Towing 5,000 pounds isn’t what it used to be. The weight of steel and wood hasn’t changed but the towing capabilities and capacities of the vehicles responsible for moving them sure have.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Power: 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 21 mpg combined
CAN Fuel Economy: 12.8 l/100km city, 9.5 l/100km highway, 11.3 l/100km combined
US Price: Starts at $30,375 (destination included)
CAN Price: Starts at $36,590 (destination included)
We have half-ton trucks that can pull over 12,000-pounds, heavy-duty pickups that can move over 30,000 pounds, and a new crop of midsize trucks that are as capable as last decade’s half-tons. For most hauling needs, today’s midsize pickup is more than enough, and with Honda’s redesigned 2017 Ridgeline, you get a unique proposition in the segment.
Honda rates the Ridgeline to tow 5,000 pounds, falling short of the Toyota Tacoma’s 6,800-pound max rating and the Chevy Colorado’s max rating of 7,700 pounds, though in the payload department, the Ridgeline stacks up well. It is the only midsize pickup to use a multi-link independent rear suspension, rather than a leaf spring setup, and it is rated for a maximum 1,584 pounds, four pounds more than what the Chevy Colorado can handle.
Towing and Hauling
Providing motivation for the Ridgeline is a transversely-mounted 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels as standard, while all-wheel drive can be had for $1,800 (Canadian Ridgelines get all-wheel drive as standard equipment). GM manages to squeeze 305 hp and 269 lb-ft from its 3.6-liter V6, while Toyota gets slightly less hp and a little more torque from its 3.5-liter.
Spec for spec, Honda’s small pickup is about on par with the competition on most fronts, though it is the tow rating that falls short. Even if you’re not pulling the limit every time you tow, having that extra capacity means that you’re not stressing your truck as much when you pull.
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So can the Ridgeline actually pull at its 5,000-pound limit with confidence? Seeing as towing confidence is never really a yes or no answer, let’s explore. We hitched up a large four-place snowmobile trailer that weighs in just shy of 5,000 pounds to dig deep into the truck’s capability and see how the little Honda handled being truly stressed.
Easily the best part of the towing experience with the Ridgeline is the way the suspension soaks up all the weight with little issue. Despite the rear end squatting, the front wheels didn’t feel light and the nose wasn’t pointing straight up into the air. Side-to-side movement felt controlled, and the even the trailer’s weight couldn’t push the truck around.
This translates into the cabin with nice, planted steering feel and little to no torque steer thanks in part to the all-wheel drive.
If the towing experience ended there, the Ridgeline would leave with a stellar report card. Unfortunately there are other parts of the package that are important as well, namely the brakes and the engine.
Not Quite Enough Engine
The V6 needs to be constantly revved to keep it in the power band, and even at full tilt, it felt small with the big trailer behind it. Part of the problem is the lack of a proper tow/haul mode. Honda offers a ‘D4’ button on the gear shift, which will lock out the top gear and also slightly adjust the shift points, but you cannot manually choose which gear you’d like your truck to be in. For engine braking there is also an ‘L’ (low) gear which keep the truck first through third only and tries to stay in the lowest gear possible. This setting does help when descending, but it cannot replace the ability to shift your own gears, an especially important feature when towing.
However, the biggest weak point in our test was the brakes, but there is a caveat here. Our trailer was equipped with trailer brakes, but the Ridgeline does not include an integrated brake controller.
An aftermarket brake controller would be the answer for anyone towing big weight with the truck and would go a long way to making towing safer. Because without trailer brakes, which is how we tested it, this rig takes some serious time to stop.
If you’re towing this kind of weight, a trailer brake controller is absolutely essential, and it’s actually the law in many states and Canadian provinces.
So what’s the takeaway from all of that? If you plan to tow 5,000 pounds every day the Ridgeline will do it, but you’re better off getting a half-ton or a more capable midsize pickup to keep things comfortable. I would say the comfortable max limit for the Ridgeline is around 3,500 pounds. Any more, and this little Honda starts to feel undersized.
So it may not be the heavy lifter among its peers, but there is one aspect of the Ridgeline that is second to none: unladen driving dynamics. Thanks to a combination of factors including its unibody construction and independent suspension, the Ridgeline drives like a big Honda Accord on the road, offering absolutely none of the stiff, choppy ride most body-on-frame trucks have.
Those shopping for a Ridgeline will have to spend at least $30,375 for a basic front-wheel drive Ridgeline, while the top-trim all-wheel drive Black Edition tops out at $43,770. The Ridgeline is only offered as a crew cab with a single bed length, but even when you look at comparable trucks from Toyota and Chevy, the Honda is at least a few thousand dollars more expensive.
In Canada, the Ridgeline starts at $36,590, which includes all-wheel drive as standard. At the top end, customers will spend $48,590 for the Black Edition, once again starting at more than the competition and ending with a higher price tag, too.
The Verdict: 2017 Honda Ridgeline Towing Review
The Honda Ridgeline is a quandary to truck buyers because it offers the ride and handling of a car, with some pickup truck capability. If you’re willing to live in the middle between those things, where the Ridgeline spends most of its time as a car and is occasionally needed to move a very heavy load, the truck will work wonders. But buying the Ridgeline in anticipation of a life filled with big trailers and heavy loads, you’ll wish you bought a bigger truck.