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2014 Honda Ridgeline RTL Road Test

Ahead of its time and yet so far behind it.

What It Is
Honda's take on how to build a midsize truck.
Best Thing
Ride and handling are superb for a vehicle of its size.
Worst Thing
Fuel economy isn't. Neither is its dated interior.
Snap Judgment
Trucks have evolved a lot in the last decade. The Ridgeline hasn't.


The first mistake when approaching the 2014 Honda Ridgeline is thinking that it's some kind of sissy truck. Sure, it's based on the same chassis as the Honda Odyssey minivan, but that's really where the similarities end. Where the minivan is light and sporty for its intended purpose, the Honda Ridgeline has a ladder support frame that reinforces it, helping with durability, rigidity, and underbody protection.

With very little modification, the Honda Ridgeline won its class in the Baja 1000 a few years back. Think about that. This truck is quite badass, actually. But it has been on the market since 2006 with very little updating. And as a result, it has more than a few flaws, not the least of which is exacerbated by newer trucks that do everything just a bit better. Okay, a lot better.

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What We Drove

The 2013 Honda Ridgeline starts at $30,405, including $830 for destination and handling. On the surface, that looks quite expensive for a midsize pickup truck until you realize that it comes only in crew cab form and only with four-wheel drive and a V-6 engine. Nevermind the fact that the Toyota Tacoma is available with a variety of other bed and cab configurations; a similar Tacoma would cost $31,405, which almost looks like Honda priced its Ridgeline cheaper than the Tacoma by $1,000 intentionally.

Our Ridgeline came equipped with the RTL package with navigation, netting leather, heated seats, a moonroof, backup camera, Bluetooth, satellite radio, alloy wheels, and plenty more. With no further options, our 2014 Honda Ridgeline totaled $38,335. And with that comes the assurance of an IIHS Top Safety Pick award winner.

The Commute

Rarely do we ever truly explain what the term "trucky" means. But it's far easier to explain when you know something isn't. The Honda Ridgeline is far from trucky, and that's a good thing. Perhaps having the second-best ride of any truck sold in the U.S.—the coil-sprung Ram 1500 comes to mind as the leader—the 2014 Honda Ridgeline has four-wheel independent suspension that soaks up the bumps and makes long commutes most enjoyable. Despite the fact that Hondas are notoriously louder on the inside, the Ridgeline is quiet compared to much of its body-on-frame competition. Only wind noise really makes its presence known, but there's only so much an engineer can do to silence something the shape of a brick slicing through the air at 70 mph.

Driving to and from San Francisco from our Los Angeles home base, the 2014 Honda Ridgeline's most glaring flaw became quite evident. Rated at 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway, we saw 17.7 mpg over roughly 900 miles of driving, 90 percent of which was highway. Sure, there were times when we were putting our feet down to make some time, but a new full-size truck from any of the Big Three would easily surpass that number with the help of a V-8 or V-6 engine that could provide far more punch. Those trucks have benefitted from technologies like cylinder deactivation, direct fuel injection, diesel, turbochargers, and six- and eight-speed transmissions, whereas the Ridgeline is still saddled with a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 250 horsepower and a five-speed auto. There's plenty of progress that's passed Honda by.

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The Grocery Run

That's not to say that this Honda doesn't have plenty of merits. One of the big selling points is the lockable trunk that's underneath the bed. It's out of sight and out of mind, keeping valuables well out of the way. Sitting underneath the bed, it also allowed us to carry nearly all of our luggage for two for a weekend getaway without loading any of it in the back seat.

Also nifty is the Ridgeline's tailgate, which can fold down similar to every pickup truck's, but also swing open to allow easier access to the bed. With a 1,500-pound payload and a 5,000-pound towing capacity, it's not the most capable truck out there. But Honda never meant for it to be. Honda meant for the Ridgeline to cater to traditional Honda owners who've oftentimes gone to other automakers for weekend recreational vehicle needs.

The Weekend Fun

So other than fuel economy, we've not delved too far into the Ridgeline's flaws. It has quite a few, to be honest. Its navigation system has not been updated since the truck's 2006 introduction, and it looks like it. The interior feels outdated and garish with its chunky details and supposedly rugged accoutrements. And then there's the fact that automatic headlights and other luxury features that are oftentimes expected on a vehicle in this price range are simply missing.

Piloting the Ridgeline down the narrow streets of San Francisco went according to plan. However, there were some places where the truck was a tight fit, despite being supposedly on the small side of the pickup truck spectrum. The Ridgeline oftentimes felt out of its element in the big city, but driving back on Pacific Coast Highway from a long weekend let the truck stretch its legs, and we gained insight that the Ridgeline isn't a shabby driver for the long-haul. It's just woefully outdated.

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Summary

The Honda Ridgeline has never sold in appreciably large numbers. In 2013, Honda moved just over 17,000 units, which doesn't compare too favorably to the segment-leading Tacoma's 159,000. Still, we're betting those owners are happy because they wanted Honda reliability, something a little different, and a truck that didn't ride like one; it rides like a Honda Pilot with some extra meat on its bones underneath for protection.

In 2014, Honda is discontinuing the Ridgeline for about two years and has teased a 2016 or 2017 model to come. We've confirmed that it will continue to have the current truck's lockable in-bed trunk, which is a good thing. But the rest of the truck is still unknown. Honda has made great strides to turn its products from good to great, and we have faith that the next Ridgeline will continue in that vein.

That said, the 2014 Honda Ridgeline was a very good vehicle when it debuted eight years ago, but it was hardly great. Those subsequent years haven't helped it in the least, and now the truck is outclassed by nearly everything. A redesign cannot come soon enough.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $38,355
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 15 mpg
EPA Highway: 21 mpg
EPA Combined: 17 mpg
Cargo Space: 5-ft bed with 8.5 cubic-foot trunk Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Excellent
Estimated Combined Range: 374 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Poor

Notebook Quotes "The Honda Ridgeline falls short in many aspects, most notably is the outdated interior. The odd positioning of the seats and dash left me searching for a drivable position." -Robert Guio, Photographer

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