By on September 7, 2021

 

Honda’s Ridgeline pickup is a really good truck.

It also has a bias towards on-road performance, unibody construction, and a reputation for being a truck for urban and suburban use.

In other words, it’s not rugged enough, despite a recent makeover that made the styling more macho.

Personally, I’ve never taken issue with the Ridgeline’s mission. I am of the belief that not all trucks need be rugged — some trucks are simply meant more for tailgating and hauling small Home Depot hauls than they are for off-roading or towing yachts. And that’s OK. There’s a place in the market for trucks that do their work in the concrete jungle and not the Rubicon.

Not to mention that the Ridgeline is quite wonderful to drive, like an Accord on stilts. I did recently get a quick spin in a refreshed Ridgeline, and while it felt a bit more truckish than before, I’d still prefer it for daily driving, especially with an unladen bed, over the rest of the trucks in its segment.

But apparently, truck buyers aren’t satisfied with a city slicker. Not only did the Ridgeline trade its sleek business-casual appearance for Carharts and flannel, now Honda is offering a TrailSport trim.

This trim appears to be about more than just appearance, however — it promises functionality for those who go off-road.

Honda says the TrailSport trim will be available across Honda’s light-truck lineup and over time will include more-aggressive tires, increased ground clearance, better underbody protection (read: skidplates), “enhanced” all-wheel drive, and off-road suspension tuning.

You’ll note that Honda said “light-truck lineup” yet it only offers one truck: The Ridgeline. This is why I’ve spent the introduction to this post talking about the Ridgeline — I’d bet dollars to doughnuts the Ridgeline is the first Honda to be offered with the package, and it will likely have the best off-road effort the brand can muster.

As far as other Honda products that might get the treatment, the Passport seems a natural choice, as does the CR-V. I could see the Pilot getting a lighter-duty version of TrailSport.

Of course, this could also mean Honda has another truck or two planned, but that may be reading a bit too deeply between the lines.

The first TrailSport models are slated to hit dealers in the fall. Honda says the front and rear styling will be more rugged, there will be cladding that’s more durable, all-weather floor mats, and unique interior trim bits such as stitching. All-wheel drive will have torque vectoring.

The other modifications mentioned above are slated for future models, with the exact setup apparently depending on how off-road-oriented/capable a model is to start with. Honda also mentions full-size spare tires in the press release.

“TrailSport represents the next chapter in our rugged direction and will bring exclusive styling to our existing light trucks that will appeal to buyers seeking adventure,” said Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations at American Honda, in the release. “Our U.S. engineering team is leveraging more than 20 years of experience creating highly capable light trucks to develop this new series of adventure-ready vehicles.”

And that, along with the logo, is the only information we get.

If a Ridgeline TrailSport trim sounds like a competitor to the FX4/Z71/TRD/PRO-4X trims offered by the competition, that’s because it almost certainly will be.

It also sounds, at least to this author, as if the addition of the TrailSport trim to the Ridgeline is a way for the brand to have its cake and eat it, too, by offering the base truck for city dwellers who use their bed for concert tailgates while offering the TrailSport to those who like to spend their weekends playing in off-road parks.

Furthermore, a TrailSport-trimmed Passport can help bolster that vehicle’s reputation for getting outdoorsy families to the trailhead, while a Trailsport CR-V can go up against the Toyota RAV4 TRD, presenting itself as a family hauler capable of some (very) light off-roading.

We’ll know more about this trim come fall.

[Image: Honda]

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28 Comments on “Getting Rugged With It: Honda Introduces TrailSport Trim...”


  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Offer it with the turbo six from the MDX and beef up the suspension enough to handle 7000lbs towing and take my money. It is already an excellent truck. My son just used his to haul two dirt bikes yesterday. It is already very competent in mud, snow and ice without the butch treatment and it gets 26 mpg in mixed use. But I need just a bit more towing capacity . Come on Honda, keep the poser upgrades and give the Ridgline added utility. (and ditch direct injection while your at it or and duel port injection)

  • avatar
    ajla

    Ridgeline Si > Ridgeline Trailsport

    I’m hoping any future Santa Cruz trims go in the “N” direction instead of Off-road Fun Pack.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I would guess that this is just a way to prevent any possible sales from going to Subaru and their “Wilderness” trims. Realistically, very few are ever doing any serious off roading with their new vehicles. It is all really just a marketing gimmick anyway. Sure there are some that will take a new $40k-$100k vehicle rock crawling, hill climbing, etc. But for every one of those there are 100 Jeep Rubicons with a snorkle, accessory gas cans, brush bars that never get an ounce of dirt on them.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    ….Personally, I’ve never taken issue with the Ridgeline’s mission. I am of the belief that not all trucks need be rugged — some trucks are simply meant more for tailgating and hauling small Home Depot hauls than they are for off-roading or towing yachts. And that’s OK. There’s a place in the market for trucks that do their work in the concrete jungle and not the Rubicon…

    While I agree 100% with your assessment, that does not fit into the mindset of the typical pickup buyer. Where I live, at least half the pickups are used primarily for hauling air/commuting when not bringing back drywall from Home Depot. You would think they would flock to a truck like this – more comfortable, better ride/handling, much better mileage. But most of the construction features of the Ridgeline are anathema to truck people, even if they will never use their trucks for more than you outlined. Image and bragging rights hold greater sway than mileage and ride. Hence the cartoonish outline of most pickups that have ballooned in size over the decades. Every new generation has to be bigger than the last. We have highways loaded with pickups with what used to be super-duty capabilities packaged into base models and that capability often goes to waste. Add in the historical bias toward brand loyalty in the pickup class and you can see why the Ridgeline is a niche player. I still applaud Honda for making the effort though. I’d imagine those who have owned Hondas in the past and are looking for the ability to do some light hauling would love this…

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      If it is similar to my wife’s passport, (same platform) then the mileage isn’t hugely better than my F150 around town. It does do better on the highway though. My truck is a 2WD 2.7 however so it is pretty decent with respect to fuel economy. I liked the Ridgeline when we bought the Passport, but I already have a truck.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Ridgeline gets one MPG better than the Tacoma 4WD V6 and one MPG worse than the Ranger 4WD.

      As far as the rest of your comment, couldn’t you say the same about people that buy sporty cars and don’t commute on a race track every day? You’re buying a spoilered and scooped Corvette or AMG or Mach 1 with what used to be hypercar capabilities to take an interstate cloverleaf a little bit faster and get to the speed limit quicker?

      • 0 avatar
        IH_Fever

        Ah yes, the “I don’t want a truck, I don’t think you need a truck, therefore you shouldn’t have a truck” argument. Classic…

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          Everything bigger, more expensive, and more powerful than a Prius or Corolla is irrational, but only truck buyers get hate for buying more than they “need”.

          Believe it or not, some people simply prefer a larger truck, even if it isn’t as “rational” as a Ridgeline.

          No “bragging rights” necessary, just the good old freedom of choice.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            The whole “don’t really need a truck” argument would be more interesting if people realized that the Ridgeline is the same width as an F150.

            I looked at one years ago when they had the massive C pillar. I found it to be a nice riding vehicle and would have made a good family vehicle but I still need a truck to be more of a truck.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            …Everything bigger, more expensive, and more powerful than a Prius or Corolla is irrational, but only truck buyers get hate for buying more than they “need”…

            I never said that – I’m comparing early 90s pickups to today. Those trucks back then did what was required and if not there were “3/4” and “1” ton options available. And there was no hate – just discussion/observation. It just seems to me that there are drawbacks to having capabilities that go unused – more fuel cost, crappy unladen ride, too much bulk. To you and other dedicated pickup buyers those might be considered assets – another reason why the Ridgeline is destined to be a footnote in the truck market.

          • 0 avatar
            jack4x

            “there are drawbacks to having capabilities that go unused – more fuel cost, crappy unladen ride, too much bulk.”

            Sure, I don’t disagree with this. But the same is true of any other kind of vehicle as well. If you commute alone in an S class or a minivan, you’re wasting fuel and space. If you daily drive a Lamborghini or Corvette, you’re wasting fuel and suffering a bad ride. But somehow we don’t seem to have these discussions on those articles. I’m not trying to come across as overly sensitive, just confused why this is so.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “And there was no hate”

            So you consider the use of “cartoonish” and “bragging right” in your original comment to be neutral observations?

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          IH – Not at all. You want a (whatever) go buy it! I’m not advocating for the ban, or limit, or restriction of your choice in any way. I’m only pointing out that the typical pickup has way more capability than many buyers will ever use. Honda has made an alternative but it will not ever be a big player because it does not stroke the right triggers in the mind of the vast majority of pickup buyers – especially those who don’t know what a hitch is. That’s it –

      • 0 avatar
        JD-Shifty

        I wonder if the mileage is that close in every day use? I suspect the Honda does a bit better while maybe costing a little bit less up front. Ridgeline may also be cheaper to own if you don’t use it off road

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    My only comment would be “what took them so long” to get this out?

    This looks like some easy money.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    When I think rugged, I think Honda – said no one ever.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The majority of vehicle purchases are not objective/rational. Otherwise to paraphrase James May the only passenger/non-commercial vehicles we would need are VW Golfs, minivans and mid size pick-ups.

    And watch how many Mavericks are being ordered/moved. I have unofficially been informed that current orders will not be fulfilled until the summer of 2022.

  • avatar
    IH_Fever

    A coworker has a Ridgeline with slightly larger all terrains on it. It’s the perfect vehicle for the concrete jungle with the occasional jobsite visit. I like it for what it is, a “ute”, not a full sized truck. I think Honda will hurt themselves in the long run trying to butch up everything in an effort to compete with traditional off roaders though. That market is oversaturated.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I don’t understand when rugged started to mean plastic cladding. Full size trucks don’t and have never had cladding. Isn’t that what everyone is trying to mimic? The ruggedness of full size trucks? Or, even Jeeps don’t have a ton of cladding.
    All the plastic cladding does is ensure you have to replace the panel since it’s not repairable. And good luck finding a replacement in a few years if the company embossed a copyrighted name on it. Ask Avalanche owners about finding replacement cladding.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      The F150 Raptor, Ram TRX have plenty of black cladding. Those are pretty rugged….. but you are right, trucks traditionally have not gone crazy with the plastic cladding sans the Avalanche. I think the Volvo CC is probably the current standard bearer for this type of “rugged” that is really a form over function styling exercise more than it is an addition of capability to off road intending buyers.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    I hear Trailsport and I think Huffy.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Ah yes, for that one time a year she needs to go to that one shopping mall where there isn’t a Costco, where they don’t take great care of the parking lot.

  • avatar
    stuki

    TrailSport represents the next chapter in our rugged direction and will bring exclusive styling to our existing light trucks that will appeal to buyers seeking adventure…

    Increasing “ruggedness” by “exclusive styling” is, I suppose, par for the course for a target market who believe the way to get “tougher,” is to grow and groom a hipster beard, and paying some doof to paint nonsense all over their body.

    Tip to Honda: Longer travel, wider track, higher spec dampers……. It sure worked for Ford, and they don’t even have a Baja style IRS patform as a starting point….. Nor a truck with dimensions sufficiently tidy that, even in rather worked form, it may just about fit somewhere….

  • avatar
    bradfa

    Honda, you lost my midsize truck business because of 2 things:

    1. Inability to buy the Ridgeline without a sunroof but with heated cloth seats and heated mirrors. My butt’s too old to be cold, mirrors fog and freeze up here A LOT, and holes in the roof only end up leaking and causing problems. Make a Sport+ trim/package/whatever which adds heated seats and mirrors to the Sport trim and I think they’d sell very well up north.

    2. The bed is too short. A bed + tailgate down length of almost 8 feet is ideal, especially with the Ridgeline’s >48″ width between the wheel arches. Hauling 8 foot sheet goods or 12 foot long boards with a hitch mount bed extender would be amazingly easy with a slightly longer bedded Ridgeline.

    I don’t care about looking butch, although I guess that’s nice. I want to be comfortable and capable.

    Side note, why is the color selection for the Ridgeline Sport trim so abysmal? And why does a Ridgeline Sport cost more than a Chevy Colorado Z71 and Ford Ranger XLT?

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @Bradfa: Your comment that ” My butt’s too old to be cold, mirrors fog and freeze up here A LOT, and holes in the roof only end up leaking and causing problems.” Should be copied and sent to every vehicle manufacturer who sells vehicles in Canada.

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