Honda’s unibody chassis pickup gets stealthy for 2017 with the Black Edition — the top-of-line Ridgeline offering.
Pickup truck buyers tend to be a loyal bunch. It takes a lot to convince a long-time fan of one pickup truck maker – whether that brand is domestic or Japanese — to switch their allegiances to another.
When Honda chose to join its Japanese compatriots at Nissan and Toyota in building a pickup truck, its challenge had less to do with the company’s origins than with the unibody platform and fully-independent suspension the Ridgeline rode on at its 2006 introduction.
Those design choices have been the target of much derision, but the Ridgeline has proven itself worthy enough for Honda to put significant effort into a second-generation model. Introduced earlier this year as a 2017, this all-new Honda pickup is part of a mid-size truck zeitgeist kicked off by GM’s Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon and helaped along by a new generation of the Toyota Tacoma.
But Honda didn’t want to copy those trucks, so the new Ridgeline kept its unibody construction and independent suspension, characteristics that make for a driving experience that’s more Accord than F-150. Don’t take that as a bad thing: as much as we genuinely like the latest Colorado/Canyon twins, the Ridgeline’s car-like drive makes it easier to live with on a daily basis, while offering the payload and towing utility that is a pickup’s raison d’etre.
Performance: 3.5L V6 Engine
With its 3.5L V6, Ridgeline essentially matches the more conventionally-built Colorado and Canyon (Crew Cab, short box) with a 713-kg payload besting the Tacoma’s 450 kg, but gives up some ability in a 2,268-kg towing capacity that pales next to the 3,175 kg the GM trucks can tow with a 3.6L V6, and the 2,900 kg that the V6-powered Tacoma can handle.
Honda’s V6 is one reason for the Ridgeline’s more car-like feel. This is the same motor you get in the Pilot crossover and Odyssey minivan, and it’s optional in the Accord sedan. Its 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque about equal the Tacoma’s output, but give up 25 hp to the GM pickups. However, the Ridgeline’s engine sounds and feels more eager than either of those competitors’ motors, thanks to its higher-revving nature.
Like other trucks, the Ridgeline rides firm when unloaded, but the independent rear suspension retains its composure better on rough roads than the solid axle setup you’ll find in every other truck on the market. If that’s a factor in the Honda’s reduced towing capacity, as we mentioned earlier, it makes for a truck more pleasant to drive in everyday situations like commuting to work or grocery store runs.
Interior and Cargo
As nice as that is, there are a few practical touches we like even more. For one, the tailgate flips down or swings out to the left, and there’s a 207-litre weather-proof trunk at the rear of the cargo box that gives you a dry place to carry a few groceries or a couple of overnight bags without sacrificing the roomy rear seat.
But if you do need more interior storage, the rear seats’ bottom cushions flip up and out of the way; even when they’re in place, there’s notable space under the seats that’s perfect for keeping small stuff out of the way and out of sight.
We despise Honda’s all-touch infotainment system, mostly for a stereo volume control that’s nearly impossible for anyone to use while the car is moving. Honda makes up for that with a straightforward three-zone automatic climate control system that’s standard from the sub-$40,000 Sport model.
Among the Ridgeline’s more sublime (or ridiculous) features is what Honda calls a truck bed audio system that turns the bed into a massive speaker so you can play music outside the truck without having to open the windows and crank the volume. It’d be fun for camping or tailgate parties, but it’s more of a party trick than something we’d use frequently.
A six-speed automatic transmission connects the engine to a standard 4WD system. Unlike every other 4WD pickup out there, Ridgeline has no shifter or switch to send it into 2WD mode. Instead, like the Pilot crossover, it runs as a front-driver in most conditions, and sends power to the rear wheels when the front loses traction. Ridgeline can send up to 70 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear axle, but its neatest trick is being able to send all rear axle torque to either wheel, which can aid both in off-road traction and on-road handling. What’s missing here is low-range gearing. The 4WD system’s only concession to driver intervention is a drive mode selector that tailors throttle response and power distribution in snow, mud and sand modes.
Honda lists the Ridgeline’s fuel consumption estimates as 12.8/9.5 L/100 km (city/highway). Our test truck averaged 13.5 L/100 km in a week of city driving.
Our Black Edition-trimmed Ridgeline is the priciest of five trims, building on the Touring model but trading virtually all exterior brightwork for black trim on a black paint job. Ironically, the Black Edition has slick red interior accents.
We despise Honda’s all-touch infotainment system, mostly for a stereo volume control that’s nearly impossible for anyone to use while the car is moving.
Set aside its esthetic differences, though, and the Black Edition is functionally the same truck as the Touring model, with navigation, ventilated front seats, power-folding side mirrors, LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams and blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, all items that are only included in Touring and Black Edition trims. Carried over from lesser models are active safety features like collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist with road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control, and convenience stuff that includes a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.
Pricing and Options: Black Edition Ridgeline
As the top-end model, the Ridgeline Black Edition carries a price tag of $48,590, a $1,500 premium over the Touring model for the privilege of driving a very black truck. We admit it looks cool, but we’d skip it and save the money.
Even at $47,000, the Ridgeline is pricier than any of its competitors, the caveat being that Honda stuffs this top-end model with luxury features not offered in the other brands’ trucks. You’re effectively trading some pickup truck ability for mid-size crossover convenience: even the entry-level LX model gets passive keyless entry, remote engine start and all the active safety kit we listed a couple of paragraphs up for $36,600.
That’s good value for a vehicle that combines crossover comfort with pickup utility. Most pickup drivers accept compromised daily driving comfort in exchange for towing and hauling abilities they may rarely use. We doubt Honda will entice many brand-loyal truck buyers into its fold, but it will attract a number of pragmatic folks who’ve been hesitant to buy a truck because they worried its abilities would be wasted. They’ll be glad they waited: this is a truck that can easily handle the light- and medium-duty hauling and towing tasks most pickup drivers do while being perfectly pleasant to drive while doing them.
Learn more – 2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition
Join the conversation – Hondaforum.com > Ridgeline
2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition Quick Specs
Engine: 3.5L V6
Power: 280 hp
Torque: 262 pound-feet
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Brakes: Four-wheel disc
Steering: Electric power-assist rack-and-pinion
Suspension: MacPherson strut (front); Independent multi-link (rear)
Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 12.8/9.5
Fuel economy, observed (l/100km): 13.5
Price: $36,590 starting MSRP; $48,590 as tested