The Honda Ridgeline goes mainstream

Truck Solid 

The Honda Ridgeline goes mainstream.

By Greg Rubenstein

Americans love buying pickup trucks—so much so that the top-three best-selling vehicles in the U.S. for 2017 were trucks (ditto for 2016). U.S. buyers have long loved trucks, too, with Ford’s F150 topping the best-selling charts for the last three-and-a-half decades.

So Honda, a manufacturer that consistently scores top-10 annual sales for its CR-V, Civic, and Accord, entered the pickup market a dozen years ago with a quirky-looking truck, the Ridgeline. Honda also chose to make its truck with a car-like unibody structure, instead of the typical body-on-frame truck architecture.

With annual sales closer to its top models’ monthly totals, Honda updated and upgraded its truck, and while still a unibody-based vehicle, its specs—and especially its looks—in second-generation form are truck-solid.

The Ridgeline looks more like a typical American truck, it has maintained––and even improved upon––its most car-like manners. Close your eyes while riding in the Ridgeline and it’d be difficult to distinguish the smooth, bump-absorbing ride from the same experience in an Accord or most any other quality sedan. From behind the steering wheel, the experience is even more striking; the only cue to being in a truck is the elevated ride height. Dynamically, the Ridgeline handles corners comparably to mainstream sedans, and the same goes for braking, or acceleration.

Even with its car-like unibody foundation—which is the same structure found in most sport utility vehicles—the Ridgeline isn’t without any truck creds. Boasting a max 1,580-pound payload capacity and up to 5,000 pounds of towing ability (provided you’re in an all-wheel-drive variant), Honda’s truck also sports just over seven inches of ground clearance, and approach, breakover and departure angles of 20.1 degrees, 19.6 degrees, and 22.1 degrees, respectively.

There are five available Ridgeline trim levels in front-wheel or AWD configuration, starting at $30,605 for the base “RT” in FWD, going up to $44,095 for the AWD “Black Edition.” The drivetrain in all trims consists of a 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, good for an EPA estimated fuel economy of 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. A week’s worth of test driving an AWD version proved those numbers achievable, with an observed 22 mpg after logging more than 300 mixed-use miles.

Inside, the Ridgeline is loaded with features, including soft-touch surfaces and leather upholstery throughout, push-button and remote engine start, multi-angle rearview camera, a 4.2-inch center gauge color LCD display and an 8-inch center-console multi-function touchscreen infotainment system with HD and satellite radio.

From a safety perspective, the 2017 Ridgeline garnered the government’s highest ratings, earning a “5-star Overall Vehicle Score” in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s New Car Assessment Program and a “TOP SAFETY PICK+” assessment from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which also included the highest possible mark, “GOOD,” in testing the driver-side small overlap collision.

Helping the Ridgeline earn its impressive safety ratings is a broad suite of high-tech passive and active systems, including forward collision warning with collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist and road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, as well as rear cross traffic and blind spot monitoring. Traction control, trailer stability assist, and a tire pressure monitoring system with real-time display of individual tire pressures are all standard features as well.

The Ridgeline’s most compelling utility is expressed through Honda’s creative use of space. Included is a tailgate that swings out from the side or swings down, and has an inner surface featuring molded-in seats. There are hidden and lockable storage spaces inside and out—including one in the bed, which is watertight and can serve as an ice cooler. The bed is also outfitted with a 115v, 400-watt power outlet capable of running a small appliance (blended margarita, anyone?), while the bed walls are equipped with waterproof audio speakers. Rear under-seat storage is large enough to store a golf bag, and the back seat also flips up, creating enough space to carry a 55-inch flat-screen TV or most adult-sized bikes.

Ideal for urban-living truck lovers, the Ridgeline is a great option for those who don’t do heavy-duty towing. With top safety marks and sedan-like manners, it’s a friendly daily-driver or ideal weekend companion. If you’re in the market for a new truck or SUV, try the Ridgeline and see if it’s right for you—it just might be the perfect fit.

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