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Quick Spin: Quirky Honda Ridgeline makes a triumphant return

Honda Ridgeline.

Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

What is it?

Don't be fooled by the just-another-mid-size pickup appearance. This is indeed the replacement for the quirky, go-my-own-way Ridgeline (a replacement that some of us thought might never happen, given that its predecessor has been gone from the market for a while already). But when you delve below the skin, the new Ridgeline is still as unconventional as its predecessor.

Signature feature

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Yes, the Ridgeline is still of uni-body construction and based on a front-wheel drive architecture with a transverse 3.5-litre V-6 engine. In other words, it's still a spin-off from the Honda Pilot.

And if that means it's still not ultimately as work-capable as purpose-designed body-on-frame trucks, Honda is fine with that. The Ridgeline isn't designed for the job site, but for active outdoor lifestyles. And those customers, Honda believes, will gladly trade some off-road and tow-load ability in return for the superior comfort, interior versatility, driving dynamics and fuel economy of a lightweight uni-body vehicle support by four-wheel independent suspension.

What else is new?

Honda is claiming an industry first for an available in-bed audio system. The previous version's in-bed lockable trunk continues, but with more functionality. And the 5-feet-4-inch bed itself is the widest in the mid-size segment – 5 feet between the walls, and 4 feet between the wheel wells (which, in this case, are only about an inch high anyway). Honda predicts a payload approaching 1,600 pounds, while the dual-action tailgate is carried over from the previous model.

Under the hood

The 3.5-litre V-6 is the latest direct-injection version and is hitched to a six-speed automatic transmission. For the first time Ridgeline will be available in a front-wheel drive version, though all-wheel drive will still be available. In the Pilot, this engine is rated at 280 horsepower and has variable cylinder management to optimize fuel economy at light loads.

When can we buy it?

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The Alabama-built 2017 Ridgeline is targeted to go on sale in the first half of this year.

Cool quotient

3 stars (out of five)

Tough call. There's little cool about the bland, me-too pickup styling, but in terms of engineering and features, this is still a pickup like no other.

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