We’ve driven pickup trucks that rode harshly and others that rode like luxury sedans; but only two – the Ram 1500 and Honda Ridgeline – were both smooth-riding and agile. The difference between these two trucks and all the rest was their 4-wheel independent suspensions, which enabled them to corner better and ride more smoothly than counterparts with solid live axles in the rear.
Honda isn’t trying to move in on logging camps and construction sites where Ford, Chevrolet and GMC reign. The Ridgeline is a suburban utility vehicle with an open bed to accommodate the occasional load of firewood, furniture, large appliances or mulch. With 7.9 inches of ground clearance and Honda durability, it may surprise some owners with its ability to dive into tough terrain and find its way out. And the unibody truck’s 5,000-pound towing capacity, which may be inadequate for towing large front-end loaders and the like, is fine for medium-sized boats and trailers.
The Ridgeline shares major components with the acclaimed Honda Pilot, a medium-sized sport-utility vehicle, and many of the Pilot’s good qualities found their way into the Ridgeline. Either is a good choice, depending on the tasks awaiting it.
Our test truck, a Ridgeline RTL-E with all-wheel drive, had a sticker price of $42,270. The Ridgeline is a crew cab that seats five in front of a 63.6-inch bed. (Unlike General Motors, Honda does not offer long-bed models.) The base model, the RT, is equipped with the same 280-horsepower engine and 6-speed automatic transmission as our test truck, but has front-wheel rather than all-wheel drive. Its sticker price is $29,475, plus $940 destination charge.
Nissan, Toyota and GM price their baseline crew-cab models lower than Honda does, and all three offer longer beds. For example, a Toyota Tacoma SR5 crew cab with rear-wheel drive starts at $26,205, plus $885 destination charge. Honda maintains a distinct edge over these models when it comes to road manners and clever features – notably, the 8.5-cubic-foot cargo compartment under the deck, rugged composite bed, and a tailgate that can be lowered or swung open from the left. Best of all, the bed is wide enough to accept a stack of 4-foot-wide panels, such as plywood or drywall, laid flat.
Our test truck had no options but plenty of standard features to justify is $42,270 price: leather upholstery; heated steering wheel and front seats; satellite radio; Pandora internet radio interface; Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and audio; CarPlay/Android auto integration; tri-zone automatic climate control; power moonroof; blind-spot warning system with cross-traffic alert; remote start; Collision Mitigation Braking System; adaptive cruise control; and trailer hitch.
We found the Ridgeline unexpectedly quiet, smooth-riding and nimble in urban driving. The engine-transmission combination delivered ample power and excellent fuel economy, in the 25-mpg range.
The Ridgeline – out of production between the 2014 and 2016 model years – is rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 280 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Ground clearance: 7.9 in.
Weight: 4,515 lb.
Suspension: 4-wheel independent
Wheels: 18×8-in. alloy
Tires: P245/60R18 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Maximum payload: 1,499 lb.
Towing capacity: 5,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gal.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline