Recently, Honda lent us a lightly used (3,785 miles) Ridgeline RTL-E pickup truck to evaluate for six months in our Detroit fleet. That's not long enough to properly gauge things like cost of ownership, four-season performance, etc., but it's a golden opportunity for a chance to really live with those features that give the Ridgeline its unique positioning on size and utility spectrum of pickup trucks. For this first installment of our not-so-long-term test, let's focus on the dual-action tailgate that comes standard on all Ridgelines.
Opens "Right" And Left
The Ridgeline's pickup superpower—well, one of them—is the ability of its tailgate to open the "right way," hinged along the bottom, or swing to the left like a door, an idea pioneered by Ford as the Magic Door Gate on the 1966 Country Squire station wagon. Ford drew attention to its feature with a prominent door handle clearly visible on the right side of the Magic Door Gate, but Honda
downplays the feature, hiding the door-mode latch under the right edge, molding "< RELEASE" into the top surface of the bumper to indicate where to find the lever. The typical pickup release handle to flop the gate down is located right where you expect to find it.
Loading Cargo Via The Dual-Action Tailgate
When we go to load the Ridgeline's bed, we almost always open the dual-action tailgate to the side. This lets you stand right behind the bed cavity without having to lean over the dropped gate, which prevents back strain and pant stains. This is also the only way to easily see and access items in the bottom of the in-bed trunk, and it makes it easier to secure loads via the rear tie-down hook
No Need For Elaborate Bed Steps
Swing open the dual-action tailgate, and the license plate recess makes for a well-placed bed step to use for climbing into the bed. Measuring 23 inches high, it's a reasonable interim step up to the 35-inch-high surface of the pickup floor.
Most of today's premium pickups offer some dampening when opening and assistance when closing the tailgate, typically by incorporating torsion bars in the lower hinge. This is not easily accomplished in a design where the bottom right hinge must also function as a latch and the bottom left hinge must also serve as a pivot. The only way to ease the burden of lifting a dual-action tailgate (short of something like little rocket boosters) is to make it weigh less. Our scales measured a maximum lift burden of about 30 pounds.
Tailgate's A Lightweight
Another limitation of the dual-action functionality is only being able to place a load-supporting tether on the left side. This limits how much load the dual-action tailgate can bear. The owner's manual states, "The maximum allowable weight on the tailgate while driving is 300 pounds." Clearly, there's a risk of jounce magnifying the tailgate load while driving, which probably suggests that the Ridgeline's static pregame party seating capacity can safely accommodate two average adult male fans (but maybe seat the heftier of the two on the side with the tether?). In a previous career in the structures-testing lab at Chrysler, I tested the first-gen Dodge Dakota's tailgate to support the entire payload, despite the manual recommending a much lower max limit, but those gates all used two tethers. Incidentally, the Ridgeline owner's manual lists the pickup bed's gross weight limit as 1,100 pounds, though the in-bed trunk's lid is also weight-limited to 300 pounds.
No Power Releases
Some premium pickups now feature buttons on the key fob to open the tailgate, but these gates invariably feature damped opening or remote power closers, reducing the risk of injury from a tailgate dropping onto a person or pet. Honda's gate can be locked or unlocked with the remote, and this remote locking can be disabled if you want to leave the pickup box accessible when the cab is locked. Note that the in-bed trunk release can be disabled by a switch in the glovebox, which can further be locked with the same key that operates both the manual release on the bed trunk lid as well as the access panel on the bottom center of the tailgate that reveals an emergency cable to unlock the tailgate if battery power is lost.
Shine A Light
The tailgate's switch to turn on the LED bed lighting is located such that the lights only come on when it's opened like a door. Drop the gate, and you must use the dash-mounted light switch or open the lockable storage compartment to trigger the lights. This is because that switch also triggers a beeper and warning message on the dash, which a pickup owner doesn't want to deal with when hauling items with the dual-action tailgate down.