• Mar 09, 2013

2017 Honda Ridgeline: The Crossover of Pickups Returns

There's a front-wheel-drive version and a bed full of tricks.

After a brief, two-year hiatus—although we’re not sure many people noticed—Honda is taking another shot at the pickup segment, introducing its all-new, second-generation Ridgeline at the 2016 Detroit auto show. As did the previous Ridgeline when it was introduced at the same show way back in 2005, the new truck is closely related to the Pilot crossover and shares its unibody platform and 3.5-liter V-6 engine. This time around, however, the Ridgeline not only will be offered with all-wheel drive but also front-wheel drive, making it the only vehicle with a cargo bed thus equipped. (Hyundai is on the verge of confirming a similar vehicle, although the Santa Cruz would be one size smaller.)

In contrast to the original Ridgeline, which had somewhat awkward-looking, buttressed C-pillars, a droopy rear end, and a tailgate that looked one size too small, the new Ridgeline looks like a proper, four-door pickup. Compared with the Pilot, the Ridgeline’s front end is considerably more butch, with a low front bumper giving it an appropriately strong and wide visage, though stylists gratefully resisted the urge to slap on an artificially huge grille and drench the thing in cladding and chrome. Indeed, taste has prevailed from stem to stern, with subtle body-side surfaces and fender arches, normal-size mirrors, and simple taillamps with a C-shaped illumination pattern.

Honda was not prepared to provide specifics about feature content for the 2017 Ridgeline, but it did say that the truck will be offered with three-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, push-button start, and the company’s eight-inch Display Audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Versatility is enhanced by 60/40-split rear seats that either fold down or up. Also available will be Honda’s LaneWatch system, which displays an image from a camera mounted beneath the passenger-side mirror on the center screen, a feature we expect to be more handy here than in Honda’s small cars, particularly when the cargo bed is full.

The previous Ridgeline had many tricks up its sleeve, particularly in back, and the new one promises to be as clever. As before, the bed itself is rendered in composites, but now it is separate from the cab and has grown to five feet, four inches in length and five feet in width. Honda claims that the Ridgeline will be the only mid-size truck with 48 inches of flat floor space between the wheel arches. Maximum payload is said to be nearly 1600 pounds.

Returning for duty is the Ridgeline’s nifty, lockable in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate, which opens to the side or folds down. New for 2017 is an available cargo-bed audio system with 540 watts and six “exciters” in the walls. For anyone who doesn’t know what an “exciter” is and why it’s important to have a half-dozen of them in one’s bed—ahem—an exciter is a small motor assembly that spins at thousands of rpm, turning any sufficient surface to which it is mounted into a speaker. If a half-dozen exciters aren’t exciting enough for you, the Ridgeline’s vibrating bed also can be equipped with a 400-watt inverter to power even more, um, exciting small appliances and power tools. We checked, and there doesn’t appear to be a slot into which to insert quarters, but perhaps that will come with a mid-cycle refresh.

Among other details yet to be released are how much horsepower and torque will be produced by the Ridgeline’s direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 (the engine makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft in the Pilot.) Honda says it is still finalizing the Ridgeline's towing and payload ratings, revealing only that maximum payload is "approaching 1600 pounds" and that it will tow more than the Pilot, which is rated to pull as much as 3500 pounds with front-wheel drive and 5000 pounds in AWD form; the previous Ridgeline could tow 5000 pounds. We do know that a six-speed automatic will be the sole transmission, and Honda is hoping to claim both best-in-class acceleration figures and fuel-economy ratings. The now-optional all-wheel-drive system will include a torque-vectoring function as well as a multi-mode terrain-management system. Like the Pilot, the Ridgeline will offer a raft of safety features, too, including lane-departure warning, road-departure mitigation, collision warning and avoidance systems, and lane-keeping assistance.

Our answers should come sooner than later, as Honda plans to launch the 2017 Ridgeline during the first half of this year, and it will be interesting to see if the current climate is more welcoming to this kind of truck. Watch this space for information about pricing, engine output, tow ratings, and equipment, which we will provide just as soon as Honda makes them available.