After dabbling with some small pickups over the years, Honda finally launched their first proper pickup truck in the American market back in 2005. However, the Ridgeline had some distinct differences from the usual pickup trucks, the most notable being its unibody platform. The Honda Ridgeline was specifically developed for the American market, aiming at customers looking for a more practical option than a typical sedan or SUV without a lot of the shortcomings associated with pickup trucks. The first generation was partly based on the Acura MDX SUV, giving it excellent dynamics and performance by pickup truck standards. Over the years, Honda has continually improved the Ridgeline with clever storage solutions and a host of the latest technologies.
What’s different with the latest Ridgeline?
The Ridgeline received a noticeable overhaul with the 2021 facelift, including a new rugged design with some useful features like a multifunction tailgate and an in-bed trunk. The much-needed rugged design elements like the chunky body cladding certainly improve the appeal of the Ridgeline, making it look a lot more rugged among competitors. There are no updates to the powertrain, but it continues to get all-wheel-drive as standard. With the new updates, the latest Ridgeline looks more distinctive than the Honda Pilot, which coincidentally shares the same platform. Another notable difference that makes itself apparent the moment you start driving is the new 9-speed automatic gearbox. Drive modes are also included, making the Ridgeline more versatile.
What powers the Ridgeline?
Other than some small differences, all models of the Ridgeline right from the first model back in 2005 receive a 3.5L naturally aspirated V-6 engine as standard, coupled with the new 9-speed automatic transmission in the latest iteration. With 280 hp on tap, the Ridgeline never feels slow even when towing, and the new transmission shifts flawlessly for linear performance. As usual with Honda powerplants, the engine feels smooth throughout the rev range with good throttle response and no turbo lag to get in the way.
The Ridgeline drives like a sedan
While comparing it to a sedan might seem like a stretch, the Ridgeline truly feels agile and dynamic if you drive it back to back with a traditional pick-up truck. This is where most of the advantages of the unibody platform come into play. Even at highway speeds, the Ridgeline stays glued to the road, offering class-leading ride quality that is comparable to a sedan. Despite the tall stance, body roll is minimal even with some hard cornering, and the truck glides through bad patches with ease. One of the reasons for its excellent dynamics other than the chassis is the independent rear suspension setup. Unlike the leaf spring or solid-axle setup that is usually found on pickup trucks of this class, the modern suspension lends the Ridgeline exceptional control even during tough situations.
Speaking of the platform, the second-generation Ridgeline continues to get the same platform as the new Honda Pilot. Dubbed the “global light truck platform”, the chassis features some noticeable upgrades over the previous generation like a 78 lb weight reduction, strengthened C-pillar, and rear sub-frame with 28% more torsional rigidity, and a lot more. Several quality-of-life upgrades are also included like an acoustic front windshield, and active engine mounts. All of these improvements together make the latest Ridgeline the best handling pickup truck period.
Practicality and comfort takes center stage
The aforementioned unibody platform lends the Ridgeline a sublime ride quality that soaks up all the undulations on the road without breaking a sweat. It also liberates a lot more space on the inside with no frame to get in the way, offering adequate space for 5 passengers to travel in comfort. The interiors of the Ridgeline can easily be mistaken for a modern crossover with easy ingress and plush seats. Material and plastic quality is acceptable for a pickup truck of this class while the rear seats are undeniably the most spacious in the segment. Like most of its lineup, Honda has managed to carve out an exceptional amount of space inside the Ridgeline, filled with several storage solutions and creature comforts. If we gloss over the truck bed at the rear, the Ridgeline can easily double up as a normal crossover.
Another advantage of the platform is the inclusion of a 7.3 cubic feet in-bed trunk storage with water-tight seals to keep valuables away from the weather and prying eyes. If you plan on carrying even more stuff securely, the rear bench seats can be folded up in a 60/40 split configuration to reveal plenty of in-cabin storage. According to Honda, owners can even stuff a full-size bicycle inside the cabin.
Technology up the wazoo
After the second generation launched in 2017, Honda has included all the latest technologies you expect in a modern pickup truck like a capable 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with all the latest features, a clever shift-by-wire system, and even an in-bed audio system if you plan on having a party. The system uses actuators to vibrate the cargo bed, essentially turning it into a large speaker to blast your tunes.
Even the base models get in-bed lighting, tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, and a whole lot more.
Moving to the active safety features on offer as part of Honda Sensing, the Ridgeline gets adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and more as standard.
So, what’s the catch?
With so many advantages on offer, there are some noticeable shortcomings with the Honda Ridgeline. For starters, the Ridgeline is only offered in crew-cab body style with a 5.3-foot bed, limiting versatility. The bed storage is also considerably smaller than rivals at just 34 cubic feet.
The unibody platform also limits towing capacity to just 5000 pounds, a noticeable disadvantage compared to rivals with body-on-frame construction. The Ridgeline is also not the most capable when it comes to off-road situations, with capabilities similar to a crossover rather than an SUV.
Overall, the Honda Ridgeline continues to make perfect sense if you want the practicality of a pick-up truck without most of the shortcomings, and it is certainly one of the best options out there if you want a mature and well-rounded pickup truck.