The Car Connection Honda Ridgeline Overview
The Honda Ridgeline mid-size truck returns for the 2017 model year after a two-year hiatus. The pickup draws on the Honda Pilot SUV for its running gear and some of its body structure.
It's true: with the Ridgeline, Honda has the only unibody pickup truck you can buy. It's also the only truck to offer front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is available.
MORE: Read our 2017 Honda Ridgeline review
The Ridgeline's SUV roots create a large cabin, but a relatively small bed. Despite its space limitations, the bed is configured for tailgating and to make it an ideal companion for Honda's ATVs, or other weekend activity gear.
The Ridgeline's interior is not only more spacious, but better appointed than the cabins of its mid-size competitors, which include the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma.
The new Ridgeline
Now in its second generation, the Ridgeline takes on a more traditional pickup look, with a bed that appears to be separate thanks to body cutlines that are only cosmetic. The sail panels that made the Pilot look like a combination of a pickup and an SUV are gone. The design also includes a crew cab body style, a grille that plays off the current corporate face, and somewhat softer lines than the competition.
The bed is shorter but wider than those of most mid-size pickups. At 5-feet wide and with 48 inches between the wheel arches, it can allow 4-by-8 sheets of plywood or drywall to lay flat with the tailgate opened. At 5-feet-4-inches long, it is a bit longer than before but about 10 inches shorter than the longest beds offered by the competition.
The new bed has some features that the competitors can't match. It retains the in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate from the previous model. The tailgate is hinged both at the bottom like a traditional tailgate and along its left side so it can open like a door. Located under the bed at the rear, the trunk has a flat bottom and adds a drain plug.
The bed is also be available with a 400-watt AC power inverter to charge tools or plug-in your favorite tailgating entertainment, eight 350-pound tie-down cleats, and the industry's first in-bed audio system with six "exciters" in place of speakers.
Honda says the Ridgeline can carry up to 1,584 pounds of payload and tow as much as 5,000 pounds on top of carrying two passengers and 100 pounds of gear. By comparison, the Chevrolet Colorado can haul up to 1,570 pounds of payload.
The new Ridgeline will be powered by a direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 with 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Honda will also offer an Intelligent Terrain Management system with Normal, Sand, Snow, and Mud modes.
Inside, leather upholstery is offered, and so are tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, a color meter display in the instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch Display Audio system with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and a 540-watt audio system. Honda says the Ridgeline has the quietest cabin in its class.
Like the last-generation Ridgeline, the new truck delivers Honda's typical smooth powertrain performance, and class-leading ride and handling. Inside, it features a multitude of stowage options, including space under the rear seat. The rear seat bottoms fold up in a 60/40 split to open up even more storage space.
The Ridgeline promises to be ahead of its class in safety as well. Honda said it is targeting top crash test ratings, and the new Ridgeline will offer plenty of safety features. The Honda Sensing suite will consist of lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, forward collision warning with collision mitigation braking, and road departure prevention assist. A multi-angle rearview camera will be standard and upper trims will have blind spot monitors and the Honda LaneWatch system.
Honda introduced the Ridgeline as a 2006 model. While it was named the 2006 North American Truck of the Year, the odd-looking truck was never a smash hit for the brand. Instead, like the Ford Ranchero, Chevrolet El Camino, and Subaru Baja near-trucks before it, the Ridgeline built a small, but fervent, fan base.
The first generation's strange design could have been explained by sail panels at the front of the bed to give it strength. Over the years, styling updates for that model were mostly limited to a new grille for the 2010 model year that borrowed from the trucky looking refresh of the Honda Pilot crossover.
The unusual pickup bed limited the Ridgeline's utility, though Honda explained that its pickup wasn't intended to be a full-size truck, but one useful to owners of its other motorized products. At just over 5-feet long, the composite bed wasn't big, but it could hold a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood with the tailgate down. An optional bed extender included more tie-downs and could handle mounting accessories for ATVs, snowboards, surfboards, bikes, and the like. Still, heavy-duty towing components were included, and the Ridgeline could tow up to 5,000 pounds, or haul a 1,550-pound payload. The under-bed cargo bin could only be accessed when the bed was empty, of course—but the Ridgeline's tailgate both flipped down and swung to the side on a hinge, making it more flexible in that respect than any other pickup.
Unusually for pickup trucks, the first-generation Ridgeline only ever offered one single engine and transmission. The 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, paired to a 5-speed automatic transmission, gave the Ridgeline brisk acceleration and good passing response, even when loaded. The Variable Torque Management four-wheel-drive system made the Ridgeline better suited for slippery snow-covered roads than most four-wheel-drive trucks. Both ride quality and steering feel were better than most full-size and mid-size trucks, too.
What the Ridgeline lacked in utility it more than made up for in safety. Honda's truck was named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, with top "Good" ratings across the board. It also offered a slew of airbags (front side, rollover-sensing side curtains for both rows) as well as stability control and anti-lock brakes on all models.
As Honda prepared the second-generation Ridgeline, the first-generation model wasn't offered for 2015 or 2016 model years.