By on October 7, 2020

Image: Honda

As much as we try to cover the news without bias here at TTAC, it would untrue to say that those of us on staff don’t have certain vehicles we like more than others. Our Slack channel is often filled with discussions about how this car or that crossover is good or bad and why. We all have certain vehicles we’d put our own money down on.

Adam has shown Bronco love. Chris has Nissan on the brain. I have a weakness for hot hatches, Impalas from the mid-60s and mid-90s, all sorts of quirky vehicles, and Fox-body Mustangs (the current pony car is pretty damn good, too). Our last news guru had a thing for old cars. Corey insists on making up words to describe cars with taillights that run from side to side without interruption.

Tim Cain even bought a Honda Ridgeline. Which, as it happens, is something I would also like to do, if I needed a truck, which I don’t.

That brings us to, yes, you guessed it, the Honda Ridgeline.

Image: Honda

I like the current Ridgeline for its Accord-on-stilts car-like ride, its tailgate-friendly tricks, and the fact that Honda hasn’t tried to make a mid-size truck that’s probably more at home on city streets (despite being, by all accounts, quite capable off-road – yours truly has only driven one on the street) into some faux-rugged rig.

Until now.

The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is redone, and the biggest changes are fore of the A-pillar. That’s a new hood with a power bulge – no, that’s not a term referring to a body part on a certain type of film star – a more “upright” grille, a squared-off nose, new front fenders, LED headlights, and a grille crossbar that’s either Gloss Black or chrome, depending on trim.

Image: Honda

There’s a new front bumper that ads air vents on the sides to improve aerodynamics and has more body color than before. There’s also a skid plate, which is both there to protect the undercarriage and make the truck look tougher. The rear bumper is reshaped and the two twin exhaust tips are redone, as well. With the tips being more exposed than before.

Image: Honda

The 18-inch wheels are also changed to look off-road ready and the all-season tires get a more aggressive sidewall. The track is widened by 20 mm. New options packages include a Honda Performance Development package that offers bronze wheels, a different grille treatment, black fender flares, and HPD graphics.

All that gives the truck a more rugged look, as if it changed from a suit to flannel for the weekend up at the cabin by the lake.

Image: Honda

Inside, the infotainment system gets updated/improved graphics, different icons for the touchscreen, and an actual volume knob. Sport-trim trucks get new cloth inserts, while all trims have new contrast stitching for the seats. Sport, RTL, and RTL-E trims get new accents for the dash, steering-wheel, and center console.

The Alabama-built Ridgeline will remain powered by the 3.5-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque and mates to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Image: Honda

I may be in the minority, because I prefer the “citified” looks of the outgoing truck. Others may approve of the “truckier” looks more than myself, and still others will be happy to see that there’s more differentiation from the Pilot crossover.

Love it, like it, or loathe it, this is the next Ridgeline. Pricing has yet to be revealed. The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is set to launch early next year, according to the press release.

[Images: Honda]

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32 Comments on “From City Slicker to Country Boy: 2021 Honda Ridgeline Gets Rugged...”


  • avatar

    This thing is now trying *way* too hard. The bulging fenders and extra level of cladding look stupid, and you can tell it was an afterthought. Check out how the fuel door cuts right into the new voluminous cladding.

    The rest of the changes are sorta whatever, but at least now the front end look is further from the Pilot, which was necessary.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The 1G Ridgeline I give a 3/10.
    The ’17-’20 Ridgeline I give a 0/10. Full-on one of the worst looking transportation devices I’ve ever seen.
    I’d give this a 5/10. Which is about what I’d give a Canyon. It is derivative and the proportions are still awkward but compared to the wretched homebrewed weirdness of what came before it is a big improvement.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I recently acquired a 2020 Ridgeline in RTL-E trim on lease. I’m not a truck person but I wanted a truck without the bulk of F-150 or Ram 1500, without the cheapness of the Ranger ( I drove them all, new and used and I don’t do GM). The lease deal on the nearly top trim RTL-E was too good to pass up.

    I dig the front end upgrade (uprighting?) to make it more different and aggressive than the Pilot. I could do without the exposed exhaust tips (current version the single outlet is not exposed at all) but it does make it more truck-ish from behind.

    The extra cladding? No thanks. I like the bronze wheels, but not their styling. It is an odd looking vehicle, but so far I’m enjoying my “suburban Dad” truck. Much like the Porsche Panamera, I don’t have to look at it while I drive it, but it does everything I need it to.

    I miss being able to toss it into corners like my Golf and I’m still getting used to the size. But I have my 89 Mustang GT convertible for fun and keeping my manual shifting skills in shape.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    The Ridgeline looks great from straight on and fantastic from the rear, but it looks ridiculous from the side view. It’s side proportions are just off…….

  • avatar
    amwhalbi

    I posted about the 2020 Ridgeline about a week or so ago. Said I was not a truck person, never was a truck person and, at age 70, not likely to become a truck person. However, if I ever did become a truck person, the Ridgeline is likely what I would buy.

    Based on the pictures, I like the looks of the 2021 Ridgeline less than the 2020. However, since I am not a truck person, I’m probably a reverse barometer of what true truck driving enthusiasts prefer. So, since I don’t like the 21 as well, that’s probably good for Honda and their ’21 Ridgeline sales prospects. Sometimes negative feedback can be as helpful to a company as positive feedback. If that logic all holds true, anyway.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    The chrome unibrow and the guyliner absolutely destroy the vehicle, its capabilities notwithstanding. Then again the corporate face of Honda leaves much to be desired, at least to me.

    Honestly, if they could do some updates to the front end found on the ’08 Accord and attach that it might look more pleasing, but since styling is subjective I’ll leave it as I simply don’t like it.

  • avatar
    loner

    Not great, but a step in the right direction. I wouldn’t go near a 2020 model, but I’d at least like to see this new 2021 model in person. I’d definitely consider buying one now.

  • avatar
    S197GT

    looking at making a pickup my full time vehicle. wanted to like the ridgeline but couldn’t get over the minivan front.

    this refresh makes it a contender; ranger was my first choice but this is now worth a test drive.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      Guessing from your screen name, you’ve got a Mustang. I really wanted to love the Ranger, I prefer Fords when it comes to domestics but coming from a VW into that cheap cockpit wasn’t doing it for me. And neither was the price. Ranger below 35k isn’t a bad deal, Ranger above that, and in a 4×4 crew cab XL with the STX package, you’re pretty much there with few options. Plus, it’s still new and there’s few deals as well as few trucks due to covid. Ranger isn’t terrible, but it’s no Honda. And a Ranger Lariat topping 45k is a horrid value.

      I could have leased an F-150 4×4 supercab STX for the same rate as the Ranger (with the Honda still cheaper than them both on lease in full RTLE trim). But the F-150 was just too much. I don’t need all that truck, same with Ram 1500 in either classic or new version.

      The Ridgeline might not be pretty, but for the occasional truck use and being car like in ride and handling, the Ridgeline was a better choice for my needs.

  • avatar
    ejwu

    Can’t say I like it but it’s an improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      It’s definitely an improvement… This is a vehicle that can handle all of most people’s hauling needs and people-moving needs. It would make a comfortable commuter, grocery getter and weekend Home Depot sod/appliance/lumber transporter. For an awful lot of people, this will be a very hand vehicle. If the price is competitive, the Honda dealer will be moving them out. If it’s too high, they will stick around the lot like the Nissan Titan.
      The only negative to having a pickup truck is that every time your friends move, they’ll be calling you to help out.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Not that bad. If I wanted a crew cab pickup it would definitely be on my list.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnster

      Makes you wonder if a mere extended cab would sell. I’d be interested in something with a cab smaller than the crew cab.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        I don’t think Honda wants the complexity of building a different model with an even lower take rate.

        Everyone’s needs are different, but with growing twin boys (one who’s always been in the 95th percentile for height) they weren’t fitting in a Ranger supercab and only slightly better in the crew cab Ranger. And the giant rear hinged doors on an F-150 supercab would have made a lot of parking lots near me a huge PITA to deal with.

        The Ridgeline splits the difference in room between Ranger and F-150, all while being more livable day to day for my needs.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I saw a meme where Ridgeline hate is the only thing Ford/Chevy/Ram owners agree upon. The irony of all that is this trucklet would fill the needs of the majority of personal use 1/2 ton pickup buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I personally love that the Ridgeline is the city slicker, something that the other truck owners dislike. The new “me too” styling sort of detracts from that appeal. It’s definitely more rugged looking, but I wouldn’t say it’s better looking than the outgoing model. Getting sort of a Mahindra vibe from the styling.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    I’m always astounded at the love this thing gets from journalists. Are their number one considerations ride quality and fuel economy in everything they review, or just trucks?

    I mean, I own a “real” truck and my wife drives a minivan. The van doesn’t get *that* much better fuel economy and doesn’t ride *that* much better. And a 1/2 ton would be closer to the van in both than my truck is. Just seems like you give up a ton in styling and capability for marginal improvements in things most truck buyers couldn’t care less about.

  • avatar
    millerluke

    A coworker had a 2010 Ridgeline, drove it till it rusted away, until 2018, and almost 600,000km. He absolutely loved it. Personally, I liked the first gen Ridgeline. The 2nd and 3rd gen don’t have enough front-to-back rear seat room for our kids’ seats. If they offered a ‘megacab’ with the depth of, say an F150 or Ram, it’d be at the top of my list. Having an optional V8 (or turbo 6?) wouldn’t hurt either… After all, if they have an ‘agreement’ with GM, maybe stuff the 5.3L under the hood?

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      I had the same exact feeling. My first generation seemed much more roomier in the back seat. I am sure if we are too look at the numbers it will say that the current generation is roomier, or at least just as roomier as first generation, but there’s something about it that makes the space smaller. I think the doors don’t open as wide..I don’t know. I tried to sit behind me in the second generation but I wasn’t impressed with the room. But like everyone else, I think the new look is a marginal improvment from “hell no” to “no way”

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Well the front end is definitely better. But it has gone from awful to OK-at-best. The headlight shape is still a problem.

    I agree with the other poster about trying way way too hard now.

    I like the Ridgeline. It does drive great. If you don’t need it for super trucky things it makes a ton of sense.

    Unfortunately I don’t think this really changes things. Before it was wimpy, minivan/Pilot looking thing. Now you’re not quite as minivan/Pilot but you look like a poser. Not sure that is an upgrade. At least before it seemed to accept it really was a Pilot up front.

  • avatar
    micko4472

    I don’t care what Honda or anyone else calls it: a unibody vehicle is NOT a truck and it is not an off-road vehicle. Yes it may look like a truck but it isn’t going to survive any serious off-road use, towing, or hauling. The Ridgeline is a minivan with a open rearend; the Pilot and Passport are minivans rigged up to look like real SUVs, but they are suitable only for the pavement and smooth dirt/gravel roads. Do not be fooled, people!

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yeah, buy a real truck:
      https://richmond.craigslist.org/cto/d/richmond-custom-1962-econoline-pickup/7207892920.html

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      And I have ZERO need to do any of the “serious” things you mentioned, yet I still wanted a truck that wasn’t too truck-ish. If I wanted an out and out truck to bash through the woods or fill with gravel all the time while towing a trailer, I would have bought one. And it wouldn’t have been a brand new one.

      Most of the trucks here in the suburbs or anywhere near the city aren’t doing that stuff either. 90% of the time, they haul air and people. And for its goofy looks, Ridgeline does a decent job or enough of a job for most people. I wanted a sometimes truck that was more like a car. The Ridgeline works for me and quite a few other folks. Honda’s not looking for F150 or even Ranger numbers with this thing. If that was the case, it would have died after the 1st gen.

  • avatar
    Avid Fan

    We’ve had four of these and have a 2019 now. The only thing I don’t like is the headlights. You’d think decent LEDs would be standard by now. The stock headlights are just a cruel joke.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    They went through all the trouble of doing a refresh, and the best they could do for the infotainment system is the crap-tastic one from the Gen5 ’17 CR-V? (Instead of the updated units on the Accord or Odessey.)

    I have a ’17 CR-V, and the main purpose of the unit is something to run AA/CP on, because the factory S/W is mediocre, at best. The screen’s too small, the touchscreen finicky, and updates to the S/W are dealer-only (nothing over the air.)

  • avatar
    L

    It certainly ain’t gonna fulfill many guys wet dream of bouncing around Mojave dunes with 20 inches of suspension travel but Honda has pretty solid motor sports pedigree so it may still appeal to some of the more practical buyers.

  • avatar
    maxdr1ver

    In case it is not already mentioned, the model shown has the HPD package, which includes the gold wheels and the additional cladding around the wheels. I am not a fan of that look. I suspect other versions will be more attractive to my eyes.

    I think the front end is a big improvement!

  • avatar
    thornmark

    recently some road test had the Ridgeline v “real” pickups

    they were in Death Valley going to Ubehebe Crater, long trip on washboard dirt roads

    guess which vehicle didn’t suffer a breakdown or had damage?

    the Ridgeline – the other vehicles suffered severe shock damage due to overworked shocks leading to shock rupture/fluid leaks

    the Ridgeline shocks were fine

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    These things have only sold in excess of 40,000 units (annually) three times since 2005. They are an extremely poor seller.

    Many think with this refresh if sales don’t increase it will be the end of the road for the Ridgeline.

  • avatar
    petey

    The Honda Ridgeline is a great truck for people who dont want or need a truck.
    Therefore, i see it as being pointless.
    The odyssey with its dry and secure cargo area would be better suited for most people.

    The worst part about the ridgeline, the price, and the fuel economy. A full size truck, with more then twice the amount of torque and capability, can somehow get similar fuel economy, and cost nearly the same!
    There is something seriously wrong with that picture.

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