Now in its second generation, the Honda Ridgeline continues to redefine what a pickup can be.
What is it?
The Ridgeline is essentially a Honda Pilot with an open bed in back instead of an enclosed cargo area and/or the Pilot’s standard third row of seats. The Ridgeline’s 210-inch length is 15.5 inches longer than the Pilot’s.
Its Pilot underpinnings make the Ridgeline the sole unibody in the pickup sphere, while its competition is body-on-frame, with a separate cargo box in back. There are benefits to each approach, and Honda claims that the Ridgeline’s unibody is three times more rigid than its more traditional competitors.
But, to hedge its bets, Honda added a fake seam to the sheetmetal to visually separate the cab and bed…
…even though that seam doesn’t extend to the unibody below, proving that for many buyers, trucks are about image.
Pricing and trims
The 2017 Ridgeline comes in seven trims: RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E and Black Edition. Base prices start at $29,475 for the RT and top off at $42,870 for the Black Edition. All except the top two trims have front-wheel drive; you’d $1,800 to get all-wheel drive. The previous Ridgeline was front-wheel drive only.
The tested Black Edition takes image to a new level with the Ridgeline’s Crystal Black paint accented by black chrome. The wheels are glossy black versions of the 18-inchers worn by all the RTL trims.
The Black Edition adds every Ridgeline option, and the tested all-wheel drive truck’s $43,770 is about as much as you can spend on a Ridgeline, before adding any accessories.
As of this writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet to crash-test the current Ridgeline. But Honda says it fully expects the Ridgeline to earn top ratings, which the Pilot earned, particularly when the Ridgeline is equipped with the active safety suite HondaSense.
Here’s the catch: HondaSense is available only on the top two of the Ridgeline’s seven trims, so the least you’d spend on a Ridgeline to get active safety would be $42,270.
It’s beyond us as to why Honda restricts these life-saving features to buyers who can spend $40K on a Ridgeline, especially when you can get HondaSense on a $21K Civic.
There’s plenty of time for Honda to rethink this, as the 2017 model year has just begun. Mid-year options shuffle, anyone?
Ridgeline power comes from Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 engine, which employs direct injection to produce 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque.
This compares favorably with the 3.5-liter V6 found in the Ford F-150, with Honda posting advantages of two horsepower and nine lb.-ft. of torque. Acceleration in our unloaded Ridgeline felt strong, and the engine had the typical Honda smoothness.
The Ridgeline’s six-speed automatic transmission shifted briskly, with an option to hold it in low gear, and the button aft of the shifter is Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management System…
…which in the all-wheel drive Ridgeline offers four driving modes, as opposed to simply Normal and Snow in the front-wheel drive versions. Honda says this system was tested in severe locales, including Moscow, Dubai and California’s Imperial Dunes “Glamis”.
We had no occasion to test this system in our mild-climate drives on paved roads, but buyers who encounter these conditions might take a second look here.
Ride and handling
That bit of white you see flashing off the Ridgeline’s wheel is the flash bouncing off the glossy finish; we were fogged in to where the wheel faded into darkness without the extra light. And, that’s pretty much how we’d talk about the Ridgeline’s on-road handling – it’s gratifying, and mostly, you don’t notice it.
There’s the usual Honda direct response with the steering and brakes, and the suspension snips off excess lean in curves. The Ridgeline has a car-like feeling of control that’s missing in most pickups, and that would be one reason why you’d choose it over the others.
BLACK EDITION lettering is stitched into the top Ridgeline’s front seats, and as in the Pilot, the seats are big and comfortable, with plenty of thigh support for taller drivers.
The Ridgeline is a wide truck, nearly 79 inches across, but it has about four inches less shoulder room than the Ford F-150. So you lose some of the F-150’s broad space, but the Ridgeline still feels expansive.
The rear seat is less comfortable – it’s firmer and more upright than the front buckets – but six-footers will find the 36.7 inches of legroom sufficient. Big picture windows give a great view.
The rear seat cushions flip up easily and click into place for a flat floor underneath, except for the seat bracket bar. This protected storage adds to the Ridgeline’s versatility.
The Ridgeline’s 33.9-cubic-foot bed has a couple of tricks up its sleeve. The tailgate folds down as you’d expect…
…but if you pull the handle at the tailgate’s bottom right corner, it swings out and away from the curb.
The top two trims also include the terrifically cool Truck-Bed Audio System – push a button, and the stereo’s output is shifted to the bed, where invisible speakers play your tunes with remarkably rich sound. Nice to not have a lug a boom box to your trucking outings.
In front of the bumper is a 7.3-cubic-foot lockable cubby with a drain hole. It begs to be filled with ice and beverages at the next tailgate party.
Infotainment and controls
You’d start at the Ridgeline RTL-T to get this Black Edition’s standard eight-inch screen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity – lower versions start with a five-inch screen. The screen is responsive, but we still wish for a physical knob to control power and volume.
We’re not being facetious when we say the Ridgeline is more than a pickup, because in some ways, it is. Its unibody construction allows it to cram a crew cab and bed into a length that only a standard-cab truck pickup would fit. And, the Ridgeline’s car-like road manners are a draw for those who don’t need the bulk of traditional trucks.
Two questions remain for truck buyers. First, would the Ridgeline satisfy your hauling needs? And second, does it live up to the rugged image that truck buyers like?
The first question is a matter of need, the second one of taste. Both are individual choices, and the Ridgeline is welcomed because its uniqueness serves to expand the pickup market.
2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition
Base price: $42,870
Price as tested, including $900 destination charge: $43,770
- Unique versatility
- Manageable length in a crew cab pickup
- Car-like handling
- Limited HondaSense availability
- Knobless center screen