2017 Honda Ridgeline: AutoGuide.com Truck of the Year Contender

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

Pickups are big business in the auto industry and there are plenty of new entries on the scene in 2017. While each of these trucks has its pros and cons, we’re here to tell you which of these redesigns resulted in the best product overall.

To decide which truck is the best new product of the year, AutoGuide.com gathered together five of the most significantly revised pickups to hit the market to evaluate each over three days of testing. Evaluation of these workhorses was done the high desert of California, and among the cacti and creosote bushes, we pushed in each truck with a trailer tow test, desert off-roading, and plenty of empty highway miles.

This year, our contenders are the Ford F-250, Ford F-150 Raptor, Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, Nissan Titan, and Honda Ridgeline. We will release a new video on each contender every day leading up to Friday, Feb. 17, when we will announce our winner. Of course, each truck has its strengths and weaknesses, but we are here to find the truck that is truly special and has risen above its predecessor the furthest.

Here’s the lowdown on our fourth contender, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

The first generation of this car-based pickup was a breath of fresh air in a segment not usually known for ground-breaking innovation. With unique features, exemplary on-road manners and impressive fuel economy, this versatile vehicle does what none of its rivals can.

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Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Output: 280 horsepower, 262 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 18 city, 25 highway, 21 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 12.8 city, 9.5 highway, 11.3 combined
US As-Tested Price: $42,270
CAN Estimated Price: $55,115

Thanks to a unibody architecture and independent rear suspension, the Ridgeline drives like a crossover. Its ride is smooth, steering relatively sharp and interior unexpectedly refined. At freeway speeds and beyond, this Honda’s cabin remains hushed.

It’s also an extremely comfortable vehicle with a spacious back seat. The sightlines are good, there are a ton of storage bins and even the instrumentation is large and legible, but it’s a shame there’s no proper volume knob.

Naturally, some die-hard pickup buyers might decry this Japanese offering for its minivan bones, but with an open bed and trailer hitch, it’s a truck in our book, one that trades outright capability for improved manners and efficiency.

And that’s a compromise more people should make. The Ridgeline can probably do about 75 percent of what 75 percent of drivers need, hauling bagged mulch from the local big-box store, schlepping furniture or loading up some mountain bikes for a weekend ride.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Honda Ridgeline Towing Review

Unfortunately, when the asphalt ends, it’s best to tread lightly. Despite its Intelligent Traction Management System, which allows you to tailor the vehicle’s optional all-wheel-drive system to varying surfaces, from snow and mud to sand, this Honda will at best get you to the trailhead; don’t expect it to climb boulders or traverse knee-deep ditches. Ground clearance is severely limited and there’s no low-range gearing.

Not surprisingly, towing is another sore spot for this light-duty pickup. Rated to drag up to 5,000 pounds, the Ridgeline is nonetheless severely burdened pulling just half that much. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine is smooth and snarly, delivering 280 horsepower, but it lacks the grunt for proper towing, quickly running out of steam. Peak torque measures just 262 lb-ft at a relatively high 4,700 rpm.

At least there’s a resourceful six-speed automatic transmission that makes the most of this engine’s output, shifting smoothly and helping provide exemplary fuel economy. With all-wheel drive, Ridgeline owners can expect to get 18 miles to a gallon of gasoline in urban conditions and 25 on the highway.

The Ridgeline may not work as hard as some of the other pickups in this year’s Truck of the Year test, but its impressive dynamics and overall refinement still make it a winner for many. Innovative features like a hidden trunk, double-hinged tailgate and in-bed speakers for tailgating parties are icing on the cake.

Discuss this story on our Honda Ridgeline Forum

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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