There's an old saying about having the right tool for the right job. This is especially true in the pickup truck world. Trouble is, many pickup buyers opt for traditional full-size trucks even though they rarely - if ever - need the hard-core capabilities such trucks provide.
Enter the Honda Ridgeline, a midsize four-door (aka crew-cab) pickup that may well be a better fit for nontraditional truck buyers. Besides its reduced bulk, which makes for more carlike handling and fuel economy, the Ridgeline sports a number of clever features that make it a more sensible choice for many pickup shoppers.
Current Honda Ridgeline
The current Honda Ridgeline is offered in a whopping seven trim levels: RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E and the Black Edition.
To put this dizzying array of models in perspective, remember that all Ridgelines come with the same 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission. There's also a choice of either front- or all-wheel drive. The main differences between them come down to standard equipment and, in some cases, styling details.
All Ridgelines are well equipped, even the entry-level RT, which comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights, a towing hitch, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, push-button starting and power door locks that also secure the tailgate. Between the gauges is a 4.2-inch information screen, while a center-mounted 5-inch display shows the image from the standard multiangle rearview camera. Bluetooth connectivity and a seven-speaker sound system that includes a USB port round out the standard features.
Opting for the RTS gains you foglights, body-color door and tailgate handles, keyless entry, remote start, tri-zone automatic climate control and a universal garage door opener. Standard features on the Sport model mirror the RTS, but add distinctive gray alloy wheels, black outside trim and red lighting in the interior footwells.
The RTL brings leather upholstery, heated front seats with a center armrest and an eight-way power driver seat and four-way power-adjustable passenger seat. Spring for all-wheel drive and you also get a sound-deadening acoustic windshield and heated outside mirrors.
The RTL-T is similarly equipped, but does add LED daytime running lights that give it a stand-out appearance on the road. Inside is an 8-inch touchscreen audio system that includes satellite radio, HD radio, three more USB ports, and Apple CarPlay and Android Audio smartphone integration plus navigation. Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot camera system is also standard.
For advanced safety features you'll want the RTL-E, which bundles adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automated emergency braking, lane departure warning and intervention, blind-spot monitoring/rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. Other upgrades include LED headlights, a sunroof, a power-sliding rear window, a front passenger armrest, memory settings for the driver seat, a heated steering wheel, and LED cargo lights and a household-style AC power outlet in the bed. It also has an upgraded audio system with a unique truck-bed speaker setup.
Last but not least is the stylish Black Edition that combines the RTL-E's equipment list with black paint, wheels, trim, headliner and leather seats with red accents.
As with the original, the current Ridgeline's claim to fame is the way its V6, independent suspension and unibody construction combine to deliver carlike performance, ride and handling. Likewise, the interior has the comfort, convenience and safety features more akin to its Honda Pilot SUV cousin than a traditional truck. In fact, it can be argued that a wide array of innovative features — including a large in-bed "trunk"and a two-way tailgate that folds down or swings out to the side — actually give Honda's truck a distinct edge when it comes to day-in, day-out utility.
Other noteworthy qualities include a bed made out of tough composite materials that's wide enough for 4-by-8 sheets of plywood with the tailgate down. Inside, rear seats feature a generous amount of storage underneath and bottom cushions that flip up to reveal a large flat load floor for items you don't want to leave lying about loose in the bed. The large lockable in-bed trunk offers still more storage space. The bed also presents another unexpected plus, namely the highest payload capacity in the midsize pickup segment.
The Ridgeline does have a couple of downsides, including relatively modest ground clearance and lack of low-range gearing that puts even all-wheel-drive models at a competitive disadvantage when off-road compared to traditional four-wheel-drive pickups. Towing capacity also falls short of its full-size truck rivals, though the all-wheel-drive model's 5,000-pound rating (that number drops to 3,500 pounds in front-wheel-drive models) should be sufficient for most trailering chores.
In reviews, we found the Ridgeline delivers remarkable levels of sophistication, a smooth ride quality and confident handling. It also has excellent interior comfort compared to any of its midsize or full-size competition. It is, simply put, a pickup every nontraditional truck buyer ought to consider.
Used Honda Ridgeline Models
The current second-generation Honda Ridgeline (2016-present) debuted in 2016 after a one-year hiatus. While the basic formula remained unchanged from the original, this new version received several significant upgrades worth mentioning.
For starters, there's the more powerful and significantly more fuel-efficient V6 that now comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and a choice of all-wheel drive or a new front-wheel-drive option. Out back, the bed is now both wider and longer overall and the lockable in-bed trunk is now larger to better accommodate bulky items like a large cooler or decent-size suitcases. These upgrades take what was an innovative pickup in its own right and make it that much better.
The first-generation Honda Ridgeline (2006-2014) was introduced for the '06 model year in a single four-door body style. The pickup's design featured carlike unibody construction. There were originally three trim levels: RT, RTS and RTL. The following year the chrome-accented RTX made its debut. There were only minor features updates until '09, when the RTX trim was dropped and the styling was updated inside and out.
Not much changed until 2012, when a new grille design and a new Sport trim level debuted, the latter slotted between the RT and RTS trims. That year also saw minor aerodynamic improvements and engine tweaks that boosted highway mileage by a single mpg. The following year brought a new top-of-the-line RTL model and a standard rearview camera for all trim levels. For 2014, Honda added a new top trim level known as the Ridgeline SE.
Standard feature highlights for the base RT included a power-sliding rear window, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split lift-up rear seat, a rearview camera, full power accessories, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player. Moving up through the other trims added alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver seat, upgraded audio systems, heated seats, leather upholstery and a navigation system with voice recognition and Bluetooth phone connectivity.
All first-gen Ridgelines included smart details such as the hidden trunk in the cargo bed that doubled as an ice chest, a dent-proof bedliner and that two-way tailgate. All-wheel drive, a four-wheel independent suspension (for a smoother ride and more agile handling) and a trailer hitch with a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds were all standard.
In all but the most taxing situations, performance was respectable, and on the open highway the Honda Ridgeline was an effortless and quiet cruiser. As such, it is an ideal road trip vehicle, especially when said trip involves carrying bulky items.
That easy-going demeanor, along with comfortable seats, plentiful storage, sound ergonomics and a relatively manageable size made the Honda Ridgeline a viable option as the sole family vehicle. While the cabin provides sedanlike comfort, the cargo bed effortlessly transports things such as camping gear or lawn supplies.
Criticisms include the Ridgeline's aversion to off-road adventures, where its lack of a low-range gear and a tendency to bottom out didn't help when tackling more rugged trails. Fuel economy was also disappointing for a V6-powered pickup.
If these shortcomings are important to you, then you'll want to consider a pickup with true truck DNA. But if all you really need is the passenger space of an SUV and the utility of a pickup truck, the Ridgeline is an excellent choice.