The Honda Ridgeline is unlike any other truck available in North America today. How so? Well, none of its rivals are built on a car-based unibody structure and not a single competitor features an independent rear suspension.
NEW FOR 2021: Updated as part of a mid-cycle refresh the 2021 Honda Ridgeline gets a rugged new look plus a 20mm wider track. It’s all new bodywork ahead of the front a-pillars, as well as new wheels and an available HPD Package that adds a different grille, off-road styled black fender flares, some stylish bronze-colored wheels and HPD graphics. There are no changes to the engine, but the optional 9-speed automatic is now standard on all trim levels. Inside there’s an improved Display Audio system (similar to the one on the Pilot and Passport) with more modern graphics, easier to use icons and (hooray!) an actual volume knob!
Clearly, Honda has taken a different approach with its pickup. Rather than shooting for the moon and delivering segment-leading capability, they engineered a truck that’s as easy to live with as an Accord sedan. The Honda Ridgeline may not offer best-in-class towing or hauling figures, but it’s still solidly capable and far more comfortable and refined than any of its main rivals.
This truck is tailormade for lifestyle customers, people that don’t swing a hammer or operate construction equipment to earn a living. Instead, it’s aimed at weekend warriors, folks that enjoy camping or anyone in need of an open-air bed for hauling messy items. The Ridgeline will happily tow a small boat or some jet skis, haul a heap of bagged mulch and is more than willing to be loaded up with mountain bikes or kayaks.
Redesigned in model-year 2017, the second-generation Honda Ridgeline is more rugged and feature-laden than ever before. It also looks a lot less like the first-generation refrigerator-styled model. For 2021 the Ridgeline gets a long list of updates to increase it’s rugged appeal, including an entirely new front end design with a more aggressive grille, a new hood with a “power bulge” and boxy flared fenders. There’s even a big skid plate visible up front to solidify the off-road focus of this updated machine.
The Honda Ridgeline was designed and developed in America. Styling was handled by the company’s studio in Los Angeles, California, while engineering and development was carried out in Ohio. Further wrapping itself in the flag, Ridgelines are assembled in Lincoln, Alabama.
Pros/ Honda reliability and residual value, All the truck most people need, Car-like driving dynamics, Versatile in-bed trunk, Comfortable interior
Cons/ Not as capable as other midsize pickups, Fuel Economy should be better, Shallow bed, Isn’t a “real” truck
Bottom Line/ The Honda Ridgeline is more of a "lifestyle truck," perfect for people who need an open bed and more utility but want something easier to live with than a half-ton pickup.
Table of contents
Honda Ridgeline Specs
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Torque: 262 pound-feet
Drivetrain: Front- or all-wheel drive
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Seating Capacity: 5
Bed Capacity: 33.9 cubic feet (960 liters)
In-Bed Trunk Capacity: 7.3 cubic feet (207 liters)
FWD Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds (1,589 kilograms)
AWD Towing Capacity: 5,000 pounds (2,268 kilograms)
FWD Max Payload: 1,465 pounds (665 kilograms)*
AWD Max Payload: 1,580 pounds (717 kilograms)*
*Varies based on trim. Maximum figures shown.
Honda Ridgeline Fuel Economy
Thanks to its car-based unibody underpinnings, the Honda Ridgeline is reasonably fuel efficient. Front-drive models sticker at 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 26 on the highway, figures that result in a combined rating of 22 mpg. Versions equipped with all-wheel drive are rated at one less mile per gallon on each driving cycle, a modest penalty. All Ridgelines are willing and able to run on regular-grade gasoline, saving money at the pump.
Those figures compare nicely to, for instance, the Ford Ranger. In rear-wheel-drive flavor, they’re rated at 21 mpg city, 26 highway and 23 combined. The addition of four-corner traction degrades those figures to 20, 24 and 22, respectively.
In Canada, the Ridgeline is only offered with all-wheel drive, which makes sense given the country’s notoriously frigid winters. Accordingly, it’s rated at 12.8 L/100 km in city driving, 9.5 on the highway and 11.3 combined.
About the only midsize pickup with an appreciable fuel economy edge over the Ridgeline a rear-drive, diesel-powered Chevrolet Colorado. So equipped, they’re rated at 20 mpg city and 30 highway. Combined, the EPA says these trucks should return 23 miles to a gallon of diesel, though in real-world use they’re almost guaranteed to do even better than that, likely a lot better.
Honda Ridgeline Safety Rating
Like essentially every other modern Honda, the Ridgeline is an exceedingly safe vehicle. This pickup earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the second-best rating possible. The watchdog organization rated this truck “Good” in nearly every crash category it tests, driver’s side small overlap, the moderate overlap front, side and roof strength plus head restraints and seats. This is the best score handed out by IIHS. The Ridgeline also offers superior front crash-prevention technology when equipped with optional features and its headlights were scored “Good.” There were only two small knocks against this pickup. It earned “Acceptable” ratings in the small-overlap passenger-side test and for child-seat anchor ease-of-use. This is the second-best score available.
Honda Ridgeline Features
Every Honda Ridgeline is powered by the same engine, a smooth-running and snarly sounding 3.5-liter V6. This VTEC-equipped six-shooter delivers a competent 280 horsepower. Torque peaks at 262 pound-feet, which gets routed to either the front or all four wheels via a standard six-speed automatic transmission.
This drivetrain combination gives the Ridgeline more-than-adequate scoot in nearly every driving situation, the gearbox swapping ratios smoothly to keep that engine in the right part of its powerband. A tip of the hat to sporty Hondas of years gone by, when that V6 hits about 5,000 rpm it switches over to more aggressive camshaft profiles for a thrilling, and ear-pleasing sprint to redline, which is a fairly lofty 6,800 rpm.
As for standard equipment, the Ridgeline comes with plenty. Things like active noise cancellation, hill-start assist, an eco driving mode, cruise control and 18-inch wheels are included across the board, ditto for a tire-pressure monitoring system and stability control. All but the basest RT trim come with fog lights.
Higher-end versions of this family-friendly pickup, including RTL-E and Black Edition models, gain Honda Sensing, the automaker’s suite of advanced driver-assistance technology. This package includes highly desirable amenities like collision-mitigation braking, forward collision warning, and road-departure mitigation. Adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are also bundled. These top-shelf Ridgelines also feature advanced LED headlamps; lesser versions make do with halogens.
Two of the Ridgeline’s most innovative features are found in its cargo box, which clocks in at just shy of 34 cubic feet (960 liters). Ingeniously, under the bed’s floor is a hidden trunk, complete with a hinged lid. This is in part enabled by its independent rear suspension. It provides an additional 7.3 cubic feet (207 liters) of storage capacity. This innovation is super useful, providing safe and weather-tight storage, though it’s less valuable if you’ve piled a load of additional cargo on top of the door, which prevents you from opening it.
Another ingenious feature of the Ridgeline is its tailgate. Not only does it drop down like a conventional tailgate, but it can also swing to the side. This provides numerous benefits. When lowered in the normal position, you can carry longer cargo, have a nice place to sit or even use it to help climb into the bed. But, with the gate swung to the side, it’s much easier to reach cargo stored in the bed. This can also make loading bulky or heavy items much easier.
The Ridgeline’s bed features an array of tie-down cleats. Unexpectedly rugged, each one is rated to handle up to 350 pounds (159 kilograms). This truck’s fuel tank measures 19.5 gallons (74 liters), providing a theoretical maximum driving range of more than 500 miles (805 kilometers).
Here are some examples of the Honda Ridgeline’s different rear seat configurations.
Honda Ridgeline Pricing
An entry-level Ridgeline RT with front-wheel drive and no extras will set you back around $33,900, plus $1,045 in delivery fees. Step a few rungs up the ladder and grab an RTL AWD model with all-wheel drive and you’ll be spending a few bucks shy of $40,000. Go all in on a range-topping Black Edition (they come standard with all-wheel drive) and plan on shelling out about $43,520.
Honda Ridgeline Competitors
With its car-based underpinnings, the Honda Ridgeline is kind of in a class all its own. No other midsize truck in the U.S. is built on a unibody architecture (all other trucks sold here are body-on-frame). Likewise, none of its competitors feature an independent rear suspension, which helps this Honda drive like an Accord on stilts instead of an apple crate on wheels. Anyone considering the Ridgeline should also look at trucks like the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma, though all these rivals feature body-on-frame construction and live rear axles. The Nissan Frontier is another potential competitor, though it’s extremely old at this point and decidedly crude. It’s a similar story with the newly released Jeep Gladiator, which is, arguably, the Ridgeline’s polar opposite, being focused on off-roading capability rather than on-street civility.
Future Honda Ridgeline Plans
The Honda Ridgeline was last redesigned for model-year 2017 when it gained a dramatically nicer interior, more rugged looks and plenty of other enhancements. Given that this car-based pickup is still quite fresh, it’s unlikely it will be overhauled or significantly updated in the near-term. Additionally, Honda sold fewer than 31,000 of them in the U.S. last year, meaning this product is not one of their top performers, further reducing the likelihood it will be on the receiving end of significant investments. That being said, the Japanese automaker delivered more than 106,000 Odyssey minivans and just shy of 160,000 Pilot SUVs in 2018, vehicles that the Ridgeline shares significant componentry with. If the company decides to update these more-popular products the Ridgeline could benefit as well, but this is purely speculation.
Honda Ridgeline Review
By Stephen Elmer
There’s no denying it; trucks are getting softer, but that’s not such a bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love old pickup trucks, but those who are seriously yearning for the days of grandad’s three-on-the-tree Chevy are blinded by nostalgia, as today’s crop of pickup trucks are more comfortable and capable than ever before. In fact, from behind the wheel, modern trucks are beginning to feel more like large crossovers, and none more so than the Honda Ridgeline.
Honda’s small pickup made a return to the market in 2016 after taking a short hiatus, with many of the essentials staying the same as the previous generation truck. The Ridgeline continues to be a unibody vehicle riding on a fully independent suspension, packing a bed that features a trunk and dual-hinged tailgate.
It Looks Like a Real Truck
But Honda knew that its small truck needed a big makeover, and the first big change was immediately apparent; the Ridgeline now looks more like a traditional pickup. Though the original truck has its oddball charm, the large buttresses connecting the cab and box give it a pseudo-truck appearance. Honda even says that most of the Ridgeline’s conquest buyers don’t come from other pickups — they come from crossovers and SUVs, driving home the point that not many folks were cross shopping the Ridgeline with trucks like the Toyota Tacoma.
Honda is hoping the new classic truck style will change that perception. A boost in power doesn’t hurt either.
The revised i-VTEC 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection now puts out 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, with peak hp hitting at 6,000 rpm while all that torque is available at 4,700 rpm. Fuel economy has been improved thanks to the engine upgrade, netting an EPA rating of 21 mpg with four-wheel drive. In our two days spent with the truck, we managed a 22 mpg rating over 150 miles of mixed driving.
That puts Honda’s pickup at the top of the midsize segment when it comes to gasoline-powered pickups, with only the Chevy Colorado diesel offering better mileage. Best of all, the Ridgeline doesn’t pay for its good fuel economy with a lack of power. It feels plenty fast at full throttle, with Honda claiming the fastest zero-to-60-mph time in the segment.
Doesn’t Drive Like a Truck
One other area is clearly dominated by the Ridgeline in the midsize segment: handling. Thanks in large part to a new torque vectoring system that can re-route power to each individual wheel depending on the situation, the Ridgeline rotates well through corners, and even jumping on the throttle mid-corner on a dirt road won’t upset the back end. The fully independent suspension also plays a large part in this, taking away some of the stiff and choppy ride associated with leaf springs and a solid rear axle. Now, this does take some of the fun, tail-happy pickup truck nature away from the Ridgeline, but it adds confidence and an absolute sense that the truck is under control at all times.
A responsive and communicative steering rack also does wonders, allowing the truck to be both confident and comfortable while cruising down a rutted dirt road or interstate. Interior noise is well muted, though no better than the Chevy Colorado or GMC Canyon, which are both known to be quiet trucks.
New technology also helps to make the Ridgeline safer. Honda Sensing is now available on the truck, bringing along adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, and a blind spot monitor. Out of all those systems, it is the lane keep assist that makes itself known most often and can be a little intrusive when driving on the highway. It works to keep your vehicle in the center of the lane, which is ideal, but even the slightest amount of drifting, the truck pulls against your hands rather hard to right itself, feeling unnatural.
An all-new interior in the Ridgeline offers style and substance, with clear layout and operation along with good looks from piano black accents and tan leather on some models. The frustrating lack of a volume knob aside, Honda’s infotainment system worked well, offering tons of connectivity options with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and its own set of built-in functions including great Garmin navigation.
So it drives better than its competition, but how does the Ridgeline handle heavy labor? First, Honda made some changes in the bed to help with hauling, the most important of which is a new 1,584-lb payload rating. An extra four inches of bed length have been added, bringing total length to 5′ 4″, fully usable for an ATV or dirtbike to fit in the back. Eight tie-down points also come standard, set up in convenient locations in the corners of the bed both high and low.
The in-floor trunk is still brilliant, but it does come with some downsides. The bed of the Ridgeline is quite shallow compared to its competitors thanks in part to the lid of the trunk, which also makes the load-in height of the Ridgeline’s bed even higher. Opening the tailgate to the side does help you to get nice and close to the rear of the bed, but it’s still a high lift to get your cargo into the rear of the small truck.
Two more bed innovations have arrived for the Ridgeline, an in-bed audio system, and a 400-watt plug in the bed. You can now crank your tunes through six exciters that turn the bed walls into speakers, offering a great tailgating option or an easy way to bring music to the worksite. As for the plug, it’s excellent to have it in the bed, but it only offers two prongs. While many 400w devices don’t need that third prong, it still seems like an oversight on Honda’s part.
Towing is also in the Ridgline’s skillset, with the 5,000-lb maximum tow rating remaining for the truck. Tooling around Texas hill country with a 4,000-lb load of Honda ATVs, the dynamics of the Ridgeline were not upset by the load, with the truck keeping its planted nature intact. Even with the extra weight pushing from the rear, corners were not enough to ever make it feel like the load was controlling the truck. The only part of the truck that felt strained with the trailer was the engine, as it has to reach high into its rev-range to access the power needed to pull the truck over hills.
Honda doesn’t anticipate a lot of folks buying the Ridgeline specifically for trailering, but still, the lack of a tow/haul mode seems like an oversight. There is also no integrated trailer brake controller, but in this segment, that’s normal, with only the diesel-powered GM trucks getting one.
We also had the chance to take the Ridgeline into the dirt to test the truck’s off-road chops and its new off-road setting, which includes mud, sand and snow. It tailors the truck’s power delivery and gear shifts to better suit the drive for each situation. For example, we drove through a sand pit in sand mode, which starts the truck in second gear and allows it to have a nice smooth take off.
There are two issues we noticed with the rig when it hits the trails, though. First is the simple fact that the articulation from the independent rear suspension will never be as good as a truck with a solid axle. Next, the sound deadening in the floor seemed to be lackluster, as hitting big bumps and potholes brought forth a lot of unwanted suspension noise.
What Does it Cost?
A base Ridgeline will set you back $29,990 (not including delivery), which nets you a front-wheel drive model. That makes this Honda almost $9,000 more expensive than a Chevy Colorado to start, although that Chevy has a four-cylinder and a regular cab, whereas the Ridgeline is only offered as a crew cab with one bed length. Moving to the top-trim model, this Honda pickup will cost $41,920, which is competitive with what other small fully loaded pickups are selling for these days.
The Verdict: Honda Ridgeline Review
Buyers searching for a pickup truck that will offer comfort and predictability from Monday to Friday, but can then haul their family and toys around the weekend, should certainly consider the Honda Ridgeline. The pickup has a lot to offer and is a well-rounded truck.
Check out this video review of the Honda Ridgeline. The video is from 2017, but the truck is still essentially the same thing.
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|Engine /||3.5L V6|
|Horsepower /||280 hp|
|Torque /||262 lb-ft|
|Drivetrain /||Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive|
|Transmission /||9-speed automatic|
|Seating Capacity /||5|
|Bed Capacity /||33.9 cubic feet (960 L)|
|In-Bed Trunk Capacity /||7.3 cubic feet (207 L)|
|FWD Towing Capacity /||3,500 lbs (1,589 kg)|
|AWD Towing Capacity /||5,000 lbs (2,268 kg)|
|FWD Max Payload /||1,465 lbs (665 kg)|
|AWD Max Payload /||1,580 lbs (717 kg)|
Our Final Verdict
The Honda Ridgeline may not offer best-in-class towing or hauling figures, but it’s still solidly capable and far more comfortable and refined than many of its main rivals. While it might not be the best choice for people who need a truck to do arduous, back-breaking tasks every single day, it’s more than up to the task for anyone who needs an open bed and some extra utility for more casual uses.4