2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD First Test: The Trucklet, Revised

Honda set the pickup truck world on its keister when it launched its original unibody platform Ridgeline in the 2006 model year. We even unanimously named it our Truck of the Year, with the plaudit, “Remember what it’s like to ride in a typical truck—squeaks, shudders, and jolts? Erase all that.”

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD

With its independent front and rear suspensions, the Ridgeline was a truck for people who disliked the inherent ride and handling compromises of trucks. It worked great for city folk who had weekends or evenings involving mud and muck but who didn’t want to gunk up their SUV’s precious carpet. If they were going to occasionally tow a couple jet skis or dirt bikes but spend most of their time commuting pothole-strewn roads, the Ridgeline made sense. And with the Ridgeline’s wildly styled descending-angle bed rails, snooty suburban neighbors wouldn’t confuse it for, eww, a truck.

Although the Ridgeline attracted a small, polarized crowd of Honda true believers, it never converted the millions of fans of traditional body-on-frame Detroit muscle. Truth is, it wasn’t meant to.

With the second-generation 2017 Ridgeline now hitting showrooms, we tested whether Honda learned anything from its first go-round.

As is the case with most redesigns, the Ridgeline suffers from “segment creep”—the 2017 edition gains 3.2 inches of wheelbase, 3.1 inches of overall length, 0.5 inch of height, and 0.8 inch in width. Its bed length also grew 3 inches to 5 feet, 4 inches. Intriguingly, the track has shrunk by an inch both front and back. And despite the Ridgeline’s increased size, Honda shaved 73 pounds with the redesign. Is it still a compact? Yep.

Testing director Kim Reynolds saw it differently: “I thought its suspension and tire noise were way too high (or possibly too distinct). Its steering doesn’t deliver the excellence I’d expect here, and power is so-so.”

Associate editor Scott Evans piled on: “It needs some revs to get moving, especially at altitude. It doesn’t have the torque of the rest of these trucks. If you really want to tow or haul, there are other small-truck options that are much better trucks. Back in ’05, this truck was revolutionary. Today, it feels like an entirely predictable update to the original formula. It’s perfectly fine on its own but not setting the truck world on fire anymore.”

What’s more, the Ridgeline is plagued by Honda’s unintuitive double touchscreen infotainment system interface, and there’s still no volume knob for the stereo. It’s a big step back from the Chevy, Ford, and Dodge systems. Hopefully, there will be a running change soon.

As for the Ridgeline’s updated but retrograde design, perhaps Honda wanted its truck to look like, well, a truck. But its design is something from the Plain Jane ’80s. Sure, it has a muscular shoulder crease stolen from a BMW X5, but the front grille could be from an Accord, and the funky-angled bed rails have been replaced by traditional, almost horizontal rails. It’s odd; the old Ridgeline looks more futuristic than the new one.

For the TL/DR crowd: although the Ridgeline still has some ride and handling advantages for urban owners who don’t need a full-on pickup, it’s just a new version of an old amalgam of good, not great, ideas.

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