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2017 Honda Ridgeline

First Drive: 2017 Honda Ridgeline Neatly Balances Car And Truck Attributes

With the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, there is once again a pickup truck for those who want something to haul people over mulch – rather than the other way around.

The Honda Ridgeline first went on sale in 2005 with the intent of proving a car-based pickup could provide enough of the versatility of traditional trucks, but with the livability of a minivan or crossover. This second iteration, which is set to be at dealerships in June, goes even further with a more carlike design inside and out. It also offers refinements that make the Ridgeline useful in the situations most midsize pickup buyers find themselves in.

A Unique Cargo Bed

2017 Honda Ridgeline
(CARFAX, Inc.)

The story of the redesigned Ridgeline largely takes place at the back. The cargo bed is slightly larger for 2017 and a comparable length to what’s offered on four-door versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma, which are the Honda’s key rivals. It’s still made from a composite material that won’t rust or scratch, according to Honda. The tailgate remains unconventional, as well, because it opens either down toward you or swings open like a door.

Opening it to the side allows you to access the covered storage under the bed floor, which Honda decided to fill with ice and bottled beverages when they showed it to representatives of the automotive media. If that sounds like the making of a tailgate party, then consider the available truck bed audio system that lets you hear what’s playing through the truck’s audio system – USB and auxiliary inputs are standard, while Spotify and Pandora built-in apps are available on the more expensive models.

2017 Honda Ridgeline Interior

2017 Honda Ridgeline
(CARFAX, Inc.)

Inside, the Ridgeline is also incredibly similar to the inside of a Honda car. The controls are similar in shape and feel to what’s found in the Honda Pilot crossover, which may put off those who expected a truck to feel overtly rugged. The 8-inch touch screen radio that comes on the upper half of the Ridgeline trims lacks volume and tuning knobs, which may frustrate operators wearing gloves. But a tri-zone climate control system, power-sliding rear window and heated front seats are among the niceties that will remind drivers they’re in a relatively posh truck. And families will appreciate the deep center console storage and numerous cubbies in the cabin. Even adults will be fairly comfortable in the rear seats, which are spacious for a midsize truck.

A Refined Driving Experience

2017 Honda Ridgeline
(CARFAX, Inc.)

It’s no surprise driving the Ridgeline is a lot like driving a new Honda Pilot. While various suspension and structural components are toughened up, the Ridgeline uses the same 3.5-liter V6 as in the Pilot, with 280 horsepower, mated only to a six-speed automatic. Power is absolutely sufficient, even when towing (the Ridgeline is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds).

Front-wheel drive models are new for 2017, but Honda officials expect those models to appeal mostly to buyers in sunny states looking for better fuel economy (up to 19/26 mpg city/highway, according to the EPA). All-wheel drive, however, will be equipped on most Ridgelines. It’s a setup based on the one in the Pilot, with preset modes that allow the driver to select the best one for conditions that include sand, snow and mud. The result, along with a torque vectoring program to shuffle power to the wheels best able to handle it, is a car-based truck that holds its own against rivals with truck underpinnings. It’s more than enough to tackle muddy backroads and remote campsites. Unfortunately, there is no hill descent control to make steep declines easier to navigate.

Honda has also made the Ridgeline feel extremely solid and refined while behind the wheel, with a super-stiff body that’s free of shakes and clunking noises most trucks transmit while riding on uneven pavement or going off road. This may be the least trucklike part of the Ridgeline. The RTL-E and Black Edition (the only models that were available for our drive) are fitted with more sound insulation than other Ridgelines, however. The Ridgeline also differentiates itself from other midsize trucks by offering driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and forward collision warning.

Ridgeline Trims and Pricing

2017 Honda Ridgeline
(CARFAX, Inc.)

Six different Ridgeline models are available, starting with the base RT. The top RTL-E and Black Edition models are equipped with driver assistance technology, power front seats and numerous other niceties that make a nice truck feel even more like a crossover.

Prices start at $30,375 for a front-wheel drive Ridgeline RT and rise to just over $43,000 for the Black Edition. All-wheel drive is an $1,800 option except on RTL-E and Black Edition, where it’s standard.

Truck buyers who are interested in the truck image are less likely to be moved by the 2017 Ridgeline. However, it should appeal to consumers who want the flexibility of a cargo bed attached to a supremely livable crossover. It’s all the truck most people need.

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