Honda introduced its Ridgeline sport utility truck in 2005 as a 2006 model and it was something of a sensation at the time, being the only pickup class vehicle Honda had ever offered in North America. The first generation truck has had a very lengthy lifespan, no bad thing for people who like their new vehicle to “stay current” for a few years and not go out of date.
Honda never set out to steal sales from well-entrenched pickup manufacturers and the main aim was to offer Honda buyers something from every sales niche in the industry. It’s also worth mentioning that Honda has never had a V-8 engine, something buyers of trucks for work or towing often demand. Honda did find a slot in the market for the Ridgeline and right through its long life, it’s been a steady seller.
The Honda Ridgeline uses unibody construction, rather than the body-on-frame method used by top domestic manufacturers and two Japanese nameplate truck builders. Truck purists scoff at this kind of body construction, but when the truck first appeared, I tried one in some very demanding country and it surprised me, being able to climb very steep grades over loose rocks with ease and, it’s worth adding, in considerable comfort. One of the more credible US car magazines tested the Ridgeline against mid-size pickups of the day at the time and it came out on top. The Ridgeline was always a comfortable and reasonably powerful SUV with the convenience of a pickup box.
The 2017 Ridgeline follows Honda tradition with unibody construction but this time around, considerably beefed-up, but it’s closer to conventional pickup design than the first model. The earlier truck had novel slanted sides to the box which made it easy to spot on the road, but the new Ridgeline takes a more conventional path, which might appeal to buyers of larger pickups who’d like something lighter and more comfortable inside but want it to look like market rivals. The new truck may look more conventional but there are lots of standout features, not the least of which is a huge lidded compartment in the bed of the truck. This is wide and deep enough to accommodate even large suitcases, something I tested by taking a group of people to the airport for a long trip. It’s lockable of course and very easy to use. The box itself is impressively large (it’ll take a full sheet of drywall, flat), without being a match for a big Ram or anything like that. There’s an optional bed expander, which provides extra cargo space
The truck is powered by a 3.5-litre V-6 producing 280 horsepower, which seemed to me to be more than adequate. Canadian Ridgelines are all-wheel drive, though a 2WD version is offered in the US. A towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. is claimed by Honda. Transmission is a 6-speed automatic. As before, the Ridgeline comes in one size and there are no extended wheelbase or two-seater cab variants. Track testing has proved the new Ridgeline very quick indeed for a truck with zero to 100 km/h times inside the seven-second mark.
The roomy cab is just great and much like the one you’d find in an upscale Pilot SUV. It’s beautifully executed in true Honda fashion and more or less a joy to operate in. It also has lots of useful stowage areas and best of all, is very easy to climb in and out of. This impressed me a lot, having reached an age when I no longer take flying leaps into the driver’s seat, James Bond style. It would be a great buy for older drivers or people with back problems who aren’t too happy hauling themselves up into a full-size truck. My Black Edition test truck looked very sharp with a gleaming black paint job and wheels to match.
This truck could be a big hit for Honda when people discover what it offers. My advice to buyers of traditional trucks is to take a look at a Ridgeline before opting for one of the big truck players in the auto industry. They might get a surprise that will change their attitude towards trucks for good.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Four-door pickup truck
ENGINE: 3.5-litre V-6
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
TOWING CAPACITY: 5000 lbs.
FUEL ECONOMY: Around 12-litres/100 km combined during test
PRICE: $35,590 base MSRP