A New Mid-Size Truck Contender

By Mike Milne

Honda is well known for the reliability, affordability and performance of its automobiles and SUVs, but until now, it’s lacked a truck that fits the North American definition of that word. Now, there’s the 2017 Ridgeline.

Introduced in 2006 as a “sport utility truck” the original Ridgeline always seemed like a vehicle that had been designed to fit its name. It had plenty of unique features but looked odd.

The new Ridgeline is a different story. It largely loses the downward-angled cargo bed walls, but gains power, torque, cargo space and performance. It is built on a unibody platform it shares with the Pilot SUV (unlike all other mid-size trucks that are built on ladder-frame chassis), giving it an edge in comfort and handling.

My test vehicle is a top-of-the-line Black Edition with all-wheel drive (AWD). And the ride is more comfortable than any other full- or mid-size truck I have tested.

The Ridgeline can’t match full-size trucks in capacity but is a real contender in the mid-size category. The AWD Ridgeline’s towing capacity, at 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), will suit a wide range of trailer-boats and PWC. That’s just 1,400 lb less than a 4X4 Toyota Tacoma and 2,000 lb shy of the V-6 GMC Canyon’s tow rating.

The Ridgeline’s AWD technology automatically transfers torque needed to front and rear wheels, so you’ll never get stuck on a launch ramp; torque vectoring even helps with cornering. Unlike four-wheel drive, though, there’s no shuddering in corners when the wheels get too much traction.

Towing was top-of-mind with Ridgeline designers, so a Class III hitch receiver is standard, as are Hill Start Assist, Trailer Stability Assist and a multi-angle backup camera.  A heavy-duty transmission cooler and seven-pin trailer wiring connection come with AWD versions.

The new Ridgeline also offers much-improved performance and mileage thanks to its new direct-injection iVTEC 3.5 L V-6, putting out 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque — a boost of 30 hp and 15 lb-ft over the old model. Variable Cylinder Management shuts down three cylinders when they’re not needed. But when you step on the throttle the truck jumps into action, with help from its new six-speed automatic transmission. Mileage is not bad for a mid-sized truck at 9.4 L /100 km (25 mpg) on the highway and 11.2 L/100 km combined.

Amplitude Reactive Dampers on the independent front and rear suspension add comfort but enhance cornering; a stiffer body structure allows finer-tuning on the suspension. So the Ridgeline has the tight, sporty handling that Honda delivers on its cars and SUVs.

The four-door cab is comfortable, with adequate legroom, fold-up 60-40 split rear seat-backs and a flat rear floor. The cargo bed is 4 inches longer and 5.5 inches wider than before, so hauling 4’X8’ sheets of plywood or drywall is feasible. The new truck keeps a couple of endearing features: a huge, lockable in-bed trunk and a dual-action tailgate that can be dropped or opened to the side.

Starting at $38,488 for the LX to $50,488 for a fully-optioned Black Edition, the Ridgeline is right in the mid-size truck ballpark. Honda’s reliability and durability are part of the package.

This article is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Boats&Places.