Next Honda Ridgeline Will Have Conventional Styling, Updated Tech
New Truck Should Appear in 2015 or 2016
Late last year, Honda showed us a teaser sketch of the new Honda Ridgeline, and it’s obvious that the truck’s next generation is going to abandon lots of the, um, unique styling elements of the previous truck. The sketch shows that the truck will likely have more dedicated three-box styling, and the current truck’s flying buttresses are (finally) gone.
This move will likely pay off for Honda, since the polarizing styling was probably the biggest obstacle for potential truck buyers, who are a famously traditional bunch. Potential owners may have also taken exception to the Ridgeline’s unibody construction and transverse engine mounting, as well as Honda’s relative lack of experience in the utility-vehicle segment compared to other midsize truck manufacturers. Those issues will be harder to overcome.
We’d bet that Honda will do its best to convince traditional truck buyers of the next Ridgeline’s merits by incorporating tons of new technology. For evidence of that, look to the Ridgeline’s assembly-line brother, the Acura MDX.
In its redesign for the 2014 model year (which we loved), the MDX implemented Honda’s current Earth Dreams suite of technology, which includes direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation, and lower-friction engine components for the 3.5L V-6. The end result in the MDX was vastly increased fuel efficiency, and we expect the same for the next Ridgeline. If the 2016/2017 Ridgeline could match the current MDX’s EPA fuel economy ratings of 18/27 mpg, then the truck would have best-in-class V6 fuel economy.
The MDX also lost weight and gained rigidity for 2014, thanks primarily to updated front and rear suspension designs. Overall, weight loss was around 300 pounds, which brought the seven-seat SUV down to between 4,025 and 4,332 pounds, depending on specification. Since the previous-generation MDX and current Ridgeline weigh about the same, it would be reasonable to expect similar weight loss for the next Ridgeline. If it could drop the pounds like the MDX did, it would weigh less than or the same as other four-wheel drive, crew cab midsize trucks
That brings up another Ridgeline liability. The GMC Canyon/Chevy Colorado, Toyota Tacoma, and Nissan Frontier are available in two different cab configurations, two different bed lengths, and two different engines each, with the added choice of two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The current Ridgeline was a one-size-fits-some truck, available as a crew cab with a short bed and all-wheel drive. Honda is going to have to allow for some variety if it wants to break through the midsize pickup segment, and that can be difficult when using a unibody design.
Even without offering multiple different configurations, Honda will probably have a hit on its hands with the next Ridgeline. It may never sell as well as other midsize trucks, but it doesn’t have to for it to be profitable, since it shares so many parts with Honda’s popular Odyssey, Pilot, and Acura’s slam-dunk MDX. Besides, the questionable styling is probably its biggest shortcoming, and with that fixed, families and truck buyers can focus on its class-competitive payload and towing ratings, comfortable interior, and Honda’s ease of ownership.
What do you think? What were the current Ridgeline’s biggest faults? What does it need to change for it to be a success?