The Honda Ridgeline makes it into the winners circle for the introductory Wards 10 Best User Experience awards by being chock full of what we call “surprise and delight” features, plus boasting great connectivity (Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and four USB ports), not to mention outstanding advanced safety systems and bright and clear maps and displays.
On our UX scoring sheets, surprise-and-delight is defined as attributes that create “an immediate emotional connection to the vehicle.”
Stirring up a lot of emotion for our judges is the Ridgeline’s fabled in-bed audio system, which won us over for its huge fun factor. With a simple touch of the truck’s bright, colorful center screen, the interior audio is shut off and the pickup bed is pumping out the jams for your whole neighborhood to hear.
“A pickup bed that turns into a giant speaker for the ultimate tailgate party is most certainly an instance of surprise and delight,” says judge Tom Murphy, noting the system’s intended use.
“The sound-system bed is a hoot,” agrees judge Dave Zoia.
For this judge, one of the Ridgeline’s most surprising and delightful features is its ultra-capable voice-recognition system.
Compared with other voice-recognition systems we test, it can understand a relative slew of spoken commands. Needing a caffeine pick-me-up in the afternoon? Just ask the Ridgeline to “Find Places – Starbucks” and you’ll be set.
But its voice-recognition system boasts more than the usual navigation, phone and audio capabilities. It also can understand commands related to climate control and voice settings. The ability to change the temperature or fan speed is unique, unavailable even in the six-figure luxury vehicles we test for 10 Best UX.
What’s more, the voice-recognition system worked with great accuracy, rarely misunderstanding us or timing us out while it was processing a request.
Also performing well was the Ridgeline’s advanced-safety systems, including its excellent adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist, says judge James Amend.
ACC shuts off (thankfully in an obvious way) below 20 mph (32 km/h), LKAS sensitivity is adjustable, and with it there’s no annoying beeping – just a gentle tugging of the wheel to alert you you’re veering too close to lane lines.
Says Judge Murphy: “I’m OK with these systems configured in this way. Honda is giving people important driving aides that flirt with autonomous functionality, but also is erring on the side of requiring driver interaction.”