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 A pushbutton shifter replaces a traditional shift lever and a traditional battery has been replaced by an AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) model.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.
TRIM LEVELS SIMPLIFIED
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.
2020 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.
WIDER REAR DOOR OPENING
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.
Honda 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.
AUDIO AND NAVIGATION SYSTEMS
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.
Honda Ridgeline Dual-Action Tailgate
HEATED SEAT CONTROLS
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