by Roger Biermann
When Honda decided to build the Ridgeline, it threw the rulebook out the window, tossing out industry standards and conventional construction methods for the mid-size pickup. it ditched the body-on-frame construction in favor of a car-like unibody, and even based it on a front-wheel drive platform. Unique as the only unibody pickup truck around, the midsize Honda Ridgeline battles the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, and new Ford Ranger for top honors among the working class of America. Unique independent rear suspension makes it supremely comfortable, while a 280 horsepower, 161 lb-ft of torque 3.5-liter V6 engine delivers power to a choice of front- or all-wheel drivetrains through a six-speed automatic gearbox in yet another unique-in-this-segment trait for the Ridgeline. Priced between $29,990 and $43,410 there are six available trims, all of which feature the innovative dual-function tailgate and in-bed lockable trunk, while higher trims get the funky truck bed audio system.
The 2019 Ridgeline arrives almost completely unchanged from the 2018 model. A second USB port has been added to the RT, Sport, and RTL models, while the RTL and RTL-T versions are now equipped with a power sliding rear window and power sunroof that was only found on the range-topping models before.
Unlike most midsize pickups, the Honda Ridgeline is available with just one body configuration, offering a crew-cab setup with a 5.3-foot bed. Headlights are available as LED items from the RTL-E trim, with lower trims getting halogen reflector headlights, while all models get LED taillight clusters. Regardless of the trim or drivetrain, the Ridgeline boasts 18-inch alloy wheels, although the design and finish vary based on trim with finishes like silver paint on the RT, machine-finish on the RTL-T, and black on the Black Edition. Standard on all models is the innovative dual-action tailgate that can either swing open on side hinges or open flat in a traditional manner to increase load capacity.
Occupying the midsize pick-up segment, the Ridgeline is available solely in crew-cab form with a 64-inch bed, increased to 83 inches with the tailgate down. It rides on a 125.2-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 210 inches. All-wheel drive and two-wheel drive derivatives can also be differentiated by the ride height, with the AWD versions boasting an extra 0.5 inches of ground clearance at 7.87 inches to the FWD’s 7.29 inches, despite the AWD versions having a narrower track width. The increase in ride height corresponds with better approach, breakover, and departure angles of 20.1/19.6/22.1 degrees for the all-wheel drive versus 19.2/18.5/21.4 degrees on FWD derivatives. The Ridgeline’s unique construction sees best-in-class in-bed dimensions of 50 inches between the wheel wells. Curb weight ranges from 4,242 lbs to 4,515 lbs depending on trim and drivetrain.
For 2019, the Honda Ridgeline retains the same seven-strong color palette as last year. Three metallic colors are offered in Forest Mist - a personal favorite - Lunar Silver, and Modern Steel, while four pearl colors are available in White Diamond, Deep Scarlet, Crystal Black, and Obsidian Blue. All colors are available across the full range of Ridgeline models and are available at no extra cost.
The Ridgeline doesn’t offer the same offroad prowess as its rivals, largely due to a lack of ground clearance, low-range transfer case, and a lower range of wheel articulation. But in all other aspects, on road and on gravel, the Ridgeline is the best driving midsize pickup available. The 3.5-liter V6 may not offer the same towing capacity as rivals - that’s down to the drivetrains, not the engine - but it’s strong and pulls well throughout the rev-range, getting up to speed from a standstill easily and managing overtaking maneuvers without much fuss.
Unique to the Ridgeline is the availability of front-wheel drive - competitors use rear-wheel drive by default - to the detriment of towing capacity at just 3,500 lbs. All-wheel drive versions are available, which ups the towing capacity to 5,000 lbs, while a clever torque-vectoring terrain management system helps to overcome the lack of a low-range transfer case.
Regardless of which trim or drivetrain you opt for, the Honda Ridgeline is powered exclusively by a 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 with 262 lb-ft of torque. Defying conventions, lower trims offer standard front-wheel drive through a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is the only option on the RT trims, but Sport, RTL, and RTL-T trims get all-wheel drive as an option. RTL-E and Black Edition models are exclusively all-wheel drive.
The V6 is the same engine you’ll find in the Odyssey minivan, and just like in the Odyssey the V6 is punchy and offers smooth power delivery right across the rev-range. The Ridgeline glides effortlessly up to speed and around town while getting up to highway speeds is easy when you punch the gas. Throttle responses are eager and power is readily available at all engine speeds, although outright performance figures suggest the Ridgeline is marginally slower to 60 mph than some rivals.
Trucks aren’t exactly renowned for exceptional handling or ride, which owes a lot to the traditional body-on-frame construction and basic-but-robust suspension setups. With a unibody construction and four-wheel independent suspension, the Ridgeline is settled and compliant on the road. It’s far more polished than a conventional pickup, body lean is kept to a fair minimum, and bumps through corners don’t unsettle the Ridgeline in the slightest. Moreover, the Ridgeline suffers none of the ‘shuffle’ of a body on rubber mountings. The steering benefits hugely from this as inputs are met with an immediacy of response and a good sense of feel when adjusting through corners.
The Ridgeline feels like a crossover, which is a compliment of the highest order for a pickup truck. But, the unibody design and more pliant suspension setup do mean compromise - particularly when it comes to offroad ability. The Ridgeline lacks the wheel articulation and underbody clearance of traditional trucks, all of which are inferior to the Jeep Gladiator in this regard, and the lack of a low-range gearbox which give others superior offroad capabilities. But, the advanced traction management systems and independent rear suspension cope better with moderate dirt roads. For the 90% of buyers who seldom venture anywhere seriously offroad, the Ridgeline will be more comfortable and more stable, as well as better for everyday use.
Many rivals boast comparable V6 engines, but the Ridgeline has them beaten in the economy stakes with estimates of 19/26/22 mpg for the front-wheel drive model and 18/25/21 mpg for all-wheel drive derivatives on the city/highway/combined cycles respectively. With a 19.5-gallon fuel tank, buyers can expect between 409-430 miles on a tank with mixed driving styles. Despite these figures being generally impressive among V6 compatriots, turbo-diesel alternatives like the Chevrolet Colorado offer better economy figures and greater towing capacity.
The Ridgeline boasts one of the most upscale interiors in the segment with family crossover spaciousness and usability. Materials are generally soft to the touch and feel well-fitted, while the ergonomics are more car-like than many other pickups. Front and rear seat room is by far the best of any midsize truck, with particular credit given to the immense shoulder and hip room available. The seats are supportive and comfortable while offering amenities like heated front seats and a heated steering wheel on higher trim levels. The Ridgeline is equipped with three full sets of LATCH anchors with ample space for three child seats in the rear of the cabin, but the lower anchors are set deep in the seats.
Mid-size pickups are spacious in some aspects while other areas remain incredibly cramped or poorly proportioned. The Honda Ridgeline is not like other pickups in this regard and makes use of its crossover-platform origins to provide user-friendly proportions and the most generous amount of space in the segment. Easy ingress and egress are complemented by supportive seats for even larger passengers, while a wide array of steering and seating adjustments ensures both tall and short drivers alike will find a comfortable perch. The rear seats are extremely comfortable and there’s an abundance of shoulder and hip room to add to the high amounts of head and leg room. From inside the Ridgeline, you’d think you were in a family SUV - a compliment of the highest order.
On the RT and Sport trims, interior appointments are cloth only. Limited to just two exterior colors, the RT’s upholstery can only be had in black or gray, while the Sport model only offers black cloth upholstery. From the RTL trim leather is standard and is available in black, gray, or beige depending on your choice of exterior hue. The range-topping Black Edition gets trim-specific black perforated leather with red cloth accents and red stitching. On all models, the choice of interior color coincides with lower dash and door panel coloring, while a chrome strip is a standard trim piece across the width of the dash. On the Black Edition, the chrome strip and aluminum door handles are equipped in a gloss black finish.
The Ridgeline is only available with a 5.3-foot cargo bed, but the dual-function tailgate can extend the bed, and a bed-extender is also available optionally. The cargo bed can cater to 33.9 cubic feet of storage space as standard but is configured in such a manner that four-by-eight-foot sheets can be laid flat - something no rivals are capable of. Maximum payload capacity is rated at 1,569 lbs in all-wheel drive models, while FWD derivatives accept up to 1,452 lbs. Unique to the Ridgeline is a lockable under-bed trunk with 7.3 cubic feet of storage.
Inside the cabin, there are multi-level front door pockets that are large, while the center console storage is deep and has a solidly operating roll-top closure and a sliding phone tray inside. The glovebox is large and there’s an abundance of cupholders. The rear seats can fold up to allow extra storage in the rear, and even in place they offer under-seat storage of 2.9 cubic feet.
In terms of towing capacity, the Ridgeline trails competitors. Front-wheel drive derivatives can tow up to 3,500 lbs, while all-wheel drive derivatives tow up to 5,000 lbs. Class-leaders can tow up to 7,700 lbs.
The base RT model doesn’t come with much in the way of features, offering air conditioning, power windows with auto up/down driver and front passenger windows, cruise control, push-button start, a rearview camera, and a front 12-volt socket. All higher trims get three-zone climate control, while the RTL and higher trims get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, heated power-adjustable front seats, and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof. An auto-dimming rearview mirror and two rear USB ports are standard from the RTL-T, while the RTL-E adds blue ambient lighting, a heated steering wheel, and a 150-watt/400-watt truck bed power outlet. Honda Sensing - Honda’s suite of driver assistance aids - is equipped to higher trim lines.
The RT, Sport, and RTL trims are all standard with a five-inch color LCD infotainment screen that relies on physical buttons and knobs for operation. It’s paired to a seven-speaker audio system and accepts inputs via Bluetooth, auxiliary input jack and USB, along with boasting AM/FM functionality. From the RTL-T, the Ridgeline is equipped with an eight-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, SiriusXM, HD radio, satellite navigation, and Pandora compatibility. The RTL-E and Black Edition models get an upgraded sound system with eight speakers and a 540-watt output, as well as a truck-bed audio system that makes use of actuators to vibrate the trunk bed to operate like a giant external speaker.
Despite what one might think, the touchscreen system isn’t the one to have. Yes, it has full smartphone integration, but the touch-zones are small and difficult to operate, and the volume control is a frustrating touch slider.
Three years into its second generation, the 2019 iteration of the Ridgeline is getting more and more reliable as fewer problems are reported. For the 2018 and 2019 models, isolated incidents have been reported of issues with the fuelling system, while 2017 models had problems with varying interior accessories like Bluetooth and navigation not functioning properly. The current generation still ranks favorably in terms of reliability, with an overall reliability scorecard from J.D. Power of 77 out of 100 beating the Tacoma (75) and Colorado (76).
The Ridgeline scores favorably with safety agencies. The IIHS awarded it the title of Top Safety Pick due to the Honda Sensing suite of accident avoidance features on the top trims, while the NHTSA scored it an overall safety rating of five stars out of five.
While airbags and a rearview camera are standard, the best safety tech is reserved for the top two trims of the Ridgeline line-up, packing Honda Sensing comprising forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, road departure mitigation, and lane departure warning. Another great feature is Honda’s LaneWatch, available midway through the line-up, which uses a camera to give the driver a full view of the passenger side blind spot. Higher trims lines also get adaptive cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors.
If sales numbers were merely determined by how good a vehicle is, the Ridgeline would be selling double the number of trucks rivals do - it’s genuinely exceptional. From the car-like ride quality to the family-crossover levels of interior space and refinement, the Ridgeline does it all. It’s a master of practicality, the engine is strong and easy to use, and there’s a huge array of standard and optional technology. The ride comfort and handling simply can not be overlooked - they’re both areas in which the Ridgeline decimates its rivals. The only weak points are lower than average towing ability, poor off-road performance in serious situations, and a shoddy touchscreen media system, and the infotainment will pose a problem for the 90% of users who don’t go off-road. The Ridgeline deserves to sell, but it’s hampered by an image problem and the perception that a unibody truck can’t perform as well as traditional trucks. We’re here to tell you that notion couldn’t be further from the truth.
Honda offers the Ridgeline in six trims priced between $29,990 and $43,420 before tax, licensing, registration, options, and a $995 destination charge. The RT model is the cheapest model in the range at $29,990. The Sport trim starts at $33,390 in front-wheel drive guise, with all-wheel drive an extra $1,900. The RTL model starts at $34.870 in front-drive format, with the same $1,900 premium applicable for the addition of all-wheel drive. The RTL-T is available for a base MSRP of $37,000 as a front-drive model - all-wheel drive is available at a sticker price of $38,900. The RTL-E carries an MSRP of $41,920 while the range-topping Black Edition is priced at $43,420.
The Ridgeline is available in six trims for 2019: RT, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E, and Black Edition. All trims are powered by a 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic gearbox, with front- or all-wheel drive available depending on the trim.
The RT is kitted out with 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, push-button start, air conditioning, and the dual-action tailgate and in-bed trunk. Infotainment is by means of a five-inch display screen with seven speakers.
Stepping up to the Sport trim adds foglights, gray-painted alloys, tri-zone climate control, remote start, and keyless entry. The Sport gets optional all-wheel drive.
On the RTL you get leather upholstery, heated front seats, ten-way driver’s seat power adjustment, and four-way power adjustment for the front passenger.
The RTL-T adds to the RTL’s package by equipping LED daytime running lights, a blind spot camera, and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with four USB ports, HD and satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality.
The RTL-E trim gets adaptive cruise control and the Honda Sensing suite of safety features. But it also gets LED headlights, memory function for the driver’s seat, a power sunroof, heated steering wheel, front passenger armrest, a power sliding rear window, park sensors, a two-pin power outlet in the trunk, and an upgraded high-end audio system with the trunk-bed speaker functionality.
The range-topping Black Edition features all the functionality of the RTL-E but has black paint, black painted wheels, black trim, a black headliner, and black leather seats with red accents.
|RT||3.5-liter V6 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$27,429||$29,990|
|Sport||3.5-liter V6 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$30,530||$33,390|
|RTL||3.5-liter V6 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$31,880||$34,870|
|RTL-T||3.5-liter V6 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$33,823||$37,000|
|RTL-E||3.5-liter V6 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||All Wheel Drive||$38,310||$41,920|
Honda avoids packages when it comes to the Ridgeline, giving buyers six trims to choose from with a range of standalone accessories and a few limited standalone options.
Available across the range, buyers can opt for 18-inch accessory wheels from $1,596, a bed extender from $325, running boards from $625, a trailer hitch from $125, and rear under seat storage system for $135. A CD player is also optional on all trims but will cost you $310, while back-up sensors will set you back an extra $500. From the Sport trim, a heated steering wheel is available for $500. Both the heated steering wheel and reverse park sensors are standard on the RTL-E and Black Edition models.
All-wheel drive is available as an option on Sport, RTL, and RTL-T trims, but for an extra $1,900.
Additionally, there is a range of visual accessories buyers can equip for more aggressive styling, while practical storage solutions also add to the final price.
The Ridgeline RTL-T is our pick of the range, coming in under the 40k mark at $38,900 with all-wheel drive equipped. It gets full smartphone integration through the touchscreen media system, rear USB ports, and Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot monitor system, and while it misses out on the Honda Sensing safety suite, we feel it gives you the best value for your money and the most amount of functional equipment you need in a midsize truck without going over budget.
The Colorado is a top pick if you prefer a conventional pickup, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best around. It lacks the refinement, comfort, and space that the Ridgeline offers, with the Honda boasting a more upscale cabin, smoother ride quality, and a more versatile bed, particularly with the in-bed trunk. If most of your time in your pickup is spent with the family doing light work and recreation, the Ridgeline is the better truck. However, the Colorado offers a wider range of engines, and its own V6 boasts better towing capacity than the Ridgeline while the turbo-diesel engine offers more than 50% extra towing capacity with better fuel economy. The Colorado also offers better off-road capabilities, a better infotainment system, and rear-wheel drive instead of front-wheel drive. It all comes down to needs, with the Colorado being a genuine workhorse and the Ridgeline a lifestyle vehicle.
The Toyota Tacoma is one of the best off-road suitable pickups in the midsize segment, the body-on-frame construction allowing for better wheel articulation while the low range gearbox aids grip. But it also offers better towing ability than the Honda, and the touchscreen infotainment on the Tacoma is not only standard but is more user-friendly than the infuriating system supplied by Honda and only on higher trims. The Ridgeline feels more premium though, with higher quality interior materials, comfier seats, and better ride quality. The Ridgeline also offers a more practical bed and more storage options than the Tacoma. The Ridgeline is better in 90% of metrics, but depending on your needs, you may fall into the 10% who need the Tacoma’s capabilities.