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2018 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2018 Honda Ridgeline: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Chris O'Neill September 2018

Buyers considering a midsize pickup are likely intrigued by both the 2018 Toyota Tacoma and the 2018 Honda Ridgeline. Both vehicles offer the excellent reliability and reputations of their respective manufacturers, but are altogether very different beasts. The Tacoma is a traditional body-on-frame truck, while the Ridgeline employs a unique unibody construction shared with the likes of the Pilot SUV and the Odyssey minivan. In a lot of ways, the Tacoma and the Ridgeline are quite different, but despite its unique construction, the Ridgeline doesn't cede as much ground to the Tacoma as you may think, and it offers a few benefits of its own. Below we'll discuss the major differences of each in an effort to help you decide which vehicle better meets your needs.

Background

First introduced in 1995, the Tacoma was fully redesigned for the 2016 model year, bringing it into its third generation. The Tacoma is a bona fide body-on-frame truck and eschews fancy technology in favor of simplicity, which helps it maintain some of the best reliability and resale value in the industry.

The Ridgeline shares much of its platform with the Honda Pilot and the Honda Odyssey and is the only unibody pickup truck on the market. First introduced for the 2006 model year, the Ridgeline was fully redesigned for 2017. While based on a platform considerably different from that of competitors like the Tacoma and the Colorado, the Ridgeline offers fewer tangible drawbacks than one might think as a result of its unique construction, and it is probably underappreciated in the midsize truck market.

The Tacoma and the Ridgeline are both built in the USA. The Tacoma is assembled at Toyota's plant in San Antonio, Texas, while Ridgeline assembly takes place in Lincoln, Alabama.

Powertrains

The Tacoma is available with two different engines. Entry-level Tacomas get a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder making 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Because this engine is underpowered, buyers will want to opt for the 3.5-liter V6, which makes 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque and is mated to either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. Available on the V6 is either a 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. Four-cylinder models are offered exclusively with the automatic.

With the V6, the automatic and the 4-wheel drive, the Tacoma gets 18 miles per gallon in city driving, 22 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg combined.

All Ridgelines come equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque and are mated exclusively to a 6-speed automatic transmission. In terms of powertrain, buyers' only option is deciding between front- and all-wheel drive. In line with its unibody SUV origins, the Ridgeline is the only pickup on the market based on a FWD platform.

Equipped with AWD, the Ridgeline earns 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined. As is the case with the Tacoma, 2-wheel drive models earn back one mpg in all categories.

Reliability

Honda and Toyota are both known for offering some of the best reliability in the industry. Given its heavier-duty body-on-frame construction, the Tacoma can likely withstand more abuse than the Ridgeline, but we're talking about serious wreckless abandon here. Drive either one responsibly, and reliability and longevity should be very similar. Both Honda and Toyota offer a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Safety

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash-testing, both the Ridgeline and the Tacoma receive crashworthiness scores of Good across the board, with the Ridgeline earning a Top Safety Pick designation.

In terms of driver-assistance safety technology, the Ridgeline leads the way in the midsize pickup segment. Available are adaptive cruise control, front automated emergency braking, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist and front and rear parking sensors. The Ridgeline also offers Honda LaneWatch, which will display live video from cameras mounted on the side view mirrors, giving you a better, broader view of the traffic behind you to your left and right.

All 2018 Tacomas come standard with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. While it lags behind the Ridgeline, the Tacoma still offers the second most comprehensive array of driver-assistance features in the segment.

Infotainment and Technology

The Tacoma's infotainment offering isn't great. A 7.0-inch touchscreen comes on most models, but buyers are stuck with Toyota's lackluster Entune infotainment system. As is the case with most Toyota products, the Tacoma doesn't offer Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility. Additional tech in the Tacoma's cabin includes an available JBL sound system and a wireless charging pad. The Tacoma offers two 12-volt outlets and one USB port, along with a built-in 110-volt, 3-pronged power outlet located in the bed.

While base-model Ridgelines employ a non-touch, 5.0-in screen, upper trim levels get an 8.0-in screen running the HondaLink infotainment system, which is generally regarded as being antiquated and frustrating to use. The Ridgeline's saving grace is that it offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, which allows users to all but ignore Honda's own system. The Ridgeline's infotainment system is also criticized for being without a physical volume knob. Throughout the cabin, the Ridgeline includes two 12-volt outlets and four USB ports. The Ridgeline also offers an available premium audio system and a unique truck bed audio system for livening up tailgate parties.

Configurations

The Tacoma is available in a number of configurations, while the Ridgeline is available in only one. Tacoma buyers have their choice of the extended Access Cab model or the 4-door Double Cab. Two beds are available as well -- a 6-foot bed, available with either the Access or Double Cab, and a 5-foot bed, available only on 4-door Double Cab models.

The Ridgeline is available with only a 4-door cab akin to the Tacoma's Double Cab and a bed measuring just under 5.4 feet. Under the Ridgeline's bed floor is a unique locking trunk.

Dimensions

Equipped with the 4-door cab and the 5-foot short bed, the Tacoma is 212.3 inches long, 74.4 inches wide, 70.6 inches tall and has 9.4 inches of ground clearance.

In its only available configuration, the Ridgeline is 209.5 inches long, 78.6 inches wide and 70.8 inches tall, and it offers 7.9 inches of ground clearance.

Up front, the Tacoma offers 39.7 inches of headroom and 42.9 inches of legroom. In Double Cab models, the Tacoma has 38.3 inches of headroom and a tight 32.6 inches of legroom.

The Ridgeline offers front seat passengers 40.1 inches of headroom and 40.9 inches of legroom. In the back, Ridgeline passengers get 38.8 inches of headroom and 36.7 inches of legroom.

Comparing truck beds, the Tacoma offers 38 cu ft. of space from its 5-foot bed and 47 cu ft. from its 6-foot bed. The Ridgeline offers 34 cu ft. from its bed, which is a bit shallower than what one would find in a traditional body-on-frame truck bed. Worth noting though is that the Ridgeline's bed floor is completely flat, lacking the wheel-well intrusions found in other truck beds, and it includes an in-bed trunk offering an additional 7.3 cu ft. of storage space. The trunk even includes a drain plug, allowing it to be filled with ice and used as a cooler.

Interior

The Tacoma's interior employs a lot of hard plastic; you won't mistake yourself for being in a luxury car or even in a regular old SUV from behind the wheel of the Tacoma. The seats are firm and the seating position is a bit awkward. No trim level of the Tacoma offers power seats. Altogether, the Tacoma's interior is lacking.

The Ridgeline's interior is far statelier and more SUVlike than the Tacoma's, which shouldn't come as a surprise given that it's based heavily upon that of the Pilot SUV. The Ridgeline offers an available heated steering wheel, power-operated driver and passenger seats and a memory driver's seat. Thanks to its use of quality materials and its extremely functional layout, the Ridgeline's interior is regarded as being best-in-class among midsize pickups, and back seat passengers are treated to best-in-class legroom as well.

Capability

While the mainstream trim levels of the Tacoma and the Ridgeline are pretty evenly matched, the Tacoma offers a number of additional flavors that you can't find on the Ridgeline, each of which aims to change either the on- or off-road driving experience. First is the Tacoma TRD Sport, which offers added style and improves on-road handling through a unique suspension setup. The Tacoma TRD Off-Road offers mild all-terrain tires, a Bilstein suspension setup, locking rear differential, Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select modes and styling elements that serve to beef up the Tacoma for off-road use. The Tacoma TRD Pro takes the TRD Off-Road a step further, adding a front skid plate, high-performance off-road suspension that provides a 1-in lift, a TRD catback exhaust and a number of exterior changes that give the vehicle an aggressive look.

It should be noted that the Ridgeline does offer a unique Black Edition that adds black exterior trim and 18-in black alloy wheels, but this trim level does nothing to change the capabilities of the vehicle.

Given its unibody construction, the Ridgeline lags slightly behind the competition when it comes to towing capacity. While the Tacoma is rated to tow up to 6,800 pounds, in line with the rest of the segment, the Ridgeline is rated for only 5,000 pounds. The payload capacities of the two vehicles are similar, though, with the Tacoma rated to haul up to 1,620 pounds in the rear and the Ridgeline capable of carrying 1,584 pounds.

Aftermarket

Thanks to the Tacoma's body-on-frame construction and its long-standing position atop the midsize truck market, a large aftermarket exists for Tacoma buyers looking to customize their vehicle, offering upgrades like high-performance off-road suspension, heavy-duty bumpers, snorkels, bed caps, lights, wheels and so forth. All told, the Tacoma can be made into an extremely capable off-roader.

As the Ridgeline sells in much lower volume and is based on a unibody SUV platform, it doesn't offer the customizability of the Tacoma and, therefore, virtually no aftermarket exists for the Ridgeline. This won't matter for most buyers, but for anyone wanting to modify their new truck, the Ridgeline offers very limited options.

Conclusions

Despite the fact that they share a basic profile, the Tacoma and the Ridgeline are very different vehicles. If refinement and civility are what you're after, then the Ridgeline is the far better choice. If trucklike attributes, off-road capability and some nostalgia are your priorities, then the Tacoma is the better choice. When it comes down to it, the Ridgeline is akin to a Pilot with a bed and some added structural reinforcement, and while few people will want to admit it, the Ridgeline is probably the better, more sensible option for most midsize pickup buyers, thanks to its added efficiency and more refined interior. The Tacoma is a truck through and through, with a body-on frame construction, a solid rear axle and trucklike road manners. While the Ridgeline is the more civilized choice, civility is the exact opposite of what many truck buyers are looking for, and for those people, the Tacoma will be the more exciting choice.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota Tacoma vs. 2018 Honda Ridgeline: Which Is Better? - Autotrader