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Honda Ridgeline: the feminine pick-up truck

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Honda introduced the second generation Ridgeline mid-sized pick-up truck at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which is launched at the perfect moment as the US mid-sized pick-up segment is booming thanks to the rebirth of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, the new generation Toyota Tacoma and hopefully later this year a new Nissan Frontier (a.k.a. Navara or NP300 in other parts of the world). That would mean all entrants in this segment, which appeared to have been forgotten just a few years ago, will be less than 3 years old by the end of this year. And then there are rumors that Ford may re-enter the segment with a new Ranger (and Bronco!) as well, so exciting times indeed.

The first generation Honda Ridgeline stood out from the crowd both technically and aesthetically and hasn’t really been a huge sales success in North America, peaking at 50.000 US sales in 2006 but quickly dropping to 10.000-18.000 annual sales. But Honda clearly thought that the odd exterior design with the high rear side-panels must have been one of the main stumbling blocks, as the brand has opted for a more straightforward design, not to call it plain dull in a time when the competition is putting some flair into their mid-sized trucks.

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Fortunately, Honda has kept all the features that made it one of the most practical pick-ups on the market, like the dual-action tailgate that not only opens downward, but also sideways to the left so you can reach further into the bed. And then there’s the In-Bed Trunk, a large lockable trunk underneath the bed floor, equipped with a drain plug for easy cleaning, and for draining the icewater after you’ve kept your drinks cool. The rear seats fold up to create additional cargo space in the cab and it has a 400W power inverter and an audio system in the bed.

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The Ridgeline is the only pick-up truck that uses a unibody construction and that has both its advantages and its disadvantages, which means it will be the perfect vehicle for some people and a no-go for others. For starters, the Ridgeline excels at the “feminine” qualities like practicality, fuel economy, on-road handling and comfort, roominess and safety, while it lags the competition in “masculine” qualities like off-road capability and towing capacity. This way, it ekes out is own little niche, without really ruling itself out for most of the target group, except maybe on its uninspiring styling. At least the Black Edition looks pretty cool, especially from the inside it’s a huge improvement from the standard trim.

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On one hand traditional pick-up buyers still rate off-road capability and towing capacity among the most important features of their truck, even though they may never use these capabilities, and image is another factor in this, that’s why Toyota is selling quite a few TRD Pro off-road packages on the Tacoma. On the other hand you’d think that mid-sized pick-up buyers are looking for better fuel economy with a lesser importance on capabilities, otherwise they’d spend a few extra bucks on a full-sized truck. I guess what I’m trying to say here that the Honda Ridgeline offers everything that most mid-sized pick-up trucks need, but that may not be enough to convince them to give it a second look. It’s a feminine truck trying to break through in a masculine world.

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So whether Honda is onto something here remains to be proven. It may hit a glass ceiling, but at least the Ridgeline is a real Honda now: smart solutions in a very practical and fuel efficient vehicle with an inoffensive if not forgettable design.

Let me know what you think of it:

What do you think of the sales potential of the new Honda Ridgeline?

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  1. I purchased the Ridgeline RTL and sold it after two months of troubled ownership. Below is my review of the vehicle:

    I found the interior cramped especially around the driving pedals — the parking brake pedal interferes with foot and leg movement. Try stretching your leg all the way out…tall guys can’t do it.

    The tailgate does not have a lock–good for thieves to steal — yes this does happen. Pop-a-Lock makes an after market install which requires drilling and is tough to install for the average guy.

    Ground Clearance is awful — 7 and a half inches. I pulled into a parking slot and the front end scraped on the cement-parking barrier. So much for any off-road or dirt road diving.

    The V6 engine with the 6-speed transmission is underpowered and not as smooth as expected.

    Spare tire is a tiny donut and not really good for any off road areas. Real Trucks come with a full-size spare if you want to go off-road.

    Option packages do not include an XM radio until you are in the RTL-T price range of $35,860. This is ludicrous, as the “lower” priced models of $30,000 to $34,000 don’t have a decent entertainment system. Any vehicle that is priced over $30K should at least have an XM radio. Also who really needs speakers in the truck bed? This is a California west coast design viewpoint that no one in the Midwest cares about.

    Towing capacity is very weak. There is no way to put an oil cooler or an ATF cooler on the Ridgeline RTL. They are not made for the RTL-T versions and below unless you buy the AWD high priced model.
    I called every Honda dealer in the area and there is no two wheel drive Honda part number for this needed ATF option. If you haul in the mountains, you take the chance of burning up your transmission. Honda puts a trailer hitch on the RTL but no trailer pigtail to plug the trailer lights into. A trailer plug is a dealer-installed option for an extra $500.00.

    The bed is too shallow to safely haul stuff and is not usable for stacking stuff up in the back. I tried to safely stack up firewood in the bed and it was too shallow. Also, with a full bed of stuff, I hoped I didn’t get a flat, as I would have to unload the entire bed to get to my donut spare. Can you imagine trying to change a flat on a busy highway after unloading your bed to get to the spare?

    Bottom Line: This “truck” is not a truck. The uni-body construction and front wheel drive are more of a sport utility vehicle. Was the Chevy El Camino or Ford Ranchero a real truck? How about the Subaru Brat or Ford Explorer Sport-Track? No, they were not real trucks. Just having an open bed does not make this a truck. My 2017 Ridgeline was underpowered and is for people who like the image of driving a vehicle that is truck-like in looks, but don’t need the utility of hauling or going to off road areas. I would call this a Sport Utility Vehicle, as it is just another Pilot but without the covered luggage area.

    My Ridgeline had front wheel drive alignment problems that took two trips to the dealer to fix. It had water leakage issues in the taillight and door alignment problems. I fixed the taillight water problem by tightening the screws. I fixed the door alignment issue by selling the vehicle. Final production line quality is left up to the dealer to fix and the owner to fix.

    I have had over 36 Honda vehicles…everything from Honda 600’s, Civics, Accords, Elements, and Pilots. I am a Honda guy, but this vehicle reminds me a whole lot of the Honda Passport. Honda quality and finish is not visible in the new Ridgeline. You need to check the internet and see how many used 2017 Ridgelines are showing up on used car lots as other owners become dissatisfied with their 2017 purchase. Honda Ridgeline 2018 sales are dropping like a rock dropped off a cliff. People are discovering that Honda did not build a rugged pickup, but a sport utility vehicle that is not a real truck. Finally go to the Honda Ridgeline Owner’s Forum and read the truth about the second generation Ridgeline.

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