We put a country lady in an urban truck, with predictable results.
“It wouldn’t haul a load of fence posts, bales of hay or really large tree stumps,” says Sheila French. “It just doesn’t seem like it would be really tough enough to handle those kinds of heavy-duty chores.”
But, that doesn’t mean the 2020 Ridgeline Black Edition that French spent a week testing was without its charms.
Honda first introduced its unibody Ridgeline as a 2006 model year truck. That generation lasted until 2014, when it was dropped from the range. But, Honda redesigned the mid-size truck and launched a second-generation version in 2017.
It was longer, lower, wider and lighter than the outgoing truck and today, the Ridgeline is still set apart from other pickups thanks to its use of unibody construction – there is no underlying frame to the vehicle. Plus, it rides on fully independent front and rear suspension systems for a smooth and comfortable ride. Other unique features of the Ridgeline include a large, lockable in-box trunk and a two-way folding tailgate.
In Canada, the Ridgeline comes in Sport, EX-L, Touring and Black Edition trims. All models are powered by the same 3.5-litre V6 engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and are also all equipped with Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management (iVTM-4) all-wheel drive system. French’s top-of-the-line Black Edition Ridgeline rang in at the cash register for just a bit more than $53,000.
Living on a piece of property north of Cochrane, Alberta, French and her husband keep horses and haul heavy trailers using their 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500 diesel. As a second vehicle, they own a 2013 Ford Edge.
“Our property has always influenced our vehicle purchasing decisions,” French explains. “We’ve driven mostly pickups; they’ve been our go-to vehicles for years.”
Apart from being aware of the first-generation Ridgeline models with their distinctively shaped cabs, French had not had any previous experience with the Honda truck.
“I was quite surprised at how small it looked,” French says of her first impression. “And, I didn’t think the new Ridgeline was as distinctive looking without that cab line of the older generation, that was its trademark, I thought.”
But once inside the Ridgeline, French was impressed by its comfort and overall roominess.
“There were no running boards, but it was easy for me to just slide into the seat,” she says. At 5-6 tall, there was no need to pull herself in, either.
The driver’s seat is 10-way power adjustable, while the passenger’s seat is four-way power adjustable. In the Black Edition, all seating surfaces are leather with a red contrast stitch and the fronts are both heated and cooled while the rear outboard seats get heat only.
“There’s a great big deep console between the seats with a door that slides over top of it, and I really liked that sliding cover,” French says. “All of the controls were easy to figure out, and the gear selector was electronic, controlled by push buttons. I got used to that pretty quick.”
Overall, the dash was clean and uncluttered, but French did mention the steering wheel bristled with numerous buttons to work the cruise control, audio, telephone and multi-information display. That info monitor is located between the tachometer to the left and stacked temperature and fuel gauges on the right.
French says the 3.5-litre V6 was smooth and quiet and offered adequate acceleration through the nine-speed automatic transmission, which shifted through the gears with aplomb.
“I always felt well-connected,” French says of the handling and all-wheel drive system, and adds, “the truck really felt nice and stable in all conditions. The ride was comfortable, and the suspension worked very well.”
In parking lot situations, French adored the Ridgeline.
“When I went to town, I loved the size of the truck,” she says, and this is where the Ridgeline showed its charms. “The Honda was an ideal size for in-town use, while still being a truck.”
Rather than letting vehicle technology tell her what to do, French likes to rely on her own senses when driving and parking. However, the rear cross traffic alert system in the Ridgeline found favour.
Another charm of the Ridgeline, according to French, is the tailgate with its ability to open either to the side or down.
“I thought it was very cool to have that choice,” she says, and adds, “but I didn’t think the box seemed very deep. I did like the lockable trunk in the box, though.”
The base of the back seat in the Ridgeline features a 60/40 split and will lift up to allow larger objects to fit in the cab. The Ridgeline is capable of towing 2,267 kilograms, and all models come equipped with a trailer stability assist package and are wired for seven-pin trailer connectors.
French thinks the Honda best suits somebody who’d like to have a pickup but not a full-size rig
She concludes, “It’s got some great features, and although not heavy duty, it’s a truck someone could put to good use.”
The cab is very spacious and roomy given the size of the vehicle and it was easy to adjust seat and steering wheel to my comfort and nice to have an adjustable armrest. It was a very windy day and the truck handled well in both a headwind and crosswind.
Grateful today for the large digital speedometer readout as in no time at all I was up to speed! Heading home from work in the dark I was not aware of the auto-dim headlights so that took a bit of getting used to as they dim when the lights hit road signs. The lighted cup holders were a cool feature to have at night. Really appreciated the brightness of the LED headlights.
Trip into town to do errands and with the smaller sized truck it was easy to manoeuvre in parking lots. When reversing it was handy to have the directional warning light indicating where vehicles or pedestrians were coming. The truck accelerates quickly and quietly when pulling onto the highway or going up hills. I didn’t find there was a lot of highway noise.
Errands around town and truck handled well in snowy, slushy conditions and the AWD feels solid going around roundabouts. In the -20C weather it was nice to have the heated steering wheel and seats. The 60/40 split of the rear seat is easy to put up or down and makes for more space when shopping. I didn’t use the lockable cargo space in the box but can see where it would be useful. The drop down or side open tailgate is so handy when loading and unloading from the box.
Trip into city and picked up my son and his girlfriend to go out for dinner. They commented on the comfort of the back seats and felt there was plenty of leg room and it would be comfortable on longer trips. They liked having the heated seats and independent heat controls for the back seat. Feeling more comfortable with the audio settings and controls.
Errands around town again and still amazed at its handling in and around parking lots. The fold-in mirrors are great for ATM drive through. Blind spot beep indicator is handy when changing lanes.
Cleaned up the truck at the car wash and the backseat mat is all one piece so makes it a bit awkward to remove. Tried the cruise control and the adaptive cruise control would take some getting used to. The Ridgeline is great for a midsize truck.