Test Drive: 2017 Honda Ridgeline Returns to the Light-Duty Midsize Truck Arena [Review]

2017 Honda Ridgeline

The first-generation Honda Ridgeline ran from 2006 through 2014. It was a different kind of truck appearing in a non-traditional form. Many viewed it as a Japanese Avalanche given its unique styling. There were even a few that likened it to an El Camino, although I’m not sure why.

Moving forward, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline begins its second generation, following a two-year hiatus, taking on a more main stream appearance. Gone are the Avalanche-like sail panels from the cab back to the bed.

This latest iteration Ridgeline is presently offered in one form, which is a four-door, crew cab, with one bed size, one available engine, and one transmission. However, it is available in several trim levels: RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E, and a Black Edition, which is in essence, a gussied up version of the RTL-E, appearing in what else? All black. There’s but one tire choice – exclusive Firestone Destination LE2 – 245/60 R18s available to wrap one of three wheel designs. One may choose from either FWD or AWD with i-VTM4 Torque Vectoring. Base pricing will range from $29,475 to $42,870. Add a $900 destination charge for all trim levels.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Power is supplied by a transversely mounted, normally aspirated, 3.5-liter, SOHC, 24-valve i-VTEC Direct Injection V6 engine with variable cylinder management, drive-by-wire throttle system, and Eco-Assist system. The V6 pumps out 280 horsepower at 6,000 rpm while developing 262 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. Energy reaches the driving wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA mileage estimates are 18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway, and the fuel capacity is 19.5 gallons.

Visually, the new unibody Ridgeline displays a more modern aerodynamic profile while maintaining a basic traditional truck form with integrated spoilers at the top rear of the cab and tailgate. The hood slopes dramatically down toward the nose offering a clear view of the road surface ahead – a big plus for off-roading. Projector beam headlamps are standard fare, with LED lamps as an option. Signature daytime running lamps and taillights are LEDs. In profile, the windshield is sharply raked aft, and there is a bright chrome trim that surrounds the glass area of the cabin, which with the blacked out “B” pillar gives the cab a coupe-like effect.

The bed of the Ridgeline is made of a tough sheet molded compound (plastic). Repeated loads of river rock, each weighing from 8 to 20 pounds were dropped into the bed with no ill effect. The bed measures 5’4” in length, 5 feet in width, and is 16 inches deep. There are tie-down hooks, an AC power outlet (up to 400 watts in upper grades or trims), and similar to the original Ridgeline, a lockable trunk storage bin with a drain beneath the bed. The under-bed storage compartment can accommodate an 82-quart cooler or golf bags. According to Honda, the bed’s forward bulkhead can withstand a crash at 37 mph with no cabin intrusion when carrying a 1,100-pound load.

The lockable tailgate is a dual action affair that folds traditionally down, with molded-in seat indentations, or opens out to the left for flexibility in loading and unloading. The bed’s payload capacity is 1,584 pounds, and although only about 3 percent of Ridgeline owners will tow heavy loads, the towing capacity is 5,000 pounds and is J2807 compliant.

An additional really cool and innovative feature is the in-bed audio system with hidden “audio exciters” rather than speakers behind the bed’s side panels, where they are waterproof and protected from load damage. Sound system controls may be accessed with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via a smartphone.

The interior design provides a luxury car level of fit and finish – the best of any mid-size truck competitor, with soft touch dash and door linings. The dash features a 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display, tri-zone AC controls, an 8-inch DA audio screen, Smart Start, and a heated steering wheel on top trim levels.

2017 Honda Ridgeline interior

The new Honda Ridgeline comes with both structural passive safety and active safety using Honda Sensing™. Additional active safety features include adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist system, road departure mitigation, vehicle and pedestrian CMBS, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot information, rear cross traffic monitor, and LaneWatch™.

My test Ridgeline during the national press launch was in RTL-E trim and AWD configuration. The exterior sported a Lunar Silver metallic finish while the interior was done in black. The base price was $41,370, which came to a final total of $42,270 after factoring in the destination and handling charge.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E drives and handles like a car, while possessing the ability to perform the duties of a truck. During the product launch program it was put through its paces and subjected to a variety of scenarios including: freeway driving, backroad driving through Texas Hill country, towing and hauling exercises, a Dynamic Ride and Handling course, and a challenging off-road course where it was pitted against competitive trucks in its class.

2017 honda ridgeline towing

The ride comfort is more car than truck-like and the handling characteristics border on sporty, especially on a twisty portion of the off-road course where the i-VTM4 AWD system’s torque vectoring and adaptive, speed-sensitive, electronic power assisted steering (EPAS) came into play. The Intelligent Traction Management allowed dialing in the appropriate setting for surface conditions: Normal; Snow; Mud; and Sand.

This latest iteration Honda Ridgeline is better looking and more capable than before, and there is a host of Honda accessories available for added convenience and versatility, such as a custom tent and more. Is it the perfect midsize truck? Perhaps not for everyone, but it outshined the competitors tested including the Chevy Colorado and Toyota Tacoma in terms of performance. In terms of areas for improvement: the rear doors would benefit from a wider opening for easier ingress and egress; manual shiftability would offer an added advantage as would a slightly longer bed to better accommodate some ATVs for instance because some states do not allow operation with the tailgate down.

Bottom line, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is a winner and if one could have but one vehicle, it would be an ideal choice. It is definitely the ultimate tailgate party vehicle.

2017 Honda Ridgeline vs Toyota Tacoma vs Chevy Colorado ‘mashup’ review. What’s the best new mid-sized truck for you? Watch this comparison review to find out.

MSRP $41,370
Price as tested $42,270
Engine 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 direct injection
Power (hp) 280 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 262 @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Drivetrain layout transverse mounted front engine / AWD with i-VTM4 torque vectoring
Curb weight 4,431 lbs.
EPA-estimated fuel economy 18/25 city/hwy mpg