The new 2017 Honda Ridgeline follows the footsteps of the previous generation and now long-in-the-tooth original Honda Ridgeline by not really being a 'truck', despite what Honda’s marketing department may say.
When you head over to Honda.ca and look for the Ridgeline you will find it list under “Trucks” along with the HR-V, CR-V, Pilot and now lumped with the Odyssey minivan as well. That’s okay, as it’s certainly not a “car”, so Honda had to put these vehicles someplace. But that doesn’t make it a truck.
By now you are thinking I’m just a fool and another Honda-hating journalist -- but hear me out. Traditionally “trucks” are full body-on-frame designs and the Ridgeline isn’t. “But the Ridgeline has a bed like a pickup truck!” you say, “Aha! Therefore it must be a truck!” To that I say the El Camino also had a pickup bed, as did the Subaru Baja; you didn’t call them trucks now did you? "Aha!" Back at you, good sir.
But in all seriousness, before you get your knickers in a knot, it’s OKAY that the Ridgeline is not a truck and here are some reasons why.
The Market doesn’t need another truck!
Seriously, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Toyota, Nissan and GM already make perfectly fine mid-size trucks and when you start counting all the half-ton and larger trucks the list gets longer to include RAM and Ford as well. The truck market is big but the mid-size truck market where the Ridgeline is playing isn’t really all that large, so why be a “me-too” player?
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Honda has taken the strategic decision to make a unibody truck, the only one on the market -- that decision is actually quite smart when you look at it from that angle, now isn’t it? The Ridgeline offers buyers something different, a capable vehicle with a pickup truck bed that Monday to Friday drives likes a car, hauling what most urbanites and suburbanites haul day in and day out: air.
It’s a unibody, it can’t be a real truck.
Yes, it is a unibody design and that means there are some compromises in terms of configurations and options. In other words: you cannot spec the Ridgeline up as a two door or with a long box, so what you see is what you get. But the advantages of the unibody design are actually numerous.
By using a unibody design the floor can be kept lower and flat, which translates into more interior volume, more comfortable seating and more storage options. Unlike any other mid-size truck you can store large items under the seats when the seats are down. Also the Ridgeline offers a unique in-bed trunk which now also features a flat floor for lockable waterproof storage.
It doesn’t drive like a truck
This is a combination of the unibody design and the coil spring design on the Ridgeline. When I say it doesn’t drive like a truck, I mean it doesn’t hop, skip or jump over rough terrain, it doesn’t shudder over train tracks and it doesn’t handle like a barge. The Ridgeline handles, rides and feels like you are driving a large car, a minivan or a crossover, because it is built exactly like one of those vehicles.
This is a good thing, though some will argue they love the feel of a truck and it is unique, but the average consumer that just wants something a little more capable doesn’t want to give up that soft, comfortable ride that they are used to in their car or SUV. The Ridgeline offers that easy-to-park, easy-to-drive and easy-to-live-with design that the average person is seeking for their vehicle.
It can only haul 2,268 kg (5,000 lb)
Wait a second! That isn’t really that far off of the competition. The 2016 Chevrolet Colorado and 2016 GMC Canyon are rated between 3,500 and 7,000 lb depending on configuration. The Ridgeline is rated at 5,000 lb for all the AWD models (which is all trim levels in Canada).
But the Payload is Tiny! Right?
Darn, foiled again. Honda rates the Ridgeline at 718 kg (1,584 lb) for payload, which again is on par with the competition. Payload is as low as 508 kg (1,120 lb) for the Tacoma in some trims and as high as 734 kg (1,620 lb). In fact 700 kg is more than some half ton configurations can carry.
Wait, so maybe it is a truck?
I’ll let you decide for yourself if it is a real truck or not, but I will leave you with this. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is the only mid-size truck to offer a Five Star rating from NHTSA. It is the top of the class in fuel economy, it offers the best 0-100 km/h in the class, and is the only truck in the class to offer 50 inches of space between the wheel wells in the bed for your 4x8 drywall real-world practicality test. So which trucks in the mid-size class are not real trucks now?