The refreshed 2020 Honda Ridgeline exchanges its 6-speed automatic transmission for a 9-speed unit and introduces paddle shifters and idle stop. A pushbutton shifter replaces a traditional shift lever and a traditional battery has been replaced by an AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) model. The tailgate can be locked and the number of trim levels have been reduced. Honda’s 8″ Display Audio system is now standard on all trims. The rear doors open wider and Honda Sensing becomes standard across the board. Prices increase by as little as $100 to as much as $2,050 depending on model.


The RT and RTL-T trims have been dropped which simplifies the lineup. The RT trim allowed Honda to advertise a lower starting price for the Ridgeline, but despite this, it was one of the least-popular trim levels. The RTL-T was more popular than the RT, but the fully-loaded RTL-E model was arguably the better value with its list of additional safety, comfort, and convenience features. For 2020, the Ridgeline is available in Sport, RTL, RTL-E, and Black Edition trims.


The outgoing Honda designed-and-built 6-speed automatic proved to be smooth and reliable in many Honda models over the years. The ZF 9HP 9-speed automatic that has replaced it in the 2020 Ridgeline drew some criticism for shift timing and feel in other applications. Over time, Honda has made changes to address these complaints and based on my time driving 2019 Pilots and Passports equipped with the 9-speed automatic, I’d say these changes have been mostly effective.

One of the best features of the 9-speed automatic is the introduction of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters which allow for manual gear selection. Some situations where this feature comes in handy are engine braking, spirited driving, and downshifting while anticipating a pass. The 9-speed has a considerably lower first gear ratio and a higher top gear ratio than the 6-speed.

Routine maintenance on the 9-speed is more expensive than the 6-speed due to a more complex fluid replacement procedure and the cost of the fluid itself. Fortunately, transmission fluid changes are one of the least-frequent maintenance items. Honda recommends changing the fluid when prompted by the Maintenance Minder under normal conditions, but recommends changing it every 30,000 miles if you regularly drive at low speeds in mountainous areas or tow a trailer.

04 2020 Honda Ridgeline-1200x6452020 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E with black leather interior


Another change to the 2020 Ridgeline is the addition of idle stop – a fuel-saving feature that temporarily stops the engine while the vehicle is stopped and restarts it as you release the brake pedal. I find that Honda’s latest models with idle stop restart quickly, quietly, and smoothly enough, although this feature can be disabled until the next time you restart the engine with the press of a button. An amber indicator light will illuminate in the gauge cluster when you have turned off the idle stop feature.


The 2017-2019 Ridgeline had a curiously-limited rear door opening. Many owners took it upon themselves to replace their rear door checkers with those designed for the front doors to allow the rear doors to open wider. Honda must have listened, because wider-opening rear doors are one of the improvements to the 2020 Ridgeline.


Previously, only the RTL-E and Black Edition trims were equipped with Honda Sensing which includes Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation, Collision Mitigation Braking System, and Adaptive Cruise Control. For 2020, Honda Sensing is now standard on all Ridgelines. The Blind Spot Information System and Rear Cross-Traffic Monitor are still exclusive to the RTL-E and Black Edition trims. Honda’s LaneWatch camera which was standard only on the RTL-T is in no longer available on the Ridgeline since that trim has been discontinued. For 2020, the Collision Mitigation Braking System now turns back on every time you start the engine. Previously, the feature would stay off if turned off.

2017 Honda Ridgeline - 014-1200x800Honda Ridgeline In-Bed Trunk


Despite three more gears and the addition of idle stop, fuel economy estimates for the 2WD models are unchanged at 19 city, 26 highway, and 22 combined. AWD models improve by 1 MPG to 19 in the city, but lose 1 MPG to 24 on the highway for an unchanged combined rating of 21.


Previously, the lower trim levels were equipped with a Color Audio system that had a 5″ non-touch color screen, but did have a rotary volume knob. The upper trim levels were equipped with a Display Audio system featuring an 8″ touch screen, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. For 2020, the 8″ Display Audio system is installed in all trims, although navigation is included only on the RTL-E and Black Edition. The 8″ Display Audio system still lacks a rotary volume knob that has since returned to other Honda models.


When the second generation Ridgeline was introduced for 2017, there was no tailgate lock available from Honda forcing owners to seek aftermarket solutions. Since then, a genuine Honda tailgate lock accessory became available. The 2020 Ridgeline’s tailgate now has the ability to lock and unlock with the doors. This setting is disabled by default, but can be enabled through the touch screen.

2018 Ridgeline 143-1200x800Honda Ridgeline Dual-Action Tailgate


The two-setting rocker switches for the heated seats have been replaced by three-setting pushbutton switches. While a third heat setting may be of limited value, the seat heaters will now come on automatically during a remote start when it’s cold just like the heated steering wheel – you no longer have to leave the seat heater switch on when exiting the vehicle.


While the wheel designs remain the same, the RTL-E’s wheels are now solid gray instead of the two-tone black and machined finish. The Sport trim is now also available in Modern Steel Metallic while Pacific Pewter Metallic replaces Forest Mist Metallic. Platinum White Pearl continues as a replacement for White Diamond Pearl following a running change during the 2019 model year.


Price increases are reasonable for the Sport trim at $510 for the 2WD and $850 for the AWD considering the addition of paddle shifters, a touch screen, the Honda Sensing suite of safety and convenience features, and a locking tailgate. The RTL trims increase the most by $1,800 for the 2WD and $2,050 for the AWD. The RTL-E and Black Edition increase by only $100 – that’s less than the price of a tailgate lock alone. The 2020 Honda Ridgeline starts at $34,995 including destination and tops out at $44,615 for the Black Edition.

All photos courtesy of Honda

Posted by

Enthusiast of all things automotive, mechanical, electrical, and electronic; dog dad; writer; and reviewer.


  1. Wished they’d increase MPGs. Also, cooled seats that the Canadian version gets would be nice. Bottom line, no reason to trade my 2017 with these very minimal changes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suspect that a subset of AWD owners who do a lot of city driving with some longer stops where the idle stop feature comes into play may see a small benefit. Unfortunately, the general shape and ride height of a pickup is counterproductive to highway fuel economy and there is a lot of mass to get moving which does no favors to city fuel economy.

      Ventilated seats would certainly be appreciated – especially here in Texas! I accept that the US and Canada are different markets, but I’ve never quite understood why ventilated seats are offered only in the cooler climate market.


  2. So far I see no reason to even think about replacing my 2011 RTL with 90k miles on it. I wish the full economy were better but it’s primary use is towing and my everyday car, a Volvo V70 wagon, averages about 23-24 mpg.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Still love my ‘09 RTL! Of course I’m retired now (since 2012) and don’t have to commute anymore. Our ‘16 Pilot gets the brunt of travel duties, with the ‘01 S2000 sitting in the garage except in the summers! Have pretty much done all the necessary maintenance myself and enjoy the engineering of the Hondas!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s too bad the turbo 4cyl and 10spd auto didn’t make it into the redesign. Ford sells their mid-sized truck with this combo.


    1. Be careful what you wish for! The V6 is smoother and quieter than the turbo four and has no turbo lag. It also doesn’t need electronically-generated noise to give it a pleasing sound nor is there a turbocharger, intercooler, or associated plumbing and other components which all add complexity. The added torque is nice, though, and there’s no timing belt and two fewer spark plugs to maintain.

      I wouldn’t mind Honda’s 10-speed automatic in the Ridgeline, but only if it were suitable for towing more than 3,500 lbs. (which is the current limit in the Odyssey with the 3.5L V6 and 10-speed automatic combination) and would result in a significant improvement in performance or fuel economy.


  5. Issues in my ‘17 are, the poor way the head unit interfaces with my cell phone, if I dial the call on my phone by the time it switches to the head unit people are saying “hello hello?” Not being able to switch from CarPlay off and back on again without rebooting the head unit.
    I’ve yet to take the truck to southern Utah for fear of the poor approach clearance going through some goalies to get to my favorite campsite.
    Maybe they fixed the cell phone issue I’ll have to check at a dealership, it sounds like they’ve done nothing for clearance. Don’t know if I would like not having a shift handle to leave my hand on.
    I see no reason in upgrading. In fact the clearance issue might push me to another brand. my 2006 Ridgeline that I kept for 11 years, other than technology, was the best truck I’ve ever owned.


    1. Have you considered a lift kit for your clearance issues?

      I have a ’19 RTL and have thought about it but can’t justify if for practical purposes. My off road driving is very limited and thankfully, sharp approach angles are few and far between.


  6. Still not listening to their base. I have a 2017 Ridgeline and am glad I bought it then. I do not (and many others don’t) like the removal of the gear shift knob (but might could force myself to do without it when buying in the future). The transmission change, I am already seeing a lot of complaints about. I absolutely hate the idle stop and is a deal breaker, as they have lost my business if this is the only choice. My wife and I also bought a Pilot without it in 2019. The rear door opening wider and the locking tailgate are often talked about subjects and a nice add. The most complaint is the crappy entertainment system. No improvement there I see. This is an awesome truck. No need to screw it up with changes that no one ask for. Try adding the changes that people do ask for.


  7. So glad I leased one of the last remaining 2019 Ridgeline Sport models.

    No annoying and useless start/stop.
    Reliable Honda-built 6 speed transmission, no 9 speed ZF unit with questionable history of issues.
    Traditional, intuitive shift lever. Save the gee-whiz pushbutton interface for cars. This is a truck.
    No slow and outdated knobless infotainment system.
    Good basic radio/head unit that can be upgraded to something far superior to anything Honda puts in their vehicles.
    No overbearing electronic nannies (Honda sensing). I will drive the vehicle, thanks for asking.

    My lease will be up just about the time we see the next generation of Ridgeline. If I want a new one at that time, I know that I’ll have to just put up with switching off all of the “safety” nonsense every time I start the truck and get used to the silly pushbutton transmission.

    But maybe the 9 speed transmission will be bulletproof by then and Honda will run out of leftover 8 inch outdated infotainment units that they are obviously pulling out of their “obsolete” parts bin for the current Ridgelines and start including the halfway decent new units in the current Pilot and Passport. WITH a volume knob.

    Then again, if the 2024 model doesn’t get a major restyle and lose the SUV front end, I’ve really got no reason to not just purchase my 2019 at the end of my lease.


  8. We have been Honda buyers for decades, currently two Passports and a Ridgeline. I was planning to trade my 2018 Ridgeline, but the changes are minimal. I would like to see the interior of the 2021 to at least match the Passport/Pilot, steering wheel etc.


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