The unique Honda Ridgeline came back redesigned for 2017, after its first generation ended with discontinuation in 2014. It’s mechanically unchanged for 2018, just some package and trim tweaks. (A refined version is being launched for 2019.)
What makes Ridgeline unique is that it’s technically a crossover; that is, the body is integrated with the chassis, like a car. It isn’t bolted onto the frame, like every other pickup truck in the world.
A body-on-frame design is more rugged, so it’s better for the demands a truck usually encounters, but it’s heavier and less rigid. The mid-size Ridgeline uses the platform of the full-size Honda Pilot SUV, so it rides and handles more like a crossover SUV than a truck. And the current-generation Ridgeline has 28 percent more torsional rigidity than the previous generation.
Ridgeline front-wheel drive, with available all-wheel drive.
Rivals like the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon are quite civilized, but in terms of ride quality, quiet operation, and general comfort, the Ridgeline is tops. Honda says it has the roomiest cabin in its class.
The engine is also the same as the Pilot’s, a 3.5-liter V6 with 6-speed automatic transmission. It was increased in power in 2017, to 280 horsepower with 262 pound-feet of torque. The acceleration is adequate but can be challenged when towing.
Fuel mileage is solid, at 19 mpg City, 26 Highway with front-wheel drive, and one less mpg with all-wheel drive.
The Ridgeline also grew a bit with its redesign; unlike before, it now can hold a sheet of plywood that’s 48 inches wide in the bed, with a payload rating of 1584 pounds. It’s rated to tow 5000 pounds with all-wheel drive, or 3500 pounds with front-wheel drive.
If towing or hauling are priorities, however, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, both offer the option of diesel power, with more torque.
The 2018 Honda Ridgeline comes in a broad variety of trim levels. Among them: Ridgeline RT ($29,630); Sport ($33,170); RTL ($33,930); RTL-T ($36,080); and RTL-E ($41,620). All-wheel drive is optional ($1900). (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge).
The styling changed for 2017, because that first generation was too original and radical to be accepted the way Honda wanted it to be. There was sales resistance. The current four-door crew cab Ridgeline looks more like a truck, including the grille that is recognizably Honda, unlike the first Ridgeline.
It still looks like a car, though. The Chevy Colorado is a better-looking truck for truck lovers.
The Ridgeline is 210 inches in length, on a wheelbase of 125.3 inches.
With a cargo bed that’s 64 inches long, the plywood fits with the tailgate dropped. The tailgate is hinged at the side as well as the bottom, so it opens like a door to make loading easier; and it locks to create a huge in-bed trunk, when it’s equipped with a bed cover. (Other trucks do this with traditional dropping tailgates.)
A 400-watt power inverter can power a big screen TV in the bed, with another option of six speakers integrated in the cargo bed walls. Equipped this way, the Ridgeline can be the ultimate tailgate party special.
The Ridgeline is abundantly roomy, as crew cab only, no regular or extended cab versions. There’s plenty of leg, head, and hip room in for all three passengers in the rear. The rear seats fold to create cargo space that Honda boasts is best in class, for full-size crew cab pickups.
The interior materials are high quality, while the front seats are comfortable all day, with a relaxed fit. The sound systems range from good to excellent.
The controls that are actual knobs are attractive, straightforward and intuitive, no manual required to figure them out. The touch controls on the big screen at the center of the dash have large icons, but they aren’t so simple, including, maddeningly, the audio adjustment, an old Honda challenge. That said, the navigation system is fairly easy to function, and the infotainment and connectivity options, which now include the choice of Apple Car Play or Android Auto, are contemporary.
The Ridgeline is a very smooth operator, composed and compliant on all surfaces from bumpy paved to graded gravel. It’s hard to find flaws in the driving dynamics. The steering could have a bit more weight and provide more feedback, but the same could be said of any contemporary truck with electric power steering. All-wheel drive Ridgelines include torque vectoring at the rear axle, lending stability in corners, especially when traction is reduced by the road surface.
The unibody structure feels exceptionally solid, and the suspension is a little firmer than on the Pilot in order to handle a truck’s payloads, but that firmness doesn’t diminish the ride.
Acceleration performance is respectable but not thrilling. Its weight of about 4500 pounds is a lot for 280 horsepower to pull. The towing capacity of 5000 pounds with all-wheel drive, 3500 pounds for front-wheel drive, is near the bottom of the list of midsize pickups.
Available safety features include adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane assist. The lane departure feature is a little too eager to assert itself, jiggling the steering wheel when the truck’s trajectory even slightly heads toward a painted line at the edge of the road. That would be the apex of any curve. On a winding two-lane road, as with every such system we’ve ever experienced, the false alarms are constant. All they do by crying wolf is destroy their own credibility.
The Ridgeline is the standard in pickup truck refinement, if not ruggedness. It’s a creative blend of engineering and imagination, adept at truck work or daily transportation. The cabin is roomiest in the class, and the bed can do tricks that other trucks can only envy. Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 is proven and capable in this application.
Compiled with staff reports.