Honda’s popular four-door pickup enters the 2009 model year with more power, a restyled interior, and a bolder look while adding a number of new features.

Available in three trim levels (RT, RTS and RTL), the four-wheel drive 2009 Ridgeline is powered by a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, enhancements to the engine have resulted in more horsepower and an additional 10 lb.-ft. of torque while maintaining the same EPA fuel economy as last year’s model.

With the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds, the Ridgeline is rated as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. Requiring regular unleaded gasoline, the five passenger Ridgeline has an EPA fuel economy rating of 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway.

This year, a trailer hitch becomes standard equipment on every model.

Equipped with a five-foot-long composite cargo bed providing a half-ton payload rating of 1,100 pounds, it is also the only pickup truck with a lockable in-bed trunk.

Other newly introduced premium features include Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a rearview backup camera on RTL models equipped with the available satellite-linked navigation system.

Interior styling updates include revised three-dimensional-style meters, a new steering wheel design and enhanced controls, buttons and displays for the air conditioning, audio, cruise control and headlights.

There is also a new 115-volt power outlet on the RTL, MP3/auxiliary input jack on the RTS and RTL and all audio systems become MP3/WMA compatible.

New safety features include active front seat head restraints and the addition of daytime running lights.

In the truck bed, already capable of handling four-feet wide sheets of plywood between the wheel wells, Honda has added two additional cargo tie-down points, for a total of eight.

New accessories for 2009 include a motorcycle bed extender and a bed-mount bicycle attachment, in addition to a wide variety of existing accessories that are designed to accommodate motorcycles and ATVs.

With a base price starting around $28,000, what I like about the Ridgeline is its size — not so big that you feel you need a chauffeur’s license to drive it and not too small that its functionality is limited. Not only can it tow up to a 5,000-pound trailer, haul more than a half-ton in the cargo bed, lock tools in the in-bed trunk, it also hold five people in comfort. And, using Honda’s variable torque management 4-wheel drive system, it’s well suited for both paved and unpaved driving surfaces.

Standard safety features include dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags, front side airbags with passenger-side occupant position detection system, side curtain airbags with rollover sensor, active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability assist with traction control and tire pressure monitoring system, among others.

I highly recommend it for the test drive list for those in the market for a pickup.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS

MODEL:

2009 Honda Ridgeline

5-seat, 4-door pickup

Four-wheel drive

Trim packages:

RT, RTS, RTL

PRICE RANGE:

$28,200-$39,000

ENGINE:

3.5-L V-6 (250 horsepower/247 lbs.-ft. torque)

TRANSMISSION:

5-speed automatic

EPA: 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway

FUEL: Regular unleaded

SUSPENSION:  MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar and multi-link rear suspension with trailing arms and stabilizer bar. Built on integrated closed-box frame with unit-body construction and fully-boxed high-strength steel frame rails and crossmembers with internal stiffeners.

TRACTION CONTROL:

Vehicle stability assist with traction control.

BRAKES: ABS with brake assist.

LENGTH: 207 inches

WHEELBASE: 122 in.

WIDTH: 77.8 inches

HEIGHT: 70.3 inches

WEIGHT:4,504-4,564 lbs.

TRACK: 67.1/66.9

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 22 gallons

TIRES: 17-, or 18-inch