If every American suddenly drank a truth serum that forced them to get real about what they really need from a pickup, the 2014 Honda Ridgeline would outsell the Ford F-150 within weeks.
Truth is, trucks such as the Chevy Silverado and even the new 2015 Ford F-150 are just too much truck for most people. Sure, some homeowners and weekend warriors may actually need a 10,000-lb towing capacity, but the Honda Ridgeline is probably just right for most.
Useful Every Day
Let's assume the typical truck owner uses his or her pickup to run to Lowe's, recycle the Christmas tree, donate old bikes, camp, tow a pair of jet skis and make weekly grocery-shopping runs.
Such work likely doesn't require a V8-powered, $40,000, rear-wheel-drive, full-size, body-on-frame pickup. The 2014 Honda Ridgeline, however, may be the perfect truck for those duties. If you agree, the Toyota Tacoma is probably on your list too, and that's a tough truck to beat.
If you live outside the southern U.S., you may not be familiar with using dead pine needles for landscaping. No, really, it is a way to landscape; it handled my back yard and lightened my wallet by $150. Because I didn't want to spend another $150, I attempted to crack the code of landscape professionals and scatter dead pine needles around my front yard armed with nothing more than a Honda Ridgeline, a rake and a 4-year degree from state college.
As I drove across town to buy dead pine needles (locals call it "pine straw"), I thought for sure I would discover the secret of these magical and pricey pine needles. Nope, no magic here. This guy David and his nephew Junebug go out to a pine-tree-rich forest and gather up the fallen needles.
As you can see from the photos above, the Honda pickup handled the small bales effortlessly. The bed seems full, but there's actually another storage area under the floor of the pickup bed. It's water-tight and would be perfect for picking up laundry or groceries before getting those bales of dead pine needles.
Ready for an Update
Inside, the Ridgeline's theme of utility continues. The dash, seats, door panels and carpet all look like they're made more for muddy kids and wet dogs than style or comfort. There's not a lot of color, but it looks and feels durable.
Still, the Ridgeline looks dated. It's due for an update; Honda has already said it is developing a new Ridgeline. There's nothing functionally wrong with this just-right-sized pickup, but its age is showing.
The transmission lacks sophistication and occasionally doesn't know which gear to select. The 3.5-liter V6 feels powerful enough, making 250 horsepower. You're not going to be pulling many stumps with this truck, but it's a great everyday driver.
Loaded With Options
The Honda Ridgeline SE is new for 2014, and is meant to bridge the gap between the outgoing truck and the all-new Ridgeline that's due by 2016.
Essentially, the SE version gets loaded with equipment such as satellite radio, leather, navigation, power moonroof and blacked-out trim, which gives the truck a tough look. Truck guys should be happy with the Ridgeline's image.
Bigger Trucks Better?
But the Ridgeline SE isn't cheap: The suggested retail price is about $38,000. Maybe the price is why folks are buying bigger, full-size trucks instead of the Ridgeline. A crew-cab Chevy Silverado, for example, starts at $34,000. The Chevy's V6 is more powerful and gets better fuel economy than the Ridgeline's V6.
The 2014 Honda Ridgeline gets an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate of 15 miles per gallon city/21 mpg hwy or 17 mpg in combined city and highway driving. The Silverado's 4.3-liter V6 gets an EPA estimate of 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy or 20 mpg combined.
Even the 2014 Silverado's optional 5.3-liter V8 (355 hp) gets better fuel economy than the Ridgeline at 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.
And this is probably why most folks opt for a full-size truck over the Ridgeline. It's not that they need the Silverado's 12,000-lb towing capacity or even the optional V8 engine; it's that they can get it with no penalty in price or performance.
So you can get a full-size truck for a little less than a Honda Ridgeline. However, if you compare feature to feature, the Honda starts to make sense.
Its $38,000 price includes essentially every option Honda has, including all-wheel drive with a locking center differential, navigation, upgraded audio system, heated leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
Take that list to your Ford or Chevy dealer. Apply it to a 4x4 crew cab truck and you'll be at least $6,000 over the Ridgeline's price.
Think of it this way: If you're willing to trade building contractor-grade capability for tons of comfort and convenience but still want trucklike ability, the 2014 Honda Ridgeline should be on your shopping list.