It’s the truck for people who don’t like trucks

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.

Continue reading for more information.

Exterior

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Honda offers seven exterior colors on the 2017 Ridgeline. I’m a sucker for Honda blue, so I’d pick Obsidian Blue Pearl. Other choices include Modern Steel Metallic, White Diamond Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, Crystal Black Pearl, Deep Scarlet Pearl, and Forest Mist Metallic. The RTL-T comes standard with six-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels with machined faces and black-painted pockets. If I had another $1,640 to play with in the budget, I’d upgrade to the 10-spoke, 18-inch “chrome-look” alloy wheels. There’s also another 18-inch wheel option.

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"Honda offers a number of accessories for the exterior, including several for the cargo bed. At 64 inches long, the Ridgeline’s bed is actually longer than the short bed models of the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado."

Honda offers a number of accessories for the exterior, including several for the cargo bed. At 64 inches long, the Ridgeline’s bed is actually longer than the short bed models of the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. Still, cargo can sometimes be cumbersome. For that reason, I’d opt for the $325 bed extender. It adds 16 inches of storage room inside the bed. When not in use over the tailgate, the bed extender rotates 180-degrees to create a confined storage area in front of the tailgate.

Other accessories include roof racks, hitch-mounted bike racks, protective body moldings, fender flares, a hard tonneau cover, splash guards, a front skid plate for the lower bumper, and running boards, among several other items.

Interior

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Honda doesn’t give RTL-T owners much choice when it comes to interior colors. In fact, gray leather is the only color available with the Obsidian Blue exterior color. Choosing other outside colors will result in either beige leather or black leather, making for a total of three.

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"Gray leather is the only color available with the Obsidian Blue exterior color."

As for interior accessories, I might opt for the $500 heated steering wheel for my cold-natured hands and the $45 rear floor cargo tray. The tray fits perfectly between the seat tracks and the rear bulkhead and keeps messy items from ruining the carpet. Likewise, I’d get the $169 all-season floor mats. Other options from Honda include illuminated door sills, a first-aid kid, seat covers, and a full under-seat storage system for the rear area.

Drivetrain

There isn’t much choosing in this department, either. The Ridgeline comes standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 with Honda’s i-VTEC valvetrain system. The all-aluminum engine makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Direct fuel injection and the VTEC variable valve timing help keep efficiency up while providing adequate power for accelerating and hauling. The engine is transversely mounted inside the engine bay and is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.

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"The Ridgeline comes standard with a 3.5-liter V-6 with Honda’s i-VTEC valvetrain system."

The only choice Honda gives Ridgeline buyers is the option of AWD. Honda calls it the i-VTM4 AWD system and it uses an array of sensors to send power where it’s needed most. During normal conditions, the Ridgeline sends power to the front wheels. When traction becomes an issue, up to 70 percent of power can be shifted rearward. If one side of the truck looses traction, up to 100 percent of that power can be directed to one side or the other via the dynamic torque vectoring rear differential.

The driver doesn’t have to do anything to activate the system, but selecting one of four traction modes can help the system anticipate the terrain. They include Normal, Snow, Mud, and Sand.

The Ridgeline is also efficient for a truck, too. The EPA rates the Ridgeline AWD at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The Honda’s towing rating is also impressive. AWD models can lug 5,000 pounds from its two-inch, frame-mounted receiver hitch.

Pricing

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The 2017 Honda Ridgeline’s base trim level, the RT, has a starting price of $29,475. Pricing can swing wildly north should someone select the Black Edition with all the option boxes checked. Kitted out, the Ridgeline can retail for slightly more than $46,395.

My theoretical build splits the difference. With AWD optioned on, along with the accessories listed above, the price hovers at $38,600. That’s not terrible. Granted, there are less expensive trims and options are, well… optional, so the price of your dream truck will differ.

Competition

Toyota Tacoma

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The Tacoma has remained the best-selling mid-size truck in the U.S. for over a decade, so quite a number of folks apparently like what Toyota is selling. The Tacoma moved into a new generation for 2016 and is now more updated and tech-filled than ever. It uses a Otto and Atkinson cycle 3.5-liter V-6 with both port and direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. A six-speed manual transmission is available, but most trucks will come fitted with the six-speed automatic. RWD is also standard, but a true 4WD system is offered.

Competing most closely with the Honda Ridgeline RTL-T trim would be the Tacoma’s TRD Sport package. When optioned with the Double Cab and short bed with 4WD, the price comes to $35,355, before options.

Find out more about the Toyota Tacoma here.

Chevrolet Colorado

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The Colorado closely follows the Tacoma is sales thanks to its complete overhaul for 2015 after its short hiatus when the first generation died off. The Colorado is offered in several cab and bed configurations, but the Crew Cab, short box with 4WD and the 3.6-liter V-6 and fitted with the LT trim package is the closest competitor to the other two trucks here.

While a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the impressive 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel is offered, most Colorado trucks come with the V-6. It makes 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Like the Tacoma, the Colorado’s 4WD system is the old-school type with RWD/4WD hi/4WD Lo positions.

With the LT Convince Package and Luxury Package-Chrome added to include leather seats and other comparable equipment, the Chevy’s price hovers around $36,000.

Read more about the Chevrolet Colorado here.

Conclusion

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The Honda Ridgeline might not have the heaviest towing or payload capacities; it might not be the best on some rocky trail; it probably won’t be found on some mid-western farm pulling a hay rake to the barn. But the Ridgeline is a darn good split between a full-fledged pickup and a crossover.

The Ridgeline’s incredibly innovated in-bed storage box, optional in-bed audio system, intelligent AWD system, 1,504-pound payload capacity, and 5,000-pound towing capacity make it insanely handy to own. And how cool is the Dual-Action tailgate? I’m also a big fan of the rear seat’s folding method and under-seat storage space. The latching rail mounted to the floor is a bit cumbersome though.

All told, whatever Ridgeline you pick, it will surprise with its non-conventional design, in-bed technologies and storage systems. Let me know how you’d configure a Ridgeline, or whether you’d pick the Tacoma or Colorado. Better yet, are you holding out for the upcoming Ford Ranger? No matter what choice you go with, it’s a sure bet these are good times we’re living in.

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