Up Close: 2017 Honda Ridgeline Chassis

Through some clever structural engineering, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline has serious payload capacity for a midsize pickup, yet it also has ride and handling that are more characteristic of something like a midsize sedan.

Through some clever structural engineering, the 2017 Honda Ridgeline has serious payload capacity for a midsize pickup, yet it also has ride and handling that are more characteristic of something like a midsize sedan.

The suspension front (left) and rear (right) of the 2017 Ridgeline.

The suspension front (left) and rear (right) of the 2017 Ridgeline.

One of the impressive chassis developments so far this year is for the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, the midsize pickup truck (yes, it is a truck, as can be discerned from a bed payload capacity of 1,584 pounds and towing capacity of 5,000 pounds). The Ridgeline has remarkable ride and handling in that oftentimes the chassis setup for pickups is more bias toward handling load, which means that when the bed is empty there is a jarring when potholes are hit (and let’s face it: when you’re driving a truck, odds are (1) you’re not always carrying rocks in the back and (2) chances are the roads you travel have their share of potholes).

Part of this must be attributed to the body structure in that the Ridgeline is not a body-on-frame truck but a unibody. That said, there are a number of engineered features that provide high levels of torsional rigidity.

The Ridgeline features door reinforcement rings that are produced with 1,300-MPa ultrahigh-strength steel. In addition to which there are front door outer stiffener rings made with 1,500-MPa hot-stamped steel. Laser welding is used to attach components.

There is a rear frame structure that uses fully boxed members for the body sides and rear tailgate frame.

There is a truss-style inner construction that replaces the buttress-style body structure in the forward portion of the upper bed on the first-generation Ridgeline. This change increases the torsional rigidity by 28 percent.

Honda has also improved body stiffness by using structural foam and even composite stiffeners in various locations, such as in the B-pillars.

But then there’s the chassis. There is independent suspension all around. The front is a strut-type system. It features steel hub carriers, forged-aluminum lower control arms, hydraulic bushings, coil springs and a solid stabilizer bar. The upper front damper mounts are engineered so that there is a triple-path load-bearing system.

The rear suspension is a multi-link design with a tubular stabilizer bar. All of the upper and lower control arms are made with high-strength steel.

The dampers used are called “Amplitude Reactive Dampers.” This system has two separate hydraulic systems. There is a main piston and a secondary piston. When there are smaller inputs, as in ordinary driving conditions, only the main piston works. When there are the aforementioned potholes or during more aggressive driving, the second piston comes into play, providing additional damping 

Also contributing to reduced vibrations are the rigid steel subframes used for the engine, transmission and front and rear suspension. The subframes are attached to the unit body at rubber-isolated mounting points. The rear subframe features hydroformed side elements. Also around back: two of the rear subframe mounts are filled with a hydraulic fluid and permanently sealed.

The steering system is what Honda calls a “motion adaptive” electric power steering system. This system works with the vehicle stability control and it provides inputs to the driver under braking as well as in conditions that might cause oversteer or understeer. There is a 15.95:1 steering ratio. There are 3.0 turns lock-to-lock. The steering column is supported by a cast magnesium hanger beam; the beam is a structural member of the vehicle.

The Ridgeline also features “Agile Handling Assist,” which uses brake vectoring to improve hard cornering (i.e., it applies braking force to the inside wheels during cornering at high lateral Gs so that a yaw moment is produced, consequently increasing turning force and reducing understeer).

Speaking of the brakes, there are disc brakes all around and a four-channel antilock braking system. The front discs are ventilated and are 12.6 inches in diameter; there are two-piston calipers. The 13-inch diameter rear discs are solid and feature a single-piston caliper. The Ridgeline has an electronic brake distribution system that adjusts braking force front-to-rear as necessary to achieve maximum braking performance and stability.

The Ridgeline is available with an all-wheel drive system, i-VTM4. This system doesn’t require manual engagement. Rather, it is always on, and, depending on the conditions detected by wheel sensors, dynamically distributes torque between the front and rear wheels, as well as between the left and right rear wheels. (The Ridgeline, incidentally, rides on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.)