Honda is bringing a desert race truck to SEMA based on the new Ridgeline

New Honda Ridgeline Preview

Honda plans to show off its next-generation Ridgeline pickup truck at this year’s SEMA Show in Las Vegas, but it will be under a customized veil.

Instead of getting a clean look at the redesigned truck, Honda will show a concept vehicle with a “Desert Race Truck” theme. Presumably, if you can mentally pick off the accessories, you’ll have a decent picture of the next generation Ridgeline that’s scheduled to go on sale sometime next year.

Why Desert Race Truck? Honda will also use SEMA as a platform to announce the brand’s return to Honda Performance Development (HPD)-engineered off-road racing. Honda plans to use a new vehicle to race in the Baja 1000 next month equipped with a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine, a six-speed sequential gearbox, FOX Racing shocks, and General Grabber tires. Honda’s HPD hasn’t competed in four-wheel drive off-road racing since it entered a Pilot in the 2012 Baja 1000 Class 6 race.

As for the production Ridgeline, it’s expected to hit the market as a 2017 model, powered by a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 pulled from the 2016 Pilot that should be good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. We can expect the new Ridgeline to be sold only as a crew-cab model (like the previous generation).

Though the 2017 Ridgeline will arrive in SEMA as a concept, in just a few weeks, the truck will debut in production form at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Honda will be diving into a hotly contested small truck market, with new or recently redesigned entries like Toyota’s 2016 Tacoma, Chevrolet’s Colorado, and GMC’s Canyon offering strong performance and fuel efficient powertrains.

The previous generation Ridgeline was always a bit of an oddball in the pickup truck market, offering a car-like ride with slightly more utility than an average small truck, so it will be interesting to see how a more attractive and off-road capable next-generation sells.