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2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E Test Drive: The Best Truck for Self-Aware Buyers

A truck for those who are honest about what they really need out of a pickup.

Billy RehbockWriter, Photographer

Just like no one needs a sports car, most people don't need a pickup truck. And just as with sports cars, you simply want a truck, be it for the utility or elevated height or because you think they look cool. Three years ago, Automobile had a Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E in our Four Seasons long-term fleet, and it proved to be the truck for people who recognize their own realities. We miss that Ridgeline, so it was time to take another spin.

Our recent 2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E test drive reminded us how the pickup will do much of what a true body-on-frame truck will do, other than perform extreme towing and hauling chores. Indeed, after a week in the driver's seat of a 2020 Ridgeline wearing Obsidian Blue Pearl paint and 18-inch wheels, our feelings about the Honda remain the same.

2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E: Powertrain and Handling

The 2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E employs Honda's tried-and-true 3.5-liter V-6 engine, sending its 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque to all-four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. The Ridgeline gets away from stoplights with briskness but not quite enthusiasm: it hits 60 mph from a standstill in 7.3 seconds, and there is certainly enough power and torque to make freeway merges and passes without trepidation.

In our tests of the 2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E, the transmission delivers crisp and decisive shifts. This test truck had steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters as well, an upgrade over our former long-termer's equipment. Suspension tuning remains nicely damped for everyday use, and the setup and ride height make easy work of road dips and irritatingly steep driveways. Because of the Ridgeline's structural similarities to the Honda Pilot SUV, it has all of the livability of a mall-running crossover.

The Ridgeline's steering is linear and exceptionally direct for a unibody truck, and the pickup is fun to use in a variety of ways. I didn't need the bed to haul anything large, and I threw all of my groceries in the backseat. In fact, I probably should have used the bed-situated trunk instead, but the rear doors are short and easier to access.

2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E: Interior Details

The Ridgeline's leather-lined cabin is roomy and boasts a clean design, but drab plastic still dominates portions of the interior. The interior is two-tone, which helps to break up what could otherwise be all-black monotony, so that's a plus, and a gigantic storage bucket between the driver's and front-passenger's seats is another win. Its faux-woodgrain sliding door gives way to the massive bin, one so large I was able to stow an entire grocery bag up front.

Things like this—well thought-out details that generally improve quality of life—are arguably the 2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E's most impressive items. There is a hugely useful ice chest in the truck bed, and the cooler's sloped bottom allows water to drain from it without fuss. Regretfully, I didn't get to take the Ridgeline camping this time around; if I had, I would have played with the truck-bed-mounted audio system.

Back inside, there's also room for phones underneath the infotainment stack, which is great for stashing your device after getting the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto set up. The Ridgeline still doesn't have a physical volume knob, unfortunately, but that's an otherwise small quibble given its number of convenient features.

2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E: Still a Winner

The 2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E remains a standout vehicle—not just a standout pickup truck—because it accommodates so many needs, so well. This test Ridgeline arrived in the top trim, apart from the stealthy Black Edition model, with no additional options. Honda charges $43,140 for a Ridgeline equipped in this manner, but it also offers many customizations via various packages and interior upgrades.

Hardcore truck enthusiasts might never "get" the Ridgeline or like it, but customers who know what they will actually use a truck for will be able to extract every bit of utility out of Honda's somewhat goofy-looking pickup. We're eternal Ridgeline fans, and we encourage any prospective truck buyers to sample it before deciding to opt for the more conventional competition.

2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E Pros

  • All the truck most city dwellers and suburbanites need
  • Clever features amplify real-life utility
  • Great to drive thanks to unibody design

2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E Cons

  • The segment's ugly duckling
  • Not eligible for hardcore towing
  • Rapidly aging infotainment with no volume knob
2020 Honda Ridgeline AWD RTL-E Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $43,140/$43,140 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6/280 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD truck
EPA MILEAGE 19/24 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 210.0 x 78.6 x 70.8 in
WHEELBASE 125.2 in
WEIGHT 4,467 lb
0-60 MPH 7.3 sec
TOP SPEED 125 mph (est)