Is the Honda Ridgeline a truck or not? Depends on to whom you ask this question. A truck person would say no since the Ridgeline isn’t a body-on-frame vehicle. Instead, it uses a unibody platform from the Honda Pilot. A consumer would say yes because it looks like a truck and has all the attributes you would find on one such as a bed. I spent some time in a Ridgeline over the holidays to see if I could figure out the answer.
The previous Ridgeline looked like an auto show concept squared-off shape and missing the design cues you would expect on a truck such as a gap between the cab and bed. This put a lot of people off from looking at the Ridgeline. The new model looks more in line with the current crop of midsize trucks as Honda adopted the standard cab and bed design. This includes the gap between the bed and cab, although this is more of a design touch. Stick your hand in the gap and you’ll realize that both parts are connected (thanks unibody construction).
The front end is where you’ll make your decision as to whether you like the Ridgeline or not. There is an imposing grille with a long chrome bar on top. A set of large headlights sits on either side of the grille. Other design items to take note of are the sculpted hood and front bumper. Personally, I found the front end to a bit over the top. Honda was trying to make the Ridgeline look tough and imposing, but the end result is a look that is trying too hard.
At least Honda got the Ridgeline’s bed right. Compared to the last model, Honda added four inches to the overall length of the bed (64 vs. 60 inches). This gives the Ridgeline the longest standard bed in the class. Unlike competitors, you cannot option a longer bed for the Ridgeline. Honda has also fitted some clever ideas for the Ridgeline’s bed. First is the in-bed trunk that offers 7.3 cubic feet of space where you can stow tools or luggage, giving the Ridgeline a significant edge in practicality than its competitors. Second is the dual-action tailgate which allows the tailgate to be opened downward or to the side.
The recent crop of trucks have been stepping up their game when it comes to interiors and the Ridgeline is no different. The interior is borrowed from the Pilot crossover and brings forth an easy-to-understand control layout and high-quality materials. One item that wasn’t carried over from the Pilot was the push-button transmission selector. Instead, the Ridgeline sticks with a good-ole lever. Thank you, Honda.
The Ridgeline proved to be a very comfortable pickup truck thanks to supportive leather seats, and power-adjustments for the driver. I took this truck to Northern Michigan and back during the holidays, and I never felt tired or had any soreness afterward. The back seat provides more than enough head and legroom for passengers. The bottom cushion of the back seat can also be folded up to provide a decent amount space for carrying larger items.
Honda’s infotainment system in the Ridgeline has to be one of the most frustrating systems we have ever come across. The eight-inch system gets off on the wrong foot by using touch-sensitive controls for the volume and other functions that don’t always respond whenever pressed. At least you can use the steering wheel controls for a number of these functions. HondaLink needs a serious revamp in terms of its interface as trying to do simple things is very convoluted. For example, if I want to pick a podcast episode from my iPod, I have to jump through a number of menus to just to get to the listing of the specific show I want to listen to. You can avoid using HondaLink by plugging in your iPhone or Android phone and using CarPlay or Android Auto.
All Honda Ridgeline’s come with a 3.5L V6 producing 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up with a six-speed automatic. The base RT to the RTL-T has the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The RTL-E and Black Edition only come with all-wheel drive. No other V6 truck in the class can match the performance of the Ridgeline’s V6. Acceleration is strong whether you’re leaving a stoplight or making a pass. The run to 60 mph is said to take around 7 seconds, making this one quick midsize truck. The six-speed automatic delivers fast and smooth shifts.
All-wheel drive Ridgelines like our tester come with Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management system. This system quickly redistributes the amount of torque going to each wheel to improve handling and traction. AWD models also get the Intelligent Traction Management system which adjusts the settings of the powertrain to help you get through whatever terrain you find yourself in. We put these systems to the test by driving through an unplowed road with deep snow. The Ridgeline was able to make it through without breaking a sweat. That doesn’t make the Ridgeline a truck you want to take on an off-road trail as it only offers 7.9-inches of ground clearance and no low-range.
The Ridgeline’s payload is towards the top the of class when compared with other midsize crew cab trucks. Front-wheel drive models can haul between 1,447 to 1,565 pounds in the bed. All-wheel drive models have a payload capacity of 1,499 to 1,584 pounds. For towing, the Ridgeline falls a bit short. Front-wheel drive models have a max tow rating of 3,500 lbs, while AWD models are slightly higher at 5,000 lbs. For most people, the Ridgeline will be enough to handle various towing needs. If you need a bit more, then the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are ready to help.
The EPA rates the Ridgeline AWD at 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. My average for the week landed at 23.6 mpg in a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving.
Previously, we’ve considered GM’s midsize trucks as having the best ride in the class. The Honda Ridgeline now holds that honor. The unibody platform and four-wheel independent suspension setup give the Ridgeline a ride that is almost equal to a passenger sedan. Bumps and other imperfections are smoothed out. The Ridgeline is a decent handling truck as well. There isn’t much body roll and it feels stable when going into a corner. We do wish Honda would make the steering slightly heavier for the Ridgeline.
The Honda Ridgeline may not meet the true definition of a pickup truck, but it is one in spirit. Yes, the unibody architecture does limit the capabilities of the Ridgeline as it cannot haul or tow heavy items. Nor can it go deep into the wilderness due to decisions made by Honda on the Ridgeline’s off-road capability. But it is in other areas that the Ridgeline begins to stand out such as the clever ideas in the bed, comfortable interior, and a ride that is more in tune with a regular car. They might not be the advantages you would expect in a truck, but they are something that Honda believes will bring in those interested in a pickup minus a lot of the issues that other models have.
To put it another way, the Honda Ridgeline is like Festivus from Seinfeld; they’re both for the rest of us.
Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Ridgeline, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 3.5L SOHC 24-valve i-VTEC V6
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4700
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
Curb Weight: 4,515 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Lincoln, Alabama
Base Price: $41,370
As Tested Price: $42,270 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)