HONDA RIDGELINE VIDEO REVIEW
2017 HONDA RIDGELINE VIDEO REVIEW BY AUTO CRITIC STEVE HAMMES
There are a number of really good pickup trucks on the market but when you boil it down, they all pretty much follow the same formula which is why Honda’s entry is such a breath of fresh air. This is the all-new, 2nd generation Ridgeline.
Back and better than ever after a 3 year hiatus, the 2017 Ridgeline returns to the midsize truck segment with a bounce in its step that should put the competition on notice. In a new world that will soon consist of a front-wheel drive BMW and other evolutions previously considered automotive heresy, the timing couldn’t be better for a pickup with unitized body construction. In a segment based on brawn, the Honda flaunts its brains to produce a better truck.
For the first time, the Ridgeline is available in both 2- and all-wheel drive – all powered by an updated 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection and the combination of Honda’s i-VTEC valvetrain and a new variation of Variable Cylinder Management allowing the engine to run on just 3 cylinders in a wider range of situations. Power and efficiency are up – now rated at 280 horsepower, 262 pound-feet of torque and 21mpg in combined driving on regular. For some perspective, that output is nearly identical to the Toyota Tacoma’s which is also mated to a 6-speed automatic and possess a similar curb weight. But that’s where the powertrain similarities end. The Ridgeline accelerates, shifts and cruises with all of the polish the Tacoma V6 lacks. There is no truckiness here, and the special shocks and struts which Honda calls Amplitude Reactive Dampers do an amazing job of always maintaining the utmost composure whether you’re cornering on a back road or tramping through the woods. It’s nearly 2 full seconds faster to 60mph than before and again, it does so with an Accord-like persona.
The word smart keeps coming to mind because the Ridgeline performs its truck duties with a cerebral approach rather than old school thinking. It’s hands down the smoothest, quietest, best handling truck I’ve ever driven with gas mileage most cars are chasing. It can tow a healthy 5,000 pounds; it has an intelligent all-wheel drive system which works on and off road and a bigger bed that can flat haul 4′ wide items. It’s a brilliant take on the mid-size truck.
I averaged over 25mpg and always looked forward to taking the wheel. The Motion-Adaptive Electric Power Steering adds a safety angle, initiating steering inputs that prompt the driver to steer in the correct direction during cornering and in slippery road conditions. And, with the Honda Sensing package comprised of cutting-edge driver assistive features, Lane Keeping Assist can do the steering for a distracted driver between 45mph and 90mph for a short period of time…pretty amazing. I love how Honda integrates the entire safety tech and keeps it from feeling intrusive like some others. Plus, they make much of it easy to disable if there’s something you don’t like.
The flying buttress design has been shelved but items like the Dual-Action Tailgate and In-Bed Trunk smartly live on.
Nearly 4” longer and up to 5.5” wider, this is where the Ridgeline owns the utility angle. Payload capacity has also been raised to 1,500 pounds. It doesn’t require a bed liner because it’s made from glass fiber-reinforced sheet molded composite which is strong and UV-stable. The weather-tight In-Bed Trunk has been redesigned, now with a flat floor. It’s also lockable and perfect for carrying everything from wet items with the use of a drain plug, to the groceries with hooks and divided storage. There are tie-down cleats, LED lighting, an AC power outlet and the trunk unlocks automatically as the driver approaches. And the new Truck Bed Audio System which pumps out its 540-watts through 6 weatherproof transducers makes the Ridgeline the king of the Drive-In movie theater with up to 11 hours of total run time before the engine needs to be restarted.
The rear doors are a bit narrow, but they open to a space with elevated seating, comfortable for up to 3 adults or simply fold the seats up and out of the way for more cargo. And yes, there’s even a 2.5 amp USB port back here for recharging devices plus it gets its own zone on the climate control system, though the controls are exclusively up front.
I wish there were a few traditional buttons for audio controls, otherwise the HondaLink touchscreen with solid voice commands offers excellent usability and must-have features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The seats are sedan comfortable, there’re features such as a heated steering wheel, heated seats, conversation mirror and huge center console, and the fit and finish is spot on. Plus, there are tons of little storage areas.
As you’ve probably already surmised, this is the top of the line Black Edition with an MSRP of $43,770 with everything standard. The non-obvious exclusives for this trim are the LED projector headlights with auto high beams and red ambient interior lighting. A base front-drive model starts at $30,375 with a total of 6 trims available in all.
Now if you’re into serious off-roading or don’t find this singular body configuration to your liking, then the Ridgeline might not be for you. The new all-wheel drive system comes with preconfigured off-road modes without a need for a low range and I do like that it works all of the time without driver intervention but there’s not ample ground clearance to take this truck to places where Tacomas feel at ease. Approach and departure angles are fine for mild trail ventures but don’t go too crazy.
I really love this truck and for the vast majority of mid-size buyers the Ridgeline makes perfect sense. For the little it can’t do, it more than makes up for in all of the things that only it can do.