Test Drive: 3,556 miles in the 2017 Honda Ridgeline

We were two hours north of Ketchum, Idaho, and 2,000 miles into our road trip when Android Auto let us know there was a quicker route to Hemingway’s former hometown. Undaunted, my better half and I began hammering up dirt roads filled with ruts and blind corners in the newly redesigned Honda Ridgeline. I pushed the truck hard, drifting into turns and kicking up a lot of dirt.

At the summit, the turns were sharper, the scree-filled road became narrower, and there was no guardrail between the road and a massive drop. I saw a challenging and fun descent — my passenger saw her life pass before her eyes.

After driving up the coast from L.A. to Portland and over to Whitefish before heading south, we’d both come to love the handling of the Ridgeline, especially the all-wheel-drive vectoring that instantly sends power to all four wheels that help in aggressive driving situations. This is just one of the improvements of the new Ridgeline (a vehicle that was absent from Honda’s lineup for two years).

Built on the same platform as the Honda Pilot, the all-wheel-drive midsize truck delivered predictable highway handling and comfort without the floaty feel of a body-on-frame pickup. The 3.5-liter V-6 produces 280 horsepower, providing plenty of pick-up and passing power while remaining efficient. Honda claims 26 mpg on the highway and 19 in the city, and we found those numbers to be legit. At the end of the trip, our average for the 3,500+ miles was 22 mpg. That included a lot of inefficient Northwest highway speeds of more than 75 mph, and hauling plenty of gear — we had camping stuff, three bicycles, yoga mats, a cooler, way more clothing than you need for 15 days on the road, and room to spare. They only thing we were missing was a custom tent that attaches to the flatbed. Next time.

The Ridgeline is already becoming legendary for its tailgating capacity. The bed includes a hidden 82-quart cooler that doubles as a trunk and has a plug so you can drain the ice that’s turned to water. The dual-action tailgate folds down as well as opening to the side like a book. The top-end trim, RTL-E, features audio exciters that essentially turn the bed’s side headboards into speakers. The first time we fired those up on our street, neighborhood kids were dancing on the bed in minutes like it was a spontaneous block party. The Bluetooth-enabled sound system and infotainment screen is intuitive and easy to use, especially when paired with Android Auto.

Our single nitpick? My girlfriend wished the passenger seat had more adjustment options. Nursing a tailbone injury from a late-season snowboard crash, she had to move around a lot during the long drives. But the driver’s seat had all the settings anyone could need, and the heated seats helped cure road trip soreness. And if you think that’s a small nitpick, you’re right: The Ridgeline exceeded expectations — for both of us.