The 2017 Honda Ridgeline – An automotive reboot.

Picture provided by Motortrend.co,

Picture provided by Motortrend.com

When Honda introduced the Ridgeline in 2005, it was the truck equivalent of Zima. Zomething different.  Not quite a truck, not quite a SUV.  It looked kinda like a midsized Chevy Avalanche, but didn’t carry the tough look.  Some would argue that it competed against the Subaru Baja as a modern four door El Camino, but it was chunkier in comparison.  Honda billed it as the truck for “Cool dads”, but the pitch fell too short. Honda’s Ridgeline was just too different.  The sales numbers proved this.

In 2006 The Ridgeline hit its sales peak at 50,193 sold in the U.S. When the original design ended in 2014 the Ridgeline sales struggled at 13,389. To put this in perspective, the Ford Ranger sold 92,420 models in 2006 and in its last year run of 2012, sold 19,366.  (Honda sold 14,068 Ridgelines that year.)*

With such low sales, Honda followed Hollywood’s latest trend and rebooted the Ridgeline.

First they stopped production of the previous design for two years. This let the memory fade a bit and allow a better reaction for the new version.

Second they made it fit the mold better. The original Ridgeline left you wondering what it was. The image of this Ridgeline is better defined.

Alas, as with other reboots, the traditions of the original are easy to spot. The New Ridgeline is of unibody construction just like the old one.  This is proudly acknowledged by the executive vice-president of American Honda, John Mendel.  He touts the rigidity of the unibody, while promising a smoother street ride than the traditional, body on frame trucks of Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan.

John is smart to point out that the Ridgeline in no way competes against the big boys of the full size team. No sir!  The Ridgeline is aimed squarely at the Colorado, Tacoma, and Frontier.

But, in a way, it’s not.

Even though Mendel boast that this is a tough truck, and that the payload and towing rates are right in the fight with the other welterweights, (Up to 1,600 pounds payload and an estimated 5,000 pounds towing as of this writing) he openly admits that contractors need not apply.

This truck “Isn’t about the jobsite” he stated during the Ridgeline’s introduction at the NAIAS, it’s “about the lifestyle.”

In short, the Ridgeline is for the hobbyists. People who need a truck for light duty projects and occasional hauling, but not a career building companion.  Campers, beach combers, motorcyclists, and kayakers are who Honda is aiming at; not landscapers, pool supply runners, and handymen.  Sure you can fit a sheet of plywood between its wheel wells in the bed, but you still have to lower the tailgate and have it stick out a little to have it lay flat.

Honda also insisted on keeping the spare tire tucked in a separate compartment under the floor of the bed. Not underneath the bed as other truck do, but in a mini trunk under the floor of the bed.  (The mini trunk also has a spot with drain plugs so you can turn it into a cooler.)  This would be such a hassle if you were carrying a load of gravel and you suddenly blew a tire on your way home.  But Honda thinks this will be a rare occurrence with its buyers.  This is reinforced by the addition of a new sound system for the bed and the vehicles front wheel drive layout.

Honda has found a way to turn its bed into a giant speaker using six of what it has named “Exciters”. The exciters vibrate the bed just like a magnet in a speaker, creating a large sound device.  Evidently Honda wants to be all about that base.

If that doesn’t shake up the market, the Ridgeline’s front wheel drive surely will. Besides being body on frame, all trucks have been designed with rear wheel drive as standard.  This is done so that when you put a load in the bed, it adds weight to the driving wheels and adds to their traction.  It also helps when towing. Truck purists are going to give the Ridgeline a long, sideways look before shaking their heads and moving on.  But, again, these are not the people Honda is aiming at.

The Honda Ridgeline is a recreational tool built for fun times. It comes with a six speed auto as its only transmission choice as well as an all-wheel drive option with a multimode terrain management system so owners don’t have to do any work in switching from front wheel drive to all wheel drive. It’s in bed 400 watt converter can power sawzalls and drills, but will more likely be used for margaritas and x-boxes.

Like every reboot, the Honda Ridgeline is high on gloss and shine. Only time will tell if it makes it into the heart of the buyers.

  • Sales numbers provided by left-lane.com
  • Quotes are from the 2016 NAIAS video on youtube

Ramblings of: What’s old is new

Recently my friend Eric Shelton wrote of how products of today are better due to their efficiency created by the modern process.  In many ways, I agree.  When it comes to computers, televisions, refrigerators and other mundane items, the newer ones are better.  They are lighter, use less electricity, have more power, and have more interior space than the earlier iterations in comparison.

But what of vehicles?  They are safer, get better fuel mileage, and have more passenger room than their earlier versions. And the ergonomics are beyond compare.  Except for the shockingly high repair bills, todays cars have all the old ones beat.

Or do they?

What if the vehicle is not bound by the rules dictated by the average owner?  What if the vehicle is more of a sunny day toy than an everyday tool?  Does high tech efficiency matter as much against charm and character?

I present unto you our two challengers for this debate.  The Spyder and the 3 Wheeler.

Both are similarly equipped.

  • They have two wheels up front for steering.
  • There’s only one wheel in the rear delivering power to the road.
  • They are both powered by V-twin motorcycle engines.
  • The windscreens are more of an idea than an actual device
  • There are no windshield wipers
  • Both have 5 speed transmissions with reverse.
  • They will both seat two.

How they offer these features are completely different.

Can-Am’s Spyder epitomizes top of the line technology using:

  • Vehicle Stability System
  • Stability Control System
  • Traction Control System
  • Anti-lock Braking System
  • Dynamic Power Steering

The Spyder is powered by the BRP_Rotax engine with water cooling and multi-point electronic fuel injection.

It makes 106 hp @ 8500 rpm and 77 lb-ft of torque @ 6250 RPM

The base price range is:  $16,500 to $18,000 for the RS edition.  (The RT edition runs between 21,300 to $24,000 and comes with a full windshield, wiper, and touring body with rear seat back.)

The Morgan 3 Wheeler takes a more nostalgic route.

There are no fancy electronic stability control systems listed.  Neither is ABS, but I’d wager it’s there.

It has an aluminum body supported by an ash wood frame.  Yes, wood.  The Chassis itself is aluminum tubing.

The wheels are classic spoke instead of modern mags.

The engine is a 1990 cc air cooled Harley/Davidson V-twin

It makes 115 hp, but does not say at what rpm.  Nor does it give the torque specs.

Base price is listed at 26,500 British Pounds, or $42,066.

Clearly you might think the Can_Am Spyder wins hands down, but don’t be so quick to judge.

Let’s look at the vehicles in the flesh.

The Spyder is a three wheeled motorcycle.  You sit on it like a motorcycle. You shift it like a motorcycle. You turn it using motorcycle handlebars. And you need a motorcycle license to operate it.

The Morgan on the other hand is a three wheeled car.  You sit side by side so you can actually talk to your passenger instead of yelling.  (Well, not yelling as loud.)  It has a proper steering wheel and shifter even if they are on the wrong side.  (Part of it’s character)  You can stretch your legs without worrying about slipping off the peg in it.  You don’t need to wear a helmet driving it; nor a leather racing suit.  And most of all, you can drive it with a standard driver’s license.

When it comes down to the actual operation of the vehicle, the older designed Morgan is actually the more efficient of the two.  It has features and controls that are standard in any car and I don’t have to spend extra money taking classes to learn how to drive all over again,  I just get in and go.

So there you go.  Proof that sometimes newer isn’t always better.  But I leave an open mind.  If either Can-Am or Morgan wish to send me a Spyder or 3 Wheeler for further evaluation, feel free to e-mail me and I will gladly send you information on where to send the vehicle for testing.