Test Drive : 2017 Honda Ridgeline

So, this is a thing I’m gonna play with – Test Drives. We’re currently shopping for a replacement for the Lil’ Beast, a 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5XS. We bought it cheap from my folks, and it was only supposed to last a year or two. But, it’s been just shy of five years now, and it’s still kicking. But only barely. At this point, it needs rear (drum) brakes (ugh, my most loathed of brake jobs), endlinks, shocks, springs, emissions work (a regular P0457 – major evaporative leak keeps popping the check engine light) which could mean a new gas tank, charcoal canister, and/or vacuum lines. Probably needs new plugs & wires, too, and the engine has recently developed a mild knock, and oil leak.

That’s more than is worth fixing, on an 11 year old car, with 120,000 miles/200,000km + on it. The parts alone are more than the car is worth at this point, and that’s without any labour I can’t do myself.

So, test driving.

The spectrum is pretty wide – primarily because, no one will sell me what I really want: A midsize or fullsize wagon. Don’t really care for SUV’s additional ride-height, I don’t generally find it necessary. I’d rather have the space of an SUV, and the handling of a car.

But that’s a complaint for another time.

First on the list is… a truck?

I guess I should go over the list: I’ve kept it broad (for features and use) and tried not to exclude anything based on preconceptions. At the same time, I’m also trying to keep the cars interesting as well as utilitarian. Hey, I’m a car guy, and some kind of character to the vehicle is important.

So, the list is:

  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline
  • 2017 Ford F150 4×4 Crew XLT
  • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4×4
  • 2017 Subaru Forester
  • 2017 Toyota Rav4 hybrid eAWD

    For the moment, that’s it, but it’s subject to change/addition. Might throw the Ford Explorer in, and maybe the Subaru Outback, as well.

    So, back to the first on the list. A truck. A unibody, car-based truck at that.

    Thing is, @pingoderp (who this will also be partly/largely for) hates the Ridgeline. No, not kidding. She’s not a car person at all – she’s a home design person, I’m the car guy. But something about the 2006-2015 Ridgeline makes her literally apoplectic with rage when she sees one. It seems to be the flying buttress behind the cab – there’s something about the proportions that are thrown off in the design, well, look for yourself:

    So, when the generation two Ridgeline started making the show/review circuit, it was tough to bring it forward to her as an option. I mean, she REALLY hated the old one.

    But it really pushes all the utility buttons, so, we went to look.

    First off, a message to dealers. Telling me to pay a $500 deposit to bring a model in for me to test drive in a few weeks? Yeah, no. It may not be illegal, but it’s seriously immoral. And, it guarantees that I’m not going to do business with you. Civic Motors, Ottawa, I’m looking at you.

    So, second Honda dealership was much more accommodating. Walked in, asked about the truck, and was immediately offered a test drive.

    From this review out, I think I took pictures of the vehicles as we drove them, but I forgot for the Ridgeline.

    First off, the exterior is much less… controversial. It’s obviously a truck, but it’s a truck based on the same platform as the Honda Pilot – basically, from the B pillar forward, it IS a Honda Pilot.

    I’ve only got two complaints about the exterior. First, visually, it still does look very slightly “off” – the bed is slightly too short and it throws the visual balance off, for me. It’s not bad at all, though, just something I’ve noticed seeing a few “in the wild”. Second, however, is corporate bullshittery: You can’t get a color choice (ie. something other than black, white, or grey) until you spend up to the 2nd highest trim level, $10k over base price. That’s fucking bullshit. Color should never be trapped to trim level, and I’m truly tired of parking lots that are a sea of black and white. It’s boring as hell, and they can do better. This doesn’t help. That said, it can always be wrapped, but yeah. Full paint choices, from base on up.

    Ok, so, it looks good. Hows the interior?

    It’s very open. It is, in fact, big. For all intents and purposes, the “mid size” trucks of today are the fullsize trucks of yesterday. Well, about fifteen years ago. What that means is, with modern packaging as well, you can get a lot of space inside. With the Ridgeline, you get the added bonus of the base frame being an SUV. Technically, the Pilot (and Ridgeline) are front wheel drive (although the Ridgeline only comes as AWD in Canada) This really improves the interior packaging in a way that only a FWD base can do. There’s a ton of storage inside, and a good feature set, if you’re willing to spend the money. One of the big things for us is the ability to have a flat storage space inside. THere’s a 90lb Labrador retriever who currently lives in the back of the Subaru:

    Who needs somewhere comfortable. With a flat floor like the Ridgeline has, we can fold half the seat up, and give him a good spot to crash out, and again, with it being FWD/unibody, not body-on-frame, the entry point is lower for him too.

    I’m also pretty impressed with the seats. It’s tough to tell with only twenty minutes behind the wheel, but they feel good, and Honda has always done seats well (reference – 2003 RSX, and 1997 Integra) in my experience. Controls are logical and well organized, again, a Honda standard, and the infotainment seems good too – it was easy to pair my phone with it, and I was able to play music immediately. I don’t think it was Android Auto / Apple Car Play, at the time, but I believe that was an upgrade that was coming. It’ll be something we check on when we go back for a second test drive.

    I still have real problems with backup cameras. They’re helpful, there’s no doubt about it, and the Ridgeline’s is set up so that you can use it to align yourself with a trailer hitch (there’s an additional camera pointing downwards). Everything turns and twists with the vehicle, too, so it gives you a really, really good idea of where you are. It’s just really disconcerting to stare at that dash while you back up, instead of over your shoulder.

    At speed, wind noise is minimal, and that’s on the FWD/car/SUV based aero, rather than truck. And I think that’s part of the slightly off look of the vehicle – the droop on the nose makes it look less truck-like, and you get proportions you don’t expect from a truck. It’s not ugly, to my mind, but it’s “not truck” and that throws some people.

    There’s a ton of power. Honestly, a lot of guys swear that a truck isn’t a truck without a V8, but especially in this class, a nearly-300hp v6 is more than enough. It hammers down on ramps and merges seamlessly. The blind-spot warning is visible, but not intrusive – I actually quite liked it, and if it’s on, just hammer that go-pedal, and you’ll be clear in no time. Cruising on the highway at 115-120km/h, and it’s effectively silent in the cab. You can have a proper conversation with someone in the back seat without yelling at them. It’s really nice. Again, that’s that SUV/car DNA at work. There are real advantages to it. Getting back to the power, the tow rating is 5000lbs, and somewhere around a 1600lb bed load rating. Again, I don’t see this engine and (6 speed automatic) transmission combination having any trouble at all with those numbers. As you can imagine, it cuts the difference between SUV and truck in terms of (on paper) mileage. It’s a Honda, mileage will be good, but limited by the sheer mass of the vehicle. Throttle is progressive and does what it’s told (something that’s becoming rarer, thanks to throttle-by-wire). The steering has a remarkable amount of road feel, as well, despite being electrically boosted, not hydraulic.

    There’s a ton of trinkets and doodads we’re also not going to bother with – if you step up to the 2nd highest trim, the box doubles as a speaker for your tailgate parties. It’s a neat party trick, but that’s about all it is. It’s a shame you can’t get the auxiliary power outlets in the bed without this feature. The upside is, you get the super-hard bedliner and trunk at all trim levels.

    And that’s a major sell for us, as urban users. Lets face it, most of the “truck” use for us will be buying/moving furniture, and the home depot run. And the Ridgeline is the only truck with a trunk. At the back of the bed, under neath it, is a huge, lockable, weather proof storage area – a trunk. That is incredibly useful, and I can see other manufacturers copying it. It’s brilliant. Access to it is easy as well, as the gate on the bed opens to the side, and drops down traditionally, so easy to reach into.

    So, that’s first thoughts and a literal test-drive review. I’m going to do this for everything we drive/have driven. It helps me organize my thoughts, and it might even be interesting for you. They should be shorter from here out, too, as I’ve dealt with the preamble already.

    Of note. When we test drove, the price for the Sport was $39,999 CDN. According to Honda.ca, it’s now $41,488. Honda, what are you playing at? Oh, I see, Ok. Good job, Honda. They’re including freight/PDI in the MSRP, rather than hiding that $1500. That’s actually appreciated. I still think the freight/PDI costs Canadians pay are exorbitant, but that’s a different post.

    If any owners happen to read this? Let me know what your thoughts on ownership are! I’m interested if you’ve discovered any quirks and foibles with the truck.

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