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The Ridgeline, unlike more traditional offerings like the Tacoma, is a unibody vehicle. Traditional trucks, like the Tacoma, are typically body-on-frame, which allows for greater towing capacity and increased resistance to the stress brought on by frequent off-roading.

U.S. News argues the 2023 Honda Ridgeline is one of the best pickup trucks money can buy, and it’s hard to blame them. Many truck owners primarily use their trucks as family vehicles, and the Ridgeline might be a perfect choice.    

What do you lose compared to other trucks?

A 2023 Honda Ridgeline parked outdoors in a snowy environment.
2023 Honda Ridgeline | American Honda Motor Co., Inc

The Ridgeline is a fantastic truck, but no discussion of the controversial Honda would be complete without discussing the drawbacks. The biggest complaint from critics is the unibody construction. The practical downsides of a unibody truck come in the form of reduced towing capacity and off-road capabilities when compared to its body-on-frame competitors.

This means that the Ridgeline can only tow up to 5,000 lbs. The Tacoma, Colorado, Canyon, and Ranger can all tow between 6,000 to 7,000 lbs if they are equipped with the most powerful engine option or towing package.

The unibody construction also results in less capability in off-road environments due to its lack of low-range gearing, skid plates, and locking differentials. The Ridgeline doesn’t quite make the grade when it comes to ground clearance either, as it only offers 7.6-inch as compared to the Tacoma’s 9.4-inch. It would be fair to say that towing and off-roading are not the Ridgeline’s forte’—but that does not mean that is necessarily a bad truck.

The Ridgeline is secretly the best

The Honda Ridgeline may not be suited to certain truck-oriented tasks like towing and off-roading, but it is the best for what the typical truck owner needs: comfort and utility. Unlike the Ridgeline’s main body-on-frame competition, it has a wonderful ride. It’s supple, it handles gracefully for its size, and the interior is far quieter than most of its competition—especially the Tacoma.

Much of that improved ride comes from the Ridgeline’s stablemate: the well-loved Honda Pilot. The Pilot is a third-row family SUV, so you may wonder how on earth the two could be related. Not only are they related, but they are nearly identical underneath.

Ultimately, the Ridgeline is a Honda Pilot with a bed in the same way the Hyundai Santa Cruz is a Hyundai Tucson with a bed. This fact may be a turn-off to some truck folks, but it’s also what makes the Ridgeline so great. You get family crossover levels of comfort with the added benefit of a truck layout.

The bed measures 50 inches between the wheel wells, meaning you can easily get 4 feet by 8 feet sheets of plywood or drywall to lie flat on that trip home from Home Depot. Not only that, but the bed has a trunk! The waterproof bed compartment provides an extra 7.3 cu-ft of cargo space, reports U.S. News. The compartment even has a drain, so it can be used as a cooler during special events or parties. 

Is it too expensive?

Even those who love the Ridgeline for all its unconventional utility might be taken aback by the price. The Ridgeline starts at $38,800 for the Sport and can be up to $46,230 for the Black Edition. It comes standard with a 280 hp V6, all-wheel drive, and a spacious crew cab.

The Tacoma starts at $27,750, and the Ranger at $27,400. The Ranger and Tacoma are both available with access cabs and spartan base trims. For around $11,000 less than the base Ridgeline, the Tacoma comes as an access cab with a two-wheel drive, a very basic interior, and a 2.7-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder that puts out a meager 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque.

Upgrading to a four-wheel drive will set you back $2,245 and another $2,650 if you opt for the 3.5-liter V6. To get the most basic SR Tacoma with a double cab, V6, and four-wheel drive will cost $34,015. Nearly $5,000 is less expensive than the Sport trim. The SR5, which is a more apples-to-apples comparison with the Ridgeline Sport, with those same options, is around $37,000—within a grand of the base Ridgeline.

The same story is true of the Ranger. It may start at $27,400 for the XL access cab, but that is with two-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive is a $3,485 option. The XL doesn’t even come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is standard in the Ridgeline and Tacoma.

To be similarly equipped to the standard Ridgeline Sport, you’d be forced to opt for the XLT crew cab with four-wheel drive, which would set you back $36,905, according to the Ford configurator. It’s true, the Ridgeline is more expensive, but when you start looking at the standard equipment—the gap starts to close quickly.

The Ridgeline is not for everyone 

The Honda Ridgeline is not the truck for everyone. For some, it’s not even a truck. If you need to tow regularly or do any serious off-roading—the Ridgeline is not for you. If you want a work spec truck with no amenities—the Ridgeline is not for you. If you want a comfortable family vehicle with clever use of space, good standard equipment, and truck-like capabilities without the usual truck downsides—the Ridgeline might be the vehicle for you . 


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