Honda’s Ridgeline is an ideal urban pickup, meant more for tailgating, camping or dirt biking than for heavy hauling. While some may see its car-like demeanor as a negative, I think it is its strength because a large percentage of pickups are bought first for personal use and second for work.
The Ridgeline can’t haul a horse trailer or pull a fifth-wheel camper but that doesn’t mean it is a make-believe truck either. It can carry 1,584 pounds or tow up to 5,000 pounds in all-wheel-drive form. Each truck has a standard Class III tow hitch, and all-wheel models have a seven-pin wiring connector.
Several features make Honda’s hauler stand out from other trucks but none is more significant than the fiberglass-reinforced SMC composite bed with a two-way tailgate that can swing open from the side or fold down like a regular truck. The rear section of the load floor conceals a 7.3-cubic-foot, weather-tight compartment that can be used to store things out of the weather, and it is lockable. The in-bed storage bin can also function as an ice chest, and that would be perfect for hunting, fishing, picnicking or tailgating. And speaking of tailgating, the Ridgeline’s top two models have a unique audio system that uses exciters in the bed walls to become resonant speakers as long as the vehicle is stopped.
The Ridgeline is available in front-wheel or all-drive, in seven trim levels. Prices start at $29,450 and top out at $42,870 for an all-wheel-drive Black Edition. That’s the truck I drove from Honda’s press fleet.
The Ridgeline looks and drives much like the Honda Pilot but its wheelbase is 14 inches longer, and that gives space not only for a full-size back seat but also for a bed that is 64 inches long. The engine is a 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 with a six-speed automatic transmission. Variable cylinder management means that up to three cylinders shut off in certain cruising situations to help fuel economy. The EPA fuel mileage rating is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 on the highway. On a 200-mile round trip I averaged 22.5 mpg.
The all-wheel-drive system has four operating modes: Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand. An electronically controlled rear differential determines how much torque is delivered to each axle, and dynamic torque vectoring splits torque from side to side. Torque vectoring means drive can be shifted to the side of the vehicle with the most traction. That is handy in bad weather, but it also comes into play on turns, even when the pavement is dry.
The Ridgeline has traction control, vehicle stability assist, brake assist and adaptive electronic power steering. All Ridgelines have a multi-angle rearview camera. Depending on trim level, the Ridgeline can also be equipped with lane watch, rear cross-traffic monitor and blind-spot monitor.
The top RTL-E and Black Edition have a suite of safety items that includes forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control. These features work seamlessly. I wouldn’t want a model without them.
The Ridgeline’s cabin is nearly identical to that of the Pilot. The front seats deliver excellent lumbar support, and the steering wheel has controls for audio, cruise control and telephone. The touch-sensitive LCD screen is used for the navigation and audio systems. All audio adjustments are made with touch, and that’s not easy with gloves. Fortunately, the steering wheel has redundant buttons.
The rear seat is split 60/40 and it can be folded up to carry large items like a 55-inch flat-screen television, luggage or even a bicycle with the wheel removed. Long items, such as golf clubs, can be carried under the rear seat without folding up the bottom cushion.
The Ridgeline occupies a unique spot in the personal-use light truck segment because it is as quiet and smooth as a car, yet it offers a unique bed storage system and is capable of towing 5,000 pounds.
2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition
Engine: 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 125.2 inches
Curb weight: 4,431 pounds
Base price: $29,450
As driven: $42,870
MPG rating: 18 in the city, 25 on the highway