Not everyone needs a full sized truck and for some, comfort and utility are king.
When the Honda Ridgeline came out in 2006, it was highly criticized in the pickup community for its unibody chassis and front-drive layout. Having a single engine option also made it an uphill battle. This particular generation ran with little to no change up until it ended production in 2014. Flash forward to 2016 and Honda came back with a second generation. Three years in, we decided to evaluate if the 2020 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition has the chops to compete in the hot compact pickup segment.
There are a few areas where the Honda Ridgeline shines head and shoulders above its competition, and others that keep it from being a serious contender. Consumers willing to make some concessions will be more than happy with the overall package. Let’s start with the bad news and go from there.
Towing capabilities in the Honda Ridgeline come in at 5,000-pounds, which is fine for the casual user. However more dedicated compact pickups like the Chevrolet Colorado (reviewed here) and Ford Ranger can tow up to 7,700-pounds when properly equipped, outclassing the Ridgeline. Additionally, the lack of a leaf spring suspension and solid rear axle are the main factors that work against the Ridgeline. Its unibody architecture shared with the Honda Pilot does it no favors when it comes to towing.
Off road capabilities are also impacted with this suspension set up in addition to a lower ride height and lack of low range gearing that its competitors offer, and in some cases more trail rated dedicated models that the Ridgeline lacks. The Toyota Tacoma (reviewed here) and new Jeep Gladiator won’t have to worry about seeing the Honda emblem tailgate them when off-roading.
However, due to the suspension and chassis that Honda decided to go with in the Ridgeline, the on road capabilities are second to none in this segment. Overall ride quality is exceptionally smooth and the Ridgeline soaks up the bumps much like its people-moving sibling, the Pilot. Occupants won’t feel like they have been tossed around like they would in the Ford Ranger, which happens to be one of the most dated models in the segment.
Thankfully the styling has improved over the previous generation. It’s a much cleaner and sophisticated look. Yes, the Ridgeline has a similar design to the Pilot but that’s not a bad thing unless you want something more rugged looking, which is where the Black Edition here comes in. It’s no comparison to the aggressive Colorado ZR2 (reviewed here) or Tacoma TRD Pro, but the blacked out exterior and black 18-inch aluminum wheels do set the Ridgeline apart nicely.
In forgoing the solid rear axle, Honda has allowed the Ridgeline to have the only non-intrusive truck bed in the segment. Items can be laid down flat inside with no wheel wells being an issue. What’s also appreciated is the tailgate that you can be opened downward like a typical truck tailgate, or swung out with a side-hinge. Loading in a set of winter tires was a snap, without having to reach over or climb into the bed to reach them.
If you have been inside a recent Honda product, you will feel right at home inside the Ridgeline. Everything from the cup holders, HVAC controls, steering wheel and infotainment system look similar with only minor changes. Controls are all well within reach, and quality of materials is very good with a mix of soft-touch leather and plastic. The Black Edition comes with black leather seats with a tinge of red and ”Black Edition” badges embossed. Everything is tightly put together and looks modern when compared to the Ranger, which could learn a thing or two from the Ridgeline’s interior.
One of the best aspects of the Ridgeline is the 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 engine with i-VTEC technology, which is smooth and powerful at the same time. It offers 280 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 262 lb-ft. of torque at 4,700RPM. Kudos to Honda for offering a good, tried and tested naturally aspirated six over the turbocharged four that other manufacturers have started jumping into the trend of.
The Ridgeline’s old six-speed automatic has been replaced with a nine-speed gearbox, which is smooth and brings a level of sophistication normally absent in this segment. It’s better in operation than the GM nine-speed, and the Ford’s 10-speed. This combination offers a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 7.2 seconds, which is adequate but does come in a bit slower than both the Colorado and the Ranger.
All Honda Ridgelines come with a full suite of safety features including Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System and Brake Assist. Basically, safety is not an option here; all occupants are protected. Honda Canada rates it at 12.6L/100km city and 10.0L/100km highway, for a combined 11.4L/100km. We observed 12.3L/100km over a week’s worth of testing.
The base Ridgeline starts at $44,676 and our Black Edition tester comes in with an MSRP of $53,376. If you drive a 2020 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition, be prepared for supposed “real truck” owners constantly remind you that what you drive is not a “real truck”. Look beyond that and decide on what you need, because not everyone needs a full sized truck and for some, comfort and utility are king. Add Honda’s reliability and strong resale into the mix and this might be the perfect fit after all.