Not everyone who wants a pickup truck needs it for towing big heavy items or hauling around a bunch of tools. Maybe they just like the look of a pickup, or the idea of a pickup. But at the same time they’re not keen on the rough ride associated with an actual body-on-frame truck.
For those people, Honda has the Ridgeline.
Ridgeline is a midsize pickup based on the Honda Pilot. It has a five-passenger cab and a 64-inch bed, but drives and rides like the high-quality crossover SUV it’s based on. The maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds with all-wheel drive, or 3,500 pounds with front-wheel drive.
The benefit of a covered cargo area in an SUV and the security of a car trunk are not sacrificed by owning a Ridgeline because it has an in-bed lockable trunk. The trunk doesn’t diminish bed space. It’s located beneath the bed floor, and access is easy from the back of the truck.
Cargo volume of the Ridgeline bed is 33.9 cubic feet. The in-bed lockable trunk provides an additional 7.3 cubic feet. And there’s yet more storage beneath the 60-40 split rear seat.
Rugged off-roading is out of Ridgeline’s league, but a traction control system has four different operating modes for AWD models: Normal, Snow, Mud, and Sand. Front-drive versions have Normal and Snow modes.
Ridgeline is more of a party animal. It has a dual-action tailgate that can be dropped down or swung out, an available in-bed 115V AC power outlet, and a truck bed audio system. The in-bed trunk is rubber lined and has a drain, practically crying out to be used as a gigantic ice chest.
There are four trim levels of the 2020 Ridgeline: Sport, RTL, RTL-E, and Black Edition. All models have the same engine, a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission is new this year and is standard across the board. The powertrain is smooth, swift, and able-bodied.
Fuel economy ratings for the 2WD Ridgeline are 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined. For the AWD Ridgeline, the numbers are 19/24/21 mpg.
Pricing with a $1,120 destination charge included is $34,995 for the 2WD Sport, and $37,765 for the 2WD RTL. All-wheel drive is an extra $2,240. The RTL-E is $43,115 and the Black Edition is $44,615. RTL-E and Black Edition models are available only with AWD.
I drove the RTL-E model, whose standard equipment includes everything available on the 2020 Ridgeline, and it’s an impressive list. If you’re still not happy, there’s the Black Edition, but it’s an appearance package.
New for 2020, Ridgeline comes standard with Honda’s Display Audio system, which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration with its 8-inch touchscreen. The system’s operation is straightforward and cooperative but there are no volume or tuning knobs, and that warrants two demerits.
Reaching for a knob on the dashboard when you want to change volume or channels is an automatic human response. Even when you know the car you’re driving doesn’t have them. It’s like a phantom limb. Or flipping light switches on during a power outage.
Other than that, Ridgeline’s interior is terrific. It couldn’t be roomier for a midsizer or the seats more comfortable, and there are all sorts of handy stowage bins for small items. Build quality is exemplary.
I like the way the dash and center console look decidedly trucklike, especially in the dark. Large tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges with needles are in two big circles behind the steering wheel. The touchscreen is lit up, but not much more. Most new car and truck interiors look like Las Vegas at night.
LED low-beam headlights, a 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar, and ambient interior lighting are other new features on the Ridgeline this year, included on the higher-end models. On the unlit backroads of Snohomish County, my Ridgeline’s powerful headlights, low and high beams included, felt like guardian angels.
2020 HONDA RIDGELINE AWD RTL-E
Base price, including destination charge: $43,140
Price as driven: $43,140
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.