I like trucks, but let’s be honest: most trucks are dumb, offering only the biggest, bluntest solution to any problem. Mid-size trucks, a neo-Orwellian misnomer except in relation to the elephantine scale of contemporary full-sizers, are slightly less dumb, but even the most refined among them still drive with all the finesse of an ogre’s cudgel.
Certainly, this is part of the delight of a truck—even for me, an urbane urbanite. This is especially true in an old truck, of which I’ve owned more than my fair share. But as new pickups have gained in interior amenities and sophistication (and size, don't forget the size), becoming less about special duties and more about everyday use, their essential brusqueness becomes less appealing. Who needs a leather-lined, Bluetooth-equipped, road-going aircraft carrier that drives like it’s got a bed full of boulders, even (or especially) if you never once fill the bed with boulders?
The new Honda Ridgeline is all the truck any intelligent person needs. Probably more. And it’s full of features no other truck has.
It’s based on a unibody car platform instead of a frame-built truck platform, so it drives like a car. Motions are relaxed but controlled, never skittish or about to break free. The interior is cavernous, with quality materials that don’t just feel “luxurious for a truck” and break from the baseball glove/branded steer design paradigm endemic to the category. The trick Fit-like back seat splits and flips up for extra storage. The rear window power slides open and shut. The tailgate opens vertically or horizontally for ease in access or loading. There’s a trunk under the bed that’s bigger than any Coleman cooler seen outside of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. There are even speakers and a power inverter back there, too, so hook up a flat screen and you don’t need to go to the drive-in (which probably doesn’t exist anymore, anyway); the drive-in comes to you.
Perhaps most compelling and intriguing, the Ridgeline—in the full-tilt RTL-E trim I tested—comes equipped with a suite of Honda Sensing safety systems that allow the truck to pretty much drive itself on well-marked roads in stop-and-go traffic and on the highway, something no other truck can claim, and something you would be idiotic to attempt or desire in any other rough-tracking truck currently on the market. Call me blasphemous, but I found the Honda system to be smoother in its function than the Autopilot in the last Tesla Model S I drove. Easier to use, less ping-ponging between lane lines, less incentive to stupidly keep your hands off of the wheel for extended periods of time (warnings flash after about ten seconds).
I don’t need a new truck. But if I did, this is the one I would buy. If Honda could make one the size of the CR-V, or the HR-V, I’d probably like it even more.
Honda Ridgeline RTL-E AWD
Price (as tested): $30,375 ($42.270)
Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, 280 hp/262 lb-ft, 6-speed automatic
Intelligence: Smart (for a truck)