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honda-ridgeline-frontWe’ve been driving Honda’s second-generation Ridgeline for some 10,000 miles now and have to say it has certainly got our attention. Actually, it first raised its profile with us in a big way as the Ridgeline beat out some pretty high-profile pickup competition when named Green Car Journal’s 2017 Green Truck of the Year™ at the San Antonio Auto & Truck Show. Over the months it has definitely lived up to all expectations.

The thing about the Ridgeline is that it’s a truck in every way – functional, durable, and capable in every respect – but there’s no ride penalty at all. It’s not that modern body-on-frame pickups haven’t come a long way over the years. They have, in meaningful ways that have brought much-improved ride and handling to the breed, to the point where pickups have become a second ‘car’ for countless families from rural environs to city streets.

honda-ridgeline-instrument-panelStill, the Ridgeline is different since it shares the Honda Pilot SUV’s lightweight and rugged unibody construction. Because of this the Ridgeline rides like a car rather than a truck, even as it delivers traditional pickup styling, a 1500-pound cargo capacity with its 5.3-foot cargo box, and up to 5,000 pounds of towing capability. We can’t overstate how important this may be to buyers who want the traditional capabilities offered by pickups but desire the ride comfort and handling of a car.

Also important is the Ridgeline’s impressive power and handling. Its 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission have consistently provided all the power needed under the varied driving conditions we’ve experienced over the months. The Ridgeline has delivered fuel efficiency pretty consistent with its EPA estimates of 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, driving on regular 87 octane fuel. The pickup’s 19.5-gallon fuel tank provides about 370 to 450 miles of driving between fill-ups, depending on the mix of city/highway travel and driving habits.

ridgeline-seats-folded-up-1Our long-term test example is the Ridgeline Black Edition, which provides a sharp black exterior, wheels, and interior along with an array of added niceties plus all-wheel drive, the latter an important feature to those who often drive in less-than-desirable weather conditions. Like all other Ridgelines, our Black Edition is a four-door crew cab with seating for five and plenty of interior room. Especially welcome are the split fold-up rear seats that allow for configuring the rear area for people, cargo, or both as needed.

Featuring the same kind of highly-desired on-board electronics and connectivity as passenger cars and crossover/SUVs is also important to a pickup’s success story, and we’ve found the Ridgeline to definitely deliver here. The Black Edition is equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Monitor, and more. An 8-inch touchscreen display features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and HondaLink satellite navigation with voice recognition. We have benefitted from all of these save for Android Auto, since our crew carries iPhones.

honda-ridgeline-tailgateAlong with all this, we’ve been enjoying some of the Ridgeline’s unique features during our regular commutes and road trips. We can’t say enough about the dual-action tailgate that either drops down or swings to the side as needed, with the swing-out action our default 90 percent of the time. The lockable trunk in the truck bed is also a favorite for stashing all kinds of necessities for our drives.

We’ll follow up with a wrap-up of our long-term test experience with the Honda Ridgeline soon, so stay tuned.

chevrolet-volt-frontChevrolet’s Volt continues to be a milestone vehicle in the increasingly crowded plug-in hybrid field. While GM officially calls the Volt an extended range electric car, it’s technically a plug-in series hybrid since it operates with its engine generating electricity rather than powering the drive wheels. It’s distinguished for plenty of reasons, not the least of which is its 53-mile all-electric driving range before reverting to electric power from its 1.5-liter DOHC engine-generator, which delivers a total 420 mile driving range.

That 53-mile battery electric range is just one of the reasons the Volt is a standout. With the exception of Honda’s new Clarity Plug-In that achieves 47 miles on battery power before reverting to hybrid operation, no other plug-in hybrid competitors come close. Before the Clarity, the best PHEV competitors were able to offer 25 to 33 all-electric miles, with most achieving significantly less.

chevrolet-volt-power-displayGreen Car Journal editors spent a year and just over 20,000 miles behind the wheel of Chevy’s Volt, allowing plenty of time to experience life with this extended range electric under varying driving conditions. One thing continually stood out: Having this kind of battery electric range meant most of our daily drives were spent entirely in electric mode with zero emissions. When heading off to nearby cities beyond the Volt’s battery range or during our numerous road trips, it was comforting to know there was no limit to the distance we could drive with the car’s engine-generator at the ready.

The Volt drives confidently, and silently, with refined road matters and passenger comfort we came to appreciate on drives long and short. The changeover once batteries are depleted does bring a different feel since the engine-generator is more noticeable than engines in a typical plug-in hybrid, but not so much that we gave it a second thought during our drives.

chevrolet-volt-cabinWelcome features are replete in the Volt, from a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, LCD instrument cluster, and 8-inch center touchscreen display to MyLink infotainment and advanced driver assist systems. Thoughtful touches like a heated steering wheel and heated front and rear seats help cinch the deal in cold weather driving.

It’s tough to find fault with the Volt since Chevrolet really did an exceptional job with this car. If we had one wish, it would be for a slightly more accommodating rear seat. The first-generation Volt was a four-seater since the car’s battery storage configuration meant a console was at the center of the rear seat, with batteries beneath. The rear seat in the second-generation Volt left the rear console behind in lieu of a center seat position, although it’s clearly better suited for a child than an adult. No matter…we’re happy with the change.

chevrolet-volt-chargeportAfter 20,000 miles on the road, this was one long-term test car that was hard to give up. Our positive experience over our year of driving remains with us and, like every Volt owner we’ve run across, we can only heartily recommend this car.

 

driving-ridgeline-on-trailLong-term tests allow really getting to know a vehicle, and the 2017 Honda Ridgeline in our test fleet is no exception. We’ve spent some 5,000 miles behind the wheel now under varying driving conditions. Plenty of these miles have been in city driving with commuting duty and road trips thrown in for good measure.

We have enjoyed all those miles. The Ridgeline’s efficient i-VTEC 3.5-liter V-6 benefits from direct-injection and variable-cylinder management to increase efficiency, making 280 horsepower along the way. This provides all the performance we’ve demanded from the pickup and it’s never left us wanting for more.

honda-ridgeline-front-image-1Honda provides an option to enhance fuel economy by activating the Ridgeline’s ECON button, although this does diminish performance somewhat and also scales back some other systems in its mission to increase efficiency. The front-wheel drive 2017 Ridgeline is EPA rated at 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, with a combined estimate of 22 mpg. Our Ridgeline Black Edition is an AWD model and sacrifices a bit of efficiency for the capability, offering an EPA estimated 18 city and 25 highway mpg, with a combined average of 21 mpg. Overall, with our combination of city and highway driving we have been averaging combined fuel economy of 20.9 mpg.

We’ll trade the AWD variant’s 1 mpg loss for the additional traction and functionality, though. While we haven’t had the occasion to ford streams or slog through snow, we have spent time traversing dusty ranch roads and occasional wet pavement, and we do appreciate the extra bit of confidence that AWD delivers.

driving-honda-ridgelineSeating in the Ridgeline gets high marks. The pickup’s front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. In the rear, we’re big fans of the split and fold-up seats that make this truck even more functional with their ability to reconfigure for people and gear as needed. Even with the seats down, there’s extra space beneath the seats for stowing gear. Plus, of course there’s the Ridgeline’s  53-inch pickup bed and unique tailgate that either drops down or swings out for easy access.

And did we mention our Ridgeline’s truck bed audio system? Those into tailgating will find this system fascinating. Honda has made the pickup bed’s side panels act as speaker baffles to produce some pretty quality sounds. Plus, Honda has built in another handy feature in the pickup box, in the form of a lockable trunk in the bed floor. After months of everyday driving in our Ridgeline tester, it’s hard to imagine how we could do without this handy trunk feature…or for that matter, how other competitive pickup owners could do without one as well.

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