Truck bed audio makes 2017 Ridgeline life of party

When the all-new Honda Ridgeline midsize pickup rolls into dealers this month, it’ll offer a unique new audio system that turns the pickup’s bed into a speaker cabinet to kick out the jams for outdoor parties.

Honda calls it “the ultimate tailgating experience,” and it promises to make the new Ridgeline the center of attention at plenty of gatherings this summer

The system uses six small electronic units called “exciters” hidden in the walls of the pickup bed. The exciters make the walls vibrate and produce sound, essentially turning the whole bed into a speaker. The sound quality is surprisingly good, whether playing music from the Ridgeline’s audio system or a music player connected via Bluetooth, USB or auxiliary jack.

Honda hasn’t revealed pricing for the feature, which will be available in top-trim Ridgelines.

Honda designed and developed the new truck entirely in the U.S. It’s built in Lincoln, Ala.

Truck bed audio grew out of a project Bill Kruse, a Ridgeline design assistant and large project leader, gave the Ridgeline infotainment team at Honda’s engineering center in Ohio. Panasonic supplies the system’s six exciters, which are hidden behind the bedliner in the side and front walls of the pickup bed.

“It’s cool ‘cause it’s hidden,” Kruse said. “The exciters are sealed and waterproof. They can play music while you barbecue, work in the yard or even wash the truck.”

The exciters are invisible to the eye and protected from impacts when cargo shifts around the pickup bed and bangs into the bedliner.

The system is controlled from an 8-inch touch screen in the Ridgeline’s cab that runs audio, navigation and other systems. It’s simple to use: turn on the audio, select a source and press “truck bed audio” on the touch screen. The audio inside the cab turns off and sound pours out of the bed.

The exciters draw just 60 watts of electricity, but generate more volume than that suggests because it takes less power to produce sound with a large surface than the narrow speakers automakers have to squeeze into small spaces in a vehicle’s cabin. Each exciter draws just 10 watts, but there’s plenty of sound to keep a party going.

To prevent the Ridgeline from becoming a rolling violation of noise ordinances, truck bed audio shuts off when the vehicle reaches 10 mph. That means you can reposition the truck as your yardwork moves, but there’ll be no tooling down the road and assaulting neighbors with drive-by tunes cranked to the max.

The system can run for about three hours in 70-80 degree temperatures. When the Ridgeline’s battery begins to run low, the truck issues a warning, then shuts the in-bed audio off while there’s still plenty of power to start the pickup. The driver can start the engine to recharge the battery for more than three hours of continual music.