Ace of Base: 2018 Honda Ridgeline RT 2WD

2018 Honda Ridgeline

Most readers are well aware of my infatuation with trucks. Blame my rural upbringing, or chalk it up to the innate Canadian friendliness of helping everyone move house, but a pickup truck will always reside in my driveway.

The Honda Ridgeline, newly designed for the 2017 model year, is available in a range of trims, starting with the RT at $29,630. This author was unsure about the Ridgeline’s practicality as a truck when it was introduced, given its lineage. Can a base Honda pickup pass the Ace of Base test?

I have been known to look unfairly upon the Honda Ridgeline, with its unibody construction and decidedly un-muscular roots, with approximately the same amount of distain one would hold for a soiled copy of the National Inquirer. A transverse V6 and a front-drive chassis did not a truck make, I thought.

This was the wrong approach, as most Ridgeline customers care not one whit about such trivialities and are drawn in by the “H” on the grille after a lifetime of Accord or CR-V ownership. Chiseled looks and the ability to stand out in the school drop-off queue are the killer apps for many. The bed in the back is just a bonus. It is hard to find fault with their line of logic.

Under the hood is a 280 horsepower, direct-injected, 3.5-liter V6 that’s the same across the board, no matter the level of trim. Two-wheel-drive Ridgelines, like our base RT, deploy a high-capacity radiator in a bid to boast a 3,500-pound towing capacity. This is about the same as most crossovers and more than enough to haul a utility trailer filled with yard detritus or even tow a small hard-sided camper.

You can smack well over 1000 lbs in the bed, or haul 3,500 lbs worth of gear. My biggest gripe with the Ridgeline is the location of its spare wheel; housed in the in-bed trunk. I challenge anyone who is exercising that payload capacity with a load of gravel to access the hatch containing the spare. Same thing when the bed is full of snow and ice, as it is five months of the year in these climes.

2018 Honda Ridgeline

However, as someone was quite correct to point out on the last occasion I groused about this particular design decision, most Ridgeline owners, finding themselves riding on only three inflated tires, will simply call roadside assistance. This is a good point, although this does not help folks who find themselves in possession of an out-of-warranty Honda pickup. Trucks are generally kept working on the road long after their passenger car brethren have been unceremoniously fed into The Crusher, after all.

I do understand why someone would buy a Ridgeline, but only as a quirky alternative to the Pilot and not as a serious truck. That market does exist, though it is shrinking: sales have been hovering around the 2,700 units/month mark since June, down from over 4,000 last December.

However, mine is not to reason why; mine is to give it an Ace of Base try. The base RT trim, offering only two dour colors and bereft of a meaningful infotainment system, is a tough sell. Economies of scale ensure features like cruise control, power windows, and air conditioning are present, as is a truckish Class III trailer hitch and seven-pin electrical connector.

I’d want to make the walk to up at least the RTL-T trim and enjoy all its amenities for $36,080. The most F-150 one can get for that price is a 3.3-liter-equipped 4×2 XL Crew Cab with the Chrome Appearance package and Group 101A. It won’t be nearly as laden with features, but it will tow 5,000 lbs.

Not that anyone is cross-shopping those two machines, of course. An XL-trim Ford truck won’t impress in the drop-off lane nearly as much as a high-spec Ridgeline.

[Image: Honda]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, BB? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selection.

The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim, absent of destination charges and available rebates. As always, your dealer may sell for less.