Leave those battered old boots behind when you climb into the 2018 Honda Ridgeline pickup, along with your deeply creased, sweat-stained Resistol.
Two-hundred-dollar tennis shoes or tasseled loafers would be far more appropriate attire for the urbane, starched-and-pressed Ridgeline.
Don’t even think about a can of Copenhagen in your back pocket. Cuban cigars only, please.
This ain’t no cowboy truck, Bubba, as you can clearly see.
Fiercely independent Honda chose to leap quietly into the mid-size truck segment in 2005 with a car-based pickup rather than a traditional body-on-frame bruiser.
Consequently, it kind of looks like an SUV that got too close to a giant saw.
Honda calls it a sport-utility truck – giving it intentional separation, I suppose, from conventional beer-and-beans pickups.
It felt to me like a gender-bender – a softer, gentler pickup built primarily for urban-dwellers with occasional Home Depot needs rather than a bare-knuckle back-roads hay-hauler.
Still, the Ridgeline stands as tall as a Chevrolet Colorado pickup, confronting the world with a large blacked-out horizontal grille and swept-back headlamps that cut politely into the fenders.
Its slightly rounded sides resembled those of a Honda Pilot SUV, complete with a subtle character line through the door-handles and an abruptly squared-off top where the body met the bed.
The truck’s 5.3-foot pickup bed looked more traditional with vertical taillamps and a broad, flat tailgate that could be opened conventionally or from right to left with a nifty lever under the bumper.
My all-wheel-drive Ridgeline also arrived with a slick 7.3-cubic-foot in-bed trunk large enough to store an 82-quart ice-chest and fitted with a drain plug.
If you must, beer can probably be stored there, but I think the Ridgeline much prefers wine.
Initially, I didn’t care for the Ridgeline’s car-like gray-and-alloy 18-inch wheels wrapped with 245/40 tires. Then I realized they kind of work with the niche truck’s dual personality – SUV in front, typical pickup in back.
Believe me, you can appreciate the truck’s Patagonia personality if you’ve ever ridden in a small four-wheel-drive pickup – chaos in a can, I call them.
The all-wheel-drive Ridgeline, for instance, featured a bump-absorbing independent rear suspension in contrast to the solid axles and leaf springs of its competitors.
While not quite sedan-smooth, it glided nicely along smooth boulevards and freeways, occasionally getting a bit bouncy on the bad stuff, though even that was pretty minimal.
Likewise, it handled and steered better than conventional pickups, leaning some in moderate-speed corners like an SUV but remaining balanced and composed.
Of course, the Ridgeline’s car-like unibody design and independent rear suspension limit its truck capabilities, but it can still tow up to 5,000 pounds – compared with 7,000 pounds in the Chevy Colorado.
Consequently, if you need to drag your mother-in-law’s house a few blocks farther away from yours, the Honda could be huffing and puffing some.
Don’t sweat it too much. Like the Honda Odyssey and Pilot SUV – with which the pickup shares a basic platform – my 4,500-pound Ridgeline relied on a silky 3.5-liter V-6 with 280 horsepower.
That level of power is pretty common in the mid-size truck segment, but Honda coupled the engine with a six-speed automatic – the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon offer eight-speed trannies.
Though the Ridgeline merged with traffic effortlessly, riding a nice wave of smooth mid-range torque, its 0-to-60 time of 6.6 seconds was a half-second slower than burlier V-6 powered Colorado and Canyon pickups, according to Car and Driver.
Find outr, its fuel-economy was pretty average as well, at 18 miles per gallon in town and 25 on the highway.
Both might be helped by a couple of extra gears.
2019 Honda Ridgeline.
Meanwhile, my well-equipped, $43,000 RTL-E model flashed a reasonably upscale light-gray leather interior.
A flat black-plastic dashboard, for example, curved over the instrument panel and rolled down onto a gray lower dash.
Although the Ridgeline sports a smallish display screen in the center of the dash – a less distracting in my book – Honda cancelled that out by equipping it with an audio system controlled through pads on the screen.
Fortunately, the climate system below the screen used conventional knobs and buttons.
The trucklet’s plastic door-panels featured black tops with the rest of the panel in gray, nicely matching the lower dash.
Its good-looking gray leather seats offered supportive bolsters and perforated centers, while the back seat provided good headroom but fairly tight legroom – a common issue with mid-size trucks.
According to Honda’s invoice, my somewhat pricey Ridgeline didn’t have a single option.
As you may recall, Honda has already failed once with the Ridgeline, ending production in 2014 before introducing the current all-new model in 2017.
Perhaps the SUT concept will work better this time, though Ridgeline sales were down more than 24 percent through the first six months of the year, according to Automotive News.
If nothing else, I give Honda lots of credit for staying true to its innovative roots, but I think the Ridgeline could really use some pure Texas truck-sauce in its tank.
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2018 Honda Ridgeline
- What I liked most: The Ridgeline’s mostly bounce-free ride and sophisticated road manners.
- What I would change: The styling, which fails to convey any brawn or truck-like capabilities.
- MSRP: Base price for RTL-E model, $41,620; as equipped, $42,595.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city, 25 on the highway and 21 mpg overall with filler on the left.
- Official color: Osidian Blue Pearl.
- Odometer reading when tested: 2,615 miles.
- Weight: 4,515 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 209.5 inches long/78.6 inches wide/70.8 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 19.5 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Up to 5,000 pounds.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- 2018 Honda Ridgeline in a few words: A decent, nice-driving pickup disguised as a sport-utility vehicle.
- Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile overall warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection.
- Final assembly location: Lincoln, Ala.
- Manufacturer’s website:
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