On the surface, the Honda Ridgeline competes in the midsize pickup truck segment, where the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon, and Ford Ranger dominate. But the Ridgeline really isn’t an earnest rival to those high-volume, hardcore midsize pickups. Instead, it’s an easy-driving, light off-roading pickup truck that, mostly, is in a league of its own. Soon, it will have a new look, and we just got a sneak peek.
The Ridgeline has always set itself apart from its more traditional competition with its versatility for everyday life. The truck’s unique packaging, including a lockable in-bed trunk, a flip-up rear seat, an in-bed audio system, and a two-way tailgate make for a more people-friendly result. Following a brief hiatus that began in mid-2014, the second-generation Honda Ridgeline returned to the market after making its debut at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show. Although it’s still a unibody pickup under the skin, this time around, the Ridgeline went for a more distinctly truck-like appearance.
Throughout its history the Ridgeline has been derided as less than a real truck by off-roading diehards, but Honda’s pickup truck proved to us that it could endure a good thrashing on a memorable 1,100-plus mile trip to Baja California in late 2016.
Set to launch early next year, the refreshed 2021 Honda Ridgeline swaps some of the current truck’s softer lines, especially on the front end, in favor of a huskier and more stylish look. We got an exclusive in-person chance to see the refreshed Ridgeline at American Honda Motor Company’s headquarters in Torrance, California.
2021 Honda Ridgeline: Honda Performance Development Package
Let’s dive right into the new package by Honda Performance Development (HPD), the highlight of the facelifted 2021 Honda Ridgeline, and part of Honda’s new post-production options (PPO). For those in search of accessories to enhance the exterior with one package, the HPD treatment adds 18-inch Sonora Bronze wheels, black fender flares, HPD graphics on the bed walls, and a dynamic grille. Also included is an HPD badge with a racing flag on the tailgate, a nod to HPD’s racing heritage. Intended to give the Ridgeline an aggressive and cohesive look, the HPD package is available on all trims (Sport, RTL, RTL-E, and Black Edition).
2021 Honda Ridgeline: Don’t Call It a Softie
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline has gone under the knife from the tip of the nose to the windshield. By implementing all-new sheet metal, the front end redesign consists of a new squared hood, updated LED headlights with improved illumination, a more upright grille, new front fenders, and a new front bumper. The body paint now extends to the front bumper, and a protruding skid plate signals toughness. A pair of functioning air curtains were added to boost aerodynamic performance. Above the grille, a crossbar that divides the headlights is available in gloss black on the Sport and Black Edition models, or in chrome on the RTL and RTL-E.
The rear features a reshaped bumper with new dual exhaust outlets. All Ridgeline variants get 18-inch wheels with an extra-rugged look, reduced backspacing, and increased track width resulting in a more planted stance. For an added touch of hardiness, the all-season tires have a new aggressive sidewall and shoulder design.
2021 Honda Ridgeline: The Infotainment System Has a Volume Knob
New to the 2021 Ridgeline is a physical volume knob on the infotainment system, which also features an updated display screen with sharper graphics and easier-to-use touchscreen icons. All trims receive new contrasting stitching on the seats, and the Ridgeline Sport adds new cloth seat inserts. The Sport, RTL, and RTL-E trims get accents on the center console, steering wheel, and dashboard. Still promising flexibility when transporting large items in the rear passenger area, the foldaway 60/40 split back seat remains unchanged.
2021 Honda Ridgeline: Powertrain and Hybrid Rumors
All 2021 Ridgeline models come equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 making 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission. A front-wheel drive system remains standard, while all-wheel drive is optional. The Ridgeline’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, a feature that automatically transfers up to 70 percent of the 262 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels, is standard on the RTL-E and Black Edition and is available on Sport and RTL. Based on driving conditions at each wheel, i-VTM4 continuously distributes that torque between the left and right rear wheels.
When we asked about the possibility of a future hybrid or plug-in version of the Ridgeline, Honda kept a tight lid, neither confirming nor denying the ongoing speculation. As for a Ridgeline Type R, Honda’s rep responded with “never say never,” which is better than a flat-out no.
2021 Honda Ridgeline: A Midsize Truck for the Thinking Person
With its off-road capability, versatile utility, and friendly road performance, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline is for the person who knows what they (actually) want from a midsize truck. In the past, the Ridgeline aimed at a fairly affluent customer base, but Honda wants to reach new customers with the Ridgeline’s updated styling and more rugged overall look.
The new customers Honda is seeking are younger, go camping, occasionally like to go off-roading, haul their dirt bikes for weekend escapades, help friends and family move furniture, and make every possible use of a midsize pickup truck. Current and future Honda Ridgeline fans pondering pricing should expect those details closer to the 2021 Honda Ridgeline’s on-sale date early next year.
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