Although production ground to a halt in 2014, Honda insisted that its unique Ridgeline pickup truck was only temporarily dead, and here’s the resurrection. Introduced at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, the 2017 Ridgeline continues to share its foundations with the Honda Pilot SUV, the only unit-body in North American pickupdom, a design element perceived as heretical by hard core truckers. But Honda’s heresy included two features loved by owners who weren’t put off by the Ridgeline’s unconventional foundations—the two-way tailgate, and lockable storage well in the cargo bed. Both carry forward to the new truck.

Market research told Honda that a prime reason the first generation Ridgeline failed to seduce more buyers was its offbeat styling. As a result, the new truck looks more like a conventional midsize pickup. The oversize rear roof pillars and flying buttress cargo bed rails are gone, and the new front end is adorned with the biggest Honda logo ever seen.

At a practical level, the new Ridgeline will also have a more spacious cargo bed—longer and wider—responding to another owner lament. At 60 inches wide by 64 inches long, it’s 5.4 inches wider and 4 inches longer than the first generation. Honda calls it the widest bed in the midsize segment, and the only one capable of accommodating a 4x8 sheet of building material lying flat between the wheel arches.

Pilot Power

Honda refrained from specifics regarding power, but since the Ridgeline will share the Pilot’s new 3.5-liter V-6, it’s safe to say there will be more of it. The previous Ridgeline’s 3.5 V6 was rated for 250 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque, whereas the new Pilot engine is rated 280 hp, 262 lb-ft.

How the increase will affect fuel economy remains to be seen; it was not an area of owner happiness for the previous generation (EPA rated 17 mpg city/21 highway). But Honda does predict best in class EPA ratings for the new truck.

Though the Pilot offers two automatic transmissions, a 6-speed and a 9-speed, the Ridgeline will be 6-speed only. (The previous Ridgeline’s transmission was a 5-speed.) However, unlike the original, the new Ridgeline will be available with front-wheel drive. A front-drive Pilot with 6-speed transmission is EPA rated 19 mpg city/27 highway.

The Ridgeline will also share the Pilot’s all-wheel drive system, which includes torque vectoring. Honda had nothing official to say regarding towing capability, although insiders expect it to be roughly the same as the Pilot, about 5000 pounds.

Payload and gross vehicle weight ratings will be announced closer to the Ridgeline’s appearance in showrooms, though a Honda insider says the truck will probably be able to tote cargo “approaching 1600 pounds.”

In-Bed Audio

In addition to expanding the cargo bed, the new Ridgeline will play to a couple of the original’s strong suits—the lockable in-bed cargo compartment, which has been redesigned with a flat floor, and the two-way tailgate. A new addition is a 540-watt in-bed audio option, featuring six speakers integrated with the cargo bed walls—perfect for tailgate parties. And there will also be an available 400-watt power inverter that stashes in the right side cargo bed wall, for charging power tools, firing up a TV, or running a blender. Anyone for margaritas?   

The five-passenger interior is all new, featuring upgraded materials and Honda’s latest infotainment, including an 8-inch touch screen and Apple Car Play or Android Auto capability. It will also be the roomiest in its class, according to Honda, and the company anticipates top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

When production ceased in 2014, there were five Ridgeline trim levels. Whether those will apply to the new truck is unknown, but Honda will add a new line-topping Black Edition. Pricing won’t be revealed until the new Ridgeline is ready for sale early next summer. The first generation truck closed out with MSRPs ranging from about $30,000 to almost $40,000.

One thing seems certain: Honda is serious about making the new Ridgeline a success. As proof, the company plans to star the new truck in a 60-second Super Bowl TV spot on February 5, estimated to cost somewhere between $9 and $10 million, depending on timing. Numbers of that magnitude suggest commitment.


 

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