Honda’s next-generation Ridgeline may be the perfect pickup truck — at least for those buyers who need such a vehicle even if they really don’t want one.
If that seems confusing, let me explain: Crossover sport utilities are all the rage on American roads right now. For the most part, they combine the driving dynamics of a sedan with the ability to load in people or cargo like an old-fashioned station wagon or minivan.
But sometimes you need to be able to carry objects that simply won’t fit into the back of your CUV. Such objects would include a truly big-screen television, new kitchen appliances, a thousand pounds of gravel/dirt/pavers, sheets of sheetrock or other home-improvement supplies, a dirt bike (especially a dirty dirt bike), or even your son’s stinks-to-high-heaven ice hockey gear bag.
See, there are times you really need a pickup truck, even if you don’t want one.
And for people such as you, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is the perfect answer because it’s sort of the crossover of pickup trucks. It drives and rides like a car (or crossover) — and a luxury one at that (it could easily have been badged as an Acura instead of a Honda) — but it has a pickup truck bed in the back, and a delightfully versatile pickup truck bed at that.
Honda launched the Ridgeline, its version of the pickup truck, for the 2006 model year. Shorter than the typical full-size pickup truck produced by Detroit’s Big Three, and with a smaller bed and less towing capacity, nonetheless, the Ridgeline offered some innovative features, including a double-hinged tailgate. You could open the tailgate just like on any other pickup, but you also could open it like a regular side-hinged door, which came in especially handy when you accessed the truck’s built-in trunk.
That’s right, the Ridgeline was a truck with a trunk, and not just an ordinary trunk but one made from composite material and with a drain plug so you not only could lock up your valuables but you could use it as an ice chest for tailgating or camping.
For the 2017 model year, Honda has rolled out an all-new second-generation Ridgeline. I’ve been driving one for a week and except for the step up into the driver’s seat (I’m driving the all-wheel-drive version, though for the first time a 2WD Ridgeline is available) and for the fact there’s a pickup bed in the back, I have to remind myself that I’m driving a mid-size truck and not a large luxury sedan.
The new Ridgeline has to be the smoothest, quietest, most-comfortable driving truck ever (and I say that as someone who has owned pickup trucks for the past 16 years). Yes, I’m among those who believes a truck should be built on a rugged steel frame and should be able to tow more than 5,000 pounds, but not everyone needs to yank around a big boat, a camping home on wheels or a horse trailer.
On the other hand, this Ridgeline is so smooth, and Honda notes that it has the largest passenger compartment in the midsize truck class and a 1,584-pound cargo payload capacity so it can handle typical pickup duties.
Power is provided by a new 3.5-liter V6 that shuts off a couple of cylinders (so smoothly, by the way, that you won’t feel when it happens, or when they kick back into action), thus saving fuel when you’re just cruising down the highway. In primarily urban driving, I averaged 26.6 mpg during the week.
While the engine doesn’t reach its 280 max horsepower or 262 max pound-feet of torque until pretty high in the rev range, the engine is linked to a new six-speed transmission that is exceptionally responsive, getting you off the line sharply and around freeway traffic when you need to pass.
The new Ridgeline also has the full and latest array of infotainment and safety technology.
While its all-wheel-drive system isn’t set up for crawling over boulders, it should provide excellent all-weather traction and take you where you need to go along unpaved forest roads — and then back again.
In so many ways, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is the perfect pickup truck for people who really don’t want such a vehicle, but who really need one.
2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E
Vehicle type: 5-passenger 4-door pickup truck, all-wheel drive
Base price: $41,370 Price as tested: $42,270
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 262 pound-feet of torque @ 4,700 rpm Transmission: 6-speed automatic Wheelbase: 125.2 inches Overall length/width: 210 inches / 78.6 inches
Curb weight: 4,515 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 18 city / 25 highway / 21 combined
Assembled in: Lincoln, Alabama