We spend a week in the pickup truck you never knew you wanted.
Interior sound levels
Storage and hauling versatility
Cargo room, storage, switchgear
2017 Honda Ridgeline
First introduced in 2005 as a 2006 model, the Honda Ridgeline was an oddity from the get-go. Marketed as a pickup, it flew in the face of conventional body-on-frame pickup design with a unibody platform it shared with the Odyssey minivan, Pilot crossover and the Acura MDX crossover.
The Ridgeline was given a facelift for the 2009 model year but Honda ended production of the 2015 model during the summer of 2014.
First introduced at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Honda Ridgeline is all-new for the 2017 model year. It still shares its architecture with the Pilot, but it's now Honda's new Global Light Truck Platform.
Length is up slightly (0.8 inches) along with height (0.5 inches) and width (0.8 inches), while its wheelbase has been extended 3.2 inches (from 122 to 125.2 inches). Curb weight has been reduced by 73 pounds in the base model (from 4,504 pounds to 4,431 pounds).
While the body panels are all new and more sculpted, the biggest change is the elimination of the outgoing model's "flying buttress" sail panel behind the rear side windows. Unlike the first-gen model, there is also a distinct break between the cab and the bed, although a seal prevents moisture from entering the seam.
Up front, the Ridgeline features a rugged version of Honda's winged headlight configuration, along with an aggressive lower air intake. Reverse "C"-shaped daytime running lamps outline the headlights.
Along the sides, the squared-off wheel openings are now rounded and, like the lower body, trimmed in black composite. In back, the taillights are larger, while the tailgate carries over the outgoing model's swing-out, drop-down dual function feature.
The Ridgeline's bed is constructed of a new ultra-high strength glass fiber-reinforced SMC composite that negates the need for a bedliner. It is 3.9 inches longer and 5.5 inches wider than the outgoing model and is capable of hauling 4-foot wide items flat between the wheel wells. It also features a redesigned in-bed trunk and, for tailgating fans, an optional trunk bed audio system. Another big plus: the spare tire is accessed via the in-bed trunk, rather than underneath the vehicle.
The interior is typical Honda. Controls are laid out logically and are within easy reach of the driver. The nicely-bolstered front seats are comfortable while still offering plenty of support. Both front and rear seat occupants have plenty of head, leg and hip room. The leather-wrapped steering wheel contains backlit controls for cruise, info and entertainment as well as Bluetooth systems and both tilts and telescopes with plenty of adjustment. There’s also a proper dead pedal to the left of the brake.
With its large glass area, driver visibility is excellent in the front and sides, although the small rear window limits visibility in back. A backup camera with dynamic lines is standard.
The only issue we had concerned the infotainment system. Although the new Civic and CR-V both get a conventional on/off/volume button, the only conventional buttons for the system on the Ridgeline are found on the steering wheel. If you're a passenger, everything is handled by the touchscreen and even the driver has to turn the system on by touch.
Versatility has also not been forgotten as the back row features a 60/40 split magic seat. When not in use, they can be locked in the upright position revealing a totally flat floor and the capability to haul a 55-inch flat screen television in the box upright. Even when down, there's plenty of room under the seats and you can slide longer parcels underneath them unencumbered.
The 2017 Ridgeline AWD RTL-e comes in seven trim levels. Front wheel drive is standard on the RT, RTS, Sport, RTL and RTL-T trims with all-wheel drive optional. All-wheel drive is standard on both the RTL-E and Black Edition trim levels.
The “base” RT comes standard with six airbags, LED taillights, power windows, locks and mirrors. Privacy glass is also standard as is air conditioning, push-button start, 5-inch color LCD screen, Bluetooth with Honda’s HandsFreeLink voice recognition and a 200-watt AM/FM/CD audio system. A built-in Class III trailer hitch is also standard as is ABS, stability and traction control, hill start assist and active noise cancellation.
Our nearly top-of-the-line RTL-E tester also came with a leather interior, 8-inch display audio touchscreen, satellite-linked navigation system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, remote engine start, automatic climate control, the Honda Sensing suite of active safety features including collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. LED automatic headlights, fog lights, an acoustic windshield, power moonroof, power sliding rear window, LED truck bed lights, heated outside mirrors with a memory function, smart entry, front and rear parking sensors, truck bed power outlet, heated leather steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, blue ambient LED interior lighting and a 500-watt audio system with 8 speakers, including subwoofer.
Under the hood
Although it features the same 3.5-liters of displacement, the engine under the hood is all-new. Peak horsepower is up by 30 to 280, while peak torque is up by 15 lb.-ft. to 262 ob.-ft. Featuring direct injection and a drive-by-wire throttle system, the engine is also equipped with Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system, which electronically deactivates cylinders to reduce fuel consumption. This allows the V6 to run on 3, 4 or 6 cylinders based on power requirements.
It's mated to a new 6-speed automatic transmission. Combine it with the weight loss and an 18 percent reduction in vehicle running resistance results in a 1.8 second quicker 0-60 acceleration time based on internal Honda tests.
EPA numbers are also way up with our AWD tester registering 18/25/21 city/highway/combined – an improvement of plus 3/4/4 over the outgoing model. Our own observed fuel economy was 20.2 mpg in primarily city driving.
On the road
Like the Pilot and Odyssey, the Ridgeline handles potholes and pavement imperfections with ease. Thanks to generous sound insulation, the interior is very quiet with very little in the way of wind, road, tire or engine noise entering the cabin. The suspension offers a comfortable ride, easily soaking up potholes and other road imperfections.
The steering is nicely weighted and lacks the numbness of many electric systems, the transmission shifts smoothly, while the brake pedal is easy to modulate and provides good feedback. Yes, there is some body lean in corners, but it's barely noticeable and easily controlled by the on-board handling nannies.
2017 Honda Ridgeline prices
Manufacturer suggested new car pricing, including a $900 destination charge, begins at $30,375 for a two-wheel-drive RT and tops out at $42,870 for the Black Edition. Our Forest Mist Metallic RTL-E tester was very close to the top with a base price of $41,370 and, with destination charges, an MSRP of $42,270.
The Bottom Line
Despite the fact that pickup aficionados will hardly call the Ridgeline a "real" pickup, it does offer everyone outside this realm a real alternative to the conventional crossover that, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense.
That's because, for small families and empty-nesters, it offers much more versatility while giving up none of the creature comforts and ride quality of an SUV. Rather than a cramped third row that's only suitable for small children, you have an extremely versatile bed.
So what’s the bottom line?
Not only is the Ridgeline the best midsize truck available today, it's a clever and practical vehicle that nearly every midsize crossover owner should seriously consider before they blindly trade in their current ride for yet another SUV.