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Test Drive: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

When it comes to pickup trucks people think Chevrolet, Ford, Ram – and maybe even Toyota and Nissan – but most people would never think of Honda. The Honda Ridgeline, first introduced in 2005 as a four-door short cargo bed truck, has been completely redesigned for 2017.

The latest Ridgeline is available as a front- or all-wheel-drive vehicle, powered by a 280 horsepower, V-6 engine connected to a six-speed automatic transmission. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds and carry up to 1,500 pounds in the cargo bed.

The Ridgeline is available in seven trim levels; all models use the steel-reinforced fiberglass composite cargo bed, dual-action tailgate and locking cargo bed storage compartment. My road test was in the all-wheel-drive Ridgeline RTL-E version. It had a power sunroof, push button start, three-zone climate control and a power sliding rear window, along with features like a lane-keeping assistant, multi-view camera, parking assistance, remote start, 400-watt A/C, 120-volt power outlet and truck bed audio.

The Ridgeline had a firm but not harsh ride. The handling was good, better than most pickup trucks, about on par with any midsize sport-utility vehicle. Performance from the V-6 engine was comparable to most V-8 trucks and returned decent fuel economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the combined city and highway mileage at 21 mpg. During my time with the Ridgeline, I did a little better, averaging 24 mpg in a reasonable mix of driving. The brakes were firm and powerful and easy to control. On the highway, Honda did a great job of keeping the Ridgeline quiet; this is in part due to the acoustic windshield in my model that quieted some road noise. There was also a general absence of wind noise – not luxury-car quiet but still quite good.

My upscale model had every feature you’d expect to find in a luxury car, such as power heated leather seats with memory, CarPlay and Android phone integration and navigation. The front seats were supportive and the cabin was comfortable with plenty of storage.

The controls were generally easy to use with the exception of the navigation/infotainment system, which could use a couple of knobs. The rear seat was a bit short on thigh support but can easily accommodate adults. The Ridgeline’s 60/40-split and folding rear seat means it can carry bulky items with ease. There was also a large under-seat storage area big enough to carry golf clubs, even with the rear seats folded.

One of the nicest features is the in-bed storage box, which was surprisingly roomy and waterproof. The tailgate both folds down and swings open, reminiscent of something Ford used on its station wagons in the mid-’60s. Sheets of plywood and sheet rock will fit flat in the 4-foot-wide cargo bed. The bed itself is only 66.3 inches long, but can accommodate larger items safely with the tailgate open.

If you’re looking for a versatile, relatively economical truck with all the features of a SUV, the Ridgeline is worth a look. Add in all of the latest technology, great storage and ease of operation, and the Ridgeline is a winner.

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