It’s always been a little amusing that Honda refers to models like the CR-V and Pilot as their “light trucks” even though they share parts with the Civic and Accord, but nothing with what people usually consider to be trucks.
Enter the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, which debuted yesterday at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The new Ridgeline is the latest attempt from the automaker to pretend they really do make something to please truck-loving Americans. Honda has offered a Ridgeline since 2006, but this second-generation is clearly a more serious attempt to lure buyers away from midsize trucks like the Chevy Colorado and Toyota Tacoma.
That said, the Ridgeline is supposed to be better suited for the way most people actually use trucks – on the road and tailgating at the game.
Honda hopes you also like their Pilot crossover, because the Ridgeline takes many pieces from that large people shuttle. These include the 3.5-liter V6 (which makes 280 horsepower in the Pilot) and six-speed automatic, as well as many of the interior pieces and the torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system. But for the first time, there will also be a front-wheel drive Ridgeline for better fuel economy.
While rear-seat room is just as stingy for adults as it is in a Colorado or Tacoma, there’s hidden practicality to the Ridgeline’s design. The seats fold up and reveal a flat floor in the back of the cab, which is similar to the Honda Fit’s layout. And in the deeper tailgate, there’s a lockable storage well under the bed. You can also open the tailgate two different ways, aiding in loading and unloading cargo.
On paper, the Ridgeline makes a lot of sense. There’s more lockable and hidden storage than in most midsize pickups. With the promise of nearly 1,600 pounds of payload capacity, it’s also competitive in its hauling capabilities. Being based on a Pilot means the Ridgeline will be much easier to drive in tight spaces than a traditional pickup, too.
But Honda definitely missed an opportunity with the styling of the new Ridgeline. The old one may have been derided for looking odd, but this one is just bland. And when the competition has rugged off-road looks, the Honda fails to stand out.
Still, the Ridgeline could find some fans who favor sensible features over a tough image when it goes on sale this spring.