Honda Ridgeline Road Test
Second-generation hides car-like qualities under tough truck appearance.
Honda pleased many weekend warriors with the 2005 introduction of its previous Ridgeline, which was considered a smaller, lighter pickup than its work-bred competitors. Rather than following the decades-old formula of body-on-frame design and a live rear axle, the Ridgeline used unit-body construction and an independent rear suspension--borrowing underpinnings from the mild-mannered Honda Pilot SUV.
Despite that seemingly sound logic, the unconventionally-styled first-generation Ridgeline wasn't a sales success. Maybe it just wasn't "trucky" enough. Maybe the design was too weird.
Undaunted, Honda has pressed forward with their second-generation pickup truck. The base, two-wheel-drive 2017 Honda Ridgeline starts at $29,475. While most trucks offer a variety of body styles, you can only get a Ridgeline as a four-door crew-cab.
The independent suspension that makes the trunk space possible also contributes to a much more comfortable ride and better handling than all conventional trucks. It drives very much like a contemporary SUV rather than an antiquated load hauler--as the Ridgeline's basic platform is still shared with the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX. The interior is very quiet, even on an extended highway cruise.
The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 280 hp (a 30-hp bump from the last version). It runs through a six-speed automatic transmission. And for the first time, the Ridgeline is available with front-wheel drive, along with the usual all-wheel drive. EPA fuel economy figures show 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway for AWD models. This improvement was important, as the previous Ridgeline was really thirsty for its size and horsepower.
Honda claims the Ridgeline outpaces traditional midsized trucks in towing capacity and cargo hauling, but like the first generation, towing is limited to 5,000 pounds. Competitors like the Chevrolet Colorado (nearly 7,000 pounds) and the Toyota Tacoma (6,400 pounds) have greater towing capacities. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline has some off-roading capability, but it wouldn't be wise to take this truck on a day of serious boulder hopping. This is where the independent suspension will fall short compared to traditional pickup trucks.
Advanced safety equipment like blind-spot monitoring and forward collision warning with automatic braking are optional, but only on the two top trim levels.
Inside, you'll find relatively comfortable seats and lots of handy bins and trays to hold stuff, including storage under the rear seat. All in all, it's a lot nicer in here than inside a Tacoma or Colorado. The layout of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline feels like a Pilot with a bed rather than a third-row seat. And all models come with keyless push-button start and a rear-view camera.
Higher-end models get an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. However, about that 8-inch screen: It's a poorly-designed touch-screen that's frustrating to use. There are no conventional knobs or buttons for the radio. It's just a sleek-looking pane of glass that reflects glare, the screen layout isn't intuitive, and the controls are hard to tab with your fingers as you roll down the road. We didn't like this arrangement in the Honda Pilot, and we don't like it here.
Lower trim lines have a 5-inch screen that's easier to use, with more traditional knobs and buttons.
All cars come with basic warranty coverage, also known as a bumper-to-bumper warranty. This protects consumers against unexpected problems with non-wear items. Powertrain warranty protects against engine and transmission troubles. Rust through, or corrosion warranty, covers rust to non-damaged components. Roadside aid provides on-location assistance in case of a breakdown and may include limited towing services.
Extended warranties provide peace of mind. Owners of models known to have worse-than-average predicted reliability can mitigate risks with an extended warranty. Generally, we recommend buying a model with better-than-average reliability and skipping this expensive add on. If you do buy an extended warranty, it is key to read the small print to understand what is covered and where you can bring the car for repairs.