1 compact unibody pickup truck is officially half a ton

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Most full-size and light-duty pickups in the half-ton class are very similar. Detroit Three models feature full-scale frames and available V8 engines. But an entry into this segment is very different: the compact unibody Honda Ridgeline AWD is officially a half-ton truck.

What class is the Honda Ridgeline AWD?

The government classifies trucks by their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or the combined weight of the truck and its maximum payload. With a GVWR of 6,019 pounds, the Honda Ridgeline AWD fits in Class 2a alongside the F-150 and 1500 from GM and Ram.

2021 Ridgeline Sport (HPD Package) | Honda

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Most pickup trucks advertised as compact and mid-size fall into the official “Class 1” light truck category. This class includes all trucks with a GVWR of less than 6,000 pounds. Pickup trucks in this category include the Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator, and Nissan Frontier. This category also includes the FWD Honda Ridgeline which has a GVWR of 5,710 pounds.

But if you configure your Honda Ridgeline with AWD, the added powertrain weight and payload capacity take it to the next class. The 2022 Ridgeline AWD offers a GVWR of 6,019 pounds. This officially puts the Ridgeline in “Class 2a” over 6001 pounds with all half-ton trucks.

Is the Honda Ridgeline AWD actually a half-ton truck?

The Honda Ridgeline AWD’s GVWR of 6,019 pounds legally places it in Class 2a, alongside the F-150 and 1500s. class 2a ton. It targets a different market segment and has never been marketed in half-tons.

Promotional photo of a white Honda Ridgeline pickup truck driving on a desert road with mountains visible in the background.
2021 Ridgeline Sport (HPD Package) | Honda

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Market forces tend to make vehicles in the same segment more alike than different. The half-ton truck segment includes the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500, Ram 1500, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra. These full-size light trucks are all similar in size and use similar construction technology and techniques. The Ridgeline is designed to meet a very different need.

While most half-ton trucks offer a maximum towing capacity of over 10,000 pounds, the Ridgeline’s maximum towing capacity is only 5,000 pounds. And while some other half-ton trucks offer payload capacities over 2,000 pounds, the Ridgeline can’t haul more than 1,600 pounds.

Few pickup truck fans would call the Honda Ridgeline a half-ton truck.

Dog in a compact van | Guilherme Stecanella via Unsplash

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The Honda Ridgeline is a unibody vehicle with relatively low payload and towing capacity. But that’s not the only reason it’s a non-starter for many half-ton truck buyers.

Many truck buyers prefer body-on-frame construction. This is because pickups with full ladder frames are easier to lift and modify. Moreover, you can replace the whole frame of a rusty truck and therefore it can last longer than a unibody truck. But instead of a body-on-frame construction, the Ridgeline shares a unibody chassis with the Honda Pilot SUV.

Even though the AWD Ridgeline is a Class 2a truck and technically a half-ton pickup, you won’t hear many truck enthusiasts calling it that.

Honda seems to know the limitations of the Ridgeline: it never advertised its pickup, even the AWD variant, as a half-ton pickup. Although “Class 2a” is an official classification, the term “half-ton” is actually a slang and marketing expression for the full-size light-duty truck segment. It probably dates back to the marketing language used to target World War II veterans in the 1950s. You can read the story of the half-ton truck.

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