2017 Honda Ridgeline AWDPosted on December 14th, 2016
A different kind of pickup for a different kind of truck owner
By Nina Russin
The second-generation Honda Ridgeline doesn’t look or handle like any other pickup truck on the market. It’s the only vehicle in its segment available with front-wheel drive and unlike most pickup trucks, utilizes unit-body as opposed to body on frame construction
An all-wheel drive version sends engine power to the rear wheels to maximize traction on dirt and in adverse weather. A variable torque management system can vary power between the rear wheels for better control on uneven trails.
The idea is to give buyers who like Honda’s passenger cars similar ride and handling a vehicle that can tow, haul, and get dirty. A spacious cabin has enough room for five passengers, with rear seats that flip up to create a large interior cargo space. The cargo bed is short, but can easily hold bicycles, kayaks and the like with the proper racks.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter iVTEC engine and six-speed automatic transmission that gives the all-wheel drive model 21 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy according to the EPA. Gas mileage during our 150-mile test drive was about two miles-per-gallon better.
The test car is fully loaded with convenience features, including keyless entry and start, power moonroof, LED headlamps, Honda’s in-bed trunk that provides secure storage outside the cabin, leather seating, tri-zone climate control, satellite radio and Bluetooth interface. Base price is $41,370. Adding in the $900 destination charge, final MSRP is $42,270.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week I drove the new Ridgeline on surface streets, two-lane rural roads and freeways around Phoenix, Arizona and the foothills of the San Tan Mountains southeast of town. Time will tell if buyers respond to Honda’s ‘crossover pickup truck’ concept. The automaker seemed to hit a chord with the first-generation car, and there’s no reason to expect a loss of momentum for the new and improved version.
Drivers who want pickup truck functionality without the harsh ride and road noise of a traditional body-on-frame vehicle will love the Ridgeline. It’s smooth, responsive and quiet, with ample power from the 280-horsepower engine. Variable cylinder management automatically cuts out half the cylinders when power demands are low to stretch fuel economy.
The six-speed automatic transmission shift smoothly, with no obvious shift shock under normal driving conditions. A four-wheel independent suspension with amplitude reactive dampers provides a firm yet comfortable ride for both rows of passengers, similar to what one might find in one of the automakers sedans or more traditional crossovers.
Eighteen-inch rims are fitted with all-season tires that don’t have an especially aggressive tread. The tires have the advantage of a quiet ride and better fuel economy, but buyers who plan to venture far off the beaten path might consider something with more blocks and void areas.
An electric power steering system delivers plenty of assist for low-speed maneuverability with a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. On-center response is on the soft side, but drivers shouldn’t feel disconnected from the wheels.
Visibility around the perimeter is very good. Honda’s signature low cowl creates a clear forward view that will please smaller drivers who have problems with traditional pickups. Side and rear glass areas are also quite large. A blind spot monitoring system illuminates LED signals in the A-pillars when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. A rearview camera displays a wide-angle view to the back when the driver shifts into reverse, making it easy to see obstacles not visible through the Ridgeline’s high rear window.
Designers did an excellent job of creating a versatile, pleasing interior cabin. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust with plenty of lower lumbar support for long road trips. A small-diameter steering wheel will appeal to women who are tired of feeling like they are driving a man’s pickup truck.
Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright daylight and after dark. The LED headlamps project long beams that are closer to daylight than traditional halogen with minimal battery drain.
Access and egress to both rows of seating is quite good, with a relatively low step-in height. Vents behind the center console circulate air through the back of the cabin to keep second-row passengers comfortable in temperature extremes. All occupants have access to 12-volt power points, and there is a USB drive for plugging in cell-phones or tablets on the go.
A deep covered center console bin is large enough to hold a small pack, purse or tablet. A locking glove box provides secure storage inside the car.
The Honda Ridgeline comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Active safety features on the test car include blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning and road departure mitigation.
Honda builds the Ridgeline in its Lincoln, Alabama assembly plant.
Like: A mid-size pickup truck with the ride comfort of a passenger car.
Dislike: Soft on-center steering response.
Model: Ridgeline AWD- RTL-E
Base price: $41,370
As tested: $42,270
Horsepower: 280 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 262 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Off-road: Yes (with different tires)
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway2017, Luxury 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Honda, performance, pricing, Ridgeline AWD, standard safety