Test Drive: 2018 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition

From the driver’s seat it’s nearly impossible to tell this is a truck. In fact, I keep calling it the “Pilot” – because I was in the Pilot just a few weeks prior. Except for the Pilot’s new-generation push-button gear selector that replaces the Ridgeline’s standard automatic shift lever – the two rigs are the same on the inside. They share a platform, and look identical from the C-pillar forward, though Honda says the 2018 Ridgeline has plenty of bonus reinforcement to handle the extra loads of truck life.

This one is all about play.

In the modern era, a unibody truck doesn’t necessarily mean a car-like truck, but it does in this instance. That the Pilot and Ridgeline share a platform is immediately apparent from the moment you thumb the starter. Doing so ignites the same 3.5L, 280 hp/262 lb-ft naturally aspirated V6, and turns cogs in the same six-speed automatic gearbox as lower-trim Pilots. The two siblings even share the same FWD-based slip-and-grip all-wheel drive system with torque management.

At $51,685 as-tested, this 2018 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition is the top-trim truck in Honda’s lineup. It gets special 18-inch Black Edition alloys, and Black Edition trim. In addition to standard collision-mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and road-departure mitigation; Black Editions also get blind-spot information, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high-beams.

The Black Edition (and the Touring Edition) also gets acoustic glass in the front windows, but I was surprised to find an inordinate amount of wind noise. Too often while driving I would hear a lot of wind noise around the top of the driver’s door, to the point I kept checking to make sure the door was open. It wasn’t. Perhaps there was something amiss with the weather stripping in my particular tester; either way, this is something to check when you’re on a test drive.

The V6 is a decent unit, with good power and a responsive throttle. Fuel economy is officially listed at a very competitive 12.8/9.5/11.3 L/100 km city/highway/combined. I finished the week at 12.1 with a hefty amount of city shuttling and one big highway run. The Ridgeline is easy to drive, the transmission is smooth enough, and the all-wheel drive system unobtrusive. Steering is over-boosted for me, but  should suit most buyers.

Where the Ridgeline really falls down is in the suspension.

Under braking, the Ridgeline pitches forward heavily, as much a function of the uncommunicative brake pedal as the overly soft front springs. Bump absorption is decent, but there is too much movement of the cab, especially in corners. The Ridgeline is a little too floaty when you want it to be more locked down.

If you want to tow with your Ridgeline, you can haul up to 5,000 lb. That, unsurprisingly, is the exact same rating as the Pilot. If your primary reason for buying a truck over an SUV is towing, that’s probably worthwhile information.

It is less than the max rating available from the Toyota Tacoma (6,400 lb) and Chevrolet Colorado (7,700 lb). Payload isn’t bad at 674 kg, but the only box available is a 1,625 mm short box – less than 5.5 feet.

Clever packaging and cool storage solutions, however, are by now a Honda staple. The Ridgeline gets some of Honda’s best ideas in this space here. The deep storage bin in the tailgate can be used as a cooler. It even has a drain plug. Honda officially says it is 207 L, but it looks like more to me. In the old days in Australia the local speedway would charge by the person, but you could drive in. I’m not saying we hid people in the boot to save money on tickets, but we could have saved ourselves three tickets had we had a Ridgeline.

Inside, you get Honda’s previous-generation infotainment system. It has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (Yay!) but no knobs for volume or tuning. This will be rectified with the next iteration, just as it has been addressed in the Civic, CR-V, and Accord. The leather interior has red stitching to add some visual flair, but the black-on-black interior was too dreary for my tastes. Also, the leather is thin, and was already beginning to crease and show the strains of wear on the seats.

The Ridgeline, then, is not a workman’s truck. As a tailgater though? It’s perfection. Want to go to the Grey Cup? Boom. Party truck is here. Beer anyone? Check the cooler (if you’re not the driver). Paired with the 400W AC power outlet and the in-bed audio system, it makes for an ideal party truck, camping truck, or beach truck.

The Ridgeline’s charm is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Where other trucks are all about work, this one is all about play.

2018 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition
Engine Displacement: 3.5L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Fuel Economy: 12.8/9.5/11.3 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1,625 mm box
2018 Honda Ridgeline Black Edition
Base Price $49,790
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $51,685
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.3
7 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
7 Comfort
7 Practicality
9 Drivability
6 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
7 Features
6 Value