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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

2020 Honda Ridgeline: Innovative pickup brings car-like qualities to compact truck segment

Honda’s Ridgeline pickup poses this question: How much truck does a person really need?

And the follow-up question: What is a truck, anyway?

The Ridgeline is a compact light-duty pickup just like any other. Except that it’s not. 

It is to other pickups what crossovers are to SUVs.

Like a crossover, the Ridgeline is built on a car-like unibody rather than a truck’s heavier and more rugged ladder-frame chassis. By definition, it tows less, hauls less and is less capable off-road than a traditional truck.

The flip-side of that coin is that the Ridgeline rides better, handles better and is more fuel-efficient than its competitors.

Innovative solutions

Front-wheel drive is standard on lower trims, with available AWD. Upper trims come standard with AWD.

The Ridgeline’s roomy, five-passenger cabin offers class-leading rear-seat legroom and headroom. Interior materials and fit-and-finish are high-quality and durable, if not exactly plush. 

In fact, for all its comforts, the Ridgeline is at heart a middle-class rig. In even its highest trims, it’s more about utility than unbridled luxury. Instead of exotic materials and cutting-edge design, Honda creates innovative solutions to real-world needs. 

Solutions that include second-row seats that can be folded upright to accommodate items as large as a bicycle.

Or like a bed made of a scratch- and ding-resistant composite that won’t ever rust. Under the floor of that bed, there’s a large locking and water-tight stowage area.

Ridgeline’s tailgate can swing open like a door, or be raised and lowered like any other trucks’.

More standard features

The Ridgeline is available in four trims: Sport ($34,995), RTL ($37,765), RTL-E ($42,020) and Black Edition ($44,615). 

For 2020, it drops a pair of trims — including last year’s base model — and adds new standard equipment.

The lower trims’ infotainment systems are updated with the 8-inch touchscreen once reserved for the upper trims. Ridgeline’s infotainment system is a bit clunky, though standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offer some consolation.

The Honda Sensing package of safety and driver-assist features — automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control — was until now optional on Sport and RTL trims. It is now standard across the line.

Reflecting these changes and others, the cost of entry jumps $3,910. 

Available in a single flavor

While other light trucks are sold with an array of powertrains, cab configurations and bed lengths, the Ridgeline comes in a single flavor, with a four-door crew cab, a 5’3” inch bed and a  280-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine.

This year, Honda replaces last year’s 6-speed automatic with a new 9-speed unit that makes good, clean shifts. It readily drops a cog or two when the driver calls for immediate acceleration.

The powertrain delivers its torque in a steady, even flow. There’s abundant power for freeway merging and for passing on two-lane roads. The Ridgeline runs the 0-60 sprint in the low 7-second range.

AWD Ridgelines can tow up to 5,000 pounds; FWD models will tow as much 3,500 lb.

The Ridgeline has a payload capacity of 1,584 lb., about average for the compact class and a just a couple-hundred pounds less than that of a mid-size light-duty pickup.

Independent suspension rocks

In other words, it’s a great rig for the occasional waste-to-energy plant run. It can be used to haul furniture or motorcycles or to tow a boat or travel trailer. A 4x8-ft. sheet of wallboard lies flat between the wheel wells.

Ridgeline’s four-wheel independent suspension (most trucks use a solid rear axle) gives Ridgeline exceptional ride comfort and handling.

Out test week included a Seattle road-trip. At freeway speeds, Ridgeline’s cabin is quieter than other trucks. It felt planted and stable, without the tendency of conventional trucks to wander in its lane.

Body lean in corners is well-controlled, which was well appreciated on the winding western slopes of the Cascades. Steering is nicely weighted and responsive.

Now in its second generation, the Ridgeline is unlikely to become the first choice for the construction trades but the rest of us should find lots here to celebrate.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E
Vehicle base price: $34,995
Trim level base price: $42,020
As tested: $43,140 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Our RTL-E tester included no options
Tow rating: 3,500/5,000 lb.
EPA rating: 21 combined/19 city/24 highwayRegular unleaded gasoline specified



Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.