2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring Road Test Review

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc. 


Most refined pickup truck in the mid-size market 

The completely redesigned second-generation Honda Ridgeline took top honours in the 2017 North American Truck of the Year awards, and this just after the Japanese brand's most popular Civic won Car of the Year in 2016, and just before the all-new Accord made it a hat trick for 2018. Yes, it appears as if Honda can't lose. 

I must admit to understanding why all the judges chose the new Ridgeline. Truly, it's far better than the outgoing version, especially when it comes to refinement, and the first-generation Honda pickup won the same award when it arrived for 2006. 



The Ridgeline is the alternative pickup truck, totally unlike anything else on the market. It starts with unibody construction formed off the back of the Honda Pilot SUV, and even pulls many of that model's styling elements into the mix, for a design that takes a softer and smoother approach to Honda's current creased and angled origami-inspired styling. 

Rather, the new Ridgeline appeals to those put off by the truck segment's oftentimes in-your-face macho styling, extreme off-road wannabe warrior performance, and similar rough and tough attitudes, yet it still provides a lot of capability. 


 

Ultimately refined yet still plenty capable 

Honda proved this at the press introduction of the original Ridgeline, during which we scaled some fairly steep and untoward off-road terrain. Opportunity to show how easy it was to load a Honda ATV via attachable ramps was part of that past event too, plus back-to-back 5,000-pound trailering sessions against the competition. The Ridgeline was better than its rivals at such tasks, and its other innovations left a gaggle of auto scribes impressed. 


 

I didn't take part in this current Ridgeline's press event, but I'm guessing it's at least as capable of roughing it now as it was then, yet as noted earlier this new iteration is substantially more refined, with a more SUV-like cabin that's filled with soft-touch surfaces, fancier trims, top-tier electronics, and more, while it plays well to families due to the highest safety rating ever given to a pickup truck. It also has a much more utile box on its backside than its predecessor, which is even capable of accepting a regular off-the-rack canopy, while the Ridgeline maintains its innovative cargo bed trunk as well as its ultra-useful dual-purpose swing-out and drop-down tailgate. 

After two model years with the new Ridgeline, an improved 2019 model is beginning to arrive at Canadian dealerships now. Changes include the elimination of the previously base LX trim, which causes Sport trim to become the new base model. This means the new 2019 entry price has increased to $40,790 plus freight and fees, which of course is due to its many more standard features. 


 

More standard features make 2019 Ridgeline better than ever 

The new list of standard items continues to include the 280 horsepower V6, AWD, a fully independent suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, remote engine start, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display, heatable front seats, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, SMS- and email-reading capability, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a 225-watt seven-speaker stereo, adaptive cruise control, front collision warning with autonomous braking, lane departure alert with lane keeping assist, emergency responding telematics, and more, but these are now joined by a bevy of new base equipment. 


 

The new standard features list adds fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, LED turn signals integrated within the mirror housings, a powered moonroof, a power-sliding rear window, driver and front passenger seatback pockets, an exterior temperature gauge, a Homelink garage door opener, filtered tri-zone automatic climate control, Wi-Fi, a 10-way powered driver's seat with power lumbar support, and Honda's innovative LaneWatch blindspot system that projects a passenger's side rear view of the blindspot onto the infotainment display when applying the right-side turn signal. 


 

LaneWatch is replaced by blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert in my Tester's Touring trim and the top-line Black Edition, while these top trims remain unchanged for the 2019 model year. This in mind, some benefits that come with choosing the Touring model include additional chrome exterior trim, LED headlights with auto high beams, power-folding side mirrors with memory and reverse tilt down, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a heatable steering wheel, driver's seat memory, leather upholstery, cooled front and heated rear seats, navigation, voice recognition, 540-watt eight-speaker Bose audio with superb sound quality, satellite and HD radio, an exclusive truck-bed audio system featuring six hidden "exciter" speakers totaling 60 watts of power (which you can play from outside your truck via Bluetooth from your smartphone or wearable), front and rear parking sensors, and more, with all of the active safety features adding up to a class-exclusive IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating. 


 

Top-line Touring trim provides a truly upscale experience 

I must say, of all the trims available I like the looks of this particular Touring model best. Its tastefully applied chrome trim and subtle Lunar Silver metallic paintwork really helped the grille and body-cladding stand out. Still, the major Ridgeline drawing card is the interior, which is by far the nicest in the mid-size truck segment. Refinements include more soft-touch padded surfacing than any rival, including the entire dash top, extending all the way around the top portion of the centre stack and instrument cluster, plus each front door upper and all four door inserts/armrests. 


 

Tasteful splashes of satin-silver and chrome metal trim highlight key elements, as do piano black lacquer accents. If I could find a fault, I'd like to see more of the matte woodgrain on the lower centre console storage bin lid, as it's really attractive. 

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and quite sporty, featuring enough tilt and telescopic adjustment to ideally set up my long-legged, short-torso medium-build frame, while the leather-covered powered driver's seat positioned me perfectly, maintained my chosen settings via two-way memory, and then kept me suitably warm thanks to three-way heaters. Honda even provides three-way coolers to help with summertime heat, although no need for these during my wintery weeklong test. 


 

An impressive array of digital displays 

The bright, colourful, highly legible instrument cluster features two semi-circles, the left side for a tachometer and one on the right for temperature and fuel meters, with a large digital speedometer at the top-centre and a much larger colour multi-information display just below. The centre stack-mounted infotainment touchscreen is almost as artistically crafted as the updated version in the Civic, Accord, CR-V, and HRV, and includes a large display that's also bright and colourful, with extremely deep and rich contrast making its default blue hue particularly nice. It's an easy system to sort out, and filled with loads of extremely useful functions such as the highly visible rearview camera mentioned earlier, very accurate navigation with detailed mapping, and much more. 


 

The Ridgeline's now standard tri-zone auto climate control interface is also easy to use, while all of the switchgear feels substantive and fits together nicely, similar to the rest of the buttons, knobs and toggles throughout the cabin. The HVAC panel sits right next to the ignition button, which is initially black yet glows red while the engine is running, this a bit of Honda tradition pulled up from the brand's legendary performance models. 

Special touches in mind, Honda also adds LED-reading lights to the overhead console, plus a handy felt-lined sunglasses holder that does double-duty as a conversation mirror. 


 

A comfortable and accommodating interior 

I don't think anyone will have trouble fitting inside the expansive Ridgeline cab, as the front seats are generously sized and their controls allow for a lot of adjustability. The rear seat was more than big enough for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame too, providing about four inches ahead of my knees and more than enough for moving my feet around, while there was also about four inches remaining above my head plus plenty from side-to-side. 


 

A very wide armrest folds down from the middle, fitted with dual cupholders, a little tray and large cupholders, while a larger cupholder and another bin are housed within each door panel. Even better, the aforementioned rear seat heaters offer three temperature settings, while a separate HVAC interface allows rear adjustment of the third climate zone. This is high-end equipment for a mid-size pickup truck, but like I said earlier, the Ridgeline is finished to a much nicer level than most rivals. 


 

The 60/40-split rear seat squabs flip upward and out of the way when wanting to store cargo in a dry, secure space, although while this "Magic Seat" style feature is unique in the Fit's subcompact hatchback class and the HR-V's subcompact SUV segment, it's not particularly new amongst pickup trucks. An almost completely flat floor below is unique, however, providing plenty of level space to stack boxes, suitcases, or anything else you'd like to keep out of the elements. 


 

Most innovative cargo combination in the truck industry 

The tailgate design is even more innovative, as it not only folds down in the conventional manner, but it swings out sideways too. Honda has set it up to do so from the passenger side, which is the safest way to load when parallel parked as it's closest to the curb, while this process also provides easier access to the lockable trunk. 

By now I'm sure you've heard all about this unique feature, but I still find it special, even after all these years. It's very wide, deep, and sealed well to repel water and dirt, plus it tucks the spare tire and jack just below the front half of the cargo floor, keeping everything clean for that rare occasion you need to change a flat. 

Other thoughtful details include a 120-volt household-style power outlet on the cargo wall, while I also appreciated the two lights Honda housed within both sidewalls. The bed comes standard with grippy surfacing to aid stability when wet, and stepping up to it was made less of a stretch with the door open thanks to a centre step on the rear bumper. 


 

Hauls like a pickup yet drives like an SUV 

Unusual for a pickup truck, the Ridgeline is great fun to drive. It's quick off the line, the 280 horsepower V6 producing 242 lb-ft of torque that feels like even more due to Honda's Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD system, the latter aiding handling too, especially in inclement weather. And yes, the Ridgeline feels a lot more like an SUV in the corners than a truck, plus it's a lot easier to drive around town. Its ride is better too, especially over bumps or potholes at high speeds, this situation sometimes unsettling trucks with solid rear axles, potentially causing them to lose control. The Ridgeline, on the other hand, always felt in total control. Its six-speed automatic transmission delivered reasonably quick and always smooth shifts, adding to Honda's ultimately refined pickup truck experience. 


 

In the end, the Ridgeline is the ideal choice for those needing the functionality of a pickup truck yet still wanting the drivability, comfort and refinement of an SUV, not to mention best-in-class safety and best claimed V6 fuel economy of 12.8 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.3 combined. 

Truly, the Honda Ridgeline is a best-of-both-worlds family hauler, and thanks to loads of intelligent innovations and a level of sophistication not otherwise available in the light truck market, it will always enjoy a strong, loyal following. 



Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.