Performance » 7
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
3.5-liter V-6 pulls this thing around fairly well
Throttle response off idle is vastly improved
Drives more like a car or minivan than a typical pickup
Offered in just a single drivetrain configuration, the Honda Ridgeline's the best non-compact truck you can drive. However, it's also the least capable pickup of its size, in terms of towing and hauling.
The Ridgeline's powertrain is no longer the only great V-6 choice in the big-truck segment, but it's still a gem. The 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine has all the smoothness and refinement found in a crossover vehicle--predictable, since the same gear's used in the Pilot SUV. Here it's teamed up with a five-speed automatic transmission that lacks the additional gears that have improved fuel economy in, say, Ford's pickups, but the transmission shifts very smoothly and has a towing mode. Acceleration is competitive on average, not as quick as some of the biggest domestic V-8s but noticeably quicker and more responsive than the majority of V-6 engines found in the likes of the Ram and Silverado. The Ridgeline feels brisk and energetic off the line, and even when it's laden it musters good passing power.
Four-wheel drive is standard on the Ridgeline, and it has a true low range for more rugged duties. The four-wheel-drive system feels more sophisticated than the setups in most pickups, save for the Sierra Denali's AWD setup. In the Ridgeline, a rear differential lock will engage at speeds of up to 18 mph, which means all-weather capability is fine. Off-roading isn't really its forte, given its thinner torque down low, but the Ridgeline will haul a decent amount of stuff. The payload's rated at 1,550 pounds, and towing maxes out at 5,000 lb.
The Ridgeline pays back owners who choose its vaguely alternative pickup vibe with a great sense of road feel and good handling. It's better than most other compact and mid-size trucks, and a step up from the dynamics of the full-sizers, though the Ram 1500 has great steering and ride feel. The Ridgeline is true to its SUV roots--it handles more like a crossover vehicle, with well-damped ride motions and steering that carves almost eagerly into corners. The Ridgeline avoids the big-bump watusi that afflicts some big trucks, too, since it's founded on an independent suspension.
Best-in-class handling and a smooth V-6 are winning features of the Honda Ridgeline, but its towing and hauling fall far short of the benchmarks.