headed to the Racetrack Playa, which is a dry lake in
a very remote part of Death Valley. And you have to drive 25 miles
on this dirt road to get there. And here is the turn off. And so it begins. It’s called Death
Valley for a reason. It’s a brutal desert
landscape that’s one of the hottest
places on Earth. Daytime summer temperatures
routinely top 120 degrees. The national park is immense. We drove more than 100 miles
on paved roads within the park before we even reached
our starting point. We had a first-generation
Ridgeline. It was in our long-term fleet. And one of the editors wanted
to come out to the racetrack so he drove it out here. And it’s just a long,
punishing, washboard dirt road. But any kind of a pickup truck
should be able to do it, right? So he went to the racetrack,
had a dinner there, came back, got on the pavement,
and instantly realized that
something was wrong. Turned out that the shock
absorbers had overheated and all the oil had
squirted out past the seals and they were done. And this Ridgeline
comes out 10 years later and I went to the
introduction and they talked about these new
shock absorbers that it had. And I questioned the guy
after the presentation and I told him about our
trip to the racetrack and he knew all about it. They had gotten word of it,
had received the shocks that had been damaged and decided
that that damage shouldn’t have occurred. There are changes
on this truck that are based on what they learned. So it was obvious that we needed
to bring this new truck out here, do the same thing, and
see if it does any better. This trip was centered around
our 2017 Honda Ridgeline long-term test vehicle. And then there’s the 2016
Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road 4×4. It’s the unquestionable
off-road leader in the segment. Lastly, a 2006
Nissan Titan XD was drafted to carry
all of our gear, some spare tires, and
camping equipment. My biggest concern out here
with respect to this truck has to do with the tires. This isn’t really off-roading
by the context of Rubicon Trail or Moab or anything like that. This is a dirt road. If you have a four-wheel-drive
truck and in your ads you’re talking about
Baja, and in your ads you show things getting
air, well, then, this road is nothing. [MUSIC PLAYING] Oh, man. [CHUCKLES] So what do you think? TRAVIS LANGNESS: This
thing’s bouncing a lot. Does a lot of bouncing. The rear end gets really,
really loose, but– DAN EDMUNDS: Does it kind
of skip around a little bit? TRAVIS LANGNESS: Yeah. It’s kind of fun, though. DAN EDMUNDS: [LAUGHS] TRAVIS LANGNESS: It’s
half the enjoyment. DAN EDMUNDS: This thing
feels pretty planted when it comes to that. It’s just kind of shaking,
but all four wheels seem to be on the
ground most of the time. I have seen the Traction
Control light flicker a couple of times. TRAVIS LANGNESS: Yeah, I’ve
seen mine come on once or twice. DAN EDMUNDS: I want to just look
and see if there’s any, like, oil running down the shocks. Well, this one’s
missing its dust boot. Oh, wow. This one’s blown up. Yeah, that thing just
exploded or something. TRAVIS LANGNESS: Did it happen
the same on the other side? DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, there’s
oil all over the place. Holy crap! That’s what we call a
blown-out shock absorber. So far, the Tacoma, both rear
shocks are blown out on it. The front ones look OK, but
I mean, they’re blown out. The dust boots are
torn and hanging and there’s oil everywhere. The left rear shock on the
Ridgeline and the fronts, they all look dry and fine. The right rear looks like
it’s weeping a little bit. It’s not as obviously
damaged as the two on the back of the Tacoma but
I’m kind of speechless, really. All right, now we have a third
vehicle that’s not in sight. So we’re probably going to
have to drive back, bring one vehicle, at least, and
see if we can lay eyes on it. When we finally
caught up with Kurt, we figured he’d tell us some
story about a flat tire. Instead, he showed us
a piece of tailgate trim that he’d had to go
back for after it fell off. And then he told us
about this oily smell. KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah, but I
mean, are they still intact? No, they’re not. They’re blown. TRAVIS LANGNESS: This
right rear one is smoking. KURT NIEBUHR: That
explains that smell. TRAVIS LANGNESS: Yeah. KURT NIEBUHR: As it smells
kind of like hot peanuts. DAN EDMUNDS: Well, we
learned something here today. [LAUGHTER] A dirt road isn’t
just a dirt road. Three different vehicles, two
of them with off-road packages, and the one without
the off-road package seems to be the less
damaged of the three so far. I like to test vehicles
at full pressure because coming from the
manufacturing side, that’s how we develop the cars. That’s how I start out. And I know that our man 10 years
ago didn’t drop the pressure, so we wanted to do
the same thing he did. Well, 11 miles in we
discovered that we were hurting the equipment. We’ve taken about 10 to 12
PSI out of everybody’s tires and we’re cutting our speed. It feels like we’re now
in sync with the road more and it’s, uhh– more of that. But you know, we’ve got to
try something because we still want to go to the racetrack. [MUSIC PLAYING] Here we are at the
Racetrack Playa. We’ve been here about an hour,
wandering around and looking at all the rocks and
checking out the trails. But for us, it’s
time for us to get to where we plan to camp
tonight before it gets dark and we kind of have
to take it slow, because the vehicles
are hurt at this point. We’ve still got to go back
out the way we came in. But so far, the
Ridgeline is actually the most pleasant
truck to be in. And it seems to be holding
up better than the other two. And I wouldn’t have
predicted that, no way. A lot of people like
the image of off-road. They don’t necessarily go on
anything more severe than this. So if you could just
kind of like logically break down what you really
need your truck to do, you might come to the conclusion
that the Ridgeline is enough. [MUSIC PLAYING] So it’s been a long
day on a brutal road. The road really beat us up
and it beat the trucks up. We didn’t get any flat
tires, which I really was very surprised about. I thought that’s what
our problem would be. We actually had more
trouble with the support truck and the other truck
with the off-road package. I thought that they
would be solid as a rock and it would just be a
question of whether or not the Ridgeline came through OK. But actually it
did a little better than the other two trucks. We only lost one shock,
right rear, on that one. And the other two trucks,
the Tacoma and the Titan– oil everywhere, smoke,
melted boots on the shocks. It was not the
result we expected, but it’s still a
pretty good result. None of this means the Ridgeline
is the better off-road vehicle. It still lacks the
clearance and gearing to be a true mountain goat. But on roads like this,
the Ridgeline has an edge. Thanks to independent
rear suspension, its shocks have much less
unsprung weight to deal with. And on ordinary
roads, this translates into better ride comfort. Want to see how
this all turns out? Stay tuned for part two
on Edmunds video channel. [MUSIC PLAYING]