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2019 Honda Ridgeline: New Car Review

Hundreds of thousands of people buy pickups every year, and we would wager that a sizable percentage of them don’t really need one. They will never tow a boat, load the bed with rocks or drive it off-road. That big old engine will mostly be used to dawdle around suburbia.

Well, the 2019 Honda Ridgeline is the truck for those who recognize their more realistic pickup needs. True, many don’t consider it a truck at all since it’s basically a 2019 Honda Pilot crossover with a truck bed. Its bed is also only available in one size, and it has less towing capacity and ground clearance than traditional midsize trucks do. And heck, front-wheel drive is standard.

But here’s the thing: That crossover architecture makes the Ridgeline the most civilized vehicle with a pickup bed 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. All together, these features make the Ridgeline the most family-friendly pickup.

With towing capacity that rivals that of midsize pickups, as well as off-road capability, the Ridgeline is a great option for people who want a pickup but don’t need the biggest and baddest truck available.

What’s New for 2019?

A second USB port is now standard. A sunroof and a power-sliding rear window are also now standard on the RTL trim and above.

What We Like

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

What We Don’t

The frustrating touchscreen; only one cab, bed and engine choice; the 2-wheel-drive trucks are FWD; less towing capability than competitors

How Much?

$29,900-$43,420

Fuel Economy

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

Fuel economy is estimated to be 18 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined with AWD. FWD scores you only one additional mpg.

Standard Features & Options

The 2019 Ridgeline is available in RT, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E and Black Edition.

The base RT ($29,990) is FWD only and comes standard with 18-inch 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, two USB ports, a 7-speaker audio system with a 5-in color display, and an auxiliary audio jack.

The Sport ($33,390) adds proximity entry, push-button start, remote ignition, fog lights and tri-zone automatic climate control. There’s nothing especially sporty about it. Note that AWD brings its special Sand and Mud off-road settings.

The RTL ($34,870) adds a sunroof, 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, leather upholstery and a power-sliding rear window.

The RTL-T ($37,000) adds LED running lights, Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera, an auto-dimming mirror, an 8-in touchscreen, integrated navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite and HD radio and a 7-speaker sound system.

The RTL-E ($41,920) comes standard with AWD plus forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring (replaces LaneWatch), rear cross-traffic warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, LED headlights, LED bed lighting, a sunroof, 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 ($43,420) is really just an RTL-E with blacked-out exterior trim and special interior trim.

Safety

Every 2019 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 than a regular midsize truck does. 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 (replaces LaneWatch) and a rear cross-traffic warning system.

The government awarded the Ridgeline five stars for its overall, frontal and side crash protection. The nonprofit 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 about the Ridgeline comes from conventional pickup-truck owners: Is the Ridgeline a "real" pickup truck? Well, its maximum payload of 1,584 pounds and its 5,000 pounds of towing capacity do trail those of traditional competitors, including the 2019 Toyota Tacoma and the 2019 Chevrolet Colorado. Its off-road capability is also just slightly better than a Honda Pilot’s, which, to be fair, isn’t bad for a family hauler.

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

It also has a variety of outstanding features — 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 that it doubles 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 features child seat LATCH anchors in all positions. Add comfortable ride quality, and the Ridgeline is unquestionably the most family-friendly midsize truck.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Toyota Tacoma If you want something more rugged and fun that can get seriously dirty off the beaten path, this is your truck. However, it’s less comfortable, spacious and refined than its competitors.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado The Colorado is basically a miniature full-size truck and falls in between the Ridgeline and the Tacoma regarding comfort and character.

2019 GMC Canyon The Canyon is the Colorado’s GMC twin. It differs with its more luxurious Denali trim level.

2019 Ford Ranger The Ranger is returning for 2019, making its way from other markets to ply its trade back in the big leagues of North America. It’s a traditional pickup like the others in the segment.

Used Honda Ridgeline Most of the unique elements in today’s Ridgeline (the dual-action tailgate, the bed trunk, the flip-up rear seat and the crossover driving manners) could be found in the previous generation. Sure, it had 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 recommend the RTL. For about $1,500 more than the Sport, you get leather-wrapped seats and steering wheel, heated power seats and a sunroof. It’s a good deal. And if you want extra infotainment tech, it may also be worth it to pay a bit more for the RTL-T.

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