Trucks

Saying goodbye to the Honda Ridgeline

After a year we all agree; the Ridgeline is a great suburban pickup truck.

Honda

It's tough to say goodbye to some vehicles.

We drove more than 12,000 miles over the course of a year in our 2017 Honda Ridgeline long-termer. As the rough-and-tumble off-road gal on the Roadshow crew, I started the period doubtful of the Ridgeline's status as a true "truck," but in the end, I came to appreciate this Honda as all the pickup that most people need.

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My main concern with the Ridgeline centered on the fact that it's essentially a crossover SUV with a bed. Its unibody construction and independent suspension might make it much more liveable in terms of driving comfort, but that also means that it doesn't have the four-wheel-drive capability of "real" pickups like the Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier or Toyota Tacoma, midsize models that it ostensibly competes against.

However, during our year with the Ridgeline, our crew still found it to be as capable as most people need. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds, enough for my open trailer and desert buggy race car. Editor Antuan Goodwin showed British video producer Marc Ganley the American West on a roadtrip to middle-of-nowhere Nevada, and former Roadshow managing editor Wayne Cunningham tested the truck's dirt chops in Death Valley.

It's the latter where we had our one real problem with the Ridgeline. After 50-plus miles on a washboard dirt road, the rear shocks blew out. Fortunately, it was covered by the warranty and the dealer changed it out lickity-split, but Cunningham still had to drive it back from Death Valley while injured, its one corner jouncing up and down at the most minor of bumps.

2017 Honda Ridgeline - Death Valley

Here the Honda Ridgeline sits next to the Racetrack, a dry lakebed, and beyond the rocky outcrop of the Grandstand.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

If there was one person from the San Francisco team who adored the Ridgeline the most, it was Ganley. Every time I quibbled with the Ridgeline's truckiness, he was there with a swift defense, mostly because the Ridgeline made an excellent production vehicle. "I can use the tailgate as a table to get gear set up and the flat bed made loading everything really easy." Add to that the fact that Ganley could comfortably fit his 6-foot-6-inch frame behind the wheel, and it's clear why our resident Brit was reluctant to let the Ridgeline go. "There will never be its equal," he lamented.

The production crew also came to depend on the lockable in-bed storage bin to hide expensive video equipment out of sight, but just having an open bed really gave the crew creative options. Video producer Evan Miller was able to get some excellent car-to-car shots for our reviews of the BMW i8 and Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 by shooting directly from the Ridgeline's bed...properly strapped in, of course.

Maybe I'm getting older, but more than once I opted to take the Ridgeline over my personal car, a Mazdaspeed Miata, for the six-hour trip to see pals in Los Angeles. I love my Mazda, but for a long drive, the Ridgeline is much more comfortable and has modern conveniences like adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and Apple CarPlay.

In fact, I'd take the Ridgeline on a long pavement drive before I'd take any other pickup. It's much more quiet than a traditional truck and is an easier drive. There's no skittish solid axle in the rear or gobs of body roll. It feels like the solid, all-wheel drive crossover that it is.

Motivated by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, the engine had more than ample oomph for highway merging, and enough power to blast up steep mountain grades. Over the year we averaged 21.9 miles per gallon, besting the EPA fuel rating by nearly a mile.

The powertrain's six-speed automatic transmission proved unremarkable. That's a compliment, if only because I never noticed it being exceptionally wonderful or egregiously terrible. Rather, it was baby-bear just right.

The Ridgeline is, at heart, a crossover. Instead of the two-speed transfer case and locking rear differential found in traditional 4x4 pickups, the Ridgeline sports an all-wheel-drive system with parameters for Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand. It proved its mettle by winning the crossover class in the Rebelle Rally in 2016, but if you're looking to slay some dunes or scamper over rocks, there are better choices from Toyota and General Motors.

As much as we enjoyed having the Ridgeline for a year, we do have a few quibbles. The rear doors have such a small opening angle that it was tough to load in some of our larger gear. While I loved having adaptive cruise control on my road trips, the tech doesn't work in stop-and-go traffic, so it's useless in the congestion-laden Bay Area. And Goodwin experienced a few technical glitches when the lane-keep assist technology warned him to keep his hands on the wheel -- even when his hands were already there.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Apple CarPlay rules! Don't worry Android users. The Ridgeline has Android Auto standard as well.

Honda

We didn't have much wear-and-tear on the Ridgeline beyond the expected scratches in the bed liner. A recall was issued on 9,200 units for wiring issues, but it didn't affect our tester. The only maintenance required was a single oil change.

In the end, however, we all agree that the Honda Ridgeline is a pretty great truck. Says Goodwin, "I personally recommended it to a few friends and family members in the market for trucks. People who need it to haul, not necessarily tow or go off road. It's a great suburban pickup."