2021 Honda Ridgeline First Drive Review | Less friendly by nature

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CANTIL, California – Since entering the US market in the 1950s with the slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”, the corporate image has been one of extreme friendliness. Even when its Si and Type R coupes spawned an army of young brand followers other automakers would have killed for, it treated them like a stepson who got out and avoided them to embrace the wholesome khaki shod Helpful Honda dealer. Hell, even their best-selling cars are named after good citizenship and approval.

That relentless desire to be personable was the Achilles’ heel of the current generation Honda Ridgeline when it debuted in 2017. We almost had unanimous praise for our long term‘s function and properties despite its gentle cup. It should be the friendly pickup in the neighborhood, with a car-like unibody construction and a more conventional look than the vaguely avant-garde original Ridgeline.

As it turns out, Americans may prefer a more conventional truck, but they also expect to be tough. That mostly means having a grille the size and a refrigerator. Despite the raves, the self-fulfilling spiral of male insecurity works in such a way that when you find out repeatedly that it’s not Marlboro Man enough, even if initially okay with it, you wonder if you’d like to be seen in one.

Well, Honda heard that criticism loud and clear. They gave the refreshed 2021 Honda Ridgeline the equivalent of calf implants and spiced it up to declare it safer “truck”! Everything in front of the A-pillars has been redone, the gently curving bonnet has given way to a tall, upright grille (you can see the difference between the new design on the left and the previous one above). The front edge of the bow is now blocky and the hood bulges like Schwarzenegger’s chest muscles. There’s so much frontal area that Honda had to build functional side vents into the bezel to maintain the same level of tightening.

The new rear bumper eliminates the dainty light and hidden exhaust for a chunky black bench over two chrome pipes. Honda worked with Firestone to come up with a more blocked tread design for the tires. They push out new wheel offsets by 10 mm on both sides for a wider stance. For their commercial voice-over, Honda even fired the serious, kind, and utterly menacing Fred Savage for a more manly voice-over – and his name is John Cena!

Under the new sheet metal, the 2021 Ridgeline is the same truck that most of our employees fell so deeply in love with that they considered buying one for themselves. It’s not just us either. The Ridgeline has been repeatedly referred to as the truck most truck customers actually need when purchasing a more muscular mid or large ladder frame.

The Ridgeline still drives like a friendly Honda crossover. By comparison, a Tacoma jumps around like a Baja trophy car. But that doesn’t mean that the ridgeline is as distant and soft as – just to select a random crossover – a Honda pilot. Despite the visual similarity, it’s not just a pilot with his back cut off. The Ridgeline uses a different body structure with a truss style interior construction behind the cab and has more sturdy suspension. As a result, it steers more responsively and scrubs a significant amount of body rolling and nodding movements.

In every mode except sport, the throttle response remains behind. Step on the pedal to do a freeway merge and the 280 hp V6 appears to be asking, “Are you sure you want to do this? Yes? Well then, ‘before we give you the whole bag of beans. Exercise, on the other hand, is so sporty that it definitely affects your precious fuel economy of 18 MPG City, 24 MPG Highway, and 21 MPG combined. It would be nice to bring the drive settings closer to sport and make the eco mode a real fuel sipper.

We tested the off-road capability of the Ridgeline 2021 at Honda’s proving ground in the Mojave Desert. Features like Hill Hold Assist and Mud and Sand Driving Modes may not be suitable for serious rock crawling, but are sufficient for light off-road use. Like many of its other trucking functions, everything from the ability to hold cargo to a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds is enough for the majority of pickup customers.

In the interior, I deviate from the Ridgeline love festival of my colleagues in Michigan. Her fancy back was treated with the lumbar support and the performance adjustments for RTL panels and higher, while my poor spine has just sunk into the new fabric inserts for 2021 that can be found in the basic sports panel. Even a two-hour trip was a little tiring.

Plus, the Ridgeline’s infotainment interface has been updated for 2021, and Honda is quickly shouting from the mountaintops about the return of the volume control. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but the Ridgeline still doesn’t have Honda’s latest infotainment system, which can only be found in the Accord and Odyssey. It includes an updated touchscreen user interface, physical menu buttons (versus touch sensitive ones) and faster responses. The system instead suffers from the same convoluted menu structure, too small buttons, and worst of all, inconsistent responses similar to what we found in our CR-V infotainment test.

The general interior design remains the same, but the refresh brings some visual amenities to the cabin, such as new colors, accent trim and contrast stitching. RTL-E and higher are charged wirelessly, and since last year all panels have been offering ple CarPlay and Android Auto. We’re still digging the trick 40/60 split back seat that offers storage space underneath or folds up for larger cargo.

Speaking of cargo, the bed continues to be one of the Ridgeline’s best features. We appreciate the lockable under-bed case for weatherproof storage. A drain plug offers other uses, such as: B. the filling with ice for a tailgate party or a fishing trip. The spare tire is there too and if you get an apartment while the bed is full it will be an inconvenience, but it is no different than most cars when the trunk is packed. The upper RTL-E and Black Edition panels also have a socket in the bed and a Bluetooth audio system that transforms the bed into a huge loudspeaker.

Almost nonexistent wheel arch bumps are a boon for loading and hauling. The Ridgeline is the only medium-sized pickup that can carry a regular 4×8 piece of plywood flat. It’s also perfectly sized for a Honda ATV or a pair of dirt bikes. However, we discovered an error when transporting a Passport C70 from 1982. Because the bed was less than 5.3 feet long, the tailgate had to be lowered for the bike to fit. This means that the reversing camera on the handle is aimed at the ground. While other trucks share the same camera location, the longer beds (standard or optional) make it more likely that what you’re carrying will fit with the tailgate closed.

On the other hand, the dual-mode tailgate design is brilliant and has also been able to be locked remotely since last year. Its opening arch has a couple of intermediate notches, but we’ve found that it has a tendency to sway unless the truck is on a nearly level surface. The ability to open to the side, however, means you don’t have to drag heavy cargo over it and can easily sweep loose loads like mulch or gravel off the edge of the bed.

In 2020, Honda eliminated basic RT equipment and made sport an entry-level buy-in. This year the front-wheel drive version was discontinued, which means that all Ridgelines are now equipped with Honda’s i-VTM all-wheel drive as standard. This also means the base price will rise to $ 37,665 including the target fee of $ 1,175.

Even compared to last year’s Sport AWD, the price for the other minor changes is increased by $ 430. This is still a relatively high starting point for mid-range businesses, but it’s gradually leveling off considering that a V6, nine-speed car, crew cab, four-wheel drive, and Honda sensing suite of accident prevention and driver assistance systems are standard .

To attract a few more customers, Honda launched an HPD package worth $ 2,800 for all fairings for 2021. Named for Honda Performance Development, the outfit that builds Civic TCR racing car, Box motors of type R.and IndyCar twin-turbo V6 engines, the kit includes flared fenders, chic 18-inch gold alloys, and the almighty bed decals. While don’t underestimate actual performance, don’t underestimate the performance of a truck with a large acronym sticker on it. We have a couple of enthusiastic “HPD! What’s this !? “Questions during our time with our press, but don’t take our word for it. Honda sold out its initial HPD package allocation in 30 minutes.

The HPD package is an entry into the (lucrative) area of ​​off-road performance. Toyota has achieved tremendous success with the TRD brand Assessment rates and so, but it was too late in the Ridgeline’s development cycle to play around with the suspension. Honda says it develops vehicles holistically, and while it could have slipped on some springs, the rest of the truck would not have met Honda’s standards. Given the response to a simple Pearance package, we expect HPD hardware to be in the next generation. We’ve seen what Honda can do with powersport all-terrain vehicles like the Talon elsewhere in its empire. If they can give the Ridgeline a real package of benefits, it’s easier to believe that Honda has really committed to shedding its friendly image for the Ridgeline. Either that or give the helpful Honda dealer a black belt and face tattoo.

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