This will sound like a dig at the reworked 2017 Honda Ridgeline, but it’s not. Well, not really. It kind of depends on who you are. Here’s the thing: The Honda Ridgeline is more like a Chevy El Camino than an actual pickup. To me, the Chevy El Camino is cool — kind of like DVD-Audio discs, Skylab or Tang, something that sounds like it’s from the future, but really its time has already passed. Then again, General Motors was seriously close to selling an El Camino-like car as recently as 2008/2009. The car/truck never actually happened.
Finding the Right Crowd
The truth about the Ridgeline is that if you really think of yourself as a truck person and your dream vehicle is a GMC Sierra 2500, you won’t like the Ridgeline.
But if you’re an average Joe like me, the Honda Ridgeline is brilliant. It’s really all the truck non-hunters and non-contractors and non-fist bumpers will need. If you’re reading this and saying, "Not true, I’d rather have a full-size…" — then the Ridgeline is not for you. "I have a 50-foot cabin cruiser named ‘Smoke on the Water’ and I…" The Ridgeline is not for you. "But my F-250 is so awes…" The Ridgeline is not for you. It doesn’t matter how many of your buddies have F-150s and RAM 1500s, the Ridgeline is all the truck most people need. Of course, few will admit this.
"But I haul solid-steel rods uphill with nothing but my Chevy truck, a Carhart jacket and my bare hands every day." Then you are not MOST people. "I always go off-road and tackle deep snow on the outskirts of Utah." Then you are not most people.
The Chevy Silverado, if properly equipped, is rated at 12,500 pounds of towing capacity. The Ridgeline is about 5,000 lbs. If the biggest, baddest, best is important to you — the Ridgeline is not for you.
However, if you’ve been driving a Honda Accord, Kia Sorento or even a Toyota Tacoma and suddenly (and occasionally) need the versatility of an open bed — BUT you also want the comfort, quiet and car-like handling of an SUV or even a sedan, then the Honda Ridgeline is exactly for you.
Even though it’s not a gigantic body on frame truck, it is building a reputation for itself. I recently drove one to a swanky hotel in Palm Springs, California, and the valet commented on it. "Hey, is this Honda?" Yes, I said. "Does it still have that cool hidden storage thing in the bed?" It sure does, and we both opened the tailgate and gawked at the cool trunk in the bed for about two minutes before he broke the bro silence with a "Yeah, that’s so cool."
If you’re not familiar with the original Honda Ridgeline, that cool feature is a covered, lockable, watertight storage area under the truck bed. Rumor has it, the opening makes an excellent impromptu, rolling ice chest.
Although the Ridgeline isn’t really luxurious in the general sense, there is one really luxurious thing about it. Is it the interior? No. The interior is nice enough with lots of places to store life’s trappings. I wish the much more expensive Nissan Armada had this much storage up front. I don’t dig the 2003-era beige, but there are other interior colors to choose from. The most luxurious thing about the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is the ride. It is remarkably smooth yet delivers decent handling. None of this is what I’d expect from a midsize pickup.
So the Honda Ridgeline is basically a Honda Pilot with a pickup bed, right? No, it’s much better. The Ridgeline feels more premium, has a better transmission setup, is more versatile, has better handling and is one of the few Hondas you actually want to get dirty (lawn mowers and dirt bikes excluded).
The new Ridgeline costs about $30,000 to start — a fair price for sure. The Sport is $33,000, and the ultra slick-looking Black Edition is about $42,000. The problem is, these are Chevrolet Silverado prices, and the Silverado is a more capable and truck-ish truck. Even the Silverado’s fuel economy is similar to the Ridgeline if you compare it to the Chevy V6.
The more comparable Chevy Colorado has an ultra low base price of near $20,000, but no one in their right mind is buying a $20,000 Colorado. The Toyota Tacoma is similarly priced, but the Honda Ridgeline is a better all-around vehicle. The Tacoma is better at going off-road, but that’s not the majority of the population.
Here’s how the Ridgeline really distinguishes itself and how it’s just like a reinvented El Camino. The ride around town and on the highway is clearly and purposefully car-like. The size is manageable in the city or the suburbs and it’s got cool, innovative features such as that trunk in the bed and clever interior storage solutions. And that’s really the beauty of the new Ridgeline. It’s not going to out-truck anyone, but it does offer a sort of "best of both worlds" that no other "real" trucks can match.