There's a set of drive modes in the new Ridgeline and so far I've only used two of them. The Snow mode definitely cuts down on spinning out and gets you up to speed more safely. I tried my hardest in two feet of snow to spin tires and Snow mode wouldn't let me do it. I've also used the Sand mode on a beach and it definitely did rear wheel spin burnouts that were super fun.
Jalopnik published a post last summer before the release on the details of all the modes and I've been meaning to write them down somewhere so I don't forget.
The basics are:
The idea here is to minimize pedal travel and make launching easier. The throttle input via Drive By Wire (DBW) is made less aggressive, particularly where you first tip-in the pedal. That basically means you’re giving it less gas than you think.
“Mud” mode has an emphasis on maintaining momentum. Gain increases as you tip the throttle. Torque vectoring is shut off and more power is sent to the rear wheels. The transmission delays upshifts and traction control allows for more wheelspin.
Basically the same as “mud,” but with all the needles moved even more aggressively. It has maximum rear-bias (a Honda rep told me 70 percent) and an electronically “locked” rear differential.
Big day today as I finally installed the Truxxx 1.5" leveling kit that lifts the front a couple inches to match the height of the rear suspension. Once the lift kit was in place, I threw on a new set of 18" KMC XD wheels with Yokohama 265/60/18 tires. They're a little bigger and beefier than stock, so the lift kit was necessary to keep the front tires from rubbing the inner fenders. I love the look of the black edition, but thought the black wheels on a black truck were too much and wanted to put something silver on the wheels.
Finally, I wrapped it all up with a front skidplate that protects the oil pan as well as a rear skidplate over the rear differential. I probably won't ever need them, but it's good to know a layer of steel is protecting the most vulnerable bits underneath.
More shots of the truck and the parts installed follow.
Me and a friend tested out some drone follow shots while driving around (and around) on the Oregon coast. I was surprised at how well the truck drove in the sand. Can't wait to do this all again.
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SEMA is the annual gathering in Las Vegas for the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association, or basically where you find all the companies selling all the parts to customize your car or truck. Every year, SEMA is famous for having hundreds of highly customized vehicles that companies use to showcase their products.
This year, I was looking forward to seeing new directions with the 2017 Honda Ridgeline and found four different models on display. Honda's own official booth had three customized Ridgelines and here's their press release about it. Two are 4x4/pre-runner vehicles showcasing custom 18" wheels with bigger tires and front-end leveling kits for a slightly lifted look. The third looks to be slightly lowered on 22" wheels, and all three showcase custom motorcycles in the bed. Here they are below.
Overall, some nice custom paint, custom wheels, and different treatments to parts I've never seen before (like the red grill on the black lowered truck). Since the Ridgeline is so new, there aren't a lot of examples out of there of people doing much with them yet, so it's good to see the first SEMA for the new model showcase a few different directions.
It looks like JSport is showing off their pre-runner kit at SEMA as well.
Someone put them into a YouTube video here too:
You don't always need to use a truck's bed, and when you're not carting around large stuff, it's often nice to have a cover on it. You get slightly better gas mileage, it looks better, and it keeps the bed mostly dry (but it's not sealed, you will get some water in the bed). I had a bed cover on a truck in the early 1990s and liked it, so I decided to shop around for the Honda official tonneau cover.
The local dealer where I bought the truck offered it to me at $1,097. That seems excessive. On eBay, you'll find several dealers selling it direct, but when shopping be sure to factor in the shipping costs, which on something this large and heavy are substantial. I ended up buying this cover for $840, shipping included, off a Honda dealer on eBay. It showed up about a week later, and weighed quite a bit more than I would have guessed.
The installation is easy, here are the dealer install docs for it so you can see it for yourself. By the way, here are all the dealer install docs for every 2017 Honda Ridgeline accessory. It's good to skim them before buying something to see if it's within your grasp of installing yourself and saving a few bucks along the way.
Installation required a Torx t-50 socket to replace four of the existing tie-down points in the bed. The cover mounts still had tie down points, which was a nice touch. After installing the brackets, the cover hardware goes on in the front with giant wing nuts designed to be tightened and loosened by hand. The rear of the cover uses spring loaded handles that take some strength to engage and disengage but were quite easy. The cover neatly folds into thirds and can be kept folded up and still installed thanks to some handy straps.
The rear trunk can still be opened fully if you fold the back third of the cover, and removing the cover takes about 5 minutes to do by hand with no hand tools. About the only downside of the cover is that it probably weighs around 50lbs, which seems higher than I would have guessed and makes throwing it off and on a bit more of a commitment for one person to do by themselves. It doesn't lock the tailgate and isn't sealed from weather, but as a simple bed cover it does a great job and easily folds out of the way when you need some part of the bed.
Overall, I like it. It was a tad pricey (about $500-600 is what I was expecting for the features it has and is missing) but does the job and is easy enough to take on and off.
I have a lot of bikes. Think of a high number of bikes one person could own, and my number is likely higher. One of the reasons I considered buying a new Ridgeline was to get better bike storage than my old SUV. And while you can easily put one or two bikes flat in the bed, I also wanted to take epic mountain bike trips with three friends without feeling low on space.
In looking for mass bike storage in the Ridgeline, I considered a hitch-mounted rack with space for four bikes, but after owning a rear rack on a SUV, I was tired of constantly having to mount and remove it, plus you had to carry a 40lb rack and store it as well. Due to the short truck bed, I considered fork mounts, but that requires having racks for the different types of axles I have on my bikes as well as the hassle and time to remove/re-mount your front wheels when you get to a race or trailhead. Roof racks were an outside option, but I’ve had those in the past and I didn’t like hoisting bikes overhead and worrying about clipping overhangs and damaging bikes.
In the end, I settled on a cheap simple option: the Yakima Crashpad. It’s only about $80 and installs in a couple minutes by simply tightening some straps. Bikes are loaded and removed instantly by just hanging them on the tailgate between the frame and fork. I’ve already used it for a couple trips and so far the crashpad has worked flawlessly. The padding is enough to cushion bikes, and the pad is lined with soft fabric that doesn’t leave marks on the paint. Also, you can fold it up and store it in the truck bed's trunk storage.
I ordered the Large version, which is a couple inches wider than the Ridgeline tailgate, but I figured when adding a layer of padding between your truck and bikes, it’s probably best to go with too much coverage than too little. In a couple trips I haven’t had bikes fly around or fall over, but if I was going to drive on twisty roads I might use a tie-down strap between the frames to better secure the bikes in place.
There are few downsides. The Crashpad has a flap for the tailgate handle area but it covers up the backup camera. To fix this I might just safety pin the flap open, leaving the camera unobstructed. Security isn’t great; if I was taking a cross-country trip I’d probably wire a cable lock between all bike frames and attach it to the tie-down points on the truck to make stealing the bikes more difficult while you pop into stores or restaurants. I wouldn’t suggest leaving bikes overnight on your truck, even if locked in any sort of rack.
For whatever quantity and type of bikes you have to cart around in a Ridgeline there are plenty of options. You may find a hitch or roof mounted rack works better for your needs, but for my uses, I enjoy the dead simple and cheap tailgate pad option. The Yakima Crashpad is an excellent option that does exactly what it was designed to do.
I love cars and tech, and one of the features I was most looking forward to in the Ridgeline was Apple CarPlay. Cars are technologically complex and getting more so every day. With decades of terrible car stereo design behind them, I was hoping Apple’s move into the area could improve things. When Apple announced CarPlay, I knew I’d buy one of the first cars with it, and while cars are more than just expensive iPhone docks with wheels, after the steering wheel and pedals, a CarPlay screen is likely the thing people interact with the most inside a car.
I’ve tried to do all I could with CarPlay in my first week in the Ridgeline. I sent and received plenty of texts, I made phone calls and I’ve listened to a lot of music and podcasts. I tried apps already integrated and downloaded a couple new ones to test it out.
When I first heard about the Truck Bed Audio System in the new Ridgeline's options, it was pitched towards tailgating at football games but my first thought was it'd make the Ridgeline the ultimate vehicle to enjoy a movie at a Drive-In. I'd only been to a couple drive-ins in my entire life, but getting comfortable and also getting good sound at the same time was a challenge for a whole family in most cars and trucks. Usually the front seat passengers get the best sound and view, and if you turn around and pile everyone in the back of an SUV you usually have substandard sound.
We set out for a Saturday night double feature on the last weekend of Summer: Labor Day weekend. The truck was loaded with blankets, sleeping pads, food, and drinks. After an hour or so waiting for the sun to go down, we all settled into the bed of the truck and fired up the truck bed audio tuned to the drive-in's FM channel.
Everyone was warm and comfortable in the back of the truck, the audio sounded great and was loud enough to "feel" on the sides of the truck bed. About the only feature I wished for was being able to somehow adjust the volume from inside the bed, but otherwise it was great. The Ridgeline pumped out audio for five hours while parked and at the end it not only fired up easily, I also ended up jump-starting another car with a dead battery before leaving.
I know I thought this feature was silly when I first heard about it, and I didn't get Black Edition to get that option included, but I couldn't be happier with the truck bed audio for drive-in movies. It worked absolutely perfectly.
Soon after mounting my iPhone near the steering wheel, I noticed every iPhone cable I owned wasn't the right length. A standard 1m/3.3' cable would spool around the cupholders and get tangled up in the shifter. 1.5' cables didn't make the distance so it took a surprising amount of digging to find a two foot long lightning cable by Griffin at Amazon.
As you can see in the photo above, it's absolutely the perfect length of cable, just enough to reach the phone without getting in the way of any controls or storage. The reinforced bottom plug does just barely touch the wiper stalk, but doesn't affect the use of the wipers at all.
On my first long drive in the Ridgeline, I realized the steering wheel has 20 buttons on it and looks similar to a playstation controller. The gauge cluster shows nearly 20 pieces of data. The phone is showing dozens of notifications and the nav screen is filled with Google Maps info. The center stack has another dozen buttons for climate control. The big display is only showing maps from Android Auto but it normally shows a couple dozen more options for apps along with their data.
This is all great, but then I asked myself: Do I really need to know the exact voltage of the battery at all times? Have I never needed to watch a tachometer in an automatic at any point in my life? Can some of these bits of info be hidden and only shown when looked up on the display instead?
To be honest, in my first two days of ownership I have to say this is a fairly distracting cockpit when you're new to it. I can see why some car designers simplify their cockpits, removing many options in order to not seem so overwhelming.
Since I first got a Honda Element in 2004, I've been a big fan of ProClipUSA. They make clean fixed mounts that slide into the creases and edges of dashboards and air vents. They are expensive, you have to pay around $30 for a mount and then another $30 and up for something that fits your exact phone. Having a fixed mount is a safety issue for me, because I'm never fumbling for my phone if I need to change a song or answer a call, instead putting music a quick finger tap away right next to the steering wheel where it never moves.
Before my truck arrived, I looked at interior shots of both the Ridgeline and the Honda Pilot and saw they shared a nearly identical dashboard, so even though ProClip earlier this month didn't offer a Ridgeline mount, I bought the Pilot version and hoped for the best.
Thankfully, everything fits perfectly, my iPhone 6s+ is as close to the steering wheel as it can be without causing any interference issues. Some quick shots of the installation are below.