By Allyson Harwood
Honda's Ridgeline will appeal to people who want a vehicle that drives like an SUV, has the cushy creature comforts and technology of an SUV, yet has a truck bed and can still carry payload and tow. The Ridgeline, all-new for 2017, is more capable, more fuel efficient, nicer to drive, more tech-savvy and, honestly, much better looking than the truck it replaces. The Ridgeline may not be ideal for people seeking a traditional truck, but for those who welcome a practical compromise between truck and SUV, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline may push all the right buttons. Smaller than a half-ton pickup, the Ridgeline should appeal to those who are looking for a more refined alternative to the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.
Traditional trucks, even smaller midsize trucks, ride like -- well, trucks. The new Honda Ridgeline offers a much nicer driving experience and an SUV-like interior while offering a wide bed, best-in-class payload capacity, and some truck capability. This is an ideal mix for someone who isn't towing or hauling every day.
With one cab, engine, transmission, and bed length, the unibody Ridgeline doesn't offer many variants. It also doesn’t offer best-in-class towing capacity or a true 4-wheel-drive system. The bed is shallow and has a high liftover, so if you need to do tougher work you should look elsewhere.
The 2017 Ridgeline uses a new lighter, stronger platform, and has a more efficient, more powerful engine. While its quieter interior is loaded with tech-friendly features and there are all-new truck bed innovations for work and play, what's really creating a buzz is the new Ridgeline's more truck-like styling.
The new Ridgeline drives more like an SUV than a truck. It's based on a version of Honda's Global Light Truck platform, which also underpins the Pilot, giving this truck...
... ride quality and comfort similar to Honda’s flagship SUV. The steering is accurate, and the truck corners and responds to driver input with the best crossover SUVs. The 5-passenger, crew-cab-only Ridgeline is lighter, and the new 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine makes acceleration crisp. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is now standard, so those who don't want all-wheel drive (AWD) can enjoy better fuel economy. The wonderfully quiet cabin is filled with the creature comforts, safety features and tech amenities you'd expect in a Honda SUV. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline can tow 5,000 pounds and carry 1,584 pounds of payload. It also performs better than you'd think off-road. The new Intelligent Traction Management system offers selectable modes that help in Sand, Snow and Mud.
The Ridgeline's large-cooler-size in-bed trunk has a drain plug, an ideal feature when storing sodas on ice. There's now in-bed audio, making it easy to crank the tunes. You can also plug a (2-pronged) appliance (say, a blender or TV) into the bed's available 400-watt AC power outlet.
INTELLIGENT TRACTION MANAGEMENT
The Honda Ridgeline is now available with Intelligent Traction Management, a push-button system that lets you choose the terrain profile you're planning on driving through or over, including snow, mud and sand, and it adjusts throttle, transmission shifts, torque distribution and more to best suit the conditions you're driving in.
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline masters the careful balance between midsize truck and quiet, refined SUV. The cabin's dimensions are essentially the same as they were in the last-generation Ridgeline, meaning that front and rear seats are pleasantly roomy for five people. The design is crisp and fresh, with greatly improved materials, and features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated seats and an 8-inch touch screen. If you want to carry gear inside, push the 60/40-split rear seat against the back of the cab to allow space for a bicycle or a 55-inch flat screen TV.
The previous Ridgeline used buttresses that sloped from the top of the back of the cab down to the truck bed, a necessary part of the structure that ensured odd styling. For 2017, new structure design means the buttresses are gone and the truck has a more traditional look. Returning for 2017 are features that are unique to the Ridgeline, namely the in-bed trunk -- handy for locking items out of view -- and the bed's tailgate, which can either be lowered like a traditional tailgate or opened from the side like a station wagon.
Ridgelines come standard with a 3.5-liter V6, 6-speed automatic transmission, 2-wheel drive, active noise cancellation, hill-start assist, and 18-inch wheels. Also standard are a rearview camera and the useful dual-action tailgate, eight tie-down cleats, truck bed lights, an in-bed trunk, and Intelligent Traction Management. Also in every Ridgeline are power windows with (front) auto-up/down, push-button start, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping wheel, air conditioning with filtration, and Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio. The stereo that comes in the base RT trim level is a 200-watt, 7-speaker audio system with a subwoofer, and there is one USB port.
If you want to go full-bore with your new Ridgeline, know that Honda's menu is more biased toward preset packages than individual orderable items. Every trim level is available with all-wheel drive, and there are plenty of safety systems, including collision-mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot information with cross traffic, and LaneWatch. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adaptive cruise control, navigation, an acoustic windshield, truck bed audio, a 400-watt truck bed outlet, 3-zone climate control, leather seats, and heated front seats are options. The top stereo is a 540-watt, 8-speaker system.
The Ridgeline's sole engine is an all-new 3.5-liter 280-horsepower direct-injection V6 with cylinder deactivation to improve fuel efficiency. Behind the engine is a 6-speed automatic transmission. Power is up by 30 horsepower from the previous truck. The Ridgeline comes standard with front-wheel drive, which gives the truck excellent fuel economy -- 19 mpg city, 26 highway -- but limits towing capacity to 3,500 pounds. All-wheel drive docks the new Ridgeline's fuel economy by one mpg -- to 18 mpg city and 25 on the highway -- but towing capacity goes up to 5,000 pounds.
280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
262 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg (FWD), 18/25 mpg (AWD)
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is sold as the RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E and the Black Edition. The front-drive RT starts at $30,375, including destination. The RTL-E and the Black Edition are the only models that come standard with all-wheel drive. The top-of-the-line Black Edition, which comes fully loaded and adds black wheels, a black chrome grille and a special interior, starts at $43,770. Despite offering more safety and truck-bed features than traditional midsize trucks do, the Ridgeline's pricing falls well in line with those trucks. A crew-cab Chevy Colorado with a 6-foot bed and a V6 ranges from $27,000-$38,000. A similarly equipped Toyota Tacoma's range is about $30,000-$39,000, and $28,000-$44,000 for a GMC Canyon. The previous Ridgeline's 5-year residual values were in line with the segment-benchmark Toyota Tacoma. You can expect the more appealing new Ridgeline to continue that trend, and offer excellent Honda-like resale value.