All-Wheel-Drive 2017 Honda Ridgeline Outsmarts Bad Roads

2017 Ridgeline Desert Road

By Bruce W. Smith

A 150-foot stretch of soft sand, rutted with the tracks of other pickup trucks, posed a daunting traction challenge during a recent test drive of the all-wheel drive 2017 Honda Ridgeline. Stopping halfway across the sandy path went against all my driving instincts, which were screaming that momentum is one's best friend when navigating such terrain. But stop I did.

One of the new Ridgeline's best attributes is its all-new Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) all-wheel-drive system, which makes driving in sand and other low-traction conditions far less dramatic than one would encounter if the vehicle had a conventional four-wheel drive.

Unlike its midsize four-wheel-drive competitors, there's no transfer case in the all-wheel-drive Ridgeline, so there's no driver involvement in selecting High/Low 4x4 mode. Instead, the Ridgeline driver pushes a button on the center console to select Mud, Snow or Sand as indicated in the display screen.

Doing so activates preprogrammed algorithms designed by Honda engineers to let the Ridgeline's multitude of sensors and computers do all the thinking, making millisecond decisions on when, where and how much power to send to all four wheels to maximize traction.

The calculations and execution of traction commands happen 46 percent faster than the 2006-era model, according to Randy Skiles, the lead engineer on the development of the 2017 Ridgeline's all-wheel-drive system. It's impressive in action.

The brains of the system is the i-VTM4, which controls an electronic rear differential and dynamic torque vectoring to send up to 70 percent of the 280 horsepower V-6 engine's 262 pounds-feet of torque to the rear depending on the traction needs.

That power can be further split from zero to 100 percent left or right between the rear tires using computer-controlled wet-clutch packs that precisely control slip at the wheel. This gives the Ridgeline a big traction advantage over conventional 4x4s with open or limited-slip differentials.

"Our Intelligent Traction Management System is a holistic technology," Skiles said. "It combines VSA [vehicle stability assist], engine management and all-wheel drive so they are all working together to get you wherever you want while sitting back and relaxing behind the wheel."

It's true. Stopping in the soft sand, then accelerating really put the i-VTM4 to the test during my drive. To my instant relief, the all-wheel-drive Ridgeline I was driving moved out quickly and with seemingly little effort as I rolled into the throttle.

Skiles and other Honda drivetrain engineers involved with the development of the 2017 Ridgeline's all-wheel-drive system said it responds similarly in snow and mud. That's good news for pickup buyers who often take the roads less traveled.

Cars.com photos by Bruce W. Smith; manufacturer photos

2017_Honda_Ridgeline_Sand_BWS_3690

Drive torque is calculated from engine control unit information, and then the acceleration situation, wheel spin, lateral g-force, steering angle and steering angle rate-of-change are used to determine the front-to-rear torque distribution and the torque split between right and left rear wheels.

2017 Ridgeline AWD Selector

The 2017 Ridgeline features a new push-button-operated Intelligent Traction Management System that offers four different all-wheel-drive operating modes — Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand — and two two-wheel-drive modes, Normal and Snow. A selector button on the center console brings up options on the instrument panel display.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Rear Unit

The 2017 Ridgeline all-wheel-drive rear differential uses a pair of computer-controlled wet-clutch packs, one for each wheel, to distribute torque left or right in whatever percentage is needed to maximize traction.

Ridegline_Front_Low-Sand_BWS_3662

The 2017 Ridgeline's full-time all-wheel-drive system doesn't require driver interaction or monitoring thanks to a torque-transfer unit that is bolted directly to the front-mounted transaxle and a computer-controlled limited-slip-type rear differential.

Comments

its like Subaru...

Try getting this one and a new 4wd/"offroad" spec Taco (and perhaps one of the GMs) together, and take them to a beach for some realistic, less controlled, beach driving/surfer use.

The Taco has been THE beach/surf truck for pretty much ever. Largely by default. If the Ridgeline can perform as well or better there as the Toyota, it's a nice feather in Honda's cap.

@Clint

agree 100 percent. Exactly like the Subie

Nothing at all like Subaru.

There is no rear differential.
There is a ring/pinion. But each "halfshaft" is connected to the ring gear via computer controlled clutch pack.
So via the computer keeping each axleshaft fully coupled; that is the same as a 4x4 pickup, with the rear differential locked.
And the weight distribution is basically the same as any 4x4 pickup, at 58/42

Try getting this one and a new 4wd/"offroad" spec Taco (and perhaps one of the GMs) together, and take them to a beach for some realistic, less controlled, beach driving/surfer use.

The Taco has been THE beach/surf truck for pretty much ever. Largely by default. If the Ridgeline can perform as well or better there as the Toyota, it's a nice feather in Honda's cap.
Posted by: Stuki Moi | May 17, 2016 2:27:10 PM

Tacoma frames rust bad enough even in the best environments. I'd hate to see how bad it would rust on an ocean beach.

Wow this truck is better off-road then the Ram Rebel and anything my beloved GM makes. Kudos to Honda.

@George

there is more than one approach to AWD with Subaru

Subaru has many different implementations, some with center differentials: 50/50 bevel gear with 5/6 speed sticks-with viscous coupling clutch to limit differential spin; 41/59 in the WRX STi-with computer controlled lock up clutch pack. Other systems are front wheel drive PTO {power take off}.

This is a front wheel drive PTO system. Where is differs from Subaru is there is no rear differential.
This has an open front differential, and every Subaru-bar the WRX STi has the same.
Of late Subaru has been not installing a viscous coupling clutch in the rear differential, or TorSen, in the rear differential of most models.
So Subaru can get in a situation where you spin one front tire, one rear tire: Now you are reliant on your hardware traction control to brake those wheels for mobility.

Honda only has to brake one front wheel.

I wonder how much air they had in the tires? I've seen trucks hopelessly stuck in sand at 12 PSI walk out of a hole at 6. Looks to be a nice rig for the Lifestyle types.

Look out little Gm twins! Companies a coming your way!!!!!

This Honda looks Massive park next to the Taco and Colorado.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tScX5AR5_4g

Look out little Gm twins! Companies a coming your way!!!!!
Posted by: Done | May 17, 2016 5:40:00 PM

Yeah but not Ford...they ran away like little girls!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GteXPzuY9uQ

Not a big fan of GM, but at least they are still in the game.

It will happen cause companies a comin!!!!
Posted by: Done | May 17, 2016 7:15:44 PM

The only thing "comin" is your sister at her next BBC booty call....lol

http://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/ford-recalls-nearly-300000-vehicles-for-five-separate-issues/

@Done--Here is an example of your perfect Ford. "Quality is ob on"

http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/05/2016-ford-edge-titanium-review/#postcomments

Bruce,

"...which makes driving in sand and other low-traction conditions far less dramatic than one would encounter if the vehicle had a conventional four-wheel drive."

This is nonsense. It'll work well ONLY under ideal conditions.

1) There is nothing dramatic about a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with an ARB locker in the back and Torsen in front just happily and effortlessly chuggin' its way through sand as though it did not exist.

2) Or try the new Ford Raptor, which is made for moving easily through sand dunes and other desert topography.

3) Or perhaps try the Ram PowerWagon, already tested as the #1 off-road truck on TFL's Gold Mine Hill.

Both 2) and 3) are reviewed at:
http://www.tfltruck.com/2016/05/top-5-best-off-road-trucks-you-can-get-from-the-factory-video/

I'd like to see this wussy Ridgeline tow its rated 5,000 lbs through that very same sand, compared to the three other options listed above:
"Ooops, Mark, I think we just broke a half shaft."
"Nope. That was the back-end of the unibody ripping out."

================

Clint
you're correct its similar to the Subby
but! the Subby has common problems with stripped splines on the axles and the splines are not deep enough and they cost $800 each to replace.
The more complicated it is the more it's going to fail and the more money you'll pay to repair it.

simpler is better

All they had to do was take a Rubicon front end off the Honda quad. Enlarge it, put it on this. Put lift kit. Would have been good

Anything like this is not that durable for hard off road use.

GMC Canyon has all wheel drive that is better then the Honda's

GM twins will go the same way the last generation did, an unnoticed two bit player with poor quality. The Taco will rule all, as usual.

This Ridgeline appears to be much improved over the past generation. I would probably choose a Colorado/Canyon over it but having owned a Honda in the past and my wife currently having a CRV this will be very reliable.

No transfert case Hi Lo this is a joke or what. It will probably good if you are stuck in your kid sandbox.
The pictures you take are not serious bring the truck in a real Mud Rocky or Sand terrain to prove your point.
Even a Yaris can cross the sand you put on the ground anyway get serious stop making advertisement to Honda and test real truck.

At $40K the price is a bit prohibitive, though. I'm barely satisfied with a $30K starting price; it could be notably less expensive across the board.

"This Honda looks Massive park next to the Taco and Colorado."
--Posted by: johnny doe | May 17, 2016 5:55:25 PM

So what you're saying is that it, too, is as big as the 70's vintage full-sized trucks.

We need true compact trucks for those who simply have no need or desire for Road Whales.

the most capable accord ever

I don’t understand how anyone can call this truck midsize when it measures almost the same width, length, and height as a 150/1500 full size 2 wd short bed standard cab. It just has a shorter hood and bed with 4 doors.



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