2024 Honda Ridgeline

  • April 2, 2024

Not everyone needs a truck – but it can be handy to have a bed, to haul stuff that won’t fit inside (and that might otherwise make a mess, inside). That’s the idea behind Honda’s Ridgeline. It looks like a truck – and you can use it like a truck – but it’s not really a truck.

And that’s the essence of its appeal.

What It Is

The Ridgeline looks like a mid-sized, crew cab pick-up with a short (five foot) bed. In fact, it’s a Honda Pilot – which is a crossover – modified to look like a mid-sized truck. And provide similar utility.

Instead of three rows and room for seven, room for five – and room (in the bed) for a stack of cement bags or a motorcycle. There’s also room under the bed – which is not something you’ll find under the beds of other mid-sized trucks such as the Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma. The reason being they have truck-type underthings back there, such as beefier rear suspensions and a bigger rear axle, being predominantly rear-wheel-drive. They offer four-wheel-drive, but it is meant to be engaged only when there’s snow on the pavement – or the vehicle is driven off the pavement.

The Ridgeline – like the Pilot – is predominantly front-wheel-drive; most of its power goes most of the time to the front wheels. When these begin to lose grip, power is automatically routed via the standard all-wheel-drive system to the rears, as needed.

This is meant to be used on-road, when the road is wet or otherwise slick – and also gives the Ridgeline some off-road capability, too.

The Ridge also still comes standard with a V6, which a growing number of current-model-year mid-sized trucks – including the just-redesigned Tacoma as well as the Chevy Colorado and Ford Ranger – no longer even offer.

Prices start at $39,750 for the base Sport trim, which comes with 18 inch wheels, a class III hitch and seven pin connector and a max tow rating of 5,000 lbs. – which is not quite as much as some of the currently available mid-sized trucks but not far-off what they’re rated to tow, either.

The $44,980 TrailSport – new for this model year –  offers more truck-like off-pavement capability via underbody skid plates, off-road suspension tuning and a set of General Grabber all-terrain tires.

You can add an oil pan guard and fender flares and black-anodized wheels by choosing the Honda Performance Development package.

A top-of-the-line Black Edition – which stickers for $46,350 – adds power outlets in the bed, heated rear seats, special black leather seats with red accents and an upgraded audio system.

What’s New for 2024

In addition to the new TrailSport trim, every Ridgeline trim gets a revised center console with more storage capacity and a new digital display instrument cluster.

What’s Good

In some ways – such as its standard V6 – the Ridgeline is more of a traditional truck than four-cylinder-only mid-sized trucks such as the Tacoma, Canyon and Ranger.

Bed isn’t just there – it’s there twice.

Drives more like a Pilot than a truck.

What’s Not So Good

Like other currently available mid-sized trucks, there’s only the crew cab/short bed configuration.

Not as heavy-duty as trucks that are built to be trucks.

Much more expensive than mid-sized trucks such as the Colorado ($29,500 to start), Tacoma ($31,500 to start) and Ranger ($32,650 to start).

Under the Hood

All Ridgeline trims come standard with a V6 – which is a type of engine you can no longer get in a Toyota Tacoma or a Ford Ranger or a Chevy Canyon. The latter all come standard – and only – with four cylinder engines. That’s interesting, because they are mid-sized trucks and it used to be expected that trucks that size at least offered a V6.

They don’t anymore.

The reason why – as readers of this column already know – isn’t because buyers of mid-sized trucks prefer small engines. It is because it has become much harder to offer them – even in mid-sized trucks.

Even optionally.

The reason for that being regulatory compliance – chiefly with federal fuel economy “fleet average” requirements. The individual MPG difference – a four vs. a V6 – isn’t that much (more on the in a moment) but when factored out over a manufacturer’s fleet, the average gets pulled down and that results in costs imposed by the government for non-compliance. It’s especially hard on manufacturers – like Ford and Toyota – that sell lots of vehicles that don’t meet the MPG minimum (e.g., models like the popular but “gas guzzling” F-series trucks in the case of Ford and the similarly “gas guzzling” Tundra in the case of Toyota).

Honda can still “get away” with offering a standard V6 in the Ridgeline because almost all of its other vehicles – which don’t use much gas because most of them have four cylinder engines already – offset the drag of a model like the Ridgeline.

But it’s very likely on borrowed time. The cost of compliance is going up – so much so that it is rapidly becoming effectively impossible for any manufacturer to offer a V6 in anything other than a very few models. It is why Toyota’s Camry no longer offers a V6, as a for-instance. And more (that is, less) to come.

But – for now – the Ridgeline still comes standard with a 3.5 liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower, paired with a nine speed automatic and the all-wheel-drive system previously mentioned.

This package delivers 18 MPG in city driving and 24 MPG on the highway.

Interestingly – and getting back to this business about gas mileage uber alles – the V6 Honda’s mileage is about the same as the mileage delivered by the new, four-cylinder-only Toyota Tacoma. With the standard version of this engine – a 2.4 liter turbocharged four – the Taco rates 20 city, 26 highway. If you can tell the difference, you are like the little princess in the story who could feel the pea placed on the mattress onto which a number of other mattresses were stacked. This version of the new Taco’s 2.4 liter engine makes just 228 horsepower – and so equipped, the new Taco can only pull 3,500 lbs. Which is the same as most compact-sized trucks (with four engines) made 20 years ago could pull.

The Ridge can pull 5,000 lbs.

Toyota does offer a more powerful version of the 2.4 liter engine that makes 278 horsepower – another difference without much distinction. And with this engine, a 4WD equipped Taco’s mileage drops to 20 city, 23 highway. But this version of the Toyota can pull up to 6,400 lbs.

It’s a similar story as regards the Ranger – which has a 270 horsepower turbocharged four that’s rated 21 city, 25 highway. The Ranger can also pull up to 7,500 lbs. – very close to what a full-size truck can pull.

But the take home point is that there’s not much gas to be saved by going with a turbo four over an appropriately sized (for a vehicle this size) V6. And you may well save a lot of money by going with an understressed V6 that doesn’t need to be constantly boosted to make power; especially a V6 like this one. It’s the same V6 that you used to be able to get in the Accord – and so equipped – those things routinely ran without incident for 200,000 miles and more. Probably – at least on part – because they weren’t turbocharged and so weren’t almost constantly under the pressure of boost.

On The Road

Trucks are handy vehicles, useful and versatile in ways that cars – and crossovers – aren’t and can’t be. If you disagree, try hauling a full-sized refrigerator home inside a crossover. It’s no problem for the Ridgeline – even though it’s not like other trucks.

And that’s a desirable thing – for people who love the idea of having the usefulness of a bed (and the ability to pull 5,000 lbs. behind it) but who prefer the ride and handling characteristics of a crossover. This is the combo that has made the Ridgeline one of Honda’s best-selling models; it’s the perfect vehicle for the buyer who likes the Pilot but really likes the idea of a Pilot with a bed.

And without a massive nose.

One seemingly designed to be as bulbous and angry-looking as possible.

The Ridgeline’s front end is neither as protuberant nor as tall as the schnozzes that seem to be the in-thing in truck styling. The result is you can see ahead of you much better and there is literally less ahead of you – which makes the Ridgeline easier to pull forward and maneuver in tight spaces without bumping it into things.

The V6 is also something to really like – now that engines of this type have not only become uncommon but unavailable in “real” trucks like the Tacoma, Ranger and Colorado/Canyon twins. Why? Because it’s not all about the horsepower – though that’s important, of course. And the Honda 3.5 liter V6 makes almost as much as the most powerful/optional versions of the turbo fours in those rivals.

It’s also about the sound.

Which isn’t artificially “augmented,” because it isn’t necessary to pipe bigger-engine sounds into the passenger compartment to convey the impression there’s more under the hood than just a four. This particular V6 is also famously smooth – and revvy – a combination that (once upon a better time) made the Accord – with the same V6 – one of the most appealing sporty sedans on the market. If you look at the Ridgeline like a bigger, roomier Accord that can carry your dirt bikes to the trailhead you’ll be on the right track.

At The Curb

Though it’s classified as mid-sized, that’s only because today’s full-sized pick-ups have swelled to super-sized. The Ridgeline – which is 210.2 inches long – is longer than a ’90s-era 1500 regular cab pick-up with an eight foot bed. But it’s not as wide – nor as tall – and these make it much less ponderous to deal with, especially as regards getting things in (and out) of the five-foot, four-inch bed. The walls of the Honda’s bed are not like the walls of Jericho. You do not need a trumpet – or a step-ladder, like the ones built into the tailgates of other trucks.

The Honda sits low enough that a person of average height can access the bed without difficulty and that makes the bed much more everyday useful than one that’s so jacked-up you can’t get things in (and out) without a forklift.

Especially appealing – and unusual, in a truck – is the extra bed that’s under the floor of the main one. It’s basically a big tub that can be used to store things out of the weather (and out of sight) that can also be used to keep a case of beer chilled – and then drained when you’re done tailgating, via the drain plug built into the bottom. This second storage area is also where you’ll find the spare tire and jacking equipment. It’s not a full-sized spare. But it’s a lot easier to get at when you need a spare than the under-the-bed full-size spares many trucks have, that require getting down on the ground to get them out from under the bed.

The interior of the Ridgeline is similarly non-obstreperous. The dash is low rather than high. The layout isn’t cluttered. The center console has a low-profile, push-button-style gear selector (similar to the one used in the Accord) that does away with the pretense of a grab-handle shifter lever that’s just as electronic as the push-button layout but without the space-robbing element.

Every Ridgeline, irrespective of trim, is a crew cab, with four full-sized doors that make it just as easy for passengers to get in (and out) of the rear seats as the front seats. And easier than getting in (and out) of other trucks, which are higher up and need things like running boards and grab handles to climb aboard.

The bed is long enough to allow the Ridgeline to carry a pair of motorcycles back there and it’s easier to get the bikes on (and off).

Interestingly, the new TrailSport trim does not ride higher off-the ground than other Ridgeline trims, all of which have 7.6 inches of clearance. It’s the all-terrain tires that endow this version of the Ridgeline with more bad-weather (and light-off-road) tenacity.

The Rest

It’s likely the Ridgeline will get a major makeover for the 2025 model year – which is almost already here. And it’s not unlikely that when Honda reboots the Ridgeline, it won’t come standard with a V6 anymore or even offer one – for the same compliance reasons that you can’t get a V6 Accord anymore, already.

The Bottom Line

It’s not exactly a truck, but that’s precisely the appeal.

. . .

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