Honda’s second-generation Ridgeline truck shed a few more layers of camouflage recently, as spy photographers snapped the upcoming pickup ahead of its Detroit auto show debut in January.
The shots confirm what many in the industry had been expecting -- that Honda would ditch the controversial flying buttress profile from the original Ridgeline in favor of a more traditional trucklike silhouette.
But hints of the old design stuck around: A closer look at the rear of the new Ridgeline’s four-door cabin shows the rear glass tilts inward at the top.
The Ridgeline prototype -- seen testing on public roads -- also appears to share much of its face with the recently redesigned Pilot crossover. The Ridgeline and Pilot share the same unibody platform, making it an oddity in a world still dominated by body-on-frame trucks.
The prototype’s softer, curvy look sets it apart from its more blocky midsize competitors such as the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. In-bed lighting and a bedliner can be seen in the photos, as well as a dashboard design that echoes the new Pilot’s.
Honda previewed other styling cues on the redesigned pickup with the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck that debuted at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas this month.
The new Ridgeline is expected to come with the same 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that Honda uses in the Pilot. In that application, it makes 280 hp and 262 pounds-feet of torque. It’s hooked up to either a six-speed automatic transmission in lower trims or a nine-speed auto in high-end models.
The re-engineered and redesigned Ridgeline is expected to go on sale in 2016 as a 2017 model.
It replaces an innovative first-gen truck that used its unibody setup to offer features such as in-bed storage and a tailgate that opened either down or to the side.
Reaction to the original Ridgeline was mixed. It was Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year in 2006 and sales peaked at more than 50,000 that same year. It had total sales of 257,516 from 2005 through 10 months of 2015.
But sales slowed after the model’s first four years of production as buyers remained loyal to more traditional midsize offerings.
Honda is hoping to tap into low gas prices and consumers’ increased appetite for trucks that aren’t traditional full-size models from the Detroit 3, whose prices and size have grown significantly in recent years.
General Motors has proved there’s demand in the midsize pickup market. It’s on pace to generate U.S. sales of more than 100,000 Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks in 2015.