Tom Crosby: 2017 Honda Ridgeline pickup improves with redesign

Tom Crosby

Driving a pickup truck usually means a lot of jounce over road bumps and handling that doesn’t quite measure up to a sedan.

Honda addresses both with its all-new mid-size 2017 Ridgeline 4-door pickup that now boasts the longest truck bed – 6 feet 4 inches – in its class. And with all-wheel-drive, it can handle mud and snow adequately, although with only 7.9 inches ground clearance, it isn’t equipped for heavy duty off-road driving.

That’s OK since the Ridgeline now has a sedan feel behind-the-wheel, along with a roomy interior comfortable for all occupants, excellent gas mileage and a dent-resistant truck bed with a two-way tailgate – swing door or fold down.

Under the truck bed is a hidden well to keep luggage dry or use to keep beverages cool with a drain plug. There is a spare tire. While the 280-horsepower V-6 engine doesn’t have the towing muscle of some competitors (only 5,000 pounds), Ridgeline isn’t an every day down-and-dirty, pasture working, haul-stuff pickup.

The cabin luxury is impressive with leather trimmings, 8-inch electro-static dashboard touchscreen with navigation, spacious center console, heated front seats, split fold-up rear seats above a storage compartment, power sliding rear window, smartphone applications (ex: ApplePlay, Android Auto) plus Bluetooth audio. A 540-watt sound system blares out using as speakers bedsides and the front bed wall.

New model Ridgelines haven’t been sold since 2014 but the 2017 – built using many of the Honda Pilot SUV’s tried-and-true features and design – hit showrooms in June with robust sales.

Our all-wheel-drive (two-wheel drive is available) Black Edition is top of the seven trims offered. It rode on 16-inch alloy wheels with an independent suspension and front and rear stabilizer bars providing car-like smoothness on the interstate. Tire thrum was a minor noise irritant.

Electrical rack-and-pinion steering produced excellent handling and a bevy of safety features provided driver security. They included rear camera, forward collision warning/braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning.

Missing was Honda’s optional Lane Watch, which shows the road’s blind spot via camera during a right turn.

The uni-body construction meshes well with the crew-cab look. It is immediately identified with its side door indentions, muscular wheel arches, raked windshield, narrow C-pillars and low fog lights beneath a black slatted grill topped by a chrome bar.

As befits its name, black is everywhere, inside and outside. Chrome and red stitching provide contrast.

Likes: Versatility, handling, ride, interior, safety, visibility, looks
Dislikes: Tire noise, low towing limit
Bottom line: Surprisingly sedan-like drivable pickup with luxury feel

Fact File

Base price w/destination fee: $43,770 (same as tested).
Curb weight: 4,431 pounds.
Wheelbase: 125.2 inches.
Length: 210 inches.
Width: 78.6 inches.
Engine specs: 3.5-liter, V6, SOHC, direct injection.
Horsepower: 280 hp at 6,000 rpm.
Torque: 262 ft.-lbs. at 4,700 rpm.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic.
EPA Rating: 18 city, 25 highway.
Range: 19.5 gallons, regular.
Performance: 0-60 in under 7 seconds.

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.