Getting Rugged With It: Honda Introduces TrailSport Trim

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

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]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Stuki Stuki on Sep 08, 2021

    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....

  • Bradfa Bradfa on Sep 08, 2021

    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?

    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Sep 08, 2021

      @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.

  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.
  • Carson D I thought that this was going to be a comparison of BFGoodrich's different truck tires.
  • Tassos Jong-iL North Korea is saving pokemon cards and amibos to buy GM in 10 years, we hope.
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