While the 2021 Honda Ridgeline may never wow traditional truck buyers with its unibody construction, the pickup will finally address its soccer-mom front-end styling as well as other criticisms.
Can it turn a few buyers away from body-on-frame pickups?
The most obvious change for the 2021 Honda Ridgeline is the front-end. Gone is the Honda Pilot front-end style and instead, it features a more rugged look much like a Toyota Land Cruiser 200 series or older Toyota Tacoma.
Designers redid the styling from the windshield forward giving it a new grille, new LED headlights, a “power bulge” on the hood, air passages around the front bumper and wheels as well as a new chrome styling line (eyebrow) for the RTL and RTL-E packages, gloss black for Sport and Black edition.
Body color matching is extended further down the bumper and a new rear bumper has been added with new dual exhaust tips. Finally, a new skid plate adds to the rugged look.
Those are the changes you might have missed if you got occupied with the bronze-colored wheels. These new wheels have 18-inch tires, a 10 millimeter reduction in backspacing and an overall increased track width of 20 millimeter. They give the pickup a more planted stance and the bronze-color is available on a new Honda Performance Development (HPD) package.
Speaking of the new HPD package, it will feature the wheels we mentioned above as well as a unique grille addition, black fender flares and the new HPD graphics along the side of the bed as well as on the tailgate.
You can see the gray HPD graphic on the rear of the bed side as well as a victory flag logo on the top passenger side of the rear tailgate.
This package will be one of four different packages which include Utility, Function and Function+ packages. No word on what those other packages will include just yet.
On the inside, the Ridgeline will have a VOLUME KNOB! Hooray! This was a much criticized item lacking in most Honda products replaced by a touch button on the infotainment screen.
The infotainment has also been redesigned with sharper graphics and easier-to-touch icons. These were other big criticisms we had with the Ridgeline and the Honda CR-V.
Finally, the Sport trim models will have new cloth seat inserts. All trims have contrast stitching on the seats while the Sport, RTL and RTL-E trims have “new dash, steering wheel and center console accents.”
Powering the pickup will be the same 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 producing 280 horsepower and mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission found in the 2020 model.
Standard on the RTL-E and Black edition is AWD which Honda says can “automatically sends up to 70% of the engine’s 262 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels and continuously apportions 100% of that torque between the left and right rear wheels based on driving conditions at each wheel.”
With the AWD setup, the pickup can haul 1,580 pounds as well as tow 5,000 pounds. The towing number might seem low when compared to the competition, such as the Ford Ranger’s 7,500 pounds, but the Ridgeline’s towing number is more likely the max on what most midsize pickup customers are towing.
Finally, the Ridgeline remains a top safety option with a Good crash test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a Superior rating for front crash testing from the IIHS as well as a 5-star overall score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Aiding these crash test ratings is a variety of safety technology such as: Collision Mitigation Braking System with Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation with Lane Departure Warning, and Adaptive Cruise Control.
While not an update, the versatile bed on the Honda Ridgeline is definitely worth mentioning. With its dual-action tailgate (it can fold down or swing open), in-bed storage which could double as a cooler or other storage plus the in-bed speaker, it remains a great option for tailgating or a bed day.
That’s not all. The bed width can haul items as wide as 4 feet inside the wheels wells. This means you can carry drywall or plywood without having to angle it off the wheel well, increasing the odds it will break or bend under the weight.
The tailgate can handle up to 300 pounds of weight, and there are 8 tie-downs rated to handle 350 pounds.
Finally, no bed liner required since it is constructed of “glass fiber-reinforced SMC composite that resists dents and scratches.”
Pricing for the 2020 model starts at $33,990, and there is no word on any price increase for 2021. Fuel economy is 19 MPG in the city 26 MPG on the highway for front-wheel drive models.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline addressed key criticisms while maintaining several of the items owners love about it — versatility, smooth drive, capable AWD and more. While the unibody construction pushes traditional truck buyers away, there is a fully boxed frame as well as key reinforcements where the cabin meets the bed to provide extra strength. All this means is the Ridgeline is solid option for midsize pickup buyers who value ride quality and versatility over a traditional pickup.