Honda Ridgeline — A uniquely capable pickup

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It was a week of welcome solitude and pleasing noise. We were living with the second-generation Honda Ridgeline. The solitude came from the impressively quiet interior of the new mid-sized truck, and the noise — if you can describe Tom Petty belting out "Free Falling" as noise — came from the 2017 Ridgeline's unique pickup bed that can liven up any tailgate party.

In fact the Ridgeline's bed is a marvel of technology and ingenuity that includes what Honda calls the world's first truck bed audio system and an in-bed trunk that can double as a large ice container making the new mid-sized pickup perhaps the ultimate tailgating vehicle. In our case we were attracted to Petty tracks played through the optional 540-watt audio system and piped to the in-bed "audio exciters" — two located in each side wall and two inside the bed's rear wall. The exciters transmit vibrations to the bed walls turning them into resonant speakers.

Truck Bed Audio is controlled via the audio system touch screen, and can play any of the available audio sources. To conserve electrical power during operation with the engine off and the ignition in ACC mode, the touch screen turns off, putting the system into low power mode. Honda says the truck bed concert can go on for 11 hours before running the battery completely down.

The bed offers much more than music. Honda says it is comprised of ultra-high strength glass fiber-reinforced composite — 3.9 inches longer and 5.5 inches wider than the original Ridgeline — and can flat-haul four-foot-wide items such as drywall or plywood panels with eight available tie-downs.

Unlike other midi-sized pickups, the Ridgeline is of unibody construction based on the Honda Pilot SUV platform giving the truck its car-like attributes. And while the Ridgeline is not a serious work truck — it probably won't be used as the go-to vehicle on a working farm — it has features that most truck owners desire, while at the same time offering a more car-like experience.

While it may fall short in serious off-road prowess it has attributes to satisfy a great majority of buyers. For instance, the Ridgeline can tow up to 5,000 pounds with a 1,584-pound payload (best in the mid-size pickup segment) and its all-wheel drive system with driver-selectable terrain settings — including Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand — can take you most places you desire to go. But there is no low-range transfer case as in more traditional trucks in the mid-sized segment.

There's only one engine available, but it is a good one — a reworked version of Honda's 3.5-liter V-6 making 280 horsepower, 30 more that the old engine. It's mated to a six-speed automatic. Power flows through the front wheels unless you opt for the all-wheel drive option which sends power to the rear wheels as needed up to 100 percent. Performance is excellent. For comparison purposes, the Ridgeline has been clocked at 6.6 seconds from 0-to-60 and 15.2 seconds at 93 mph in the quarter mile.

Honda claims best-in-class fuel
economy of 19/26 mpg city/highway and 22 combined for front-drivers and 18/25 city/highway and 21 combined for models with all-wheel drive.

It’s perhaps the quietest interior of any truck on the market. Wind and road noise are held to commendably low levels. The uncommonly smooth ride — for a pickup truck — adds to the overall refinement and long-distance comfort.

Another excellent quality of the Ridgeline is its interior comfort and usability. The cockpit is a clone of the Pilot, and comes with very comfortable seats and an attractive appearance with logical controls. The cockpit includes a large roll-top center console between the seats and the rear seat flips up to provide more storage space including a huge under-seat cargo area that can handle a golf bag even when the seats are occupied.

The four-door crew cab Ridgeline comes in seven trim levels — RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E and the Black Edition — starting at $30,375 and topping out at $43,770 for the Black Edition that we drove. All-wheel drive is available on all trims and it comes standard on the RTL-E and Black Edition.

Standard equipment on all Ridgelines includes 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, two-inch tow hitch, auto-off projector headlights, push-button start, air conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, and a 200-watt seven-speaker sound system.

Move up through the trims and much good stuff will come your way including a suite of driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and the 540-watt sound system.

Base price: $30,375; as driven, $43,770
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 280 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 foot-pounds @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 125.2 inches
Length: 210 inches
Curb weight: 4,515 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Payload: up to 1,584 pounds
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 18 city, 25 highway, 21 overall
0-60: 6.6 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon, Chevy Colorado

The Good
• Unique in-bed features
• Quiet, comfortable ride
• Powerful engine
• Modern, roomy interior

The Bad
• Tow rating falls short of competitors

The Ugly
• Must unload bed to access spare tire