By on September 28, 2020

2019 Honda Ridgeline EXL Cape Tryon PEI - Image: © Timothy CainAuto high beams were not the feature I thought I’d miss when our family switched from a 2018 Honda Odyssey to a 2019 Honda Ridgeline. I spent more than three decades living in urban environments. High beam use was limited to vacations or weekend getaways in country idylls.

Even after three years of rural life, auto high beams still seemed to me to be just a frivolous luxury. At least they did, until we gave them up in the switch to the Ridgeline, which isn’t the top-spec model needed to acquire the auto high beams. It was a switch that occurred during some of the longest days of the year, when there are roughly 16 hours between sunrise and sunset on Prince Edward Island.

Now the daylight hours are shrinking and I am forced to repeatedly push and pull a signal stalk forward and back with the sheer strength of an index finger, like some sort of penurious Suzuki Equator driver. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, that’s what it is. DIY high beam engagement may well be an enhanced interrogation technique, the details of which have not yet been uncovered in a David Shepardson exposé.

Fortunately, almost everything else about the 2019 Honda Ridgeline has fostered an increasingly contented ownership experience, the likes of which I’ve ever encountered in a 5,000-mile/4-month test.

That’s not to say the Ridgeline is perfect. As mentioned in our long-term intro, the styling is soft, the infotainment unit is outdated, and rear-seat legroom could be better.

But all of the aspects of the Ridgeline we appreciated when our family first spent time with a 2017 model – plus all of the appealing elements we valued on multiple test drives in previous years – are of greater value than we anticipated. Five areas stand out.

Having owned a nine-speed-equipped Odyssey, I know that Honda can build a nine-speed/3.5L combo that works. And Ridgeline customers in 2020 aren’t given any choice in the matter anyway – the nine-speed is the Ridgeline’s new transmission. This combo, however, in which the same 280-horsepower engine is linked to a six-speed transmission simply feels better suited. Shifts are silky smooth and sufficiently quick, and the transmission copes with towing with no mental confusion. Moreover, isn’t 0-60 in 6.6 seconds more than swift enough?2018 Honda Ridgeline trunk in bed image Honda - Image: HondaBED
Seventeen inches of depth isn’t overly generous, but the Ridgeline’s flat and wide bed is ideal for numerous other reasons. First, the composite construction is rugged. Second, the dual-action tailgate is far more useful than I anticipated. Third, the ingenious trunk bed has so far proven to be waterproof. And even the liftover height, under three feet, makes it easy for the kids to jump in when we’re loading dirt bikes.

Unibody construction and a 125-inch wheelbase put the Ridgeline’s rough-road ride quality in a league of its own, not just compared to other pickup trucks but within much of the overall auto industry, as well. We’ll be switching out the stock rubber for Bridgestone Blizzaks very shortly – we received over 8 feet of snow last winter – so we’ll soon judge how a tire swap the Ridgeline’s ability to soak up, well, everything.

We purchased a Canadian-market 2019 Honda Ridgeline EX-L, which sits above the base Sport but below the Touring and Black Edition. The Sport lacks the EX-L’s adjustable driver’s armrest; the Touring makes both front armrests adjustable. The Ridgeline’s two drivers are dimensionally quite distinct, and this small upgrade over our Odyssey EX has contributed to far greater driver comfort. Details, details, details.

Pickups, not just midsize trucks but full-size brutes too, continue to find huge gains in fuel economy. A decade ago, the 2010 Ford F-150 with a 5.4-liter V8 and four-wheel drive was rated at 14 mpg city; 18 mpg highway. The 2020 F-150 EcoBoost 3.5, with 21 percent more power, is rated at 17 mpg city; 21 highway in Limited spec. According to the EPA, that translates to $450 in annual savings. To be honest, the Ridgeline isn’t worlds removed from that new F-150. (It’s rated at 18 mpg city; 25 highway. In mostly rural driving, we’re averaging 23.1 mpg.) But it’s slightly better than what we were seeing in the 2018 Odyssey.

Changes in lifestyle removed the necessity of our van’s third row. The frequently snow-covered roads in central PEI led us to believe all-wheel drive would be a nice bonus. Addictions to powersports make a truck, even if it is more “truck” than truck, a better everyday companion.

No, we weren’t thrilled when our first attempt at towing went awry. The 7-pin hookup to our trailer produced light but no signals or brakes, and we confirmed with a friend’s truck that the trailer wasn’t the problem. After digging sifting the fuses and the diagram, I eventually needed the dealer to discover a fuse that was presumably ineffective from the manufacturer.2019 Honda Ridgeline tailgate pad Sportrack - Image: © Timothy CainBut if that’s the rather trivial type of trouble we’re going to find from our Ridgeline, we can live with it. To date, we’ve only made one change to the truck. It’s no Yakima Gatekeeper or trendy Evoc tailgate pad, but this $149 SportRack piece from (where else?) Canadian Tire was way cheaper. It still has the velvety soft inner lining, although the attachment of the accompanying straps requires more time than on the more expensive options. If you’re hauling mountain bikes to the trails, a tailgate pad saves a lot of trouble. We can easily stand five or six bikes upright in less than a minute and be on our way.

There are now three upgrades planned. The first is a definite installation this fall: an aftermarket tri-fold tonneau cover. The second, a leveling kit, is entirely unnecessary but quite affordable, and it helps beef up the Ridgeline’s soft front-end styling. The third requires turning the Ridgeline’s OEM wheels into our winter wheels after we shop for a more menacing set of alloys for the April-October stretch.

In our next update, we’ll discuss winter driving, which will be upon us all too soon.

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.

[Images: Timothy Cain, Honda]

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30 Comments on “2019 Honda Ridgeline Long-Term Update: 4 months and 5,000 miles...”

  • avatar

    It’s odd how options we made fun of are now essential. From day-night mirrors, intermittent wipers, heated seats, bluetooth. I wouldn’t buy a new car without them.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      For me it’s the heated steering wheel.
      I would have mocked someone mercilessly if they said they had to have one until I tried it in the winter.

      Simply amazing.

    • 0 avatar

      I am starting to feel that way about push button start and auto headlights. I’ve got two modern cars (IE: from 2014) and one old school (2002) truck. The tech differences really do spoil you. I get in my truck all the time only to realize my keys have disappeared into my pockets and have to dig them out just to start the darn thing. Doh! My next truck will have adaptive cruise control and assume that will result in me laughing at “normal” cruise control. Because I share my vehicles with my wife power memory seats and mirrors are a must. Living in FL means cools seats are a nice edition but they are not a must have just yet.

  • avatar

    Sounds crazy, but the hi-beam switch is one of the things I miss most from my old XJ6. It was just silky-smooth perfect.

    Have to say that trunk in the bed looks pretty handy.

    • 0 avatar

      The trunk can also be a cooler. It has a drain in the bottom. The RTLE trim also has speakers hidden in the bed that are independent of the cabin speakers and an inverter plug in. This is a tailgate machine, I’ll have to get into sports just to make proper use of it. (My kids do play some sports, in non covid times anyway.). Hopefully life will go back to normal before my 3 year lease is up!

  • avatar

    So far the biggest feature I wish we had on our 2016 Pilot EX-L is memory seats. Seriously my 2004 base model 300M has them. We are averaging only about 19mpg so far on the same driveline combo, but really it sees like 90% short trips around town. I’m not so in love with the transmission. Fine most of the time but there is a TSB for higher temps that cause a short fluid life, maybe not an issue on the ridgeline as I think it has a bigger cooler which I plan to install on the pilot. I had to have our fluid changed as it was making a funky 2-3 shift. On the pilot the transmission is also programmed with more deceleration and less free wheeling then I’m used too as well.
    Overall it is roomy and comfortable thou. After owning it I like the concept of the ridgeline more then I had before but If I’m getting a truck I want more towing capacity I think. Plus I really preferred gen 1 ridgeline styling.

  • avatar

    I’m into week two of my 2020 Ridgeline RTLE ownership(lease). So far I’ve taken my Mantis tiller to be repaired, 15 bags of mulch from blue/white big box store and a trip to the grocery store. Our Odyssey could have handled all of that, but not having to worry about a leaky bag of mulch was nice (because one did). We went to a local farm and picked apples, brought home pumpkins and other middle class fall family stuff. I am not regretting my purchase in the least.

    I was able to use the LED headlights for the first time in and it’s much nicer to be able to see at night. I’ve had no issues with the 9spd auto, but I usually leave Econ mode off. Not sure how it does on efficiency, but it makes the vehicle much nicer to drive.

    No, I can’t whip it around like my Golf, but it’s the only aspect I miss. But I have my Fox Mustang convertible for fun.

    I have purchased a Weathertech Floorliners and their roll up tonneau. The tonneau was everything I expect from Weathertech and the install wasn’t bad at all. Cooper snows are on the way and I’m trying to find wheels that I like and won’t break my bank.

  • avatar

    Shocking Ridgeline sales are in the negative while all the new comers and stalwarts are in the positive.

    • 0 avatar

      Goes to show that people will buy what they know or understand. When I did my research because I wanted a midsize, the Ridge was the clear winner. And why does it need to look like the other steroid injected brodozers on the market?

    • 0 avatar

      I covet the Ridgeline, but I bought a less efficient 2010 GMC Sierra Hybrid.

      The used Sierra can tow more, and costs less. Also, I find the hybrid system interesting and pleasant to drive.

      Plus, the Sierra is not a forever truck for me — I only plan to drive it for 2-3 years, so paying $40k+ didn’t make sense and leasing didn’t save me anything. A cheaper used vehicle was a better fit financially, just so long as I could find something I actually like.

      I still really really like the Ridgeline, though.

  • avatar

  • avatar

    I’m not a truck person. Never have been. And at age 70, I’m guessing I never will be one. All that said, if I ever did become a truck person, this would probably be the one I’d buy. Looks like the most carlike one on the market, which is admittedly a minus for some people; but for me, it’s a plus. Just sayin’.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      Ridgeline is the truck most truck owners need, but are too insecure to own.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        “Ridgeline is the truck most truck owners need, but are too insecure to own.”


        The issue with the Ridgeline is the box is TOO small to be useful because it is nothing more than a Pilot with the roof cut off just behind the rear seats.

        If Honda would have been serious about going after the lucrative PU truck market they would have done it right and extended the wheelbase to give the box some actual utility. What they have now is simply something different to sell Honda customers. Great concept, poor execution.

        • 0 avatar

          “box is TOO small to be useful”

          That also applies to any full sized pickup with a 5 1/2 foot box.

          The Ridgeline has a 64 inch box and is just as wide as any full sized pickup.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            “The Ridgeline has a 64 inch box and is just as wide as any full sized pickup.”

            Ya right. The guy that bought my Polaris 700 Classic snowmobile drove it up a ramp into the bed of a FS Chevy PU w/a 5.5′ box.

            No way could you do that with a Ridgeline. Not even close. As I said, a box too small to be useful. Put a real box on it & I’d look at one for my next PU now that I sold the cruiser and have no need for something that can handle 4 tons of boat.

  • avatar

    Don’t go too Butch. Yes I did the leveling kit on my F-150 STX, 20″ FX/King Ranch wheels and 33″ Falcon Wildpeaks. I call it righting the factory wrongs. I also upgraded to XLT power seats.

    But by far the greatest mod was ditching the factory jumpseat/armrest (between the front seats) that I hated (column shift) for a down-firing sub-box. No I wasn’t looking earth shaking bass since I not 16, but it’s the perfect size and proportions to fill the vacant area, mount phone holder, gps, and 3 cup holders (14″ wide) on the front/forward face.

    Plus it’s a perfect work/breakfast table and proper “bar height”, 11 or 12″ from the lowest part of the seat surface (compressed). At 32 inches long, I realize a Ridgeline could only do a 16″ longitudinal (custom box) between the front seats maybe, thanks the floor shifter, but I never realized how badly I needed it until I got it nor how comfortable it’d be. Seriously.

    Yes I did have to hook up the subs (prefab box, as if custom built for my truck/application) since they’re two vintage DVC Rockford Fosgate 10″ subs, wired 2 ohm, port-tuned to 30 Hz that you’d swear are at least 12″ thanks to your proximity to them.

  • avatar

    All I want to know is how’s the mountain biking on Prince Edward Island? Or do you have to go to the mainland? I’m assuming the winters are pretty rough so the season has to be about up. Sadness. Glad your honda can carry your bikes though.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      For a little Island there are a lot of options. Brookvale and Bonshaw are the headliners. Search YouTube for Brookvale clips of Coastline, Green Machine, Blue Nuit, Surf’n’Turf and you’ll get an idea of what our non-black diamond trails are like.

      There are more and more groomed winter trail for fat bikes, too, but I haven’t done that yet. There’s another 6-8 weeks before that’s really even a possibility; 10-12 before it’s likely.

  • avatar

    When is Honda going to put a hybrid drive train into one of these things so it can take my money? All I want is 25 miles all-EV range and 3500# towing with 30+ MPG. Come on Honda, you can do it.

    • 0 avatar

      The F-150 will probably reach those specs with its plugin hybrid first.

      Ford is preparing hybrid, plugin hybrid, and EV variants.

      One of the hybrid Explorer variants is already on the market. It’s not cheap, but nor is the Ridgeline.

  • avatar

    I loved the six years I’ve spent with my 2007 Ridgeline. Excelled in everything I threw at it. Absolute beast in snow. It handled snow much better than Tacoma Trd Pro. The Tacoma needed 300lbs of sand in the bed just to stay on the road.
    Gas mileage for the Ridgeline? Terrible. Reliability? Stellar.
    I would buy a first generation again in a heart beat. Current generation? Sorry, can’t get past its Pilot looks

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Yeah, I’m middle-aged and crusty, and I hate the complexity of new cars. I don’t want a cell phone on wheels. I want the driving to entertain, and that means more engagement, with a manual trans at the very least. I’m not addicted to social media, so I don’t need my car to deliver a constant fix of it. I don’t want my car to apply the inside brakes every time I get rowdy in a corner, or to brake unexpectedly when I get within 30 feet of the car in front while passing with the cruise control on (yes, I love C-C). More complexity means more to go wrong, and it will. People have no idea the repair bills that are coming with all of these systems… oh wait. Maybe German car drivers do.

    Anyway, most of what new cars are offering is the opposite of what I want when I drive. OK Boomer out!

    • 0 avatar

      @old_shel: More complexity means more to go wrong,

      I’ve taken apart and put back together both computers and carbeurators. The computer is much simpler. A lot more reliable too.

  • avatar

    I HATE auto high beams. I don’t know how you can like them so much. Live in a very rural mountain west state. It gets seriously dark on many of my roads. All the auto high beams seem to do well is false positive an oncoming car when in reality it is a street sign reflection or perhaps an overhead lamp.

    Otherwise every time I read Ridgeline reviews it is the same thing. Styling is the biggest one for me. Just looks too much like a wimpy Pilot or a minivan. It is pretty good from the side and back. But that front end is terrible.

    Does this truck ever go offroad? That is probably my biggest thing with this. If you do any even limited offroading I’d probably prefer any other truck or perhaps something like an Outback.

  • avatar

    I miss the old headlight dimmer switch on the floor. Somehow it seemed much more convenient than a stalk on the column. Most cars have autos so the left foot has nothing to do anyway (unless you left foot brake — something my driver ed teacher in high school absolutely forbade).

  • avatar

    I think it is more accurate to say that the Ridgeline is an Odyssey with the back cut off – the Pilot is shorter than the Ridgeline.

    I have seen a few current-gen Ridgeline with a bed cap – to me it makes it look a lot better, almost like a mini-Suburban.

    I had a first-gen Ridgeline and really enjoyed it. Gas mileage was not good, though. I struggled to get 17 mpg. I think the new styling is partly responsible for improved fuel economy, along with the 9-speed trans. I actually wish I had kept it, but oh well. Made a bad choice and traded it in on a Ram that we didn’t need.

    I am considering getting a new Ridgeline as a long term keeper. But I am driving so little lately it doesn’t make sense to get a new car just to have it sit in the garage depreciating. I don’t see driving like I used to ever again. My 2005 Highlander has been very reliable and is paid for. At this rate I will be keeping the Highlander for a long time.

  • avatar

    Forget about the Honda Ridgeline and make it easy for yourself and get a truck from one of the big three. Prreferrably from F or D.
    For the price of the ridgeline you can get auto climate, lights, seats, transfer case, and anything else auto that i forgot to mention.
    You can also choose from 3 different cabs, 3 different bed lengths, 5 or 6 different engines, 10 colours.
    You would think that the Ridgelines trump card would be superior fuel economy, but these full size trucks get similar fuel economy with twice as much payload and towing specs.
    As you can see, being a “Honda” guy, im so unimpressed with Hondas light truck entry.

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