by GREG WILLIAMS | MAY 24, 2017
CALGARY — Greg Myslicki remembers vehicles like the Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero. Decades later, Myslicki puts those niche products and the redesigned 2017 Honda Ridgeline in the same category.
“The Ridgeline is like a crew cab El Camino on steroids,” he said. Not a fan of Honda’s first-generation truck, Myslicki’s perception has shifted after a week in the new Ridgeline Black Edition.
“I never liked the look of the first-generation Ridgeline,” he said. “But this was a complete 180 for me. I really like the new front-end design; to me, it looks understated and very clean. I know it’s not a heavy-duty truck, but it’s got a great presence on the road.”
Honda says the new Ridgeline is a midsize pickup truck that offers a rugged package suitable for weekend warriors or everyday workers. Completely redesigned inside and out, the 2017 Ridgeline is longer, lower, wider and lighter than its predecessor. Setting the Ridgeline apart from other pickups is Honda’s use of unibody construction; there is no underlying frame to the vehicle. Fully independent front and rear suspension systems provide a plush ride and, as Myslicki discovered, better than expected handling.
“I realize it’s not a sports car,” Myslicki said of the Ridgeline Black Edition, priced at just under $51,000 including freight and PDI. “But this truck was nimble and quick off the line. I think it had impressive performance for a V6 engine, and the transmission shifted very smoothly and responded quickly to driving situations.”
2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition
Starting at about $38,000 for the base LX trim, all Ridgelines are powered by the same 3.5-litre V6 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Every Ridgeline is also equipped with Honda’s new Intelligent Variable Torque Management (iVTM-4) torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system.
Myslicki learned to drive using a 1964 Chevrolet Biscayne sedan, and his first set of wheels was a 1964 Volkswagen Notchback. The first car he bought new was a 1980 Pontiac Trans Am. Apart from a 2001 Volvo S60 he also bought new, all other vehicles have been purchased used and self-maintained; he had a 1989 Oldsmobile Royal 88 that had covered more than 500,000 kilometres when he retired the ride, and currently drives a 2002 Buick Regal with more than 185,000 kilometres on the odometer. Myslicki commutes to work using a bicycle, but as an avid golfer he’s often on the road to either local or farther-flung courses.
“I really liked the two-way tailgate,” Myslicki said of the ability to either drop it down or swing it open to the side. “When it swings, it opens toward the driver’s side, so it makes curbside loading a breeze. It also allows you to easily get to the in-bed trunk.
“As a golf fanatic, you could put two bags of clubs in that trunk. The bottom bag had to have the drivers pulled out, but the second bag fit right on top. The trunk was a great feature because it’s lockable, and nothing would get wet in there.”
At 5 feet 9 inches tall, Myslicki said getting into the Ridgeline wasn’t a chore, but he could see adding a set of Honda’s accessory running boards. The 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat was simple to set, and Myslicki appreciated the fact Honda equipped the Ridgeline with a dead pedal – a place where a driver can brace the left foot.
2017 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition
“Interior fit and finish was like a luxury sedan or SUV,” he said of the black and red leather-appointed cabin. “There was really good visibility with no major blind spots, and the dash was well laid out.”
What really impressed Myslicki was the tight turning radius and the observed fuel economy; he said the numbers he generated were close to Honda’s claimed figures of 12.8 L/100 km in the city and 9.5 on the highway. Furthermore, he was pleased with the ride, as the truck didn’t shake or roll and the suspension easily soaked up bumps.
One very small complaint Myslicki had was regarding the stereo system: “It had great sound, but I’d always quickly press the left and right arrow buttons expecting it to change stations, and instead it would change the source from AM to FM or Sirius.”
Summing up, Myslicki said, “I’d consider buying one, but I’d like to test out the all-wheel drive system a bit more. I didn’t get to drive it in the snow.
“For me, Honda has a niche vehicle here. It rides like a luxury SUV but if you needed to haul something, you can do it very easily. It’s got great comfort, great handling and great utility.”
Day One: Picked up the Ridgeline Black Edition on a typical spring day in Calgary – cold and miserable. The all-black colour scheme really works for this truck. The doors felt solid but opened and closed with ease. The cabin has just the right amount of room and comfort. The Black Edition is maxed out with options from the 540-watt, eight-speaker audio system to the heated leather steering wheel. The Ridgeline definitely feels more like an SUV than a truck, probably due to its unibody construction.
Day Two: The Ridgeline’s heated seats are delightful, as they quickly reached toasting temperatures. Driving down Macleod Trail, it’s hard to avoid all of the potholes but this truck managed to soak them up without shaking our noggins. The Ridgeline was easy to navigate in and out of parking lots at local malls, as there is good visibility over the front corner panels. The seven-inch display with the multi-view rear camera is an asset for backing up, but I especially liked the reverse gear tilt-down door mirrors. The Black Edition’s audio system is fantastic; the subwoofer really pushes out the deep notes.
Day Three: Leaving a Starbucks parking lot, the Ridgeline got a thumbs-up from a gentleman who seemed impressed by its looks! I agree; this 2017 redesign is a grand improvement over the first-generation Ridgeline. Back at home, I’m loading the truck with some unused paint cans to take them to a residential hazardous materials drop off location. The Ridgeline’s dual-action tailgate is awesome.
Day Four: My golf buddy and I are off to Bragg Creek. The sky is overcast but the roads are dry. The Ridgeline was delivered to me with winter tires, but our ride feels sure-footed through the twisties on Highway 22. Adaptive cruise control, combined with the road-departure and lane-keep assist systems, make driving effortless. The Honda’s 3.5-litre V6 is incredibly smooth, with lots of brawn for passing. The engine has a pleasingly throaty note when you step on the accelerator. The six-speed transmission shifted smoothly and it also features Grade Logic Control, which by pressing the button by the shifter, I found there was less gear-hunting and better engine braking while travelling up and down hills. My friend drives a European SUV, but he was pleasantly surprised with the Ridgeline’s refined ride and overall cabin layout.
Day Five: My first gripe with this truck is how the chrome lug nuts seem to be rusting prematurely, which is something I’ve seen on quite a few Japanese vehicles using this design. The box liner/coating is a nice feature that prevents things from sliding around. The interior rear seats easily fold up, leaving enough room to fit a bike behind the front seats. It would be better if Honda’s engineers redesigned the hinges so the doors opened wider.
Day Six: My 25-year-old son and I decided to golf. We were able to fit both sets of clubs inside the in-bed trunk with room to spare. Speaking of spares, unfortunately Honda fails to provide a full-sized spare tire. Most of our trip was at highway speeds and even though the day was windy, the cabin seemed to be acoustically well insulated. Before we left, my son’s phone was paired with the Ridgeline’s HondaLink feature, but he was disappointed with its level of user-friendliness. At night, I was impressed by the illumination thrown from the projector-beam LED headlamps.
Day Seven: Before sitting behind the wheel today, I decided to scope out the engine compartment. The windshield washer filler neck, oil dipstick and air filter box are all well marked and easily accessible. It looks like DIY-ers would be able to perform oil changes with the truck at ground level, although it would be easier if the opening for the filter was slightly improved. The fuel door switch is conveniently located on the driver’s door panel and I like the capless fuel filler.
TYPE OF VEHICLE
Midsize AWD pickup
3.5L SOHC V6
280 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 262 lb.-ft. @ 4,700 rpm
Four-wheel disc w/ABS
P245/60 R18 all-season
PRICE: BASE / AS TESTED
NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA FUEL ECONOMY
(L/100km) 9.5 hwy, 12.8 city
(Black Edition trim) 18” black alloy wheels, blacked-out door handles, bumper skid garnish, auto high beam w/projector beam LED headlights, blind spot information system, rear cross-traffic monitor system, memory linked side mirrors w/reverse gear tilt-down, rain-sensing wipers, 115-votl AC power outlet, 150W/400W in-bed power inverter, auto-dimming rearview mirror, tilt and telescopic steering column, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, 10-way power adjustable driver seat and 4-way power adjustable passenger seat, 540-watt AM/FM/CD premium audio system w/MP3/Windows Media Audio playback capability and 8 speakers including subwoofer, navigation.