The Honda Ridgeline’s Audio System Has Some Ups and Several Downs

honda ridgeline Full Overview

At least there’s a volume knob! We are thankful for this small concession to customer satisfaction and auto-writer appeasement, and we’re generally pleased with the audio quality of the eight-speakers-plus-subwoofer system in the 2021 Honda Ridgeline. But throughout the extended stay of our 2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E for a half-year-test,¬†we’ve had a rocky relationship with the truck’s top-of-the-line 540-watt premium audio system.

Glitchy CarPlay

Initial setup and connection to the Honda Ridgeline infotainment system via the Apple-supplied USB cable that came with our corporate iPhone 8 models (wireless CarPlay is not yet offered) was a snap, but the system utterly refused to acknowledge an iPhone 12 in the household. Then sometimes when exiting the truck and returning, plugging a previously connected iPhone in, the system was slow to recognize the phone, let alone resume previous programming. Still other times we’ve connected a phone and the system has begun playing content at a volume that was both different from what had been set previously and non-adjustable. That’s right, the knob, steering wheel controls, and iPhone volume buttons all failed to alter the volume setting. Only a hard reset worked. We recently pitted for the truck’s first major service and asked the dealer to check both our system for trouble and the Honda software library for a flash upgrade. No trouble or necessary upgrades were found.

Endemic Aggravation

You know how sometimes there’s a great song or compelling news story on when you stop for gas and you’d like to keep it playing while you refuel? Not with the Honda Ridgeline infotainment system. Touch that start/stop button to kill the engine, and the audio instantly goes down with it. No matter how quickly you stab that button again, you’re initiating a cold start akin to booting a 386 laptop. C’mon, Honda. “Retained accessory power.”

All the cool car companies let you keep listening and/or seamlessly re-engage accessory mode. Another major irritation: The system won’t allow adjustment of the fader and balance when the car is moving. That’s just asinine. The fact that the system response rate and screen resolution lag the current standard is no surprise in a vehicle that was last completely redesigned for 2017; the Ridgeline was updated for 2021, but mostly this was just a styling upgrade.

Super Cool Truck-Bed Audio

Perhaps the coolest feature of the Honda Ridgeline infotainment system is the truck-bed audio system that comes standard with the 540-watt premium audio system on top RTL-E and Black Edition models. This feature is activated by pressing a button on the home menu screen, not in the audio screens.

When the truck-bed audio system is switched on, the in-cab speakers go off, and the system is programmed to continue playing with the ignition switched completely off to preserve battery power while you tailgate-party or watch a drive-in movie. The system turns both side walls and the front of the box into speakers by vibrating them with specialized speaker drivers.

We sampled the system at a drive-in and were impressed by the fidelity. It certainly sounds way better from a lawn chair placed behind the truck than would a normal truck with the doors and rear window open to allow sound out. Running a normal stereo in accessory mode frequently causes the ignition to shut down multiple times during a drive-in movie, but Honda’s system is designed to last for three hours in temperate outdoor-listening weather. That’s sufficient for most single-feature drive-in movies, and you can just drive up to the concession stand during intermission to recharge it enough to last for the second feature. The system is also designed to revert to in-cab audio when you reach about 10 mph (fast enough for most parades). Truck-bed audio isn’t something you’ll use frequently, but it’s a cool and unique benefit of the composite bed.

Looks good! More details?

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