What It Is: That right there, folks, is Honda’s second-generation and more generic-appearing Ridgeline pickup truck, caught testing in the yoga pants of vehicle camouflage. The tight-fitting, swirly camo gives us our best look yet at the 2017 Ridgeline’s basic profile, which is far more conventional than that of the first-generation model, with its truncated bed and stubby hood. Unlike every other pickup on the market, the Ridgeline again employs a unibody—as opposed to a body-on-frame design—and keeps its independent rear suspension.
Why It Matters: Although the original Ridgeline enjoyed robust initial sales, interest in the alterna-truck soon waned, both because of a perceived lack of hard-core utility and fuel economy that wasn’t appreciably better than that of traditional trucks. The new Ridgeline enters somewhat more favorable market conditions, what with a fresh crop of mid-size pickups from General Motors and Toyota revitalizing the segment. Even so, the 2017 Ridgeline will need to offer compelling fuel economy and refinement in addition to solid towing and hauling capability for a chance at keeping consumers’ interest piqued.
We think there’s space for a unibody pickup amongst the body-on-frame jobs, and Honda certainly seems to have taken criticisms of the first-generation Ridgeline to heart. To wit, the new model features a far more traditional upright body—the old one had a sort of hunched look thanks to bedsides that rose to meet thick buttresses framing the rear window. It also appears larger than before. If Honda can wrap the new body around mechanicals that drive as sweetly as the original Ridgeline did (imagine that, independent rear suspensions ride and handle better than solid axles!), we think it has a shot at getting a fair share of the mid-size truck pie.
Platform: Just as the first Ridgeline was created from the fundamentally front-wheel-drive platform shared by the Odyssey minivan and the Pilot crossover, so, too, is the 2017 model. Only this time, the Ridgeline’s bones come from the contemporary, all-new 2016 Pilot and once again are beefed up for truck duty. Compellingly, the Pilot is now rated to tow up to 5000 pounds, the first-gen Ridgeline’s maximum; provided Honda again finds a way to extract more towing capacity from its pickup, figure on a tow rating anywhere between 6000 and 7000 pounds for the new Ridgeline. Not visible in these spy photos is the Ridgeline’s new face, which vaguely resembles that of the new Pilot, albeit “trucked-up.” For an idea of what that looks like, see the Ridgeline Baja race truck that Honda debuted at the 2015 SEMA show in Las Vegas. No, the production Ridgeline won’t be a stadium truck, but its face will be identical to the graphics applied to the Baja racer’s front end.
Powertrain: You could say the Ridgeline owes the Pilot a cold one, because besides borrowing the crossover’s architecture, the pickup also plucks its 3.5-liter V-6 engine from its fellow Honda. We’re expecting around 300 horsepower, which will be routed to all four wheels via either a ZF nine-speed automatic transmission or a six-cog unit.
Competition: Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma.
Estimated Arrival and Price: It may appear as though the Ridgeline prototypes pictured here are essentially complete and ready for sale, but we’ll have to wait until later next year for the trucks to arrive in dealerships. Pricing should start at about $30,000, which is essentially the price point at which the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon twins and Toyota’s Tacoma become salable to private owners. (Base versions of all three start in the sub-$25K range, but those are decidedly commercial tools.) Expect an auto-show debut early next year at either Detroit or Chicago.