Unibody Trucks - the Ultimate Guide
Pickup trucks have been the best sellers in the U.S. for a very long time. In fact, in 2021, the top-three selling vehicles were the Ford F-Series, the Ram pickup, and the Chevy Silverado. This should give you an idea as to how popular pickup trucks are Stateside. While these utility vehicles are getting better in terms of looks, features, and overall premium vibes, they still don’t offer the best ride quality or good fuel economy. But, there is a solution for this – unibody trucks.
Unibody trucks aren’t considered real trucks by a lot of people, mainly because they can’t be taken on any path and can’t tow as much as a traditional body-on-frame truck. However, unibody pickups offer crossover-like handling, ride quality, and fuel efficiency, thus giving you a sweet mix of both worlds. There aren’t a lot of unibody trucks on sale today, but we’ve listed them out here. Before we start with it, let’s get to some basic questions and answers about unibody trucks and designs.
Mid-Size Pickup Truck Drag Race: Honda Ridgeline Vs Hyundai Santa Cruz
There’s something to be said about a drag race between pickup trucks. Straight-line performance is not really the main selling point of these types of vehicles, but it still gives you an idea of how good the powertrains are at propelling them. Last time, Sam CarLegion had a RAM 1500 TRX vs Ford F150 ROUSH drag race, instore. This time, it’s the Honda Ridgeline vs the Hyundai Santa Cruz, and here’s what happened.
Honda Just Gave the Ridgeline Pickup a Fighting Chance, But Is It Enough to Make It Relevant?
Honda Ridgeline is often left out when talking about trucks, but this stalwart has been around for over 15 years now. It isn’t built on a body-on-frame chassis as its rivals. However, if you’re looking for a truck that works as a good family hauler and doesn’t have a traditional truck appeal, the Ridgeline will fit your bill.
The company has now refreshed the truck for the 2021 model year, and it comes with a few changes on the outside, a refreshed interior, and a few appearance packages offered as optional gear. Things under the hood, however, remain the same. Will these cosmetic changes interest the potential compact truck customers?
Check Out This Gixxer-Swapped Honda N600 Hoonitruck Tribute: Video
Engine Swaps - you love ‘em, I love ‘em, everyone loves ‘em. The crazier the better, right? Well, we got something pretty damn crazy for you on this one. This particular video comes to us from Christian McMaster, who got a chance to take a spin in a Honda N600 powered by the beating heart of a GSXR-1000. Yep, you can see where this one is headed.
It may not be immediately apparent, but the Honda Open Air Vehicle Concept is actually a Ridgeline-based study that looks like an oversized buggy. Honda doesn’t intend to put it into production, but it does want us to picture ourselves ripping across sand dunes in one of these, and we’re more than happy to oblige because it’s actually a pretty awesome idea.
The Honda Ridgeline really doesn’t get the love it deserves. It’s so hard for the Japanese truck to compete against the American big boys, but it certainly tries. After all, it wasn’t built for the same purpose as the Ram 1500, Silverado 1500, and Ford F-150. It’s built on a unibody construction that’s also shared with the Pilot and is actually designed to feel and drive like a crossover. Honda wanted to create a new niche here, but offering up a crossover with a bed, in a sense. Ideally, it would good for any purpose you want to throw at it, but it probably doesn’t have the strength of anything from the big three. That said, it’s still worthy of some love, and that’s why we’ve made it our wallpaper of the day.
Honda Debuts a Civic Type R Pickup and We’ve Officially Seen it All
The Honda Civic Type R is an awesome machine, and it got even cooler with the latest generation when Honda decided to bring it to U.S. shores and finally gave us a taste of the once forbidden fruit. With 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque on tap, it’s the definition of Japanese-bred hot hatch. It’s also the fastest car that’s spun its front two wheels around the Magny-Cours track. And, in a weird turn of events, Honda engineers have decided to chop one up and turn it into a proper pickup truck. Yes; a pickup truck. And, the weird part is that it’s pretty damn cool.
2020 Honda Ridgeline Type R
Honda waited years before bringing the Civic Type R to the U.S., but now that it’s here, our lusting and longing for performance variants of Hondas is left lonely. That got us thinking what else Honda could “Type R-ify.” Considering high-performance pickups are all the rage these days (though more for the off-road set), we figured the Ridgeline is a perfect candidate for a hotter engine, upgraded suspension, and some heavily bolstered racing seats. Why not?
Alright, we know – Elon Musk has a better chance of landing a Tesla-branded rover on Mars than we have of convincing Honda to build a Type R version of the Ridgeline. Honda purists would shout sacrilege at a Ridgeline Type R and haters of Honda’s pickup would laugh even harder at this “non-pickup.” That doesn’t matter, though; we’d still love to see a high-performance version of the second-generation Ridgeline. Perhaps it could even reignite the sport truck niche, twisting Ford’s arm to bring back the F-150 Lightning, Chevy the Silverado SS, and GMC the Syclone. How cool would that be? So what might a Honda Ridgeline Type R include? Read on for the speculation.
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2017 - 2018 Honda Ridgeline
The second-generation Honda Ridgeline made its debut at January’s 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The 2017 Ridgeline replaces the long-tired, first-gen truck that debuted for the 2006 model year and ran until its demise in 2014. The second-generation truck continues to utilize a unibody design, though it’s been thoroughly updated with Honda’ latest generation of crossover platform. It shares much of its structure with the Pilot, called Honda’s Global Light Truck Platform, as well as Honda’s next-generation of ACE body structure.
"We are bringing our unique technology and original thinking to the market in a new and challenging concept for a Honda pickup," said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor. "We think we’ve got a better idea, a truck that uses its unibody construction and Honda packaging magic to deliver more of the things that many of today’s truck customers want and need with none of the things they don’t." Mendel’s quote succinctly nails the 2017 Ridgeline: it’s a truck that has nothing typical truck buyers want and packed with everything they don’t. What? Yep, the Ridgeline is obviously not for the blue collar type who works construction for a living. Honda has purposefully made this truck for those who want a crossover, but need the open cargo bed of a pickup. Folks like weekend road bikers or antique pickers who also daily drive their vehicle. The Ridgeline doesn’t really compete with the other trucks in the mid-size segment, though it may very well become their biggest competitor. The all-new Ridgeline began selling the first half of 2016.
Update 07/24/2017: Honda has released changes and pricing related to the 2018 Ridgeline. Keep reading for what’s new.
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2017 Honda Ridgeline – Driven
The Ridgeline is completely new for 2017 and ushers in the second generation for Honda’s unibody pickup truck. It shares its underpinnings and a number of drivetrain and interior pieces with the Pilot crossover, but is designed to offer more functionality than a crossover thanks to its cargo bed – all with fewer trade-offs than a conventional body-on-frame pickup. But how does it work in the real world? Does this compromise between crossover and pickup really translate into a practical vehicle? To find out, I spent a week with the new Ridgeline and racked up nearly 1,600 miles.
In short, yes, the Ridgeline does offer a great truck-like experience for folks who might normally shop the crossover segment, but also for those who might need something to complete their weekend warrior project list. It boasts a maximum payload capacity of 1,588 pounds, so hauling mulch or firewood isn’t an issue. The bed is even wide and flat enough to haul 4x8 sheets of plywood or drywall. Yet at the same time, the Ridgeline drives like a crossover, gets respectable fuel mileage, and has a highly functional interior. But there’s more to the Ridgeline than the obvious. Let’s get down to business.
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Quick Look: 2017 Honda Ridgeline’s Cargo Bed
The Honda Ridgeline has been around since the 2006 model year, but the truck is completely new for 2017. Its unibody structure is based on the Honda Pilot, but the Ridgeline is no crossover. This crew cab pickup offers room for five and a cargo bed that measures 5.3 feet long by 5.0 feet across, meaning it’s the largest of the “standard length” cargo beds in the mid-size truck class. And like the first generation, the Ridgeline offers the In-Bed Trunk and Dual-Action Tailgate.
Honda has certainly done its homework with the second-generation Ridgeline. It now looks more attractive, has a more efficient powertrain, offers a sophisticated AWD system, and an impressive 5,000 pounds worth of towing capacity. The truck can be had in seven trim levels that range in price from $29,475 up to $42,870 before options.
But that’s not what this article is about. We’re talking about its cargo bed. Stick around to TopSpeed for the full driven review in the coming days. So let’s dive into these features.
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How We’d Spec It: 2017 Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline is about as controversial as a pickup truck can be. Diehard truck folks say the unibody-based Ridgeline is too soft and incapable of “real work.” They scoff at its transversely mounted engine and standard FWD. But after having driven one, I can firmly say the Ridgeline is more truck than most suburbanites truly need. With that in mind, I set out to build the perfect Ridgeline – not too expensive, but not rental-grade, either.
The Ridgeline is available in a dizzying array of acronymic trim levels. There are seven in total. They are the RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E, and Black Edition. Parked about midway up the hierarchy is the RTL-T. The name might not be memorable, but it comes with satellite navigation, the Display Audio Touch Screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
That’s compounded atop of the other features found on lesser trim models like heated leather seats, with 10-way power adjustments for the driver, an acoustic windshield, Smart Entry with push-button start, fog lights, Tri-Zone climate control, and remote engine starting. The RTL-T is also the highest trim level available with FWD as standard. Of course, AWD can be had for an additional $1,800. In my case, I’d spend the extra cash.
Speaking of cash, the RTL-T carries a starting price of $35,930. Tack on the cost of AWD, and the before-options price of my theoretical new truck comes to $37,730. Keep reading to see how I’d finish out the build. You can disagree with my choices in the comments.
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2016 Honda Ridgeline TJIN Edition
The 2017 Honda Ridgeline is a popular truck at this year’s SEMA show. Fox Marketing, MAD Industries, and even Honda all brought customized Ridgelines to the show. Yet another marketing brand has done the same, TJIN Edition. It’s called the Pennzoil Honda Ridgeline and it features a slew of upgraded parts and accessories made to showcase different brands under the TJIN Edition umbrella.
The upgrades range from mild to wild, including such stuff as new suspension system, new wheels and tires, an LED light bar, and a customized interior with new upholstery and stereo system. Even the paint is unique to this show truck. The Ridgeline also includes a matching Honda TRX250X ATV in the bed and a mountain bike mounted on a rack.
There is plenty to see, so keep reading for the full run-down.
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2017 Honda Ridgeline with Honda Genuine Accessories
There are several modified Ridgelines at the 2016 SEMA show, but only one is decked out with Honda Genuine Accessories. Appropriately named, this Ridgeline showcases many of the automaker’s dealer add-on parts. This gives potential Ridgeline customers an idea about what Honda offers through its U.S. dealership network. Best of all, these parts are likely covered by the Ridgeline’s factory warranty and are financeable if the parts are added at the time of purchase.
The truck isn’t as wild as some of the other Ridgeline concepts at SEMA, including the one from MAD Industries and Fox Marketing. Nevertheless, the truck still shows what’s possible through Honda.
Aside from the parts, the Ridgeline is completely stock. Everything from is unibody platform to its 3.5-liter V-6 – everything is factory-fresh. That’s not a bad thing though, as the all-new Ridgeline offers plenty of goodies, like its In-Bed Audio system, Dual-Action tailgate, fold-up second row bench,
like dash, and an available AWD system.
Despite it not having a traditional ladder frame, the Ridgeline can carry 1,584 pounds in the bed and tow a 5,000-pound trailer. AWD models are also surprisingly agile off-road, in spite of the road-biased tires.
Anyway, let’s dive into what Honda Genuine Accessories has brought to the 2016 SEMA show.
2017 Honda Ridgeline By MAD Industries
Honda has plenty to be proud about the all-new, second-generation Ridgeline, but the aftermarket scene is always ready to improve things. That is what’s happening here with MAD Industries’ Ridgeline it build for the 2016 SEMA show. It comes decked out in a street-ready attitude that includes big wheels, low profile tires, a murdered-out color scheme, and a sport bike in the bed.
Under the changes, the Ridgeline is completely new for 2017, marking the second generation for Honda’s unibody pickup. The new Ridgeline is based on the current Pilot SUV, but comes with a multi-functional cargo bed. The Ridgeline might not be the truck hard-core truck folks buy, but it works great for average consumers looking for greater capability than a crossover or SUV can give.
The Ridgeline comes with Honda’s 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. FWD is standard, but AWD is optional. Also optional is Honda’s innovative In-Bed Audio system. It uses the plastic bed walls as speakers for pumping out music for tailgating. The bed also sports Honda’s two-way tailgate. It can operate like a conventional pickup tailgate, or deploy sideways as a swinging door.
While all those Honda bits are cool, this particular Ridgeline is decked out with plenty of aftermarket goodies. Let’s have a look to see what MAD Industries has done.
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2017 Honda Ridgeline by FOX Marketing
The 2016 SEMA show is the first for Honda’s second-generation Ridgeline and aftermarket companies are showing it plenty of attention. This iteration comes from Fox Marketing. It comes complete with a Honda FourTrax Foreman Rubicon ATV in the bed, too.
The Ridgeline might not be the quintessential definition of a pickup truck, but this unibody
turned-pickup is anything but a lame duck. Offered with AWD and a peppy V-6 engine, the Ridgeline can haul 1,584 pounds in its multi-function cargo bed and AWD models can tow an impressive 5,000 pounds. That’s more than enough capability to haul this ATV up a mountain trail.
Every Ridgeline comes with Honda’s 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 with direct fuel injection. The engine generates 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
This particular Ridgeline is decked out with plenty of aftermarket goodies. Let’s have a look to see what Fox Marketing has done.
Continue reading to learn more about the Honda Ridgeline by FOX Marketing.
First Impressions: 2017 Honda Ridgeline
It’s easy to give Honda grief over the Ridgeline. “It’s not a real truck,” scoffers say. “You can’t tow with it or go off-road,” are common gripes. Well, thanks to the 2016 Truck Rodeo put on by the Texas Auto Writers Association, I had my first in-person encounter and drive experience with the Ridgeline. I can tell you the Ridgeline is very real – I touched it and drove it. It’s also not bad at tackling moderate off-road trails and it’s rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Of course, naysayers are talking the Honda’s unibody construction, four-wheel independent suspension, and FWD/AWD powertrain layout when berating the Ridgeline. Sure, the Ridgeline doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a body-on-frame pickup, but I’d wager it offers more functionality and capability than 80 percent of modern truck buyers actually need. F-150s, Ram 1500s, and Silverados are cool and all, but they do come with trade-offs like a harsh ride, lower fuel economy, and a size that doesn’t fit in many residential garages.
For those who actually need the capabilities of a full-size pickup, there’s really no substitute. But for those folks who like the idea of a pickup, occasionally pull a small trailer, or might go camping once a year, those full-size capabilities are not being utilized. The Ridgeline splits the difference between the full-size (and even mid-size) pickup category and the ever-popular crossover SUV.
I spent some time going over the 2017 Ridgeline at the Truck Rodeo – from its 3.5-liter V-6 to its lockable in-bed storage trunk. Keep reading for my first impressions.
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The 2016 Truck Rodeo: The Full Results
By now you’ve probably read how the 2017 Ford Super Duty was crowned the Truck of Texas and that the 2017 Nissan Armada won the SUV of Texas. But the Super Duty and Armada were far from the only winners at this year’s Truck Rodeo put on by the Texas Auto Writers Association.
More than 70 journalists and social media influencers descended upon the 1,623-acre Longhorn River Ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas to test approximately 71 pickup trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and commercial vehicles in TAWA’s annual event.
A total of 17 categories grouped the vehicles with their competition, ranging from compact crossovers and full-size SUVs to Off-Road pickups. Other categories included best connectivity, best technology, and best powertrain.
Keep reading for the full results.
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Honda Calls Out Chevy in Rock-Drop Test
In the most humble way possible, Honda showed how the new 2017 Ridgeline’s composite cargo bed can withstand Chevys’ now-infamous landscaping stone drop test. There was no studio lighting, no professional camera work, or even “real people, not actors” crew to add dramatic commentary. Rather, Honda seems to have used a couple GoPro cameras in a parking lot with a well-used skid-steer loader.
You’ll recall Chevrolet’s advertisement video series that debuted last week showing how the Silverado’s rolled-steel cargo bed could better withstand impacts from garden stones than the aluminum cargo bed of the Ford F-150. While neither bed escaped undamaged, the Chevy’s bed seemed to resist punctures better than the F-150’s bed.
Chevy’s video series seemed rather showy, especially with the gaggle of supposed truck customers there to comment on the damage. Showiness aside, the videos did show the Silverado outperforming the F-150.
But here comes Honda, performing the same drop test like its no big deal. Slow claps… Sure, Honda didn’t perform the toolbox drop test, nor did it show any sort of laboratory testing, but the impromptu nature of the demonstration shows Honda’s confidence in the Ridgeline’s ability to “truck.”
Honda did show, however, that the dual-action tailgate and in-bed trunk lid worked perfectly fine after the drop test. Honda claims each of the 60 stones weigh between 14 to 16 pounds. That means between 840 to 960 pounds was slammed into the bed – still well short of the Ridgeline’s 1,584-pound payload capacity. What’s more, because the bed is comprised of thick plastic, scratches don’t show up as well because the plastic is the same color throughout its thickness. The same can’t be said of painted metal – no matter if its steel or aluminum.
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