2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport Review - Looks and Talks Like a Duck, Isn't a Duck

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
Fast Facts

2017 Honda Ridgeline Sport

3.5-liter V6, SOHC, (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
18 city / 25 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
12.8 city/ 9.5 highway/ 11.3 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
19.8 mpg [11.9 L/100 km] (Observed)
Base Price
$30,415 (U.S) / $38,415 (Canada)
As Tested
$35,855 (U.S.) / $41,415 (Canada)
Prices include $940 destination charge in the United States and $1,690 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada, where all-wheel drive is standard equipment.
2017 honda ridgeline sport review looks and talks like a duck isn t a duck

Imagine a world full of hefty, four-seat, eight-cylinder muscle cars. Then, appearing out of thin air, the Mazda MX-5 Miata arrives. You can draw parallels. The end goals are similar. But these are strikingly different machines.

Or consider a world in which buyers in search of family friendly SUVs are limited to Chevrolet Suburbans and Ford Expedition ELs. But after decades of dominance, in walks a totally different kind of answer: the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Like the first-generation Honda Ridgeline that bowed more than a decade ago, the all-new second-generation Ridgeline is a pickup truck. There’s a cab and a bed. It can tow and it can haul.

Yet the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is dramatically different from other pickup trucks, and not only in terms of construction. For better or worse, Honda’s truck is a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish. As a result, comparisons with other pickup trucks are, if not unfair, rendered largely invalid.


And so we compare.

A prime example of America’s best-selling line of pickup trucks, the Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4×4 with a short bed, is 22 inches longer than the new Ridgeline (which is three inches longer than the old Ridgeline thanks to three extra inches of wheelbase). Though nearly two feet longer and roughly half a foot taller, the F-150 is only about an inch wider than the Ridgeline. The F-150’s bed is also a few inches deeper and a couple of inches longer. At a minimum, that F-150 can tow 7,100 pounds, or 2,100 pounds more than the Ridgeline.

On the other hand, America’s top-selling midsize pickup truck, the Toyota Tacoma, is only two inches longer (in Double Cab short bed form) than the Ridgeline. But the Tacoma is more than four inches narrower, and the Tacoma’s bed is 8.5 inches narrower.

Aside from option packages that can make the Tacoma even more capable off-road, the Toyota provides two extra inches of ground clearance and 29°/24°/21° approach, departure, and breakover angles, respectively, compared with the Ridgeline’s 19°/21°/19° angles.

Payload, topping out at 1,580 pounds in the Ridgeline, is entirely competitive in the midsize segment. But note that in a PickupTrucks.com comparison, editors, “loaded it to 90 percent of that amount,” and the Ridgeline, “sagged worse than any of its competitors, all of which were carrying close to their own maximum payload capacity.”


Different as the Ridgeline is from potential rivals, Ridgeline trim levels do not deviate from a core Ridgeline standard. Aside from one major mechanical option, cosmetics, and interior technology, a Ridgeline is a Ridgeline: 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, six-speed automatic, five seats, 64-inch bed, 18-inch wheels. All-wheel drive is a $1,900 option on the RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, and RTL-T but standard on the RTL-E and Black Edition. Honda’s all-wheel-drive system is supplemented with normal, snow, mud, and sand modes.

(Cross-border equipment differences mean the Ridgeline Sport with which I spent a week is not directly comparable to American Honda’s Sport. For the purposes of this review, equipment levels are in U.S.-speak.)

Truck buyers who want leather seating will need to step up to the $34,720 RTL. The $36,870 RTL-T adds LaneWatch, auto-dimming rearview mirror, upgraded audio, an eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

The $42,410 RTL-E adds memory for the driver’s seat, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, auto high beams, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, sunroof, power sliding rear window, 400-watt bed power outlet, heated steering wheel, conversation mirror, and further audio upgrades, including sound in the bed. At $43,910, the Black Edition is essentially an RTL-E blacked out.

All Ridgelines come standard with pushbutton start, cruise, auto up/down windows for the front windows, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The $32,455 RTS adds proximity access, tri-zone climate control, body-colored mirrors, exterior temperature indicator, and fog lights. The $33,955 Sport is to the RTS what the Black Edition is to the RTL-E.

It only sounds complicated until you remember that Honda has no options or option packages.


No options? In the truck world, that’s tantamount to heresy. But a nonexistent options sheet is the least of the ways in which the Honda Ridgeline is not like other trucks.

While the typical American truck buyer will look at the Ridgeline and see limitations — much less towing capacity, modest payload downgrades, low-slung ride height — Honda’s pickup distinguishes itself by being liberated from natural pickup truck confines.

Free from the constraints placed on trucks that must be extremely capable, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline rides over rough roads better than any other pickup truck. Far better than any other pickup truck. Far better than most vehicles of any kind.

That ride quality is not associated with excessive float but rather impeccable isolation. Likewise, handling is exceptional, with responses to sudden steering inputs that resemble an Accord, not a Silverado.

Steering, too, is very nicely weighted, not made to feel artificially heavy so you’ll know, “I’m driving a truck,” but not so artificially light that driving a truck needs to be made to feel easy. With no play, no vast area of deadness at the straightahead, the Ridgeline reveals its roots.

It doesn’t ride like a duck, handle like a duck, or steer like a duck.

Must not be a duck.

It doesn’t consume fuel like a duck, either, though the Ridgeline’s thirst certainly resembles the species’ norm. Over the course of a week, we observed 19.8 miles per gallon in this Ridgeline Sport. That’s only mildly superior to the 19.4 mpg we saw in an F-150 EcoBoost 2.7 and didn’t quite measure up to the 20.1 mpg results we observed in the Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab and Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

Yet much of this test was completed in urban settings with four aboard. The temperature was also consistently below freezing. According to the EPA, the only trucks with better combined ratings are either four-cylinder GM midsizers or diesel-powered.

We may also have been inclined, more often than not, to dip deeply into the Ridgeline’s power reserves. In this power-mad age, 280 horsepower doesn’t sound like much, but the 4,485-pound Ridgeline’s six-speed automatic smoothly and quickly shuffles power to all four wheels. Aside from a torque peak arriving 2,000 rpm sooner, I wouldn’t change the powertrain or its sound. There’s no V8 rumble, of course, but Honda builds a V6 that is always happy to rev.

Compared to midsize competitors, the Ridgeline’s rear quarters are demonstrably roomier and certainly more comfortable. While full-size crew cab trucks provide greater space for families, all truck rivals miss out on the Ridgeline’s in-bed trunk and dual-action tailgate.

Everybody will think of different uses for that trunk. Certain organized crime syndicates will be particularly pleased, of course.


Undeniably exceptional as a pickup truck on the road, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline is nevertheless flawed as a real-world family car.

Accessing the expansive rear seat requires entering through a very narrow portal. This might be acceptable to the former owner of a midsize pickup, but it will be annoying for an F-150 Supercrew owner. It’s particularly bothersome when loading an infant seat or extricating a sleeping three-year-old.

Speaking of child seats, Honda seemingly went out of its way to make installation a pain, with tethers that need to go over an extra loop on the seat back before — in the case of outboard seats — sliding under the lower cushion beside the door. The lower anchors aren’t easily accessed, either.

Speaking of access, the in-bed trunk is wonderfully deep. It’s evidence of engineering brilliance. But for petite individuals such as Mrs. Cain, perhaps even for average-sized adults, bags that are placed in the trunk are rendered inaccessible unless the dual-action tailgate is opened from the side, which requires a lot of pre-arranged space behind the truck.

Back in the cabin, the Ridgeline is bestowed not with the 2018 Odyssey’s improved infotainment unit but rather the knobless and usually slow platform from older Hondas. At least in this case the Civic’s dreadful steering wheel volume control is gone in favour of conventional buttons.

Expect a refreshed Ridgeline in a year or so to remedy the tired touchscreen.


Hindered from being a great car by its desire to be a pickup truck; blocked from achieving truck greatness by its car-like roots, the second-generation Honda Ridgeline is the one linebacker on a field full of cornerbacks and defensive tackles.

Alas, sometimes walking a fine line is more akin to sitting on the fence than finding middle ground. In the minds of 99 percent of American pickup truck buyers in the fourth-quarter of 2016 and 91 percent of midsize pickup truck buyers, the Honda Ridgeline was simply not enough truck, or at least not enough truck for the money.

But comparing the Ridgeline to conventional pickup trucks misses Honda’s point. Clearly, the Ridgeline isn’t going to go down in history as an overwhelming marketplace success. It simply isn’t what most pickup buyers want. Moreover, it’s obvious just from looking at the Ridgeline that it isn’t sufficiently truck.

It’s also obvious that the Ridgeline is not supposed to be what most pickup buyers want. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline wasn’t designed to be the ultimate truck. It’s intended to be the ultimate compromise.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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3 of 125 comments
  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Jan 25, 2017

    The Ridgeline is not for "traditional" truck buyers. It's for Odyssey owners (lessors) like myself who don't need a truck but do like some truck things. Like the occasional run to big box store. Yes, you can borrow the HD or Lowes truck, as long as it's there. Or possibly rent one. And the Odyssey can take a lot with it, with the seats down and/or out. But vacuuming wet mulch or a broken bag of fertilizer out of a van is not fun. Putting the bikes in the Odyssey is a pain, putting them in the "truck" is easy. My folks had an 88 Supercab Ranger 2wd. All five of us could fit in there when we were young, but we outgrew the truck quickly. It seems like the Ridgelines backseats are fine, but the access is slightly lacking. Mine are out of baby seats and almost into boosters, so not a big deal for me. As for the size, the Ridgeline isn't really that much smaller. But it is smaller and living with that day to day would be easier. The gas mileage is a toss-up. But in the hills I live with, the Ridgeline would probably do about the same as our current Odyssey. Turbos are hungry around here, since they never get a chance to really rest like the flatlands. We have another van, maybe two in us. But I could get the wife to consider a Ridgeline, not an F150. And I don't have the garage/driveway space for more than three vehicles. And Odyssey with a bed, or Pilot with a bed, that's what this is. If I want a real truck, I'll get one.

  • Thornmark Thornmark on Jan 25, 2017

    Alex got 21.5 mpg, which was better than the competition and more than EPA. Plus 0-60 in 6.5 and A+ handling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb92baNEu9o Rated it Best-All Around.

    • Klossfam Klossfam on Jan 31, 2017

      Some people get all pissy when you bring up Fuelly but it is still the best site for true real world mpg averages (especially when you see the raw number of miles the data is based on - it's A LOT of miles)...I have a 2017 RTL-E and still mostly city/short trip driving - I'm dead on the city rating at 18.0 (but I have a heavy foot). The 2017 Ridgeline average (with already 420,000 miles tracked) is 20.5 mpg. The real world for the new Tacoma is 18.3 mpg for the 2017 and 18.9 mpg for the 2016. Total miles tracked 3.7 million! So you'd have to say the Ridgeline gets nearly 2 mpg better overall...that's 10% better. Comparing the Fuelly numbers on a F-150 with the 2.7L EcoBoost you are looking at 18.4 mpg with nearly 3 million miles tracked. So for gas full sizers, that is hard to beat. My previous ride was a 2015 RAM EcoDiesel and I averaged 22.4 mpg over 30k miles. I wanted to go back to midsize but stay within a couple mpg on a gasser, so the Ridgeline was the way to go. I had a Gen 1 Ridgeline and it averaged only 16.3 mpg, so the Gen 2 is a huge improvement with more space and a ton more refinement.

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
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  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
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