2021 Honda Ridgeline ・ Photo by Honda
Honda builds a terrific mid-size pickup truck for the 99% of the time you’re not towing more than 5,000 pounds or needing serious rock-crawling capability. And now, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline looks more like the truck it is and less like the SUV and minivan with which it shares some of its bits and pieces.
Redesigned forward of the windshield, the 2021 Ridgeline boasts a taller and flatter hood, a bolder grille, and fenders with greater presence. Honda bolts on new alloy wheel designs wrapped in tires with more aggressive shoulder tread, and in the back, a new rear bumper sits above dual exhaust outlets. Inside, the Ridgeline gets revised interior materials and a new volume knob for the stereo. The updated Ridgeline comes in Sport, RTL, RTL-E, and Black Edition trim levels, and base prices range between $36,490 and $43,920, plus a $1,175 destination charge. Our test truck was the Sport model with Radiant Red paint, the new Honda Performance Development (HPD) Package with prominent fender flares and bronze wheels, trailering equipment, and all-season floor mats. The total came to $41,189.
The Honda Ridgeline Sport is well equipped right out of the box, which is why its base price is about the same as competitors’ middle trim levels. For example, it comes with a V6 engine, all-wheel drive, and the expected infotainment and advanced driving assistance systems.
Beyond the basics, the Ridgeline RTL adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a four-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat. Additionally, the RTL has heated side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power sunroof, a power sliding rear window, SiriusXM satellite radio, blind-spot monitoring, and a rear cross-traffic alert. You’ll pay $2,800 extra for these items, which is a bargain. The Ridgeline RTL-E takes the truck to the next level with automatic high-beam headlights, front and rear parking sensors, blue ambient interior lighting, a navigation system, wireless smartphone charging, a premium sound system, a truck-bed audio system, and a 150-watt/400-watt truck-bed power outlet. For a blacked-out appearance, choose the Black Edition. It features black wheels, black exterior trim, black seats with red accents, and red ambient interior lighting.
Photo by Honda
When Honda last redesigned the Ridgeline, it was anything but ruggedly handsome. In fact, it looked like a Honda Pilot with a cargo bed grafted onto its hindquarters. That changes for 2021, and now the Ridgeline resembles a traditional truck more than it has at any time in its history. And when the redesigned 2022 Pilot arrives, Honda will distance the Ridgeline even further from that family-friendly crossover.
Open one of the Ridgeline’s front doors, and its descendance from domesticity remains evident. Almost without exception, the front half of the cabin mirrors the Pilot, though, for 2021, Honda adds new trim finishes. It finally gets a stereo volume knob, too. As a result of this sharing with Honda’s kid-hauler, the Ridgeline’s interior is much nicer than what you’ll find in a typical mid-size pickup truck. Quality is up to Honda’s high standards, and soft-touch surfaces are located where you want and expect them.
Photo by Honda
Honda says the Ridgeline offers the roomiest cab in the mid-size pickup segment, and based on our seat-of-the-pants evaluation, that’s easily true. Our Ridgeline Sport test truck had durable cloth upholstery and a manual driver’s seat height adjuster. We spent a good chunk of time behind the urethane steering wheel, enjoying the Ridgeline Sport’s comfort and back-to-basics surroundings. However, the RTL’s 10-way power driver’s seat, leather, and front-seat heating are undoubtedly appealing.
Rear-seat passengers sit up high with impressive thigh support, good legroom, and plenty of foot room. Every Ridgeline includes triple-zone climate control (one of those Pilot-sharing benefits), and a power sliding rear window is available. You’ll find tons of storage inside the cab. A large and accommodating center console divides the front seats and has a rolltop cover that turns it into a tray. The front door panels have storage trays carved into them, and Honda supplies both cupholders and square storage bins for rear-seat occupants. Accessory storage trays and bins are available for the space underneath the back seat cushion.
Photo by Honda
When you buy a Honda Ridgeline, you get more utility than a typical mid-size truck without losing payload capacity. In fact, the Ridgeline Sport can carry 1,583 pounds of cargo in its composite dent- and scratch-resistant bed. The bed’s sides are relatively shallow, restricting volume to 33.9 cubic feet. But with nearly zero wheel well intrusion, you can easily carry 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood or drywall flat in the bottom of it. Honda also includes tie-down cleats with 350-pound weight ratings.
To help make this kind of hauling a reality, you can drop the tailgate down. In other situations, the Ridgeline’s dual-action tailgate can swing from the right to the left, making it easier to load and to access the locking, weatherproof, 7.3 cubic-foot, in-bed trunk. That’s right, there is a trunk under the cargo bed floor, and it’s nearly half the size of the trunk in a Honda Accord sedan. Plus, it has a drain plug in the bottom, making it a perfect ice chest for tailgate parties.
Photo by Honda
Every 2021 Honda Ridgeline has an infotainment system with an 8-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth, text-messaging support, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and basic HondaLink connected services. The seven-speaker audio system includes a subwoofer and sounds good, considering it is an entry-level offering. Higher trims include a more powerful eight-speaker premium sound system, along with navigation and wireless smartphone charging.
Honda Sensing is also standard, equipping the Ridgeline with several advanced driving assistance technologies. All but the Sport trim include blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warnings. While driving up a mountain grade on a freeway during testing, the adaptive cruise control mistook a slow-moving 18-wheeler for a stationary obstacle, activating the emergency braking. Gratefully, traffic was light, and nobody was driving behind the Ridgeline when this happened. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Ridgeline a five-star overall crash-test rating.
Photo by Honda
Honda equips the Ridgeline with a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine generating 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s a smooth-revving and powerful V6, and its nine-speed automatic transmission does an excellent job of distributing the power to all four wheels. Thanks to its standard Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) all-wheel drive, the Ridgeline provides torque-vectoring capability that contributes significantly to driving enjoyment. It can send 70% of engine output to the truck’s rear axle and all of that to a single rear wheel.
For inclement weather and off-roading excursions, drivers can choose among Snow, Sand, and Mud traction modes. But, with less than 7.7 inches of ground clearance and relatively shallow approach, breakover, and departure angles, you’ll need to be careful on more challenging terrain. The Ridgeline’s standard (and maximum) towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, which is less than other mid-size trucks. The EPA says it should get 21 mpg in combined driving. We got 19.5 mpg over the course of nearly 400 miles of travel.
Photo by Honda
Honda fortifies its light-truck platform for use under the Ridgeline. So while it shares a foundation with models including the previous-generation Acura MDX, and the Honda Odyssey, Passport, and Pilot, it’s structurally stiffer to support the Ridgeline’s mission.
This translates into a more robust feel from behind the steering wheel. In combination with the four-wheel independent suspension, powerful and responsive engine, and torque-vectoring AWD, the Ridgeline demonstrates an on-road athleticism no other midsize truck can match. It is, hands down, the best truck in its class to drive on pavement. At Honda’s invitation, we also took the Ridgeline off-roading at the automaker’s desert proving grounds near Mojave, California. It performed well in soft dirt, deep sand, and during hill climbs and descents. Honda did not set up any boulder-bashing exercises because it did not design the Ridgeline for this kind of four-wheeling.
Photo by Honda
If you need to tow more than 5,000 lbs or tackle challenging terrain, you’re going to want one of the Ridgeline’s competitors. They include the Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, Jeep Gladiator, Nissan Frontier, and Toyota Tacoma.
Otherwise, most people most of the time will prefer owning a 2021 Honda Ridgeline. That’s especially true now that this truck looks more like its rugged rivals. There is other competition coming, and soon. Hyundai is preparing to launch its first pickup, the Santa Cruz, and it will be most like the Ridgeline in terms of its underlying construction, capabilities, and driving dynamics.
Photo by Toyota
There are many things to like about the 2021 Honda Ridgeline and few things to dislike.
Equipped with an appealing new design and continuing to offer a roomy and comfortable cab with plenty of storage, the 2021 Ridgeline is a brilliant daily driver with a handy cargo bed. Yes, the Honda has a much higher starting price due to all of its standard equipment. But when you load up the opposition with similar features, their price tags are similar. Really, the only limitations with a Ridgeline relate to towing and serious off-roading. Unless you need more than 5,000 lbs of trailering capacity or you need to travel well off the beaten path, this is the truck you want.
Photo by Honda