I’ll be first to admit, when I asked to do a review of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline that was part of the chase team for the Class 2 Unlimited truck, I wasn’t expecting a positive answer.
Working as a freelancer for top publications can get you access to people and places that can follow you in your career as a new media outlet. That being said there are still expectations that most companies look for before they will say yes to something like a vehicle review that’s outside of company control. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to know the guys over at American Honda Motor Company and when I asked Davis Adams, their West Coast PR Manager, to see if I could borrow the truck for a day, he was happy to do so.
Running Down the Baja
This was the truck that was used to take people, tools, and tires all along the Baja Peninsula for the 50th Anniversary of the Baja 1000. A legendary race that has morphed from traditional open desert point-to-point racing to loop races. This year, however, the 2017 course ran as a point-to-point from Ensenada to La Paz – making for a 1,134.4-mile run South and East.
This truck, while not tackling all the harsh and vehicle eating terrain of the course, did have to chase down the Class 2 Unlimited Team down and provide the people and equipment for the race team. Even so, this street driven 2017 Ridgeline had to go off-road and survive as well for nearly the same mileage. It’s not unfair to declare this a race within a race for the teams because they must be at the next pit before the race truck does and setup. Once done they break down the pit area and roar on to the next one.
This Ridgeline has a set of KMC XD128 Machete wheels in 17×8.5 but drilled to fit the 5×120 bolt pattern of the Honda truck. While the Class 2 truck is on 37-inch outer diameter General Tire Grabbers on the same wheel, the street-able chaser is on 245/70R17 Nitto Terra Grappler All Terrain tires all around and about one-inch taller sidewall than the OE tire size (a 245/60R18 Firestone Destination LE2). It’s part of an entire kit designed by Jsport, an aftermarket automotive parts manufacturer that works closely with Honda. Part of the kit is the Jsport 1.5-inch leveling kit which gives the Ridgeline some much needed room between the chassis and terra firma as well as putting the front end of the truck level with the rear.
Traction Without a Transfer Case
The Ridgeline doesn’t have a traditional transfer case like most 4WD trucks do. Instead, it is the same transmission from the Honda Pilot with an output shaft for the rear differential along with iVTM-4 AWD (Intelligent Variable Torque Management – All Wheel Drive). It’s like the SH-AWD (Super Handling AWD) from the Acura MDX where it transfers engine torque to the wheel or wheels that need in by locking each axle inside the differential electronically, but can also multiply the torque of the outside rear wheel by 2.7-percent.
In Sand Mode, however, the vectoring is tuned off and the AWD Rear Bias is increased by electronically locking the rear differential. I used it all through Stoddard Wells OHV for the shoot and I came away impressed with how the entire system worked, even going up the foothill to get the shot of the Outlet Center in the background. What I did find that, as I drove the truck aggressively and into a donut, the front end would push out, just like a FWD would in the same situation. However, if I would lift off the throttle to rotate mid-turn, it would start to kick the rear around. So, it drives a lot like the new 2017 Honda Civic Type R, in that regard – to get the rear to rotate, you lift off throttle at or just before your apex and drive out of it with the throttle again to let the front end keep you in a steady four-wheel drift until exit.
Needless to say, I had fun with this Ridgeline and to those who still don’t consider it a truck, I’m probably not going to change your mind. However, if you’re new to the truck market test drive one and see how you like it. You might come away surprised how much of a truck it really is. Up next, the drive video.
Also, it’s a truck. Get over it.