2018 Honda Ridgeline Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
May 2, 2018

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline is the most comfortable truck you can drive today. It has the capability that many casual buyers want, but it’s not the choice for heavy duty users.

Among trucks, the choice is often: big, bigger, or biggest. That leaves many mid-size and compact shoppers in limbo for the Goldilocks zone: right-sized, enough capability, and can fit in normal garage.

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline is the lone pickup that is built on a car- or crossover-type unibody platform, while all others get a more rugged body-on-frame chassis. That gives it superior ride and handling to any rival, and its interior is also crossover friendly. With these strengths, we rate the Ridgeline highly, giving it a 7.5 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The second-generation Ridgeline was introduced last year, and this year it gets no changes other than new colors for the Sport trim for 2018.

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Honda bases the Ridgeline on the unibody platform of the Pilot crossover SUV. While the profile is now that of a traditional crew cab pickup, the look from the rear doors forward is very influenced by the Pilot. Same goes for the interior, and that’s a good thing for buyers. The Ridgeline’s cabin is better appointed and more comfortable than anything you’ll get from a rival mid-size pickup, wonky infotainment system aside.

The driving character is also superior to the rest of the class. The Ridgeline sits lower, rides more smoothly, and feels more controlled than its bouncier competitors. Its 3.5-liter V-6/6-speed automatic combination is also smooth and responsive.

The trade-off is some ultimate towing and off-road capability. The Ridgeline has some modes that deal with different terrain through electronics but it doesn’t sit high enough or offer knobby tires, off-road shocks, low-range gearing, or tight approach and departure angles to make it an off-road warrior. And while it can tow a decent 5,000 pounds, that’s 2,000 pounds short of the competition.

Fuel economy is decent at 21 or 22 mpg combined, but that’s not really better than the class average and Honda makes no hybrid or diesel option available.

Unlike most rivals, the Ridgeline does crash well and it offers a nice spate of active safety features. However, Honda makes buyers pony up more than $40,000 to get those features.

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2018 Honda Ridgeline

Styling

Though it has a car-like structure, the Honda Ridgeline cuts a traditional pickup figure and shares quite a bit with its Honda Pilot linemate.

For its second go-around, the Honda Ridgeline looks more like a traditional pickup, even though it isn’t. It has a typical crew-cab truck profile that is paired with the current Honda corporate grille taken directly from its current SUVs. The look works in general, though it’s a bit generic. An attractive interior helps up our score to a 7 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Instead of a flying buttress cab-to-bed transition, the second-generation Ridgeline has what looks like a traditional pickup bed, though it is still integrated with the cabin, instead of separate.

The Ridgeline’s traditional truck shape is made possible by high-strength steel. This stronger metal permits the use of near-vertical rear glass and near-horizontal bed sides.

The Ridgeline is closely related to the Honda Pilot and the Pilot’s outline is easy to spot from the rear doors forward. Move to the front, and the Pilot’s face is obvious as well, though this differs from rivals because it sits lower.

Inside, the look is almost a carbon copy of the Pilot. A pleasant wing shape defines the dash, and it features either a small or a larger touchscreen in the center stack, along with tightly grained, soft-touch plastics. The wide instrument panel has a pair of analog gauges with a digital readout between them. Unlike the Pilot, however, and more like a truck, the Ridgeline has a transmission lever instead of push-buttons.

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2018 Honda Ridgeline

Performance

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline is the best mid-size truck in terms of ride and handling, but it lacks some of the ultimate capability of its body-on-frame rivals.

If you're hauling the family or even towing a mid-size boat, the Honda Ridgeline will work for you. It can’t pull like some competitors, but it’s smoother and more composed on the road than any of them, earning it a 7 for performance in our book. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Ridgeline is based on the Honda Pilot SUV. That makes it a front-drive-based unibody vehicle, unlike all of its rivals, which are more rugged, rear-drive body-on-frame trucks. The structure gives it a definite advantage in terms of driving character. The Ridgeline drives like a car, or at least a crossover SUV. It sits lower than its competitors, drives more controlled, and rides more smoothly.

The Ridgeline has a center bed reinforcement, hydraulic suspension bushings, dual-action dampers, and, when equipped with all-wheel drive, a rear torque-vectoring system that uses electrohydraulic clutches to move power side to side. Compared to other mid-size trucks, it carves through corners with agility, and it rides without the bounding and quivering typical of a body-on-frame vehicle. In fact, it handles bumps even better than the Honda Pilot, at least Pilots that ride on the available 20-inch wheels. That center bed reinforcement also seems to provide a bit more body rigidity than the Ridgeline’s SUV sibling.

The engine is also shared with the Pilot. It is a 3.5-liter V-6 good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, though it comes only with a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic instead of the Pilot’s available and sometimes troublesome 9-speed automatic.

That combo moves the Ridgeline well, with the 0-60 mph run taking about seven seconds. While the V-6 makes muscular sounds as it reaches toward its redline, it is generally smooth and relaxed.

Traction and hauling

The Ridgeline isn’t meant as an off-roader. It offers all-wheel drive, but lacks low-range gearing, though it does have various modes that use electronics to deal with different conditions. Front-drive models have a Snow mode with a second-gear start, while all-wheel-drive versions get Mud and Sand modes that change the transmission shift schedule to hold lower gears, move more power to the rear wheels, and alter throttle and traction-control settings to allow more wheelspin.
Ground clearance is decent at 7.9 inches, but the rear control arms leave only about six inches of clearance. The approach and departure angles can’t compete with off-road editions of competitors’ trucks.

As for payload, the Ridgeline tops out at 1,569 pounds, which is right in line with the Chevrolet Colorado. However, max towing capacity is 5,000 pounds versus 7,000 for the Chevy. That’s about enough to handle a 22-foot boat or carry 40 bags of mulch, and still have enough passing punch.

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2018 Honda Ridgeline

Comfort & Quality

A combination of the pickup and a crossover, the Honda Ridgeline is comfortable for passengers and offers plenty of utility, but its short bed will turn off heavy-duty users.

The Honda Ridgeline combines elements of an SUV with a pickup. It’s far more comfortable inside than any competitor, and while its bed isn’t as large as those of its competitors, it offers some unique features that also make it appealing. For these reasons, we rate the Ridgeline an 8 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Up front, occupants get a roomy, comfortable cabin that is very similar to the one in the Honda Pilot and far better finished and accommodating that any other mid-size truck. This cabin is wider, quieter, and comes with more amenities than its rivals as well.

The front seats are a bit flat across the bottom cushion, but they have a nice range to their adjustments, especially when power adjustments are added.

The back seat is just plain better than those of the Chevrolet Colorado or Toyota Tacoma, mostly because of more interior volume. Head room and knee room are good, and that back seat is versatile. It folds up against the back wall to leave enough room for a bike, a few sets of golf clubs, or even a big flat-screen TV.

Storage up front is great as well, thanks to a deep center console with a slick sliding cover.

Storage and flexibility galore

The Ridgeline’s bed is a mixed bag. Contractors won’t want to buy the truck because the bed isn’t long enough, but it also has some very clever features that make it great for weekend warriors or those who want a bit more capability than an SUV.

The Ridgeline offers 50 inches between its wheel wells and is 63 inches long overall with the tailgate closed. That means sheets of plywood or Sheetrock will fit between the wheel wells but probably not lengthwise, even with the available bed extender. A body-on-frame truck with an 8-foot bed can handle that.

The Ridgeline does distinguish itself, however, when it comes to bed flexibility.

Molded from UV-stabilized plastic similar to decking material, the Ridgeline’s bed doesn’t need a bedliner. Its tailgate is hinged to fold down or swing to the left side, which can come in handy, depending on the situation. It also comes standard with eight tie-downs that can each handle 350 pounds. The bed side has a dry storage pocket that can hide a 400-watt power inverter when ordered as an accessory. Honda even makes speakers, called "exciters," available for the bed, and they can play music for up to 11 hours with the engine off.

Under the bed floor is a built-in trunk that can act as a cooler and even has a drain plug. It’s big enough to hold an 82-quart cooler or a golf bag, and is also a good place to store wet clothes after a camping trip.

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2018 Honda Ridgeline

Safety

Excellent crash scores and loads of active safety tech make the Honda Ridgeline one of the safest pickups on the market.

The Honda Ridgeline is unique among pickups because it has complete crash ratings and it has done well. It also offers lots of active safety equipment, but buyers have to spend more than $40,000 to get it. Given these considerations, we rate the Ridgeline an 8 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline comes standard with a multi-angle rearview camera, hill-start assist, and six airbags including side curtain airbags. Buyers have to get to the mid-range RTL-T model to get Honda LaneWatch, which adds a side-view camera when the driver activates the right turn signal. To get the active safety features, however, buyers have to go almost all the way to the top of the lineup. That’s where you get forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, road-departure mitigation, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, lane-departure warnings, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, adaptive high beams, and front and rear parking sensors.

In addition to the safety equipment, the Ridgeline offers good outward vision, due mostly to a low tailgate and a large rear window.

Trucks aren’t often crash tested, but the Ridgeline has been. It gets a top five-star overall rating from the NHTSA, with five stars in all but the rollover test, where it earns four stars. From the IIHS, the 2018 model grabbed the Top Safety Pick award, thanks to top “Good” ratings in all crash tests, a “Superior” rating for its front crash prevention system, and a “Good” rating for its headlights.

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2018 Honda Ridgeline

Features

The entertainment system could be better and buyers have to spend for safety equipment, but the 2018 Honda Ridgeline is loaded with clever features.

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline has a base price that is very competitive with an increasingly pricey mid-size pickup segment. Buyers can opt for more features by choosing higher line models, but all Ridgelines come with some very handy and clever features baked right into pickup-truck body. Given these considerations, we rate it a 9 out of 10 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Those built-in features include a dual-action tailgate that opens to the rear or to the side, an in-bed trunk, and eight tie-down cleats and lights in the trunk.

The model lineup consists of RT, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E, and Black Edition models.

Standard equipment on the RT model includes cloth upholstery, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seat with under-seat storage, cruise control, power features, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a multi-angle rearview camera, a seven-speaker audio system with 220 watts of power, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Ridgeline Sport adds three-zone automatic climate control, remote start, fog lights, and a universal garage door opener. RTL models get leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver’s seat, a four-way power front passenger seat, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The Ridgeline RTL-T has a lot of the tech and connectivity features today’s buyers want. They consist of an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite and HD radio, additional USB ports, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The RTL-T also gets an auto-dimming rearview mirror, the Honda LaneWatch system that shows a view of the right lane when you activate the right turn signal, and LED daytime running lights.

We’ve found this version of Honda’s infotainment system to be somewhat hard to use. The touchscreen is slow to accept inputs, and programming basics like destinations are counterintuitive.

Apple CarPlay, however, responds quickly to voice commands and even responds to text messages without a problem.

The RTL-E adds all-wheel drive as standard—it’s an $1,800 option on all other models—plus forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, road-departure mitigation, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, lane-departure warnings, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, adaptive high beams, and front and rear parking sensors.

Also standard on the RTL-E are truck bed speakers, a heated steering wheel, memory for the driver’s seat, ambient interior lighting, a sunroof, LED headlights, a power sliding rear window, and a 540-watt audio system with eight speakers.

The Black Edition is equipped like the RTL-E, but adds black trim and perforated leather seats.

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2018 Honda Ridgeline

Fuel Economy

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline offers decent fuel economy, but it’s no better than most rivals and it offers no diesel or hybrid option.

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline is average among mid-size trucks, and it actually isn’t much more efficient than some full-size pickups. When ordered with front-wheel drive, the Ridgeline is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined. That qualifies it for a 6 on our ratings scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Add all-wheel drive, and the Ridgeline’s ratings fall slightly to 18/25/21 mpg.

While Honda offers a Sport Hybrid version of the Acura MDX, which shares much in common with the Ridgeline, Honda has announced no plans to make a hybrid available for the Ridgeline.

One competitor does have a more fuel efficient model. The Chevrolet Colorado offers a turbodiesel engine that bests the Ridgeline’s combined fuel economy by 3 mpg.

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$29,730
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7.5
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 9
Fuel Economy 6
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