Testing The 2017 Honda Ridgeline In Snow-Filled Colorado
Nearly the entire eastern half of the state of Colorado is flat, and yet the western half is home to 53 ‘fourteeners,’ mountain peaks with an elevation of over 14,000 feet. There are only 96 in the entire United States, making Colorado home to over half of the tallest mountains in the country. Where there’s high elevation peaks, you’ll commonly find snow. It’s what makes this state one of the best ski destinations for travelers all over the world.
It’s not often the case that my review of a vehicle is so perfectly suited for the conditions for which I test them in. A Honda Ridgeline in the Rockies, however, couldn’t be much better at illustrating the benefits of this truck. I spent four days with the 2017 AWD RTL-E version, hitting the slopes with gear for five, hiking in snow covered valleys, and navigating the Ridgeline from one powdered road to the next.
From a driving perspective, one of the most enjoyable perks of the Honda Ridgeline is that it never truly felt like a pickup truck. Road irregularities (common in areas with heavy snowfall) were well damped, the cabin was quiet and comfortable, and visibility was excellent in every direction. The 3.5L V6 never felt particularly punchy, but torque was easily adequate. With over 350 miles explored, the Ridgeline averaged 22 mpg. Not bad, considering that’s better than my Honda S2000 with 1,500 extra pounds, all wheel drive, two extra cylinders, and infinitely more storage.
Speaking of storage, although it drives much like an SUV, there’s significantly more cargo space. Five adults can sit comfortably, with their 5 pairs of skis in the bed, among other accessories. The bottom half of the rear seats fold up, revealing storage underneath. This also allows you to fit a mountain bike without removing the front wheel securely inside the cabin. Better yet, one of my favorite features is the in-bed trunk. In the back half of the truck bed, a handle opens a weather-tight 7.3 cubic foot storage space. It contains a drain plug at the bottom, so you can use it as a cooler, or storage for multiple suitcases. The downside to the trunk is that it takes up the space you’d typically save for a spare tire, so there’s only a temporary spare located within. If you’re hauling mulch and get a flat, you’re going to have a hard time accessing that spare. Then again, if you’re hauling a serious load, you probably want a full size replacement anyways. It’s a trade-off I’d happily accept for the in-bed, waterproof, lockable storage.
There’s more functionality to the bed than just the trunk as well. Honda removed the side “fins” from the previous generation so accessing the front of the truck bed is now much easier. The dual-action tailgate opens from the right, or folds down. There are eight load-bearing tie downs, and a minimum width of four feet between the wheel wells. To end the competitors’ arguments about what happens when a toolbox is dropped on a steel or aluminum truck bed, it comes standard with a glass fiber-reinforced SMC composite bed - no liner needed. But best of all, three of the bed panels hide six weatherproof audio exciters that essentially make the bed walls resonant speakers. For tailgating, it’s hard to beat pumping your tunes directly outside.
While the Ridgeline is practical, comfortable, and packed with useful features, it’s not without flaws. When it comes to turning, it boasts a very truck-like 44.4 ft turning diameter. For comparison, a Cadillac Escalade, by no means a small vehicle, cuts over 5 feet off to turn around. Driving in mountainous roads, it’s nice to have gearing options, and although the Ridgeline has Low, Drive, and D4 drive modes, you can’t individually select which gear you want to be in. This meant engine braking in D4 was not always adequate for Colorado’s steep terrain, and the brakes had to be used (a third gear selection would likely resolve this issue). Finally, as mentioned previously, no full spare could be concerning over long hauls with a 5,000 pound trailer and cargo in the bed.
Drawbacks aside, it’s a seriously impressive truck. Perfectly capable for light-duty truck needs, tons of cargo space, and a roomy, comfortable interior. I must admit my bias though, it’s challenging to think of anything negative to say when you have a heated steering wheel in a snowy environment - truly one of the automotive world’s greatest luxury features.