As I stretched my 6”1” frame out in the back seat of Automobile’s Four Seasons 2017 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E, my dog Benji curled up at my feet, I began to question the wisdom of the decisions that necessitated this extended nap in the back of a Walmart parking lot somewhere in Utah, some eight hours after I departed Southern California.
The questioning didn’t last long. Sure, I could have flown to my parents’ Detroit home for the holidays, but the cost of a last-minute plane ticket around Christmas is hardly reasonable, to say nothing of the misery of flying out of LAX in late December. Flying with Benji didn’t sound great either, especially for him. Besides, I first needed to visit my girlfriend, Lauren, in Madison, Wisconsin. And then there was the matter of the two motorcycles I wanted to take back with me to Los Angeles.
Clearly, the extended stint behind the wheel of Honda’s 2nd generation pickup was still the smart call. Doubly so given its in-bed trunk, which swallowed up my suitcase and Benji’s dog food, freeing up the cabin for sleep space. A good night’s sleep it wasn’t, but I did get a solid three-hour nap.
I wouldn’t have had to do that to myself had I stuck to my original schedule of leaving on Friday afternoon in order to complete the nearly 2,000-mile trek to Madison by Sunday night. Unfortunately for Benji and I, time got away from me and we didn’t hit the road until Saturday evening.
The Ridgeline’s 3.5-liter V-6 sang smoothly as the truck ate up seeming endless highway miles. The added power and torque over the previous Ridgeline made passing and merging a breeze and despite being a naturally aspirated engine at altitude, it felt only slightly underpowered through the daunting Rockies.
Having spent the prior 10 months under the Southern California sun, I wasn’t entirely prepared for proper wintery conditions. I made extensive use of the Ridgeline’s heated leather seats and heated steering wheel, the combination of which almost made the truck’s main heater unnecessary.
I also gained a great appreciation for Honda’s Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. Both systems worked consistently and effectively on the predominately straight, well-marked highways. It’s far from autonomy though; throw a slight curve into the mix and the truck alert you by vibrating the steering wheel upon touching the centerline or shoulder, before correcting by ping-ponging side-to-side instead of holding a straight line. Regardless, it was a great security blanket for those endless miles of snooze-inducing corn found throughout the Midwest.
Due to my delayed departure, my arrival in Madison wouldn’t come until Monday morning — some 21 hours after that three-hour nap in Utah. This was, by far, the longest solo run I’ve ever completed. Despite the marathon drive, I felt alarmingly little fatigue, thanks in part to the adjustability of the seats and the smooth car-like ride.
My five-day stint in Madison would subject the Ridgeline to extreme cold, the worst being -23 degrees Fahrenheit with windchill, but the Honda didn’t skip a beat. I made it a point to use the remote start feature from within the warm confines of Lauren’s apartment, which provided me with a toasty and warm truck to jump into every time.
Then the weekend came and it was time to get back on the road. The 8-hour drive to Detroit felt like nothing compared to the previous week’s 29-hour sprint — and being welcomed with the biggest hug from my mom made instantly made the journey worth every minute.
During the obligatory car showing session, my mom, whose daily driver is a 2016 Ford Escape, loved how big the Honda’s interior felt, while my 2017 Ram 1500-driving step-dad instantly noticed the Ridgeline nice ride, but noted it wouldn’t be able to pull their 5,500-pound camper (the Ridgeline maxes out at 5,000 pounds).
Instead of making my way back towards I-70 after a week of family visits, I retraced my steps back to Madison — New Year’s Eve was coming and who better to spend it with than my girlfriend. The bikes I needed to pick up, a pair of vintage Hondas, were in Wisconsin as well, and I needed to stay in the Midwest for work anyway, as the 2017 Detroit Auto Show was just around the corner, a fact that had me driving back to Michigan just a few days later.
That second drive to Detroit was my breaking point. I was officially sick of driving. Yet, three days later, the show was over and I was, finally, on my way back to Los Angeles. The first half of that stint is a blur — Michigan smoothly turned into Indiana, Indiana quietly became Illinois, Illinois morphed into Iowa, and Iowa disappeared into Nebraska, which then transformed into Colorado.
Then, just as I hit Loveland Ski Area, which sits about 55 miles west of Denver, the freeway came to a halt due to a snowstorm. Three hours went by as I sat in gridlock on I-70, helpless as six inches of snow piled up around me. Despite wearing all-season tires, the Ridgeline offered surprisingly good traction in the white stuff, no doubt aided by the extra weight of the bikes in the bed. However, near-whiteout conditions forced me to exit shortly after the freeway shortly after the road started to get clear.
Fortunately, I was able to secure a dog-friendly hotel for the night and didn’t need to repeat my Walmart parking lot experience.
Though I was beyond sick of driving by the time I reached Automobile HQ the next afternoon, those negative feelings did not extend to the Ridgeline. Turning in the keys after I got the bikes out brought some bittersweet emotions. Though I became far more familiar than I would have liked, just like Benji, who was with me on every leg of the journey, the truck was a steady, reliable companion that kept us warm, safe, and comfortable for nearly three weeks and over 7,600 miles.
Our 2017 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E
|MILES TO DATE||11,376|
|ENGINE||3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6/280 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD truck|
|EPA MILEAGE||18/25 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||210.0 x 78.6 x 70.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.4 sec|