I’ve always been a Ridgeline fan and I was super impressed when I drove this 2nd generation model 5 years ago. Now, the looks – not so much – but the clever features, generous space and car-like ride coupled with a legit AWD system made it my favorite small pickup.
So the question in my mind: are these 2021 updates enough to keep it at the top of my list?
Don’t bury the lede they say so the quick answer to that question is no. And particularly not this entry level Sport model which sets new lows for its feature per dollar ratio.
With a starting MSRP of $37,655 including destination Honda is using the Sport to goad shoppers into a higher trim level.
A Ridgeline you’d actually want is, at the very least the RTL trim and most likely the RTL-E. So some quick shopping advice; take that $2,800 Honda charges for this uninspired HPD Package and put it towards a trim upgrade…going from the Sport to the RTL costs $2,980 so it’s practically a wash…and then you’d at least have something worth owning.
I’ve really been looking forward to driving this. In full disclosure I was actually considering leasing one to replace my nearly 20 year old Tacoma. But now, after having spent a week with it I’m really glad I didn’t. The pricing has always been a little scary but over $41,000 for this base Sport model is ludicrous considering everything it isn’t.
Outdated infotainment with no sat radio, HD radio or navi, no blind spot monitor, no parking sensors, no power seats and nothing says $40,000 truck in the year 2021 like ugly halogen daytime running lights, right? 5 years is a long time in the car world and it’s shocking what little effort Honda has put into updating the Ridgeline. And the $500/month lease rate just adds insult to injury.
Short for Honda Performance Development, this new HPD Package has been designed to channel the thrill and aggression of INDYCAR® and Baja racing. And, if bronze-colored wheels, fender flares and stickers do that for you then congratulations. For me, I’m not really feeling it. Now, I like the added look but would it be too much to ask for a little more meat on that HPD bone?
Regardless all Ridgelines receive a more ruggedly styled front end, off-road looking tires that are actually highway duty all-seasons, and twin exhaust outlets. Radiant Red Metallic is also a new paint choice.
Now, does it look more like a truck than before? Yes. But does it look like an actual truck? Not so much and if there’s one attribute about the Ridgeline that has kept buyers away for years it is this. It’s a unibody or car-based truck which until the new Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz arrive makes it unique in the segment.
And that lends to some Ridgeline advantages such as the ery cool In-Bed Trunk, accessed by the Dual-Action Tailgate. It’s lockable and includes a drain plug so you can fill it with just about anything and there’s no bed liner needed here…it’s actually made from a sheet molded compound. And the 8 tie-down cleats come in handy for items such as kayaks. So the versatility here is superior. It can tow 5,000 pounds and can handle over 1,580 pounds of payload.
The torque vectoring all-wheel drive system coupled with the traction management system’s various off-road modes empowers the Ridgeline to take on mud, snow and sand with greater proficiency. This truck feels good out here and it’s super simple to use because 4-wheel traction is always on. When needed, 70% of the power can be sent to the rear wheels and all of that can be completely split between the left and right tires. The 262 pound-feet of torque from the V6 and the 9-speed auto with a heavy duty transmission cooler make tackling trails like this no problem. Its off-road approach and departure angles are also respectable for such a truck.
What the Ridgeline does better than any other truck is provide a car-like experience. It’s as quiet and as smooth in here as a Honda Pilot. It’s also wider with more space than other trucks in this segment and the bed is bigger with added cleverness.
And despite its modest ground clearance the all-wheel drive system is top-notch and can take you farther than you’d think. The seats are comfy and the V6 is slightly more fuel efficient than a Tacoma’s. But the rest of it leaves me either wanting more stuff or a much lower sticker price.
It feels big in here and the cloth seats are the best part of the Sport that you can’t get on other trims. The fold up rear seats maximize cargo room, the all-season floor mats are a must-have option, and the covered center console holds lots of stuff. Otherwise, this is what it’s like to own a base model Honda replete with ancient electronics. Almost everywhere you turn in here, Honda chose to be stingy.
With the trailering kit and floor mats, this Sport HPD Package stickers for $41,215. The 280 horsepower 3.5-liter engine, 9-speed auto and all-wheel drive are standard across the board. Gas mileage is rated at 21mpg in combined driving though its 24mpg highway rating is down 1 mpg from before.
It sounds like a complete redesign is only a couple of years away. And for that reason I’d put this Ridgeline on ice.
2021 HONDA RIDGELINE TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES | TESTDRIVENOW 2021(c)