2017 Honda Ridgeline: My Favorite Midsize Truck
by Travis Langness, Automotive Editor
Our long-term 2017 Honda Ridgeline has its fair share of quirks. The touchscreen system drops out from time to time, the lack of a volume knob is irksome, and thanks to a low-hanging front air dam, the truck can't even make it up our RTI (suspension articulation) ramp. It doesn't look very truckish to my eyes either (it's probably the most common complaint about the Ridgeline), and it has a marginal tow rating that most decent crossovers can easily match. But after an 1,800-mile road trip, the Ridgeline has cemented itself as my favorite midsize pickup.
My four-day weekend excursion went from Los Angeles to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to Salt Lake City and back to Los Angeles. I took several main highways but lots of back roads and stopped in places such as Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and Nevada's Salt Flats, taking in all sorts of gorgeous scenery along the way.
The first stop was a dispersed campsite in Arizona. I used the Ridgeline's accessory tent and made camp in Jacob Lake about an hour north of the Grand Canyon. When I arrived on day one, it was pouring rain: lightning, thunder, the whole deal. I thought about sleeping in the back seat of the truck but weather forecasts said things would clear up soon, so I waited it out. Finally, three hours later, the rain stopped, but I had another problem — it was now 11 p.m. and pitch black outside.
The first two times I set up this tent it was in pretty well-lit situations. This time, the sun had gone down two hours before I even parked and there wasn't much I could do about it. I put on my headlamp, left the truck's headlights and cargo lights on, and went to work. Seeing the tent poles' color-coding was difficult and some felt like they just didn't fit in their assigned areas. Eventually, after some grumbling and a few deep breaths, the tent was set up in the back of the truck and I inflated the full-size air mattress inside. The fact that I could avoid sleeping in a tent on the soaking-wet ground revealed itself as a massive advantage over a traditional tent. It's a trade-off in setup difficulty versus comfort that I'd happily make again.
After my brief overnight stint in the Ridgeline's tent, I headed for my second destination (and a hotel room) in Salt Lake City. The first bit of road out of Northern Arizona toward Salt Lake is a beautiful, winding bit of asphalt. Once you reach Interstate Highway 15, the going gets a bit less entertaining but there are still some great views. The Ridgeline was extremely comfortable on both roads and not just by truck standards. It has a quiet cabin and excellent seats, which result in almost zero road-trip fatigue.
Along the way, I got plenty of use out of the Ridgeline's big cabin and the fold-up rear seat. With the seats folded up, there was plenty of room to accommodate my overpacking habits. I used two giant bins to carry around my camping gear and food (way more than I needed), and it was all stored inside the cabin away from curious critters while I was camping. Getting the bins in and out of the back seat was a bit tough, however — the back door does not open nearly far enough for my taste. Here it is, opened to its maximum distance and still pretty tight, even for passengers to pass through.
One of the Ridgeline's other party-trick features is the bucket underneath the bed. I used it for trash storage and washing off my muddy gear, and just a few weeks before, it was my part-time cooler. The bucket has a small drain at the bottom that you can leave open while water runs out and it's weatherproof. This is the kind of feature you don't know you need until you get to use it, then you feel like you can't live without it.
Sunday's drive home was the longest day of the trip. Going from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles normally takes you through Las Vegas, but I wanted to stay away from the Sunday Vegas-to-L.A. crowd. I opted to go around, adding about two hours of driving to my already 10-hour day but theoretically avoiding two hours of congestion. Everything went according to plan.
There were wide-open highways, with hours of curvy back roads and no real traffic to speak of along the extended route. The Ridgeline was legitimately enjoyable in corners with almost none of the body roll you'd experience in a Colorado or Tacoma. Steering response is more than adequate for a pickup, and midcorner stability when you hit a bump is extraordinary. When I finally arrived home, I was reminiscing about a genuinely joyful driving experience rather than complaining about a bumpy ride.
At the pump, I didn't set any records for our long-termer, but mileage was decent. With no regard to light-footing it or taking it easy on the Ridgeline, I averaged 23.6 mpg. That's just shy of the EPA's 25 mpg highway rating. With all of the highway passing, elevation changes and spirited back-road driving I did, that number stuck out as laudable to me. And it's just one of the many things I find impressive about this truck. Sure, I'd probably mess with the look a bit if I owned one (new grille, meaner-looking wheels, maybe a roof rack) but I wouldn't change the way this thing drives.
"That's it," I thought aloud before I collapsed on my couch. "The Ridgeline is my favorite midsize truck." I can deal with the lack of a volume knob, I can handle the occasional infotainment glitch, and I simply don't tow big enough loads to need more than 5,000 pounds of trailer capacity. And if those are the Ridgeline's biggest flaws, they're easily outweighed by the fact that I'm a happy camper after an 1,800-mile drive through the American West.
Travis Langness, automotive editor @ 14,228 miles