Honda Ridgeline and Mazda CX-9
HONDA RIDGELINE | Starting Price: $30,000
As mid-size pickups go, the Honda Ridgeline was unique when it was first introduced in 2005. It can be safely said that the Ridgeline maintains that uniqueness more than a decade later. It still features the only unibody construction and independent suspension in its segment, which also means it has the best ride in
its class. Let’s call it the “crossover” of pickup trucks.
It remains an innovative midsize pickup truck, redesigned from the ground up to offer both recreational and work users a higher degree of utility and versatility in a modern, rugged and sophisticated midsize pickup package. It has the largest and most flexible cabin in its class plus a higher level of confident and refined dynamic performance. Robust cargo-hauling and towing capabilities, including a class-leading maximum 1,584 pound (718.5 kg) payload capacity (varies by trim) and up to 5,000-pound (2,268 kg) towing (RT AWD) add to its desirability.
The new 2017 Ridgeline is about three inches longer in wheelbase and overall length. Head on, it would be easy to mistake it for Honda’s Pilot. The innovative two-way tailgate opens in the traditional way as well as hinged on the side like a door, allowing you to reach farther into the cargo bed. There’s a generous 50 inches between the wheel wells, which means the Ridgeline is the only mid-size pickup that can carry four-by-eight sheets of plywood flat on the floor. As if that weren’t enough, a seven-cubic-foot watertight trunk hides beneath the bed and features a drain plug so that filled with ice it can be used as a cooler. Add to that the 400 watt power inverter which will run regular household 120v plug-in electronics devices, and the Truck Bed Audio System which basically converts the truck bed liner into a ginormous audio speaker!
The Ridgeline features a more powerful and efficient direct-injected 3.5-liter i-VTEC™ V-6 engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Available, is a new Intelligent Variable Torque Management™ (iVTM-4™) torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, the most advanced AWD technology in the midsize truck class. All this ads up to superior all-weather traction, handling capability and robust medium-duty off-road performance. The Ridgeline is a quick-moving hauler, delivering 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds, all while delivering class-leading EPA fuel economy. Give it a little gas, and you’ll find yourself roaring ahead into fast-moving traffic.
The overall ride quality is quite good, with a well-controlled suspension designed for pickup duty. Its torsional stiffness has increased, giving it a nice, solid ride and feel.
Inside, you can opt for a wealth of comfort features, including Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control, Push-Button Start, Remote Engine Start, Smart Entry, a power sliding rear window, LED exterior and interior lighting and more. Tech features are also plentiful, including navigation, satellite radio, up to four USB ports, including two with 2.5 amp charging capability.
Starting in the low $30s, Honda’s Ridgeline is a fully capable mid-size truck that also offers a very decent ride.
Mazda CX-9 | Starting Price: $31,000
If a minivan just isn’t your scene, chances are you’re driving a three-row crossover. And if you just happen to be in the
market for a three-row crossover, look no further than the Mazda CX-9. As the fun-to-drive and ever-stylish CX-9 enters its second decade of production, Mazda steps it up a notch (or two or 10) with high-end design cues. Its cachet is elevated with a proud front fascia that cascades into crisp lines that flow to the rear. Its interior is nothing short of breathtaking, with available auburn-colored Napa leather, Japanese rosewood and aluminum. The focus was on authenticity; an experience rather than simply another commodity conveyance.
Beneath its long, sporty nose is a new 2.5-liter, turbocharged Skyactiv engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Together, this powertrain delivers 250 horsepower and a whopping 310 lb-ft of low-end torque. When Mazda’s engineers set out to design a new engine specifically for CX-9, they looked at how drivers used their vehicles. Customers want effortless acceleration through bountiful torque delivery, so engineers developed the SKYACTIV-G 2.5T with enough power and torque to provide ample acceleration without having to hunt through the gears.
In addition, the new engine is a realization of excellent real-world and catalog fuel-economy as well as spry acceleration, featuring a host of technological advancements to achieve the goal of 21/27 mpg.
Even better for drivers, the CX-9 drives the way it looks: like a beauty. Full of character, the suspension offers a firm but rich ride. Electrically assisted power steering is light to the touch and on point. Shift into sport mode, and the CX-9 will make a good go of trying to take your breath away, where it responsively snaps through the gears like its show-off sister, the CX-5.
For the passengers, there’s plenty of space. Adults fit comfortably in the second row but would find it more difficult to squeeze into the kid-friendly two-seat third. You get 14 cubic feet of storage behind the third row, and that space increases to 38 cubic feet when you fold down the way back. And just in case your passengers are things and not people, you can fold the second row flat for a total of 71 cubic feet of cargo space.
As expected, the CX-9 is loaded with a host of tech features, yet is designed to help keep the driver’s focus on the road. The infotainment suite was designed around a distraction-free experience that still allows users to stream music, make hands-free calls and use other Internet-based applications. MAZDA CONNECT uses both Bluetooth and cable-based connections via two USB ports accessible to front passengers for functions like Pandora or Aha by Harman music streaming.
Starting in the low $30s, the new Mazda CX-9 is certainly Zoom-Zoom, elevated.
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