- Class-leading ride and handling makes it a comfortable daily driver
- Advanced all-wheel-drive system adjusts to varying terrain
- Less expensive two-wheel-drive version now available
- Modern interior is roomy and attractive
- Backseat more accommodating of people and cargo
- Best fuel economy in the segment
- Dent-resistant bed with exclusive trunk and two-way tailgate
- Can shoulder more payload than competitors
- Maximum tow rating of only 5,000 pounds means it can't tow as much as some competitors
- Not built for serious off-road adventures
- Must unload bed to access spare tire
- 8-inch touchscreen audio and navigation system isn't always easy to use
It's back. The Honda Ridgeline returns to a reinvigorated midsize pickup segment after a two-year absence. The fully redesigned 2017 Honda Ridgeline hangs on to what made it unique while introducing improvements that make it more functional and attractive to a wider audience.
To that end, the new Ridgeline still has more in common with Honda's midsize SUV, the Pilot, than other trucks in the segment. The wheelbase has been stretched to accommodate a truck bed and the suspension components have added beef, but the Ridgeline still delivers a carlike ride and manageable handling.
The Ridgeline also benefits from an upgraded 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed transmission, a stout combination that's 30-horsepower stronger and a full 4 mpg more efficient than an old all-wheel-drive Ridgeline. And those in sunbelt states can choose a new front-wheel-drive version that's even more efficient and costs less.
Ridgelines still only come in a single crew cab with short bed configuration. But this time around the forward cabin is as attractive and inviting as a Pilot, and is available with the Pilot's full range of the latest tech and safety features. Meanwhile, the back row retains the class-leading legroom and unique folding rear seat that made the original Ridgeline so flexible and accommodating.
Most notably, the old Ridgeline's polarizing exterior styling has been scrapped in favor of a more traditional bed design. The change makes it easier to reach into the forward end, and it allowed a 3.2-inch wheelbase stretch that enabled a longer bed. Now 66 inches long, the Ridgeline's bed is 2.3 inches longer than a Chevrolet Colorado's and 3.5 inches longer than a Toyota Tacoma's. As for the Ridgeline's signature in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate, they're still here and as unique as ever.
But some aspects of the Ridgeline still trail the competition. The intelligent all-wheel-drive system now has driver-selectable terrain settings, but crossover SUV levels of clearance and suspension articulation limit it to light-duty dirt-roading. And while it is well suited to towing 5,000 pounds, those who want to tow more will need to look elsewhere.
The return of a much-improved 2017 Honda Ridgeline makes the midsize truck segment an interesting place. With the off-roady Toyota Tacoma on one end, the shrunken full-size familiarity of the Chevrolet Colorado in the middle and the practical and smooth-driving Honda Ridgeline at the other end, midsize truck buyers have a wide spectrum of choices.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline has been fully redesigned. Highlights include improved horsepower and fuel economy, a newly available two-wheel-drive version, upgraded technology and safety features, additional high-end trim levels and a longer bed.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is a five-passenger midsize pickup offered in a single four-door crew cab configuration. Seven trim levels are available: RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E and the Black Edition. The first five are available in your choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, but the RTL-E and Black Edition are AWD only. In true Honda fashion, there are no options between grades.
The entry-level RT is well-equipped with standard features including painted 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, a 2-inch receiver tow hitch, dual-action tailgate, lockable in-bed trunk, an incandescent cargo bed light, capless fuel filler, black door and tailgate handles, auto-off halogen projector headlights, LED taillights, push-button start, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with illuminated controls, console shifter, air-conditioning, cloth bucket seats, 60/40-split lift-up rear seat (with under-seat storage), rear privacy glass, full power accessories and cruise control. A 4.2-inch multi-information screen sits between the main gauges, and the 200-watt seven-speaker sound system includes a USB port, Bluetooth phone and audio support and a 5-inch display screen that's also connected to a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines.
Move up to the RTS and you'll get 18-inch machine-finish alloy wheels, halogen foglights, body-color door and tailgate handles, smart entry, remote engine start, tri-zone automatic climate control, seatback pockets and a Homelink remote system. The Sport is essentially the same except for unique gray-painted 18-inch alloy wheels, black exterior trim and red interior footwell lighting.
Next is the RTL, which introduces six-spoke 18-inch wheels and has leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The front seats are heated, with an armrest and eight-way power adjustments for the driver and four-way power adjustments for the passenger. All-wheel-drive versions gain an acoustic windshield and a heated outside mirror.
The RTL-T is much the same except it also has LED daytime running lights, the Honda LaneWatch system (only available here), illuminated vanity mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an 8-inch touchscreen audio system with 225 watts of power that includes navigation, HD radio, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, additional USB ports (four total), HondaLink app support, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Pandora compatibility and an SMS text message feature.
Above that is the RTL-E, which adds a power tilt/slide moonroof, LED headlights with auto on/off and auto high beam control, chrome door handles, a power sliding rear window, parking sensors, driver seat memory, a heated steering wheel, a front passenger armrest and a suite of driver aids including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automated emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance and road departure mitigation, blind-spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert system. Its uprated stereo has 540 watts and eight speakers (the extra one is a subwoofer), and it comes with an all-new truck bed speaker system. The bed also gains LED cargo lighting and a 115-volt two-prong power outlet.
The final step is the new Black Edition, which is essentially a specially badged RTL-E that is only available in Crystal Black Pearl with black-painted wheels, black trim and grille, a black headliner and black leather seats with red stitching and red perforation accents along with red interior ambient lighting.
We're on the fence between two choices. We like the idea of heated power leather seats but we're not fans of the 8-inch touchscreen audio interface. In that case, the RTL would be the obvious choice, but we also like the idea of having built-in navigation for those times we venture out of cell phone range where smartphone navigation apps no longer work. And our family would be far happier if there was more than one USB jack.
With that in mind, we like the RTL-T. We'd choose all-wheel drive not just for its all-surface traction advantages, but also for its higher 5,000-pound tow rating and extra 100 pounds of payload capacity. And while we're drawn to the Copperhead Red Pearl paint, we know we'd dirty up the beige interior that comes with it. Make ours Forest Mist Metallic with a gray interior instead.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The new 2017 Honda Ridgeline offers more interior space than its rivals, particularly overall cabin width and rear seat legroom. Its unique design produces a low step-in height that eases entry and exit. Once inside, the driver sits in a cockpit that is virtually identical to the Honda Pilot, which means comfy seats, an attractive look and logical controls. Unfortunately, this also means that RTL-T and up Ridgelines are saddled with the Pilot's maddening 8-inch touchscreen audio system. RTL and below models use a simpler audio system with easily operated controls that still has Bluetooth, a USB jack and a screen for the back-up camera.
All 2017 Ridgelines use the Pilot's straight-pull lever-action shifter instead of the old model's column shifter, with a pair of cupholders off to the side and a voluminous roll-top center console between the front seats. In-cab cargo space is second to none thanks to the low, flat floor and the 60/40 backseat's flip-up lower cushions, a carry-over feature from the old Ridgeline. When folded, they reveal enough space to stand up a bike but still offer a huge underseat storage cavern that can handle a golf bag when the seats are occupied.
The Ridgeline is a truck, of course, and on that score the bed is a winner. Four inches longer than before, it's now longer than the competition's short-bed offerings. And it's the only midsize truck with wheel arches spread far enough apart to accommodate a 4x8 sheet of plywood on the floor. It's made of a textured black material that doesn't need a bedliner, and there are eight hefty tie-downs. As before, the unique dual-action tailgate can be flopped down in the usual way or opened like a door, a move that gives easy access to the Ridgeline's exclusive in-bed trunk, a lockable wet-storage area with a drain that can handle muddy motocross gear or an 80-quart ice chest. Thing is, the jack and temporary spare are housed inside, which means you may have to unload the bed if you have a flat.
Every 2017 Ridgeline features antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front airbags, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags (with rollover sensor). Other standard safety gear includes daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring and a rearview camera.
RTL-E and Black Edition Ridgelines gain additional driver assistance and crash avoidance features such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance and road departure mitigation, blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic alert system and automatic high beam control.
The Ridgeline has not yet been crash tested, but internal Honda testing predicts a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The additional driver assistance features on the RTL-E and Black Editions should elevate those versions to IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus status.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 horsepower, an increase of 30 hp over the old motor. Power flows out through a six-speed automatic transmission instead of the five-speed used previously, and front-wheel drive is now offered on a Ridgeline for the first time.
The now-optional all-wheel-drive system is a full automatic setup with driver-selectable terrain settings that include Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand. These settings alter throttle sensitivity, transmission shift timing, traction control and stability control intervention thresholds and the front/rear power split, which can range between 100-percent front and 30-percent front/70-percent rear as needs dictate. There is no low-range transfer case as on some of the more traditional trucks in the segment.
Edmunds has not yet conducted instrumented testing, but Honda claims the new Ridgeline will be quicker from zero to 60 mph than any other midsize pickup in its class.
EPA fuel economy ratings show the 2017 Ridgeline to be more efficient than the gasoline V6-powered trucks it competes with. A front-whee- drive Ridgeline is rated at 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway) and the all-wheel-drive version comes in at 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway). A close look at the numbers shows that the Ridgeline's advantage stems mainly from thriftier highway fuel economy.
The all-wheel-drive Ridgeline's maximum payload is 1,584 pounds, which is tops in the midsize pickup category. All-wheel-drive Ridgelines can tow 5,000 pounds and come equipped with a 2-inch receiver trailer hitch, a seven-pin trailer light socket and a pigtail to ease the installation of an aftermarket electric trailer brake controller. The front-drive Ridgeline has a slightly lower payload of 1,465 pounds, but that still bests any V6 Tacoma. At 3,500 pounds the two-wheel-drive model tows a little less and comes prepped for a seven-pin hookup.
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline's low center of gravity, wide stance and carlike independent suspension delivers sure and confident handling and an uncommonly smooth ride that is unmatched in the world of pickups. Wind and engine noise are held to low levels and the door seals shut tight. But the Ridgeline's overall quietness advantage is not the slam-dunk it could be, because traditional trucks do a better job of muffling the hiss of road noise up through the floor.
When you roll onto the throttle, the revised 3.5-liter V6 pulls with authority and never feels like it runs out of breath. Shifts are smooth and well-timed because the responsive six-speed automatic transmission never behaves like a wet blanket on a single-minded quest for fuel efficiency. And when you need to slow down, the brakes on this new Ridgeline feel significantly more linear and capable than the last one we tested.
The advanced all-wheel-drive system is indeed highly capable and makes an easy job of climbing loose surfaces and traversing sandy patches. But the truck's relative lack of underbody clearance and crossover-like nose and tail overhangs mean it isn't the same sort of go-anywhere off-road pickup as a Tacoma. It's great for traversing uneven dirt roads to the campsite so long as your plan includes unloading a bike or hiking from there.
Strip away the want aspect of truck buying and focus on need, and you might just find that the 2017 Honda Ridgeline fills the bill nicely. We expected it to be comfortable and agile, but it's also uniquely capable among midsize pickups when it comes to hauling. Others tow a bit more and handle off-road terrain better, but how much of that do you really need?