Honda's (HMC - Get Report) new Ridgeline midsize pickup truck arrives at a fortuitous moment, when U.S. consumer demand for vehicles remains strong, and while credit and fuel are relatively inexpensive.
The 2017 Ridgeline has another thing going for it: a classic exterior design that eschews the idiosyncratic lines that made the first-generation Ridgeline less popular than it might have been. Honda, whose executives conceded their mistake, discontinued production of Gen I in 2014 after eight years of tepid sales. But these same executives insist that those who bought the first Ridgeline did enjoy owning it.
The new Ridgeline exudes more credibility for hauling and off-roading simply because it looks like a pickup truck, albeit without any of the macho flair of pickups built by General Motors, Ford and even Toyota.
But Honda retained unibody construction for its new truck -- the type used for cars -- as opposed to the more rugged body-on-frame structure common to such larger competitors like the Ford F-Series and Ram full-size pickups. The effect is a vehicle that feels and handles like a car, yet isn't appropriate for towing or carrying loads as big as those delivered to construction sites or ranches.
Edmunds.com said "the Ridgeline can handle the bulk of what most shoppers would want in a truck (the ability to haul lumber, furniture, yard materials and recreational toys) while still being comfortable enough to drive daily and achieve respectable fuel economy."
The Ridgeline starts at about $30,000 for a front-wheel-drive version and rises to about $42,000 for all-wheel-drive and all options and luxury finishes.
With its cabin and second row of seats, the Ridgeline feels like Honda's Pilot full-size crossover, which isn't weird since the two vehicles share the same basic structure and are built in the same factory. Only one engine, Honda's 3.5-liter V6, is available; it felt extremely adequate, perhaps even on the powerful side. The cabin was luxurious and nicely appointed, just as one might expect from the automaker's car models.
Honda makes a point of presenting itself as an automaker that goes its own way, that doesn't follow industry fads or trends and sometimes deliberately bucks them. This time, the company has come down on the side of conventionality and probably will enjoy the approval of former Ridgeline owners and other shoppers that want a more mainstream truck.