No One Can Agree on the Status of the Most Controversial Pickup Truck
The Honda Ridgeline is one controversial truck! Government officials struggle to classify it. Economic experts can’t agree on how “American-made” it is. Even reviewers bicker about whether or not it is any good. Here’s the truth about the Honda Ridgeline pickup, a truck in a segment of its own.
What class of truck is the Honda Ridgeline?
The Ridgeline is a unibody truck that shares a chassis with the Honda Pilot. The automaker advertises it as a compact pickup, but its high GVWR means it legally falls in the same class as the Ford F-150.
The U.S. government classifies vehicles based on their (GVWR), or the combined weight of the vehicle and its maximum payload. Most compact and midsize pickup trucks fit into “Class 1” because they have a GVWR below 6,000 pounds. But the AWD trim of the redesigned Honda Ridgeline weighs up to 4,510 pounds and has a GVWR of 6,019 pounds. This legally bumps the Ridgeline into “Class 2a” which is home to trucks such as the Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra.
Because the Ridgeline’s towing and payload capacities are nowhere near the other trucks in Class 2a, Honda’s marketing department has no interest in comparing it to these “half-tons.” Another interesting anomaly: the AWD Honda Ridgeline’s weight actually makes the unibody truck heavier than certain trims of the full-frame Toyota Tacoma.
How American-made is the Honda Ridgeline?
Some experts rank the Honda Ridgeline as the most “American-made” pickup truck. And no one argues with the fact that it’s assembled in Alabama. But some economists say it doesn’t deserve this status because Honda is headquartered abroad.
When Cars.com compiled its 2023 most American-made vehicle index, the Honda Passport earned top marks. In fact, it only came in behind Tesla’s lineup. So you won’t be surprised to hear that its Ridgeline cousin earned ninth place. That’s ninth out of every vehicle in every class. The runner-up in the truck segment was the Toyota Tundra, which earned 12th place.
But when the Kogod School of Business at American University developed its own American-made index, the Ridgeline and Tundra lost out to the Chevy Colorado and Ford F-150. Kogod admits that the Ridgeline is assembled in Alabama, and 70% of its parts come from the U.S. or Canada. But the Ridgeline lost points because Honda is headquartered in Japan. Why is this important? Kogod considers processes such as research and development, marketing, and re-investing in the automaker, as parts of the vehicle-building process.
Is the Honda Ridgeline a good vehicle?
The Honda Ridgeline is an excellent vehicle–for certain people. It offers the driving characteristics of a unibody SUV with a small bed for hauling cargo. But don’t expect it to have the same capacity as a true full-frame pickup truck.
Many drivers love their Honda Ridgelines. According to GoodCarBadCar.net‘s data, Honda sold over 40,000 Ridgelines in 2021 and 2022. But that puts the Ridgeline near the bottom of the pickup truck segment. Ford sold 653,957 F-Series trucks in 2022. Toyota sold 215,853 Tacomas.
Why, then, do reviewers such as Consumer Reports and Edmunds perennially rank the Ridgeline as one of the best pickup trucks? This conflict between automotive reviewers and how the average buyer votes with their wallet may highlight a problem with automotive reviews.
A company such as Edmunds gives each vehicle a rating in multiple categories (Interior, Technology, Towing and Storage, Fuel Economy, etc.). To be blunt, the Honda Ridgeline pulls off scores just a bit above average–in every category. So its overall score comes in above a full-size truck, which sacrifices many categories for its more extreme towing and hauling capabilities.
The Honda Ridgeline is divisive
There is nothing wrong with the Honda Ridgeline. It’s an outlier and difficult to classify. It is the right tool for certain jobs. But for most drivers, it’s far from the best vehicle in the pickup truck class. And that may be one reason this vehicle is so divisive.
Next, read why the Rivian R1T is impossible to classify too, or find out why the Ridgeline might be the perfect truck for “non-truck people” in the video below: