and have rarely kicked it in 4wd ... Even driving on significant snow covered streets. Only time 4wd used was pulling out cars in ditches and when going though unplowed pArking lots with many inches of snow.

Parks McCants    March 17, 2014 - 1:43PM

I've owned Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Nissan ( Datsun), Toyota, Jeep, GMC and I.H. 4x4 equipped trucks with GVW to 24,000 lbs. I know what they will and won't do in the mud and snow. True enough, you can get by without 4x4 in most winter driving conditions. Test drive a Ridgeline if you find the opportunity to do so. I believe you will find the"rear locker" VTM-4 system is exceptional to the rule. Thanks for dropping by.

catman (not verified)    September 23, 2014 - 12:31AM

Let's be clear kids...the Ridgeline has a full locker in the's just not a pin like we are used to but a clutch pack delivering full power to the rear up to 10mph as it slowly decreases and as mentioned turns off at 18 mph.

Let' all the angry white guys say what they want about Jeeps, Ford, Chevy and Dodge and their towing capacity...(ok not jeep) but the Honda has one of best AWD systems I've found driving around the farm and the ski resort I work at...never gets stuck. Never.

Steve (not verified)    December 27, 2014 - 6:09PM

I live in Canada and have owned a Ridgeline for 5 years now and I agree with Catman. My Ridgeline has NEVER been stuck. Sure some "Truck Guys" mock me and tell me it is not a real truck or I should say used too tell me that!
In the winter of 2012 I pulled both my "Chevy Friend" and a month later my "Ram Friend" out of the ditch they slid into when the roads were icy. I drive down that same road everyday on my way to work and never had a problem. Neither the Silverado or the Dodge 4X4 trucks could get out. I not only did not slide into the ditch I drove partly into the ditch to hook up my tow straps and then pulled my truck AND theirs out of the ditch.

Larry Krainson (not verified)    January 18, 2015 - 5:40PM

My 07 Ridgeline is 8+ years old now and had 140K of flawless miles. It's been the most reliable vehicle I've ever owned. It's towed my camper, kayaks, bikes allover the north east. It's hauled boy scouts, a bed full of their stuff and a heavy trailer everywhere I've pointed it. Gone thru mud (don't go there they screamed), snow, ice, you name it. After 8 years it's still the vehicle of choice to haul people and their stuff and very comfortable. 14.5 mpg around town and 19-22 (depending upon my driving patience) highway.10 to 13 mpg while towing. It rides MUCH better than the Tacoma or Frontier and many cars. I can't wait for the new version to come out. I do have a small wish list, but who doesn't after owning a vehicle this long?

matt arruda (not verified)    February 15, 2015 - 12:09AM

hands down the best winter condition vehicle i've owned. i have an 08 rtl with nav. it has 104k miles and runs perfect. love this truck. super smooth ride too. let the american truck guys say what they want, they dont know what they are missing.

Panther (not verified)    March 5, 2015 - 4:29AM

I am proud to own a ridgeline, it has been the best handling vehicle I have ever owned for all types of terrain. Mud, snow, ice, sand and even pavement. Those American truck owners are missing a wench, lockers, tow truck and some reliability! They hate us cuz they anus!

travis (not verified)    April 13, 2015 - 10:39PM

I traded a 5.7L Hemi Grand Cherokee for my Ridgeline RTX and a year later... not a single regret. I'm still surprised myself. Can my Ridge crawl bolder-ridden streams as well as the Hemi GC? If the Ridge's suspension had the travel and would hold up, I believe so but I have no desire to push it quite that far. I've installed the 2" Truxx lift with 245/70/17 Destination MTs on the Ridge and I'm loving it:) Will it get me in and out of every other offroad muck hole? Has so far with impressive results. Drop it low, engage VTM Lock, disengage VSA and watch it work! It continues to impress me (and I've been VERY skeptical). I just recently had to pull a Ford F150 work truck out of a muddy hole and uphill. Never broke 1200rpms or slipped the first time. If that doesn't impress... I had to go back in the muck to haul out the box trailer the Ford was pulling (weighed 4955lbs btw. I knew that because of an unfortunate incident with VA State Troopers earlier that day where the trailer had to be weighed for some reason). Anyway, hooked up the trailer. Again, very skeptical given the 5000lb tow rating of the Ridgeline on dry pavement. Near maxed out haul, muddy hole, rutted out by the Ford, and gotta go uphill... Ridge never broke 1500rpm and you guessed it, no slipping:) It was hilarious to see my coworker's face. He said he'd never been rescued by a Honda! I'm sure the larger M/Ts I was riding helped in the muck but either way, the Ridgeline was an incredible tool to have at my disposal yet again. Very spacious double cab, big enough bed unless you're a contractor, tows plenty for the weekend warrior, got to love the in-bed trunk, top it off with an incredible AWD system and Honda reliability... hard not to at least consider it. I chose it over the Wrangler Unlimited, Tacoma TRD, FJ Cruiser, Colorado, and obviously my Hemi GC. I drove each one of these and some I drove multiple models. For me, the Ridgeline had everything I needed and nothing I didn't. I kept coming back to the Ridge over and over. This drove me crazy because I'm a HUGE Jeep and Toyota offroad fanboy. If you need utlity, space, and ability to head off the black top when the itch hits, check out the Ridgeline before you settle. It doesn't have near the aftermarket support (almost non-existent) of the Jeep or Yota but I was able to give it a nice stance with the MTs and 2" lift. Add a nice bull bar and a Yakima basket roof rack and you've got a pretty sweet (and fun to drive) get'r'doner. It's our friends official beach road trip wagon now lol. They love riding in it as much as I love driving it! I can't wait to see what the new model will have in store. Hopefully, a little better look (not a fan of the tiny-looking head lights).

Shawn (not verified)    May 10, 2015 - 12:51PM

In reply to by travis (not verified)

Other then the "get'r'doner" your post, ha!

How has that 2" Truxx lift held up...much freeway driving? loved to put one on mine but curious if the C/V are up to the increases angle with highway driving.

travis (not verified)    May 10, 2015 - 2:56PM

In reply to by Shawn (not verified)

yeah, post got away from me there lol. The 2" lift has been great. I was VERY hesitant after reading so many negative comments online but figured what the heck. I would recommend getting the kit that has the replacement front bars. I think that's helped keep things in line for me.

As for highway, I commute 30mins everyday mostly highway and it still drives great. I put new axles in when I bought the truck and I keep a check on them. So far, everything is holding up great with no signs of stress. I'm eight months in with the lift.

If you really think about it, the front end isn't much higher than factory. Things can't get but so out of whack by adding a 2" spacer (with the replacement bars). It wasn't even bad to get the alignment after the lift. Everything is great all around for my Ridge so far.

The axles I bought came from Carquest so nothing fancy and holding up just fine. Hope I've been somewhat helpful!

travis (not verified)    May 10, 2015 - 10:01PM

In reply to by shawn (not verified)

yes. I have 2" in the front with the replacement bars and 1" in the rear. The website says 2" front/rear but I'm pretty sure (if I remember correctly) the front spacers are clearly taller than the rear. It's pretty much a leveling kit. Axles actually aren't bad at all on this. Just be prepared for some rusted bolts when installing the lift:)

I wish someone made a bigger lift for the Ridge... I'd love to see what it looks like with 35's!

M. Hoffmann (not verified)    September 7, 2015 - 5:07PM

I have owned Chevy,Dodge, Ford, and Nissan trucks. More than one of several brands. I Traded in my 2012 F150 crew cab 4x4 for a 2014 Ridgeline. My friends and even my wife teased me about my Honda. I have pulled an F250 out of the mud and a Dodge Ram out of the sand effortlessly while their embarrassed owners looked on in amazement. I traversed a deep pool at the beach after a jacked up Dodge Ram driver wimped out and went around it then stopped to watch me go through it. After witnessing all this and other examples of my Ridgelines 4x4 feats, my wife told me how impressed she was with my Ridgelines capabilities. I told her that I did my homework before buying it and she laughed and said I guess you did! (Stock Ridgeline with17" XD wheels w/Nitto all terrains)

Tyler (not verified)    November 3, 2015 - 5:20PM

A clutch based rear diff is in no way a "locker". If that were the case tons of performance cars would be qualified as having a locker since their clutch based differentials can lock together. It is a electronically controlled limited slip with the ability to transfer power equally at the same time to both rear wheels.

Some of the stories need more credit to be given to the tires and traction of a particular situation than the capability of the truck. Mud tires will always prevail in mud compared to street tires and anything can slide in to a ditch. It is an impressive shot against the grain Honda has gone against and a great all weather traction system for foul weather and poor dirt roads. But a hauling, towing and off road queen it is not and should not be made out.

I think this vehicle is prefect for those that need to be honest with their needs and capabilities and not ego drive. Many more suburban dads should have bought this. Here is hoping the next iteration gains some popularity.