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.

  • TestDrive: Hyundai Veloster

    I was in for an oil change yesterday, and with forty minutes or so to kill, I wandered up to the showroom. Now, I did actually have a mission. One of my friends got punted into a barrier on the highway by an errant SUV, and her 2009 Toyota Corolla is a write-off. While she doesn’t know how much she’s getting for it from the SUV’s insurance, she is shopping around, and knows what she’s looking for.

    Knowing what you’re looking for is always half the battle.

    In her case, she’s got two teen kids, and still needs room to get them around. She’s got a long-ish commute to work, and is leaning, for the first time, away from a manual transmission. She likes to drive, so wants there to be driving dynamic in there, too.

    Now, I knew all this, and I knew what I was looking to do with that time. I’d already talked with her, and suggested a few vehicles. The commute means she needs fuel economy; the kids means needing some space, and she’s got some issues which may make a manual transmission difficult in the future.

    To that effect, I’d already suggested:

  • Hyundai Accent
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Ford Focus
  • Kia Forte
  • Toyota Matrix/Corolla
  • Hyundai Veloster

    Obviously, she already knows the Matrix/Corolla. The Elantra, Accent, Forte, and Focus are pretty ubiquious these days: the Elantra and Forte share a platform. All four have been redesigned dramatically in the last eighteen months.

    The interesting one is the Veloster.

    The Veloster is a new machine. It shares a basic platform/chassis and drivetrain with the Accent, so, as you can imagine, it’s fairly small (sub-compact class, in fact). However, it’s super stylish. Now, I have a thing about car style: as with any stylistic endeavour, automotive styling should make you love it or hate it. You should never see a car and say… “meh. Whatever.” Style should polarize, and make you react.

    The Veloster does this. It’s an odd design: a coupe/hatchback on the driver’s side, a sedan/hatch on the passenger side. Yup. It’s asymetrical. But it really works. Unlike the Nissan Cube, which is, arguably, the worst looking vehicle since the Pontiac Aztek.

    It’s got aggressive styling, but still maintains the new family face: in fact, it does the family face far better than some other models (2013 Genesis Coupe, I’m looking at you). I quite like it. Despite the boy-racer vents on the hood, it’s a good looking little car, with aggressive, but not over-the-top lines. However.

    When you sit down in it for the first time, you notice that the design has created some compromises from the drivers seat. Specifically, the C-pillar is huge. Monsterous. And while shoulder checks are still possible, you will learn to use the oversize mirrors properly for lane changes, because you’ll have to. In addition is the visibility out of the back glass/hatchback. It’s not terrible, thanks to a squared back, and a lowered second window. But it’s a small viewing area.

    And that would make things really difficult: not on the road, but parking. Except. Except the Veloster comes with, as part of the huge 7″ center stack touch screen (with the base model, no less) a backup camera. And after using it, I gotta say, I like it. I had to try to break old habits (watching my mirrors left and right, and watching over my shoulder constantly) but the backup camera is superbly effective. It activates and takes over the screen as soon as you put the car in reverse, and gives you green/yellow/red areas on-screen for distances. My brief experience with it says that it works very well.

    (not my video by the way, but a great demo)

    Once you get used to it, you don’t have to move an awful lot to get yourself parked, which is nice. I can see how this kind of feature gets addictive really quickly.

    While we’re in the driver’s seat, here’s the only issue with the actual space, as far as I’m concerned. the seats are great: definitely not the equal of my Genesis Coupe, but for the bracket and type of vehicle, excellent: good support, a long enough seat to support your thighs, and good lower back support. I was only in the car for half an hour, but I didn’t have any issues iwth my notoriously bad back, or stiffening in the shoulders, or uncomfortable leg positions: the pedals are right, the steering is adjustable, and the dead pedal is spot on.

    However, those of slightly-more-than-average height (I’m 6′ even), beware. I drove a base model, with no power sunroof. WIth the seat adjusted to its lowest position, I had about an inch of clearance between my head and the headliner. I’ve sat in the “tech pacakge” with the sunroof. I was touching the headliner with my noggin. Not brushing it, but actually TOUCHING it. If I assumed a gangster slouch, I was fine, but I can’t drive like that.

    Which is as good a time to mention my other issue. The touch screen interface is absolutely brilliant: the base has the 7″ touch screen, and it’ll do everything you can think of: GraceNote is included: Hyundai’s smartphone interface, as is XM radio, ipod support, either cabled or over bluetooth, and more features and options than you can shake a stick at, as well as the back-up camera.

    Despite that, you can’t get the Navigation system on it without buying the “tech package”, which includes, among other things, the sunroof, and 18″ wheels, and upgraded stereo. COME ON, HYUNDAI. You’re supposed to be better than this now: this is a blatant screw-job on the customer, making them buy a package they don’t want just so they can get navigation on that beautiful screen. You need to fix this immediately. It should be an option you can just add in for a couple hundred bucks. In my case, my height precludes me from having a navigation system, which is absolutely ludicrous. Also, $3500 to get navigation is … well, I’ve used most of the adjectives that denote “insane”. You get the idea.

    All of this is before I even pulled out into traffic. So, here we go. Now, you’ve seen I’m torn on the car so far: it does a lot of things well. How does it drive, though?

    It drives well. You’re well isolated from road noise, which I hadn’t expected in what is, essentially, an econobox. The suspension is stiff enough to encourage some spirited, fun driving, and provide road feel, but it doesn’t have the choppy, performance-oriented stiffness that my own Genesis Coupe has. It’s compliant, but you will feel potholes, in a way that you won’t in, say, a Civic or Corolla. That said, those aren’t the competition for it. The steering is communcative, bordering on heavy: something I didn’t expect in a car this small. I like it, but I can imagine that some won’t. Credit where credit is due, it also never felt over-boosted.

    Basically, it’s fun to drive. The DCT Dual Clutch Transmission does its job admirably. Personally, I’d still go for a true, three-pedal manual transmission, but the DCT is a great piece of kit. Shifts were snappy at high revs, and smooth as silk if you short shift. It’s equally good in “D” mode: if you’re flooring it, it didn’t appear to short shift me, and in general traffic, I barely noticed the shifts. The only issue I had with it is the same as I have with every flappy paddle gearbox: if you’re in the middle of a turn (especially a left across traffic) you’re ‘stuck’ in gear, because the paddles rotate with the wheel. Can we please, all manufacturers, put the paddles on the column and leave them there, and not have them rotate around as you turn the wheel? Thanks!

    Then engine itself is a 1.6L GDI engine: the identical model that is in the 2012 Accent. And again, it’s a good little powerplant. It’s not fast, but this isn’t designed to be a fast car. with 138hp and 124lb.ft of torque, it’s a good thing the car is a relative lightweight. It’s fast enough for merging, but you’re not going to win any stoplight drag races in it. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll want to wait for the rumoured 200hp turbo 1.6L supposedly in the pipeline.

    Rather, what this engine is good at is getting you around competently, and with an eye to fuel economy. I didn’t get chance to really go for broke, and see what the fuel economy is like, but I think, with a cautious foot, the suggested 4.9L/100km highway, and 7.2L/100km city are achievable on a regular basis.

    And you’ll be getting around with four people and not likely more. Again, there’s the wierdly attractive door configuration. The backseat is emminently useable: you have to find the correct spot to sit or you’ll be knocking your head off the glass or headliner, and if you’re over 6’1, the back seat will not be a friendly place: but the seats are comfortable, and there’s a ton of legroom. Far, far more legroom than I’d expected. Anyone under 5’10 will be comfortable over the long haul in this backseat though. The trunk should be good for a good chunk of luggage: a couple of suitcases for sure, gym and school bags, definitely, or a major grocery run. For golf bags, you’re going to want the back seat folded flat, however. (this is from my uneducated eyeball: I’d recommend taking you clubs with you if you’re a golfer and looking at this lil’ runaround). There’s also storage areas and cubby’s everywhere: a good, rubber-padded spot for phones and ipods in the center stack, next to dual 12v plug ins and USB/ipod plug in. The armrest houses two seperate compartments, and the glove box is as spacious as you’d expect. My cup holder happily head an Extra-Large Timmies while I was shifting for myself.

    That pretty much sums my experience with about an hour with the car. I like it, I gotta say. From a styling front, it’s not going to be for everyone: it’s a quirky design. But I think those who do like it will love it, and it’ll develop its own following for that. It’s got great fuel economy, and good, if not great, space, and when that turbo shows up, it’ll be a performer that really surprises. The only thing I really, really have to say irks me is the requirement for buying the tech package just to get the navigation system. I know they want to call it a tech package, but they’d do better just to include it in the base car, with that awesome screen, and make the stereo, sunroof, and wheels a luxury package upgrade: I for one, couldn’t care less about those options: sunroof I don’t fit, stereo I don’t care, and wheels, well, if I want upgraded wheels, I’ll go buy the ones I really like, aftermarket. Just put the navigation system in the base touch screen set up, PLEASE, ok, Hyundai?


    -great looking
    -fantastic 7″ touch screen ICE system
    -DCT transmission done right
    -fuel economy
    -great handling for an economy car
    -tons of space for an economy car


    -rearward visibility
    -Navigation system only available on tech package
    -sunroof encroaching on seating for average+ size drivers
    -slightly underpowered
    -paddles that don’t stay still.

  • The Car Guy Returns

    It’s the first time here, but anyone who followed my previously knows that I am a car guy.  I love cars.  I test drive cars just for something to do.  And I compare ’em.  

    And, I’ll also admit, I’ve become something of a Hyundai Fanboy in the last few years.  I tried very, very hard not to be, but the strides they (and sister company Kia) have made in the last ten years are pretty spectacular.  Their sales numbers are impressive.  More impressive, though, is the quality of the vehicles they’re putting out.

    I also own a hyundai.  Specifically, I committed the cardinal sin in the car world.  I bought my <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyundai_Genesis_Coupe”>2.0T Genesis Coupe</a> not only in the first year the new platform (BK) was available, but in the first six weeks it was available in North America.  I ordered my car on April 8th, 2009, and took delivery about eight weeks later, June 11th.  It was an early 2010.

    It’s no longer quite stock, but it doesn’t stop me admiring other cars, from vintage to new. 

    And I test-drive stuff.  For fun. All kinds of things.  So, you’re going to get seat-of-the-pants reviews here occcasionally. Like tonight, for instance!  stay tuned!