Is the Ridgeline ready to be taken seriously by truck guys?
In 2005 Honda decided to enter into the pickup truck market with the Ridgline. This seemed like an odd move for the Japanese company that built its reputation on making small and economical sedans. However, rival Companies Toyota and Nissan were also known for building small, economical cars, but each of them had been building pickup trucks for years. Toyota's Tacoma, and to a lesser extent, Nissan's Frontier, were highly successful in challenging America's mid-size trucks, However, these trucks have something the Ridgeline does not.
They are tough! The Ridgeline was never really a "tough" truck. It was badged as a sport utility truck (SUT) and built on a unibody construction. This setup was more suited to the Pilot SUV than a "hairy chested man's truck." Because the Ridgeline was always seen as just a Pilot with a small bed it was never truly accepted as a "true" pickup truck. Production of the Ridgeline ended in 2014, and despite low sales figures the Ridgeline was a very profitable vehicle for Honda. Now, Honda has decided to bring the Ridgeline back for 2016. The new Ridgeline returns innovative features such as the in-bed trunk, a feature that is unique to Honda's pickup. The new Ridgeline will attempt to be more truck-like than its predecessor.
New, more traditional styling makes the 2017 Ridgeline look less "weird" than the original. Honda also claims to have targeted best-in-class fuel economy and acceleration numbers with a new 3.5-liter V6 making 280 horsepower and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Those numbers have yet to be confirmed, so we aren't sure how Honda claims to be class-leading with such a ho hum powertrain that features no turbos, electricfication, or millions of speeds. Having standard front-wheel drive, rather than rear-wheel drive, may have helped. However not having RWD is likely to put off traditional pickup truck buyers. Honda will counter that with unique features such as a new speaker system in the bed.
The bed has also been made scratch-resistant and wider to accommodate more stuff. The original Ridgeline's dual-action tailgate remains, allowing owners to open the tailgate in two different ways. All of these tailgate features seem a bit gimmicky to us, and Honda's money may have been better spent making this truck more rugged, or more technologically advanced. Sure the new Ridgeline will feature push-button start and Apple Car Play on an eight-inch touchscreen display. But it doesn't seem like enough to compete with advanced turbocharged and diesel powertrains from Ford and Chevrolet, respectively. People who just want an SUV with a bed will flock to the Ridgeline once again, but "truck guys" will continue to be unconvinced.