There are jobs for which only a jackhammer will do, and there are situations that call for a tool with more finesse. The new 2017 Honda Ridgeline belongs in the second category.
After driving many brawny, full-size work trucks over the years, ENR found the first-generation Ridgeline to be a curious choice for hard-working contractors. But the made-in-America 2017 model is a pure-looking pickup, with more innovative work options. It also is more maneuverable and fuel-efficient, so it very well may have a role to play, even in heavy-construction operations.
A main concern with any new commercial vehicle is capability, and the Ridgeline’s 1,584-lb payload rating and 5,000-lb towing capacity put it squarely on par with most basic V6-powered, full-size half-ton trucks. Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, a gain of 30 hp and 15 lb-ft over the previous generation. Add the fact that this new Ridgeline is 78 lb lighter, and you have a truck that smartly moves out of the way.
The best part, though, is the Ridgeline’s fuel efficiency. EPA ratings of 19 miles per gallon in city and 26 mpg on highway for two-wheel-drive models—and 18 mpg in city and 25 mpg on highway for all-wheel-drive versions—can substantially lower operating costs compared to using a full-size truck to do the same job.
Beyond sheer weight ratings, commercial pickups are judged by their ability to haul around the tools and materials the job requires. Under the rear seat, the Ridgeline features a storage area that is large enough to hold a set of golf clubs. Those rear-seat bottom cushions also can be flipped up to accommodate larger items, such as a full-size mountain bike or surveying gear—expensive items that you would rather not leave in plain sight where they can tempt sticky fingers.
Out back, the rugged composite bed, which doesn’t require a bed-liner, measures 48 in. by 64 in. and features eight tie-down cleats. The bed’s two neatest tricks are a large, lockable, under-bed “trunk” and a two-way tailgate, which folds down in the traditional manner but also swings sideways like a door.
While on the subject of innovative ideas, the Ridgeline can be had with an available in-bed 120-volt AC power plug with a 400-watt output, enough to run many power tools or charge the battery packs of cordless versions. There is even a novel truck-bed audio system that can take the place of that beat-up portable radio you’ve been carting to and from jobsites for decades.
As an unusual midsize pickup, Ridgeline’s advantages come down to its car-based unibody design. Its quiet, comfortable interior and refined ride quality adds up to less fatigue for workers and supervisors who spend time on the road running between jobsites and suppliers. In addition, this truck’s suspension actually makes it fun to drive—something that can’t be said about very many pickups.
The interior offers comfortable seating for five passengers, and the truck features a long list of the latest technology, from LED headlights to Apple Car Play and Android Auto smartphone integration technology and a navigation system with a large 8-in. touch screen. If there’s a negative here, it’s that some of the most useful features are limited to the more expensive, top-trim levels. Prices for two-wheel-drive models start at $30,375.
While the 2017 Honda Ridgeline represents an uncommon solution to the challenges faced by modern contractors, there’s no denying that this surprisingly useful midsize truck could be the right tool for the right task.