2020 Honda Ridgeline Road Test | Hauling dirt

Greg Migliore

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I had a pretty nice little Saturday in the 2020 Honda Ridgeline. Went to Home Depot. Didn’t make it to Bed Bath & Beyond. There wasn’t enough time. It was the morning Will Ferrell wanted to have before he started doing keg stands in "Old School."

Unlike Frank the Tank, I rose early to start my weekend (though by the time he went streaking, I suppose it was early in the morning) and headed for the store. The Ridgeline is one of the most well-rounded vehicles on the market. It’s good at being a truck and it drives like a crossover. It’s handsome, competent and well-mannered. Definitely Frank’s alter-ego.

That said, streaking is fun, or so I’m told. Sometimes you want to hang out with the brash bad boy. The Honda Ridgeline isn’t that. Frank the Tank is more analogous to the Jeep Gladiator or Toyota Tacoma. Compromising, yet cool. I poured a travel mug of coffee, masked up and headed out the door, feeling pretty chill. In the Taco or Gladiator, I would have been amped-up. They’re more challenging to drive and more capable off-road.The Ridgeline? More of a "let’s enjoy a sunny Saturday before it gets too hot" vibe.

But on this midsummer morning, it did the job. I bought 16 bags of topsoil, which filled maybe half of the bed. With a payload of 1,499 pounds, I didn’t approach the Ridgeline’s capability. That’s the idea. Saturday runs to big box stores don’t require more than that. With a 5,000-pound tow rating, an average boat is no trouble for the Ridgeline.

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The truck’s bed is also quite clever. The tailgate opens in a traditional up and down manner, but it also swings out with a handle on the right side. Unloading all that dirt was easy without having to lean over the tailgate.There’s also a “trunk,” which is a cargo compartment in the back where there’s room for a medium-sized cooler or some groceries. It might be fun to stow some contactless takeout down there. The tailgate and trunk are also lockable. The bed is also available with a 400-watt AC inverter, hooks, audio speakers, cargo lights and a composite cargo bed that prevents against scratches. One time I hauled an old recliner that had dangerously sharp edges (we finally threw that out) and the bed came away unscathed.

The Ridgeline RTL-E AWD I tested stickered for $43,140 and was well-equipped, including Honda's standard safety suite (automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, etc.). Aside from the dated and frustrating infotainment system — Honda has other, better systems — the interior is pretty nice. The Ridgeline was freshened with a nine-speed transmission for 2020 and the trim lineup was, well trimmed. The former base model was dropped, by default making the Ridgeline more expensive.

It’s the most comfortable truck in the segment by far. Based on the Pilot’s unibody underpinnings, the Ridgeline is the truck you buy when you want to drive around town and not get beat up, like say in a Tacoma. Then on the weekend, the Ridgeline’s pickup capability is at the ready. I like how it looks, but it’s almost stately, with clean lines and a subtle grille. Nothing wrong with that. For the more traditional truck dynamics and design, opt for the Chevy Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, Tacoma, Ford Ranger or Nissan Frontier

The Ridgeline flies below the radar in the segment, yet it’s also somewhat controversial. It’s one of the best long-term test vehicles we’ve ever had at Autoblog, yet we didn’t even consider it for our midsize truck comparison, largely based on its lack of off-road chops. It elicits a lot of backhanded compliments followed by rationalization. It’s a good truck … for when you really want a crossover. Or It’s a legit truck … that you can drive every day. I’m not going to psychoanalyze why you buy your truck. Design and character are certainly part of it. But if you need to haul dirt on the weekends, the Ridgeline is up for that, which is what most people need.

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