2020 Honda Ridgeline pickup is stuck in the middle

Pickup trucks should be an extremely rational purchase. Like, garbage bag- and skim milk-type rational. But the most rational pickup of them all doesn’t get a second thought. Why?

The 2020 Honda Ridgeline is our highest rated mid-size pickup—by a large margin, actually. That’s in part due to Honda’s good sense to include active safety features on all trim levels of its truck, but also because the Ridgeline largely skips fleet-focused, stripped-out trucks that are useful for work, but penalized on our ratings scale. 

Looking for logic in all the right places, I spent a week with the Honda Ridgeline and found love in all the wrong places. Its TCC Rating is 7.0—Porsche 911 stratosphere, actually—and I wanted to know why. 

Here’s where the world’s best pickup for all the wrong reasons hit and missed. 

Hit: Function > Form…

The Ridgeline excels at being a very competent pickup. The bed and tailgate are easily accessible and better thanks to a multifunction tailgate that was multifunctional before multifunction had a name. The rear tailgate is hinged at the bottom, like a traditional pickup tailgate, but also hinged at the side for easier access to the back of the bed and an underfloor storage compartment. Other truckmakers have followed suit. The rear seat is usable, albeit a little cramped compared to the mechanically related Pilot crossover and Odyssey minivan, but the Ridgeline is superb at holding people and cargo like any pickup should.

2020 Honda Ridgeline

Miss: …and that’s part of the problem

The F-150 King Ranch, for example, drips with Country-Western themes like a Garth Brooks karaoke contest in Dallas. The Ram Rebel screams individualism like full-body tats in Austin. The GMC Sierra Denali? Tux and tails. The Ridgeline…is just a truck. There are some editions that try: Black and Sport, but both lack the pizzazz of even mid-size rivals like the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger. Here’s free advice: Ridgeline Green Day Edition. Think about it, Honda. 

2020 Honda Ridgeline

2020 Honda Ridgeline

Hit: Powertrain prowess

Honda’s venerable 3.5-liter V-6 reports for duty in the Ridgeline like a lifer National Guardsman. Both are worthy of respect. It’s 280 horsepower comes on smoothly and without hesitation, and it’s a competent motor that’ll lug up to 5,000 pounds of trailer or more than 1,500 pounds in the bed. It’s down on cylinders, compared to full-size trucks, but up on refinement compared to mid-sizers. Good plan. 

2020 Honda Ridgeline

2020 Honda Ridgeline

Miss: Numb 9-speed

Honda traded a Neolithic 6-speed in lower trims of the Ridgeline for a tepid 9-speed in the Ridgeline, and it doesn’t work. Sometimes the transmission hunts like a confused Labrador in a tornado, and struggles at low speeds like me. Trade it for the 10-speed in the Acura RDX or Accord, please. 

2020 Honda Ridgeline

2020 Honda Ridgeline

Hit: In-bed audio

The Ridgeline offers an in-bed audio system that will broadcast music into the back, while the truck is parked, and you presumably have something good to play. It works and it’s great. Better for tailgates (when those may happen again) and best for camping, it’s a legitimate best feature for the truck. It’s not a typical truck-like asset that stands out when it’s time to buy, but it endears the Ridgeline to owners for a lifetime. 

2020 Honda Ridgeline

2020 Honda Ridgeline

Miss: Too close for its comfort

The Ridgeline may exist because of its relationship to the Pilot and Odyssey. It also suffers because of it. Even with an abbreviated back seat, the Ridgeline offers a rear-seat climate control system pulled wholesale from the Pilot. The USB plugs are cribbed from the Pilot and the shifter? It’s from an Accord. The rest of the Ridgeline screams Honda, and it may not be a good thing for pickup shoppers. The Ridgeline also rides softly like the Pilot, unlike body-on-frame pickups from Ford and Chevrolet. 

The Ridgeline is easily all the pickup I would need. For most shoppers, being the Honda of trucks may not be an asset, but it should be: It makes all the sense in the world.

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2020 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E AWD

Base price: $42,340, including destination

Price as tested: $42,340

Drivetrain: 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, 9-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 19/24/21 mpg

The hits: Functional, in-bed audio, good powertrain

The misses: A little bland and nondescript, too many borrowed parts.

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