Full 2014 Honda Ridgeline Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Honda Ridgeline is essentially a carryover, but gets a new Special Edition (SE) trim level.
Maybe you remember the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero. Both had the front half of a car and the bed of a small pickup truck. As such, they drove like cars but provided all the pickup most people ever needed. That's not quite what the 2014 Honda Ridgeline does, but it's close. You can almost think of it as more of a modern crossover SUV like Honda's Pilot, but with the bed of a pickup in place of the three-row seat and cargo bay.
Sure, there are plenty of midsize or full-size pickups with cargo beds that are similar in dimensions to the 2014 Honda Ridgeline's 5-foot-long box, but not everybody wants to drive a crew-cab battlewagon all the time. The Ridgeline gives you a much more manageable footprint. And while you still enjoy a high-set seating position and admirable ground clearance, the Ridgeline's fully independent suspension and lighter, car-based structure make it more nimble than most conventional pickups.
Honda keeps the Ridgeline simple with a single four-door body style, one engine and an all-wheel-drive system for all models. The 2014 Ridgeline's cabin is wide and spacious and loaded with versatility for cargo and passengers. Except for the higher driving position, you could be in any number of Honda's cars or crossovers -- if they also had the bed out back, a handy in-floor storage locker and a tailgate that either swings or drops down, traditional-pickup style.
The Ridgeline has some notable drawbacks, though. Its lighter-duty suspension and structure make it more of an urban hauler than a true off-roader. The Ridgeline's V6 engine also falls short in terms of power compared to the V6s and V8s found in midsize or full-size pickups. (Its fuel economy isn't so great, either.) Finally, the Ridgeline hasn't changed much since its 2006 introduction, and the lack of progression is evident on its equipment list, which is missing features that are common in other pickups.
Ultimately, if you need a pickup for true off-road duty, work site use or serious towing, you should stick with similar-sized conventional pickups like the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. Both offer more body styles, true rock-crawling capability and heavier-duty undercarriages. But the Ridgeline, with its all-around versatility, is a reasonable open-bed alternative to a midsize crossover SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Honda Ridgeline is a five-passenger midsize pickup truck offered in a single four-door crew cab body style with five available trim levels: RT, Sport, RTS, RTL and a new top-of-the-line SE (also called Special Edition).
The entry-level RT is equipped with standard features including 17-inch steel wheels, a power-sliding rear window, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split lift-up rear seat (with under-seat storage), a rearview camera (displayed in mirror), full power accessories, cruise control, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player.
To the RT trim the Sport adds 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, foglights, special exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and an auxiliary audio jack.
Alternatively, to the RT's features list the RTS adds 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and an auxiliary audio jack and an upgraded seven-speaker audio system with a six-CD changer.
The RTL adds to the RTS's equipment 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sunroof, leather upholstery, ambient console lighting, heated front seats and side mirrors, a 115-volt AC power outlet and satellite radio.
Finally, the SE trim includes all of the RTL's equipment and tops it off with unique 18-inch wheels, badging and trim, plus a navigation system with voice recognition and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
The navigation system with Bluetooth is optional for the RTL. In all Ridgelines equipped with the navigation system, the standard rearview camera migrates to that screen, eliminating it from the rearview mirror.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Honda Ridgeline offers only a 3.5-liter V6 engine generating 250 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. Power flows through a five-speed automatic transmission and a standard all-wheel-drive system, although in normal driving power is sent almost exclusively to the front wheels. The system can be locked temporarily in all-wheel-drive mode at speeds up to 18 mph. In Edmunds testing, the Ridgeline accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, a little slower than most competing trucks.
EPA estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg combined (15 city/21 highway) -- mediocre considering the Ridgeline V6's modest power and performance. In fact, some full-size traditional pickups with more powerful V6s are more efficient. On the bright side, every Ridgeline is equipped with an integrated trailer hitch and is pre-wired for 7-pin trailer hook-up (though the RT and Sport require further equipment). The Ridgeline's 1,500-pound payload and 5,000-pound towing capacities are less than many V6-powered midsize pickups equipped with tow packages, however.
Every Ridgeline comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags (with rollover sensor) and front-seat active head restraints. A rearview camera is standard across the board.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the Ridgeline received the organization's highest "Good" rating in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength crash tests. Its seats/head restraints also earned a "Good" rating for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
In Edmunds testing, the Ridgeline required 133 feet to stop from 60 mph, a little long for a midsize pickup.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Honda Ridgeline's cabin is wide, as are its seats. Entry into both the front and rear seats is easy -- something we can't always say about the rear seats in conventional midsize pickups. The gauges are large and easy to read, and major and secondary controls are operated by large stalks and knobs suitable for gloved hands. Secondary controls for the audio and climate control systems are simple and functional. One tip-off to the Ridgeline's age is the lack of a USB/iPod interface. Further, Bluetooth phone connectivity is hard to get: You have to choose either the RTL with the navigation system or the SE trim level.
But the Ridgeline's car-type structure lends it a more comfortable and nicely trimmed interior than you'll find on most competing pickups. Handy storage spaces and cupholders abound. The 60/40-split rear seat folds upward to make room for large items that won't fit in the bed's 8.5-cubic-foot lockable stowage area. Said storage area is capable of holding a bag or two of golf clubs, and it has drain plugs to ease clean-up. One downside is you'll likely have to remove anything in here if you need access to the spare tire under the bed floor.
Finally, we like how the Honda Ridgeline's tailgate has two sets of hinges: You can either lower it down (like a typical pickup tailgate), or swing it to the side to allow closer access to the bed.
The 2014 Honda Ridgeline's carlike independent suspension delivers a smooth and quiet ride compared to conventional pickups, and the Ridgeline feels more responsive around turns, too. The 3.5-liter V6 engine's output is sufficient, but the truck's excessive weight, coupled to an automatic transmission with just five gears, translates to disappointing fuel economy for this light-duty truck.