The Redesigned 2017 Honda Ridgeline Looks to Compete with the Other Small Trucks

2017 Honda Ridgeline

2017 Honda Ridgeline

2017 Honda Ridgeline Buying Advice

This is the best truck for you if you want the capability of a midsize pickup and the driving dynamics of a midsize sedan. No other pickup blends those seemingly disparate virtues like the fully redesigned, second-generation 2017 Ridgeline. Like the original, launched for model-year 2006, it employs a reinforced unibody design, making it the only pickup of any size sold in America that doesn’t use truck-traditional body-on-frame construction. The new Ridgeline, however, is styled more like a conventional pickup than was the original, and it has more passenger and cargo room, added refinement, and better fuel economy.

To better understand Ridgeline’s uniqueness, it helps to recap Honda’s individualist approach to the pickup. It’s taken the unibody architecture of its Pilot midsize crossover SUV and reinforced it to improve durability and capability. Instead of traditional solid axles, it fits a fully independent suspension for better ride quality and handling. The cargo bed has clever built-in storage bins below the load floor and a dual-action tailgate that can drop down and swing out. The original Ridgeline also boasted those class firsts, but it sold poorly. It was indeed refined, but was saddled with odd, un-truck-like styling. Toyota’s Tacoma outsold it more than 5-1. The ’17 Ridgeline will compete not only with the Tacoma, but with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, re-introduced recently as hot new entries in the revitalized midsize-pickup segment.

Should you buy a 2017 model or wait for the ’18?

If you find the feature set and driving dynamics compelling — and don’t mind buying an all-new product in its first model year — spring for the ’17. Model-year 2018 is very unlikely to bring much change, except maybe some new paint colors — and higher sticker prices. It’ll almost certainly reprise the 2017 model lineup. It consists of seven trim levels: RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E, and Black Edition. As before, the sole configuration is a four-door crew cab with a 5-foot, 4-inch cargo bed, 4 inches longer than the outgoing model’s.

Changes

Styling:

While it doesn’t have the rugged lines of a Tacoma or the tough-but-classy appearance of a GMC Canyon, the 2017 Ridgeline sports a clean design with more traditional truck-like details. It’s light years better than its predecessor, whose blocky look no doubt at least partially contributed to its sluggish sales. The new truck is 3 inches longer in wheelbase (distance between the front and rear axles) and overall length than the truck it replaces.

Looking at it from the front, you could be excused for mistaking the Ridgeline for a CR-V or Pilot, with the large bar on the grille and swept-back headlights. The RTL-T, RTL-E, and Black Edition have LED daytime running lights, and the latter two trims add full LED lighting. Passenger room is surprisingly good for a midsize-class crew cab pickup truck. You won’t mistake the rear seat for that of an Accord, but most average size adults will be comfortable for long trips. Credit a back bench that doesn’t sit as upright as in other trucks. The cargo bed is wide enough to allow plywood or drywall sheets to rest flat, but it’s not quite long enough to accommodate more lengthy pieces. Ridgeline’s clever under-bed storage bin returns, providing a lockable place to hide

Mechanical:

Ridgeline offers only one engine/transmission combination. It’s a 3.5-liter V-6 with 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic. While these specs are in-line with most class rivals, we would like to have seen Honda pair the engine with the 9-speed automatic available in its Pilot midsize crossover SUV.

Even with the 6-speed, this is still a highly refined drivetrain. Acceleration is more than adequate for most uses, though the transmission in one test vehicle exhibited an occasional reluctance to downshift when more power was required. No pickup of any kind matches this one’s ride/handling balance. Think of Ridgeline as a slightly less sporty Accord that can tow up to 5,000 pounds and carry a payload of up to 1,580 pounds.

Features:

The 2017 Ridgeline RT is fairly basic, but it does include things such as Bluetooth connectivity, Honda’s multi-angle rearview camera, and pushbutton engine start. The RTS adds keyless entry, remote engine start, tri-zone automatic climate control, and fog lights. The Sport has unique exterior trim and wheels. The RTL adds leather upholstery with heated power-adjustable front seats, an HD Radio receiver, and satellite radio. The RTL-T gains the company’s HondaWatch blind-spot camera, an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation system, HondaLink infotainment with SMS text messaging, support for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, LED daytime running lights, and additional USB ports.

The RTL-E has a 540-watt, 8-speaker audio system, blind-spot alert, front- and rear-obstacle detection, power sunroof and sliding rear window, driver-seat memory, heated steering wheel, and the Honda Sensing Safety Suite, which includes forward-collision warning, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. The Black Edition is basically an RTL-E with black and trim, unique wheels, and red ambient interior lighting.

Prices

Pricing for the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is as follows and includes Honda’s $900 destination fee: RT $30,375; RTS $32,415; Sport $33,915; RTL $34,680; RTL-T $36,830. Add $1,800 to each of these for AWD. AWD is standard on the RTL-E and Black Edition, which list for $42,270 and $43,770, respectively.

Honda doesn’t offer standalone or packaged factory options. While this allows for streamlined production, it can unfortunately force you into pricier trim levels in order to get desirable safety, technology, and convenience features. At $38,630, the AWD RTL-T is probably the best buy of the lineup. It’s disappointing that the company is only offering its Honda Sensing safety system on the two most expensive models, especially since it’s available even on the base LX version of its Civic compact sedan, which retails for $21,275.

Fuel Ecomomy

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2017 Honda Ridgeline are 19/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 18/25/21 with AWD. Honda recommends regular-grade 87-octane gasoline. Ridgeline’s engine employs Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management, which shuts down three of the cylinders during light workloads in order to conserve fuel.

Release Date

Production of the 2017 Ridgeline started in early May 2016, which means it should start trickling into dealers by the end of June.

What’s next for the Ridgeline?

It remains to be seen how critics and customers respond to the new Ridgeline. With a resurgence in the midsize pickup market, Honda stands a better chance of success than it did with the first-generation model. We wouldn’t expect it to overtake the class-leading Tacoma in terms of sales, but Ridgeline will probably steal more than a few thanks to its improved capability and superior on-road experience. We wouldn’t expect any significant updates to the Ridgeline before model-year 2020.

Competition

Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]