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August 8, 2017 > Honda Ridgeline: trucking reimagined

Honda Ridgeline: trucking reimagined

By Steve Schaefer

When you think pickup trucks, the Honda brand probably doesnÕt pop into your mind. That makes sense, because Honda hasnÕt offered trucks in the U.S. for long. The Ridgeline, which debuted in 2005 as a 2006 model, manifested more as an SUV with a truck bed, and thatÕs because it was. ItÕs built on HondaÕs new Global Light Truck platform, after all.

Now, for 2017, you can buy a totally redesigned Ridgeline that offers the usefulness of a cargo bed with the amenities of a crossover SUV. And it comes with all the qualities that have made Honda a favorite over the years.

The new model looks completely differentÑin fact, its styling is less controversial than before. Despite retaining the one-piece construction of the first generation, thereÕs now a line between the cab and the bed that replicates the body-on-frame competition. It just looks more normal.
The styling comes off as restrained for Honda, makers of the bizarre Civic. The front features the clean, measured appearance of an oversized Accord, and the pleasant shape of the rest of it feels unmemorable, with side creases that mimic many other vehicles on the road today.

Inside, youÕll feel like youÕre riding in the new Pilot crossover, because thatÕs essentially whatÕs happening. No barebones accommodations in trucks todayÑany of them. The handsome dash feels more carlike than utilitarian. Like most Hondas, youÕll find an Econ button there, and unlike other Hondas, a Cargo Light button. You get high quality, soft-touch materials, as well as bonuses like the LED map lighting and a heated steering wheel.

YouÕll enjoy lots of room for carrying your gear, with a rear seat that folds up to create a sizeable cargo space, and offers storage space under it when itÕs down.

HondaÕs pickup features a 3.5-liter V6 under the big hood, with 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. Those numbers beat the previous gen by 30 and 15 respectively. The driving experience feels robust, while still giving a sense of smooth, carlike handling.

EPA fuel economy numbers run 18 City, 25 Highway, and 21 Combined. I averaged 18.8 mpg during my test week. The Green scores rank as 6 for Smog and 4 for Greenhouse Gas. Those numbers donÕt stand out particularly for a Honda, but for its size and power, the Ridgeline competes well with other trucks.

A six-speed automatic transfers the V6Õs power to two or four wheels; this is the first Ridgeline to offer both two- and all-wheel drive. My tester, as an AWD model, provided an Intelligent Traction Management switch that lets you select for Snow, Mud, Sand, or Normal. I left it in the latter position, because I experienced none of those other conditions during a California spring (just some rain).

Like any good pickup, the Ridgeline comes in several levels, from the base RT through the RTS, Sport, and RTL. My tester sat at the pinnacle, as the top-of-the-line Black Edition. It came painted inÑyou guessed itÑCrystal Black Pearl. The package upgrades include shiny black 18-inch alloy wheels, blacked-out moldings and mirrors, and in case nobody could tell you were coolÑa ÒBlack EditionÓ badge inside the black grille.

Inside, youÕll relax with black leather and red accents, including subtle red illumination in the footwells, door handles, and cupholders. The ambiance feels cool, for sure. YouÕll see Black Edition embroidered into the seatbacks and flaunted on the floormats.

The new Ridgeline casts a larger shadow now, although at 4,432 pounds, it has lost about 73 pounds over the generation one model. The truck stretches 3.1 inches longer on a 3.2-inch longer wheelbase. It sits 0.8 inch wider, and more important for owners, the bed now stretches nearly four inches longer and 5.5 inches wider. That cargo bed, by the way, retains the built-in trunk feature from the previous generation, a welcome Ridgeline exclusive. You get the dual-action tailgate as well.

Designed in HondaÕs Los Angeles design center, Honda R&D Americas, the Ridgeline rolls out of HondaÕs plant in Lincoln Alabama. It contains 75 percent U.S. and Canadian parts, including a U.S. built engine and transmission.

As a truck, the Ridgeline can haul a class-leading 1,584-pound payload and tow up to 5,000 pounds. However, as a daily driver, youÕll enjoy carlike amenities whether you use that capacity or not. The noteworthy truck bed audio system, a first as far as I can tell, makes you the life of the tailgating party.

Prices start at $30,415 for the two-wheel-drive RT and climb to $43,910 for the Black Edition, including a $940 destination charge.

In the U.S., where the perennial bestseller remains the Ford F-150 pickup, itÕs smart for Honda to build its presence in that segment. The new Ridgeline stands as a much-improved entry.

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