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2018 Honda Ridgeline: New Car Review

The 2018 Honda Ridgeline is all the truck most people need. Of course, few will admit this. Now, if you’re saying, "But I haul solid-steel rods uphill and tow my 24-foot Bayliner with my truck," then you are not most people. If you’re saying, "I go deep into the woods on rutted trails every weekend and need serious off-road capability," then nope, you’re not most people, either.

And even if you do fall into the "most people" category and still don’t view the Ridgeline as a traditional truck, that’s OK. Call it what you will, it still deserves a shot. Sure, it’s basically a Honda Pilot crossover with a truck bed. Sure, that bed is only available in one size. Sure, there’s less towing capacity and ground clearance than you’ll find in rival midsize trucks. And absolutely, front-wheel drive is standard.

Yet, that crossover architecture makes the Ridgeline the most civilized truck to drive by a long shot. Its handling, maneuverability and comfort are off the charts — it feels like a crossover to drive, because it is one. Its interior comfort and quality are also exceptional, while its bed is awash in clever available features: A huge trunk compartment, a flip-down/swing-out tailgate and even an in-bed speaker system. You also get superior crash scores, and when you put it all together, it makes the Ridgeline unquestionably the most family-friendly pickup. Or "vehicle with a pickup bed," if you prefer.

Add in towing capacity that isn’t too far off its midsize rivals and off-road capability that should be more than enough for, well, most people, and you have our conclusion that the Ridgeline should be considered by anyone in need (or want) of a pickup bed.

What’s New for 2018?

The Ridgeline is unchanged for 2018.

What We Like

The comfort, space, interior quality and driving experience of a crossover; innovative bed storage and tailgate; fuel-efficient engine; excellent crash scores

What We Don’t

Frustrating touchscreen; only one cab, bed and engine choice; 2-wheel-drive trucks are front-wheel-drive; less towing capability than competitors

How Much?

$29,700-$43,200

Fuel Economy

The Ridgeline comes only with a one engine choice: a 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. Uniquely, it comes standard with front-wheel drive (all other trucks are rear-wheel drive) and all-wheel drive is an option. A 6-speed automatic is standard.

Fuel economy is estimated to be 18 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive only scores you one mpg extra.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Ridgeline is available in RT, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E and Black Edition.

The base RT ($29,700) is front-drive only and comes standard with 18-in alloy wheels, an integrated trailer hitch, the flip-down swing-out tailgate, a locking under-bed trunk, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, a backup camera, a 60/40-split lift-up rear seat, one USB port, a 7-speaker audio system with a 5-inch color LCD screen and an auxiliary audio jack.

The Sport ($33,300) adds proximity entry and push-button start, remote ignition, fog lights and tri-zone automatic climate control. There’s nothing especially sporty about it.

The RTL ($34,000) adds an acoustic windshield, heated mirrors (with AWD), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated power front seats (8-way driver, 4-way passenger), driver lumbar adjustment and leather upholstery.

The RTL-T ($36,200) adds LED running lights, Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera, an auto-dimming mirror, two rear USB ports, an 8-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite and HD radio and a 7-speaker sound system.

The RTL-E ($41,700) comes standard with all-wheel drive plus forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic warning system (replaced LaneWatch), adaptive cruise control, automatic highbeams, LED headlights, LED bed lighting, a sunroof, power-sliding rear window, parking sensors, a truck bed power outlet, a heated steering wheel, driver memory settings, an upgraded 8-speaker sound system and a truck-bed audio system that uses the bed liner as a giant speaker.

The Black Edition ($43,200) is really just an RTL-E with blacked-out exterior trim and special interior trim.

Safety

Every 2018 Honda Ridgeline comes with 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a backup camera. Plus, since it’s related to the Honda Pilot family hauler, it has lower LATCH anchors in all three back seating positions. The RTL-T includes Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera. The RTL-E and Black Edition include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic warning system (replaced LaneWatch).

The government awarded the Ridgeline 5-stars for its overall, frontal and side crash protection. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a Top Safety Pick award for its best-possible performance in all pertinent categories. This is truly impressive among midsize trucks.

Behind the Wheel

The big question that stalks the Ridgeline comes from conventional pickup-truck owners: Is the Ridgeline a "real" pickup truck? Well, its maximum payload of 1,584 pounds and 5,000 pounds of towing capacity does trail traditional competitors, including the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. Its off-roading capability is also only a bit better than a Honda Pilot’s.

So perhaps it isn’t a "real" truck, but then, how much does that really matter? The Ridgeline ultimately excels with its all-around capability as an everyday driver and as a viable alternative to an SUV. You completely forget you’re driving something with a truck bed, as its handling and ride quality are indicative of a crossover. There’s no vague steering, spooky tippy moments or wiggling-jiggling over bumps.

It also has a variety of unique features that really make it stand out — especially those in the bed. Exclusive to the Ridgeline is the in-bed trunk that boasts 7.3 cu ft. of space. The weather-sealed, lockable compartment solves the pickup conundrum of concealed, secure storage in a clever way (not to mention doubling as a cooler). The bed itself is constructed of a highly damage-resistant composite material, and on top trim levels, the liner essentially transforms into a giant speaker that really works. We also dig the novel flip-down/swing-out tailgate.

Inside, you’ll find the same cabin design as Honda’s Pilot crossover SUV, including its clever center console storage and generous back seat space that include child seat LATCH anchors in all positions. Add in a truly comfortable ride quality and the Ridgeline is without question the most family friendly midsize truck.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Toyota Tacoma — If you want something more rugged and fun that can get seriously dirty off the beaten path, this is your truck. It’s less comfortable, spacious and refined than its competitors.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado — The Colorado is basically a miniature full-size truck and falls in between the Ridgeline and Tacoma in terms of comfort and character.

2018 GMC Canyon — The Canyon is the Colorado’s GMC twin. It differs with its more luxurious Denali trim level.

Used Honda Ridgeline — Most of the unique elements in today’s Ridgeline (the dual-action tailgate, bed trunk, flip-up rear seat and crossover driving manners) could be found in the previous generation. Sure, it had somewhat odd styling and a more utilitarian interior, but those on a tighter budget would be wise to consider the original Ridgeline.

Autotrader’s Advice

We would recommend the RTL. For less than $1,000 than the Sport, you get leather-wrapped seats and steering wheel and heated power seats. It’s a good deal. Paying a bit more for the RTL-T brings with it extra infotainment tech, which may be worth it, though.

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