Honda Ridgeline: The ultimate urbanite pickup truck


Many an argument has been had over the topic of what makes the ultimate pickup truck. There’s brand loyalty, there’s the purpose they serve. People fight over torque numbers, engine displacements, cylinder sizes and towing capacity. What is clear, however, is there isn’t a clearly defined set of things that a truck must be to be ultimate.

What most truck enthusiasts do agree on, however, is that a truck must be body on frame. This is an unwritten law of the truck, dating back forever. Anything without this hallowed combination, most argue, isn’t even a truck to begin with. Trucks without body on frame often are unibody, which is the stuff of SUVs and Minivans.

Now, before we continue, the record must be set: If you’re a farmer, or a contractor who spends a lot of time hauling 1,500 pounds of tools around, or someone who lives on an acreage many dozens of miles from a city, then a full framed truck might be for you. These are situations where a truck is being asked to work, and work really hard. They are the environments that a body on frame truck has been engineered for. In these cases, a unibody truck might, or might not, have the rigidity or power you need.

But for everybody else, those of us who dwell in the asphalt jungle, they’re not. A unibody truck, like the Honda Ridgeline, is really quite perfect for the urbanite. Here’s why.

It fits the city

This writer has driven many trucks. All of them have been in a typical urban situation. Of them all, the Ridgeline proved that it fits the city best. Have you ever seen where most trucks park? Way at the back! You’re sequestered away to trudge through all the rain, slush, and snow. Not so with the Ridgeline. It fits wherever an SUV might, way up near the store. Size is everything, and sometimes bigger isn’t always better. Shorter wheelbase makes much more of the everyplace we access, well, accessible.

Driveways can also be a challenge. Whoever designed a modern two car driveway took the name literally. With a truck parked, there’s barely room to squeeze a small car next to it. Anything more, and you’re pretty much guaranteeing door dents. Mid-sized trucks like the Ridgeline fit more into the mold, leaving more space for that second vehicle.

Being frame free means the Ridgeline can ride with a lower roofline. Cities are full of roof scraping parking garages and drive-throughs. While most of these will accommodate any other truck, the clearance is always butt-clenching tight. Not so for the city sized Ridgeline. Even clearances that come in at barely six feet will be a comfortable fit for its city sized roof height.

Something to prove

There’s something about the Ridgeline that feels a bit like the underdog. It has less power than most trucks. It tows less, and can’t haul as much payload. But, while those two things might be important to people who really need trucks as tools, they aren’t to an urbanite. City dwellers will find themselves greeted by a delightful roster of real, practical touches exclusive to the Ridgeline. It’s the only mid-sized truck that can fit a bench full of kid’s seats door to door. A weatherproof storage well in the bed eliminates the need for a lock box. The bed is made from a will-never-rust-dent-or-scrape composite material. This is alongside standard truck accruements like tiedown points in the bed, fold up rear seats and rear AC power for tools.

There’s an eagerness to please about this truck that others don’t really seem to have. There’s technology in the Ridgeline across almost all models that are extremely useful around town. Yes, you can find them elsewhere, but not on the nearly-base-level trim. Navigating a parking lot at the local box store is much easier thanks to this tech.

Works as hard as you do

Here’s the kicker. Even in the city, we expect a truck to be able to work. Why? Well, there’s that one time we might just need to pull a couch somewhere. The average person who lives in the city really won’t find themselves performing tasks which will make their truck work. Not with any real regularity, at least. And, for the most part, those tasks will barely tax the truck’s capabilities.

One of the biggest projects you can do at home is to regrade and sod a yard. Dirt is heavy; in addition to being dirty. It takes multiple cubic yards of topsoil to regrade even the standard urban postage stamp. There’s also tools to rent, equipment to haul and waste to carry away. This all sounds like excellent heavy work for a truck. And it is. It’s work the Ridgeline excels at.

Loading a solid cubic yard of soil into the back of the Ridgeline barely stressed it. Nor did it seem to bother the unibody in general. A dual action tailgate made tool loading and unloading as easy as it gets. It’s a bit of a pain to hop up into the bed; one of the few places the Ridgeline falls short. The composite bed stands up to dirt and hard edges a lot better than expected. Three days of hard work, for a city dweller, were no sweat for the Ridgeline.

It’s still a truck

Here we may lose those who subscribe to the body on frame gospel. But, if you look at the basics, the Ridgeline is still very much a truck. There is a bed. It’s durable and wide enough to take tools, plywood, rocks, bikes, ATVs and many other odd jobs truck ownership might have you do. There is more interior cabin space than every other midsized truck, or extended cab full size trucks. You still have all the enhanced visibility of a truck, even with the reduced roof height.

But, towing, I hear you say. There are two snowmobiles in the garage that need transporting in the winter. How about that boat, which has to see water every weekend? There’s also that family travel trailer; which says it can sleep eight but you’ll be darned if six will ever fit. Nothing on this list is outside the towing capability of the Ridgeline. A well geared transmission and torquey V6 are really all we city folks need. Anything more is just joining the fruitless towing capacity arms race.

Fully off road, fully all season on road

The thing about trucks is, when they’re not laden with payload or towed cargo, they don’t have a great ride. Granted, full sized trucks have make huge leaps in the last decade with unladen comfort. They’re comfortable, if jostley, places to be. But the unibody gives city drivers a more tempered ride, more alike to a stiff SUV. As a truck, the Ridgeline is less tiresome to drive around town. And more comfortable.

But take away the roads, and how does it behave? Off road, trucks have things like locking diffs and 4×4 low gearing. The Ridgeline has none of that. But, when will you need that level of off road capability? And, if you did, would you know how to properly use it? Instead, the Ridgeline features a managed, full time all-wheel drive system. In reality, even the most extreme off road or wintery conditions an urbanite faces are no match for it. Grade logic and automatic braking add to the off-road prowess, keeping that annoying downhill creep under control.

The ultimate urbanite pickup truck?

I can hear the fingers flying across the keys already. As a self-professed “truckspert”, coming to any conclusion like this is tough, but necessary. When one really sits back and takes a hard look at what their truck does, the Ridgeline is perfect for an urbanite: Fast, practical, fun, durable, hardworking and cheaper to run. Anything more is ego stroking. A toy.

Or buying a tool for the job. But, if you’re doing that, you probably don’t live in the city.

Dan Croutch
the authorDan Croutch
Dan is a freelance automotive and technology writer. He enjoys all things pickup trucks, classic cars, and minivans (really). The intersection of vehicles and technology fascinate him.