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2021 Honda Ridgeline: Urban Cowboy

Chris Kaiser

The refreshed 2021 Honda Ridgeline looks beefier, meaner while retaining what makes it a uniquely strong choice for a midsize pickup.

Unsung Hero

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

2021 Honda Ridgeline – hondanews.com |  Shop 2021 Honda Ridgeline on Carsforsale.com

The Honda Ridgeline has long been a polarizing pickup. Reviewers and car journalists consistently rank it as the best truck in the compact/midsize segment. Meanwhile the general, truck-driving public heaps opprobrium and scorn on the only Honda with a bed. It’s not a dedicated off-roader, they cry. The bed’s too small, they complain. And that towing capacity is embarrassing.

It turns out both of those narratives are true. The 2021 Honda Ridgeline, in its newly updated guise, is not as capable as your average full-size and, at least in some regards, lags behind the competition when it comes to doing “truck stuff”. But the Ridgeline also offers a more comfortable interior, more composed driving, and a whole host of practical innovations (as in “truck stuff”) that set it apart from the likes of the Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado.

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

The Honda Ridgeline is certainly a good truck, but the real headline for the 2021 model year is the cosmetic updates that help it step out from the shadow of it’s unibody bro, the Honda Pilot. The new Ridgeline gets a thorough facelift from the A-pillars forward with new headlights, a new grille, and more muscular hood. The new look combines with minor tweaks and upgrades elsewhere to produce the best iteration of the Ridgeline thus far from Honda.

2021 Honda Ridgeline – Specs

2021 Honda RIdgeline 3.5L V6 - carsforsale.com
2021 Honda RIdgeline 3.5L V6 - carsforsale.com

One thing that doesn’t change for 2021 is the Ridgeline’s single powertrain offering. The 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 puts down 280 horsepower and 262lb.-ft. of torque. This mill is paired with a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. The Ridgeline comes in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive configurations with the latter featuring torque vectoring and an up-to-70% rear bias.

One of the genuine weak points of the Ridgeline is its total towing capacity. The FWD version is only equipped to handle a maximum of 3,500lbs. while the AWD version tops out at 5,000lbs. That’s a far cry from the Ranger or Colorado, both of which can tow well over 7,000lbs. To compensate, the Ridgeline does offer impressive payload capacities with the FWD at 1,465lbs. and the AWD version at 1,580lbs. Both roughly in line with the rest of the segment.

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

The Ridgeline does get a segment best fuel economy rating with 18 city / 24 highway mpg. Though the Ridgeline get just one bed option, measuring 5.3 ft. in length, it happens to be the widest in the segment at 50 inches. Additionally, there’s a 7.3 cu. ft. trunk in the bed complete with drain plug.

2021 Honda Ridgeline – Driving & Performance

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

Perhaps the strongest argument in the Ridgeline’s favor over other midsize trucks is its on-road manner. Steering is precise with a surprising amount of road feel. While the naturally aspirated V6 might strain under heavy towing, it’s paring with Honda’s excellent nine-speed transmission provides a smooth and consistent power delivery. The unibody construction and independent rear suspension make for a much more controlled and comfortable ride compared to the rest of the body-on-frame, solid axle competition. Yes, the Ridgeline won’t be tearing up the next Baja 1000, but for 90-plus percent of owners, it’s superior ride and drivability on pavement more than make up for any sacrifices in ruggedness.

2021 Honda Ridgeline – Comfort & Interior

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

Honda didn’t go as far in reimagining the interior of the Ridgeline as they did the new front end, instead making subtle yet substantive improvement to an already excellent cabin. The Ridgeline smartly favors function over form; design is restrained yet modern with quality materials reserved for common touch points while hard (durable) plastics dominating lower areas. Stowage is plentiful with lots of cup holders and cubbies.

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2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

Passenger room is also generous throughout, with large, wide opening doors making ingress and egress easy. The rear is especially spacious, and along with the very comfortable seats, are perfectly reasonable for full-size adults on longer road trips. Not something you can say about most midsize trucks. The rear seats also fold down, splitting 60/40, for additional cargo space.

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

One notable change on the dash is the inclusion of a proper volume knob. It’s good to see Honda heeding the advice of buyers and car reviewers to provide an analogue option. The infotainment system software also received an upgrade and graphics are noticeably crisper.

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

Overall, the new Ridgeline builds on the strengths of prior years with a comfortable and modern interior that makes it an excellent daily driver.

2021 Honda Ridgeline – Trims & Features

2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport - hondanews.com

Sport – $36,490

Dual action tailgate (folds down or out), tri-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, push-button start, Honda Sensing Suite including adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, lane keep assist, and road departure mitigation.

2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL - automobiles.honda.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL - automobiles.honda.com

RTL – $39,470

10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated sidemirrors, leather upholstery, power rear window.

2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E - hondanews.com

RTL-E – $42,420

Blue ambient lighting, upgrades 540-watt stereo, truck bed stereo system, heated leather steering wheel, memory 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and navigation. Additional safety features include blind spot monitoring and automatic LED headlights.

Black Edition – $43,920

Black exterior trim, red ambient lighting.

2021 Honda Ridgeline with HPD Package - hondanews.com
2021 Honda Ridgeline with HPD Package - hondanews.com

Honda Performance Development (HDP) Package – $2,800 (added to any trim)

18-inch bronze wheels, a distinctive grille, larger black fender flares.

The Right Tool for the Job

2021 Honda Ridgeline - hondanews.com

2021 Honda Ridgeline – hondanews.com |  Shop 2021 Honda Ridgeline on Carsforsale.com

The 2021 Honda Ridgeline may not be the truck some people want, but it might be the truck those people actually need. Honda knows truck buyers looking to haul horse trailers down muddy dirt roads are in the minority. The vast, vast majority of truck buyers get a pickup for two reasons, to move their friends’ furniture and pick up lumber and the like from Home Depot. For the typical, urban pickup jobs that most people actually encounter, the Ridgeline meets those needs while greatly exceeding in the areas where most of the competition is found lacking.

The generous amount of standard safety tech, the welcoming interior space, and the eye toward daily livability are what set the Ridgeline apart. The Ridgeline is in many ways the anti-truck. It rides too well and drives too well to feel like a typical pickup. And yet, it’s built for longevity, like most Honda products, with a dedicated focus on function over form. That the new 2021 Honda Ridgeline also happens to be better looking than the last year’s model is just another in a long list of factors in its favor.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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