Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline - a niche pickup truck that's getting some competition

By Jim Bray
May 5, 2022

Honda's Ridgeline, Black Edition, is the top trim level of Honda's pickup truck, and it continues the company's tradition of offering an unconventional, car-based choice in a market dominated by "body on frame" trucks.

It must be working, because after over a decade of being alone in the marketplace, the Ridgeline is finally getting some competition for your pickup truck budget: Ford's Maverick and Hyundai's Santa Cruz. I haven't driven either, but I've driven the Ridgeline several times, in both of its generations, and have always liked it a lot.

Click on the link to open a slideshow.

Oh, it suffers from the Honda-isms that drive me nuts these days (stick around and I'll whine about them yet again), but on the whole it's a great vehicle – a modern-day interpretation, you could say, of such oldies but goodies as the Rancheros and El Caminos. Except it's also a real truck rather than just a two-seat car with a bed.

Now, I'm not a pickup truck guy and never will be, which may be one of the reasons I like the Ridgeline: it's more of a car/SUV than a traditional truck. Think Honda Pilot with a bed. That means that, unlike the old Rancheros et al, you get seating for five. It also means that, unlike traditional pickup trucks, you still get a real, live trunk – and a lockable one at that. In this case, it's in the bed, back near the tailgate.

There isn't a lot that's new about the 2022 model compared to 2021, but there were many changes and upgrades last year and the only things I could think of for them to upgrade would be the nannies and other stuff I've grown to hate about a car company whose products I have traditionally loved. Things like no tuning knob for the audio system and an LCD screen on the centre stack that's busy, hard to fathom, and insensitive enough to the touch of a human finger that I mulled bringing in a ball peen hammer to help.

And the "safety features" that may help oblivious or just plain unskilled drivers manage to complete a trip unscathed but which drive other people (well, me, anyway) absolutely nuts. There's mucho nagging, and even if you don't want all this stuff, you still have to pay for it in the price of the vehicle.

It brings to mind an old quote from my favourite author, Robert A. Heinlein: "There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."

This nanny stuff isn't just a Honda thing, it's industry-wide. But Honda seems to take such delight in putting this stuff into their vehicles that, when you include the lousy interfaces, it almost makes me wonder if their designers actually drive their vehicles.

I miss the "Honda, we make it simple" days.

Anyway, there's still a lot to love about Honda products and the Ridgeline is a fine example.

This pickup truck comes standard with a 3.5 litre six-cylinder engine, one that's been a mainstay for Honda for many years. And it's a peach. It puts out 280 horses @ 6000 rpm, with 262 torquey things @ 4700 rpm and it's very smooth and responsive. It'll also shut down some of its cylinders to save fuel when they aren't needed for immediate oomph.

Power goes to all four wheels (well, it's front drive biased, but so are most AWD vehicles these days) via Honda's Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) system. It also features such handy truckish things like intelligent traction management (for Snow/Sand/Mud etc.) a heavy-duty automatic-transmission cooler, a heavy-duty radiator with dual variable speed fans. It's pre-wired for a trailer brake controller and offers a towing capacity of up to 2,267 kg (5,000 pounds).

Reasonably robust and probably all that many people need in a truck.

The suspension features a MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link independent rear, and it drives in a much more SUV/Car-like manner than "real" trucks whose "live" rear ends can chitter sideways over frost heaves, etc. That means the Ridgeline is more "driveable" than most "real" pickups in my experience.

The power-assisted rack and pinion steering offers decent feel, and the four-wheel disc brakes work just fine.

Honda's sample 2022 Ridgeline wore the top-line Black Edition trim level, which starts at $55,440. That's a reasonable chunk of change, but you can get into a Ridgeline – Sport Edition (bottom of the line) starting at $46,440.  

Inside the very comfortable cabin, on the Black Edition at least, are powered driver's seats with 10-way adjustment and seat/mirror memory. The seats are heated front and rear (except for the central rear position) and the fronts are also ventilated.  

The steering wheel offers heating (which is really great to have if you're in climes that have winter), and even the passenger seat offers power adjustment.

More "pedestrian" trim level Ridgelines receive a 225-watt AM/FM audio system with seven speakers including a subwoofer. The Black Edition (and the Touring edition) are given an upgraded one that features a 540-watt AM/FM premium audio system and eight speakers including a subwoofer. In practice, I found the upgraded audio system to be good, but not something of audiophile lust. This isn't surprising; if you want Honda's best audio, buy an Acura (though there's no Acura version of the Ridgeline).

Then there's all the safety equipment. The stuff includes a collision mitigation braking system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, hill start assist and a tire pressure monitoring system, as well as all the usual belts, bags and bolsters that are pretty well ubiquitous these days.

As whined about earlier in this piece, Honda's nannies can be extremely annoying. When bringing the Ridgeline home after picking it up, and before I had a chance to program the vehicle's systems as much as Honda lets you (which isn't enough), it flashed "BRAKE!!!" on the instrument panel when it assumed (wrongly) that I was about to rear end someone. While it may not be a stretch for the vehicle to assume it's being driven by an idiot, given the state of driver abilities these days, shouldn't it be up to the driver to, well, drive? Besides, having this stuff nagging you means the vehicle itself is creating "distracted driving" situations.

Fortunately, you can shut most of this stuff off and it will stay off, but some of it you have to shut off every time.

Why can't a customer simply order a "nanny package" if he/she/it wants one, like a Tech Package and the like are often offered. That way a driver who doesn't want all that intrusive crap can save a few bucks and a lot of aggravation.

There are signs Honda is figuring this out, since I noticed improvements in the new generation Honda Civics I drove over the past couple of months. Even the new voice recognition works better in the new Civic than in the "older" Ridgeline reviewed here. These upgrades haven't reached the Ridgeline yet, but I certainly hope they do.

Still, as a non-truck guy, if I ever were interested in getting a pickup truck the Ridgeline would be my first choice. On the other hand, I haven't driven the new competitors yet, so this opinion may change.

Right now, my money's on Honda still being on top here, but time – and the marketplace – will tell.

Copyright 2022 Jim Bray
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