Automotive

Review: How does the Honda Ridgeline fare after a two-year hiatus?

Review: How does the Honda Rid...
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is all-new, Honda having suspended production of the previous-generation for nearly two years in order to design this new version
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is all-new, Honda having suspended production of the previous-generation for nearly two years in order to design this new version
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A traditional pickup truck has a body-on-frame construction and solid rear axle –with the Ridgeline, however, the design is based on unibody construction and four-wheel, independent suspension
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A traditional pickup truck has a body-on-frame construction and solid rear axle –with the Ridgeline, however, the design is based on unibody construction and four-wheel, independent suspension
The all-wheel drive option for the Ridgeline comes standard with towing equipment installed and is rated for up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg)
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The all-wheel drive option for the Ridgeline comes standard with towing equipment installed and is rated for up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg)
Compared to other small pickup trucks (Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier), the 2017 Honda Ridgeline has more cargo capacity and a longer bed
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Compared to other small pickup trucks (Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier), the 2017 Honda Ridgeline has more cargo capacity and a longer bed
The cargo bed for the Honda can hold 4-ft (1.2-m) wide sheets of plywood or wall board – laid flat
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The cargo bed for the Honda can hold 4-ft (1.2-m) wide sheets of plywood or wall board – laid flat
The driver and front passenger are treated to a lot of leg and headroom in the Ridgeline
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The driver and front passenger are treated to a lot of leg and headroom in the Ridgeline
Inside the 2017 Honda Ridgeline are more cargo and storage options and the rear seats have a huge amount of space beneath them
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Inside the 2017 Honda Ridgeline are more cargo and storage options and the rear seats have a huge amount of space beneath them
The infotainment in the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is well done, but the lack of knobs for volume and tuning can be a bit tedious
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The infotainment in the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is well done, but the lack of knobs for volume and tuning can be a bit tedious
The versatile and watertight (with drain plugs) under-bed storage compartment in the Honda Ridgeline is exceptionally useful
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The versatile and watertight (with drain plugs) under-bed storage compartment in the Honda Ridgeline is exceptionally useful
Honda's engineers paid particular attention to the crash-worthiness and stability of the 2017 Ridgeline's design and it pays off with good handling and control
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Honda's engineers paid particular attention to the crash-worthiness and stability of the 2017 Ridgeline's design and it pays off with good handling and control
The 2017 model follows on from the first-generation Ridgeline, which entered the market in 2005
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The 2017 model follows on from the first-generation Ridgeline, which entered the market in 2005
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is all-new, Honda having suspended production of the previous-generation for nearly two years in order to design this new version
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The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is all-new, Honda having suspended production of the previous-generation for nearly two years in order to design this new version
The traditional drop-down tailgate mode for the 2017 Ridgeline is operated like any other pickup truck
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The traditional drop-down tailgate mode for the 2017 Ridgeline is operated like any other pickup truck
Grasping the secondary latch handle (to the right, near the tail lamp) swings the tailgate of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline to the left for easier loading of bulky items
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Grasping the secondary latch handle (to the right, near the tail lamp) swings the tailgate of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline to the left for easier loading of bulky items
View gallery - 13 images

Honda entered the "lifestyle pickup" market in 2005 with its car-based Ridgeline pickup truck. It was designed to appeal to a growing segment of the population that had tired of minivans and confining crossovers and wanted something that blended the family-friendly comfort of a crossover-SUV with the carrying flexibility of a pickup. Production of the first-generation vehicle ended in mid-2014, but after a brief hiatus the Ridgeline is back following its debut at NAIAS 2016. New Atlas gets behind the wheel.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is all-new, with Honda having nearly two years to design this second-generation version. What hasn't changed for Ridgeline fans is what attracted people to the original: useful features, good comfort, and road-readiness. What has changed is size, capability, fuel economy, and a more upscale interior.

The driver and front passenger are treated to a lot of leg and headroom in the Ridgeline
The driver and front passenger are treated to a lot of leg and headroom in the Ridgeline

A traditional pickup truck has a body-on-frame construction and solid rear axle. From the small Tacoma to the biggest Ram 3500, that's the norm. With the Ridgeline, however, the design is based on unibody construction and four-wheel, independent suspension. Yet compared to other small pickup trucks (Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier), the 2017 Honda Ridgeline has more cargo capacity and a longer bed, which is somewhat surprising given the apparent smaller stature and less bulky design of the Ridgeline.

In fact, the majority of the innovation found in the Honda Ridgeline is behind the passenger cabin. Once the idea of a car-based truck sinks in and the very obvious exterior look and design differences are no longer the main focus, little things in the Ridgeline's design begin to raise eyebrows.

The cargo bed for the Honda can hold 4-ft (1.2-m) wide sheets of plywood or wall board –laid flat. Neither the Frontier nor the Tacoma can boast that. The bed is also longer than the beds on those two competitors and payload is a bit higher as well. Also surprising is the under-bed storage compartment (which is lockable) and its unusual versatility. The tailgate is also innovative, opening either down in the traditional manner or to the side (left, driver's side) as a swing-out. The latter is especially useful when loading or unloading bulky items like furniture that would otherwise require one to reach around the tailgate to maneuver them.

Grasping the secondary latch handle (to the right, near the tail lamp) swings the tailgate of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline to the left for easier loading of bulky items
Grasping the secondary latch handle (to the right, near the tail lamp) swings the tailgate of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline to the left for easier loading of bulky items

That dent-resistant, textured cargo bed has multiple uses that are far beyond what might be possible in everyday situations with a standard pickup. The lockable under-bed storage compartment, for example, screams "put groceries in here" and can be equally as useful as a small item storage space when making a run to the hardware store or lumber yard. The all-wheel drive option for the Ridgeline comes standard with towing equipment installed and is rated for up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), which gives it the ability to haul a moderate trailer.

Inside the 2017 Honda Ridgeline are more cargo and storage options. The rear seats have a huge amount of space beneath them. Nearly on par with what's beneath a full-sized truck's crew cab seating. There's enough space to put a golf bag, checked luggage, and more under there and still have the seat folded down for use. Those seats fold up to allow the full floor to be utilized for larger items as well.

The driver and front passenger are treated to a lot of leg and headroom in the Ridgeline. Instruments are easy to read and the seats are adjustable enough for most anyone to find comfort. The rear seats are meant to carry three across, though three adults would be a bit of a stretch. Two adults seat comfortably and three kids in booster seats are readily accommodated. The rear seating is comfortable enough for longer trips as well.

Where Honda has missed with the 2017 Ridgeline, however, is with the interior's overall experience. It's nicely done in terms of materials quality and ergonomics, but misses in its general appeal. It feels monotone and a bit cheap, though there isn't anything specific to point to for that impression. The overall feel is just lower-scale than the cars and crossovers against against which the Ridgeline might be considered to compete. Against pickup trucks in the midsize class, though, the Ridgeline is about par with its spartan appeal and may even be considered a bit more upscale thanks to better materials use.

The infotainment in the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is well done, but the lack of knobs for volume and tuning can be a bit tedious
The infotainment in the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is well done, but the lack of knobs for volume and tuning can be a bit tedious

With the upgraded infotainment option, the 2017 Ridgeline has a good amount of technology on offer. Smartphone pairing is a snap – likely one of the easiest in the business – and those familiar with Honda's infotainment setups will immediately be at home in the Ridgeline. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, as is hands-free voice control. All of these work well.

Navigation is a bit iffy, though, with a weird interface that seems to ask for things in reverse order from what is intuitive. Similarly, the audio system's "slider" buttons for tuning and volume control are difficult to use when the vehicle is moving and become distracting. Simple knobs would have been better. There are up to four USB ports, two up front and two at the rear, depending on the trim point.

Powering the 2017 Ridgeline is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that runs through a six-speed automatic transmission. This can be configured as front-wheel or all-wheel drive. We prefer the AWD option for its more versatile all-weather capability, but neither option will mean the Ridgeline is ready for anything more than dirt roads when the pavement ends. For most buyers, that's probably not of much interest anyway, as a big part of the Ridgeline's billing is its car-like comfort and design, not it's all-terrain prowess.

On the road, the Ridgeline handles well and is the most comfortable truck we've ever tried. It handles similarly to the Honda CR-V crossover it shares some underpinnings with. Steering is precise and responsive, as is the Honda way, and acceleration is good when not under heavy load. The V6 punches off the line and then smooths out quickly as RPM increases. Under a cargo load or with a trailer, though, the Ridgeline works harder to get up to and maintain speeds on the highway.

Our overall assessment is that the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is definitely a good truck for those who don't need any serious offroad capability and for whom the daily commute and versatility are paramount. The Ridgeline is comfortable as a family mover, daily driver, and all-around non-pickup and then steps to the plate when hauling and pulling are required of it. Its versatility, suburban good looks, and understated personality are a good combination.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline begins at US$29,630. The suggested retail for our press loan in the RTL-E trim was $42,270, delivered.

Product Page: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

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6 comments
Mike Barnett
There's one big error in your article - the statement that the Ridgeline is car-based. The first generation was based on reinforced and stretched Honda Pilot running gear, and the second generation share's it's chassis with the Pilot and the Odyssey, which technically means those two vehicle are based on the Ridgeline running gear. Another nicety you glossed over a bit is the in bed trunk - it's watertight, lockable, and doubles as a cooler (though you do have a picture of it full of ice...) The Ridgeline is a capable, comfortable truck, and I'll be keeping my 2006 for many more years - it suits me well on the highway, carrying tooling, on rain-soaked offroad jobsites, and for playing on sandy, muddy state forest roads all around Florida.
HyperPete
I have owned my 2017 Ridgeline RTL-E since February 2017. I love just about everything about it EXCEPT for the trunk. "The lockable under-bed storage compartment, for example, screams "put groceries in here" and can be equally as useful as a small item storage space when making a run to the hardware store or lumber yard. " The only problem with this statement is that the trunk STINKS of plastic / polyester resin. Airing it out does nothing, washing it does not help, letting it stand open for days does not diminish the stink. It is so strong that when you put clothing in the trunk, it comes out stinking too. Honda will not address this matter, saying that it is "Normal." I personally would not put food in the trunk for fear of contamination. Sadly, this greatly diminishes the value of the trunk. Forewarned is forearmed. I would still buy the vehicle knowing this, but others may choose not to. Forewarned is forearmed!
MK23666
Sometimes you have to fight odor with another odor. I would suggest that you first try the bag of volcanic stones noted for their ability to absorb odors, and if that doesn't work then you find a air freshener fragrance that you like and buy a few of those to put in the trunk space. I wonder if an ozone generator would help? They have those small plug-in types for car interiors, maybe make an extension plug for one to reach the trunk and close it up in there.
Dollar Bill
I bought wifey Ridgeline RTL-E last September to replace her 14 year old Dodge Dakota and liked it so much that I bought my own (RTL-E) in March. The trunk and bed-component polymer's smell is VERY pungent, to where I could not park inside my office warehouse the first 4 months. I placed open bag of ground coffee inside trunk up until recently and still have one inside my interior. I have chemical sensitivities. Smells have almost gone and now park inside my residential garage. Ridgeline is worth the temporary plastic smells.
Daishi
@HyperPete my suggestion for the trunk is to attempt to coat it with something that will act as a barrier between the plastics used and the air. One thing that might work is actually a spray in bed liner. You can buy bed liner coating kits (including clear) for $13. The other suggestion by MK23666 may work by covering the stink with another stronger stink. I think if you coat it in Patchouli Oil the truck could wash away in a tsunami and be found in the mariana trench 200 years from now and when the explorers drag out the truck and open the trunk they will still only be able to smell the Patchouli Oil.
HyperPete
MK23666 - This has all been done. On the Second Generation Ridgelines this odor is overpowering and pervasive. On a Ridgeline support site, many have tried multiple attempts at neutralizing the odor to no avail.