Joining the 1 Percent: I Bought a Honda Ridgeline

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
joining the 1 percent i bought a honda ridgeline

1 out of every 100 pickup truck buyers in the United States chooses the Honda Ridgeline.

That sounds to me like exclusivity. That’s a strong whiff of individuality I sniff. It’s positively road-less-traveled kind of material. And I’m hopelessly drawn toward vehicles that operate way outside the mainstream.

Therefore, in the third model year of the second-generation Ridgeline’s tenure, I swapped our Honda Odyssey for a 2019 Honda Ridgeline to use as the family steed. What else are you going to buy when your vehicular wish list includes exterior and interior cargo space, four driven wheels, reasonable fuel economy, comfortable seating for five, high safety ratings, killer resale value, and a ton of standard equipment?

There’s the rub. As I’ve tried to teach my impressionable, young, Honda-rabid children, the Ridgeline may be viewed by many truck drivers as more of a “truck” than a truck. But for all the Honda’s limitations relative to the competition in its abundantly capable segment, the Ridgeline is the only pickup that qualified for consideration based on our demands.

Unfortunately, pickups are rather pricey, even when they’re moderately sized, V6-engined pickups. In order to roughly match equipment levels with our Odyssey EX, we’d ordinarily need to shell out an extra CAD $2,200 or $5,200, depending on equipment priorities. Instead, we ended up nabbing a low-mileage leftover 2019 demo with near five-digit savings and paired it with Honda Canada’s double-strength pandemic-era loyalty rate reduction.

It’s not the perfect truck. Subjectively, I’d prefer the squared-off front fascia of the first-gen Ridgeline rather than this soft Pilot-aping slope. Second, the 18-inch wheel design on our Ridgeline is my least favorite in the lineup, but they’re likely to shift to winter duty once the original tires wear out and we shift to 19-inch rims for May-October duty. Third, the infotainment unit is antiquated, especially when you consider that we’ve experienced a similar unit in our first Odyssey before upgrading to Honda’s much newer system in our second Odyssey. Fourth, I’d accept an extra inch of overall length and sacrifice one inch of bed length to gain two inches of rear seat legroom. One final niggle: the power windows are slow.

Other than those five complaints, however, it’s all upside. Even the dual-action tailgate that I thought was silly and unnecessary earns praise from the Ridgeline’s primary driver, who uses the tailgate in side-hinged form almost exclusively.

Performance is well beyond adequate in terms of straight-line acceleration and overtaking power. (I’m a fan of the 2019’s six-speed automatic; not yet convinced by the 2020’s nine-speed.) The Ridgeline’s handling (which matters greatly to a pair of enthusiastic drivers who live on a twisty route) shames other pickups, all of which place cornering speeds much much farther down their priority lists. Ride quality is reminiscent of a bygone time in which we wouldn’t tolerate cars that rattled our fillings loose.

Our rural use over a couple thousand kilometres generally results in 24 mpg driving; 19 when towing an aluminum trailer laden with a pair of ATVs. Rated to tow 5,000 pounds, the Ridgeline certainly isn’t about to ruffle its feathers when hitched to 2,500 pounds. Although outright towing capacity is hardly a priority, our “truck” is frequently tasked with the very kind of truck duties many trucks go a lifetime without completing: towing a couple of times per week, frequently ferrying dirt bikes in the bed, and filling its wheel arches with mud on Sunday afternoon drives.

As for the i-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system and its selectable drive modes, Prince Edward Island’s winter sits off in the distant future as we enjoy 85°F summer days. To be fair, a set of Bridgestone Blizzaks and a front-wheel-drive Odyssey coped admirably with Island winters; the Odyssey’s 4,500-pound heft no doubt providing assistance. But when your driveway drifts in early during each snowstorm, when you live a couple of miles outside the nearest town (of 1,500 souls), when roads often remain snow-covered for days rather than hours, there’s a certain security found in an active torque-vectoring system.

The second-generation Ridgeline’s AWD system differentiates Honda Canada’s offering from the corporate partners south of the border. Here in the north, the 2017-2020 Ridgeline has never even been offered in a front-wheel-drive configuration, nor have Honda Sensing technologies ever been anything other than standard equipment. In fact, the entire Ridgeline lineup differs greatly in terms of content and nomenclature in Canada.

This is a 2019 Honda Ridgeline EX-L, formerly the middle rung in a five-model family that included the LX, Sport, Touring, and Black Edition. (The LX is now dead.) It’s similar to American Honda’s Ridgeline RTL but includes RTL-E features such as front/rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, plus heated rear seats that aren’t available on America’s Ridgelines.

Perhaps the extra standard equipment explains the fact that Honda Canada’s Ridgeline performance outshines the 1.1-percent share achieved by the Ridgeline in America’s pickup truck sector.

Here, the Ridgeline earns… okay, well, wait a second. Scratch that theory. The Ridgeline earns just 0.8 percent of pickup sales in a Canadian market in which full-size trucks exert even greater control.

“Clearly, the Ridgeline isn’t going to go down in history as an overwhelming marketplace success,” I wrote when reviewing the Ridgeline for TTAC in 2017. “It simply isn’t what most pickup buyers want. 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.”

Three and a half years later, I found myself unable to disagree with that conclusion.

[Images: Tim Cain/TTAC]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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2 of 47 comments
  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Sep 15, 2020

    I changed my mind and I too am looking to join the 1% club. But we still have our Odyssey and I’ll be getting rid of my VW Golf for a Ridgeline. There’s a great lease right now on the RTLE trim in the US and after shopping Ram, Ranger and F150, it’s the best for me, who needs a truck that’s more of a car. I really wanted to love Ranger, but at it’s most car-like price point, it wasn’t a good deal and I didn’t feel it would be enjoyable for my more often than not 4 hour highway drive. F150 could be had for nearly the same money with incentives, but I just don’t need that much truck.

  • Petey Petey on Oct 15, 2020

    Have you guys noticed the shallow depth of the Ridgeline bed. Its almost looks like anything you put into it will be sticking out far above the bedrails.

  • Fred I don't know about those big screens. Is there a way to minimize the display, so it's not so distracting? Especially at night the glow doesn't make it easy for me.
  • Arthur Dailey Toronto Blue Jays' games are only available on AM radio. As I am 'on the road' quite often when the Jays play that is my only option for listening to the game. So an AM radio is something of a 'must have' for me.
  • JMII My brother tracked one of these for several years... it will embarrass other sports cars. He sold it to someone who still rips it around on track days. Given my previous VW experience I wouldn't touch it but these are surprising quick and handle well for hatchback credit going to a decent AWD system. $16k seems crazy, but Rs aren't that common and this one appears to be in great condition and seems well sorted.
  • Arthur Dailey I meant the grille and the profile along the passenger area. Look closely and it is reminiscent of the Journey.
  • Daniel 16500 pesos