2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport HPD First test: Truckier By a Nose
“Can someone move the pilot?” someone would call on the radio. “That’s the ridgeline,” would be the obvious answer. Don’t get us wrong, we like the Honda Ridgeline here at MotorTrendBut this conversation must have happened 50 times during our 2017 Truck of the Year competition. Everyone mistook the Ridgeline for our longtime Honda rider. If it had been the Honda Ridgeline 2021, that would never have gotten worse.
Let’s just get it out of the way. The 2017 Honda Ridgeline midsize pickup truck looked like a large Honda Pilot SUV converted into a truck by Sawzall (a surprisingly common trend among pool cleaners in Los Angeles). This is not surprising as the Pilot and Ridgeline share the same unibody platform underneath that is shared with the Odyssey minivan. (Honda engineers hate it when we say this, so we’re going to point out that the bed structure is vastly different under the back end of a Pilot or Odyssey.) We called the softer, rounder design a retrograde pull from the blocky, tough . First generation Ridgeline, and it’s been the truck’s biggest downside ever since.
Not now. Honda listened to the critics and tightened the 2021 ridgeline to the limit. The grille and headlights have been straightened up a bit and are now upright. A power dome bulge in the hood gives the Ridgeline that baby-big-rig look that all big trucks have had since ‘. 94 Dodge Ram. A pair of chrome-plated exhaust tips protruding from a new rear bumper steal a visual trick from the current Ram pickup to complete the look. It’s a couple of small changes, but the overall effect is dramatic. That doesn’t look like an SUV with a bed; It looks like a truck.
However, the updated Ridgeline still doesn’t drive like a truck and we still aren’t complaining. A completely independent suspension on all four corners enables better individual wheel control and a significantly lower unsprung weight at the rear. As a result, the Ridgeline drives and drives like a modern SUV, not a pickup truck. It’s more planted and confident in a corner of the sidewalk and has less curl than traditional trucks. Unevenness is absorbed much better and doesn’t disturb the chassis nearly as much. Despite the unique chassis design, the Ridgeline Sport still offers the highest payload in its class (1,583 pounds) when equipped with all-wheel drive (Ridgeline) or all-wheel drive (everything else).
It’s an important distinction. The i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system i-VTM4 with torque vector is an impressive technology with which up to 70 percent of the engine power can be transferred to the rear wheels and, if necessary, 100 percent of this power to both rear wheels. It’s a nifty system, but it has its advantages and disadvantages. In the good column, the computer can put the power supply exactly where it is needed and change the way it reacts depending on the conditions. This means that putting the truck in sand mode, for example off-road terrain with more wheel spin, makes a big difference in increasing speed and transferring torque, which transfers power to the outer wheel and turns the truck in a curve . In the minus column there is no reduction gear for serious creep and no real lockable differentials.
The components selected by Honda engineers and their design priorities limit the trailer load to 5,000 pounds. The best in the class pull 7,500.
Design decisions also seriously limit things like approach, wrap, and take-off angle, not to mention ground clearance. The Ridgeline is simply lower on the ground, which is better for aerodynamics and efficiency, but worse for off-roading. Sticking the exhaust tips out of the bumper reduces the take-off angle by 1.5 degrees, although flexible brackets allow them to be tucked into the bumper as you pull.
The point is, if you’re buying a medium-sized truck to haul heavy trailers or crawl rocks, the Ridgeline is not for you. However, if you’re literally doing something else, it’s a seriously compelling truck. The double-opening tailgate (fold down or unfold), which makes it much easier to load and unload heavy cargo, is only copied from full-size (not medium-sized) trucks. The same applies to the optional stereo system in the bed and the ultra-strong composite bed. The lockable trunk in the bed is a clutch that allows you to take more material with you and keep it safe and out of sight. Thanks to the drain plug, it can be turned into a pool or cooler. Nobody else does that. In addition, the Ridgeline offers by far the largest and most comfortable cab in its class.
This cabin has also seen a couple of updates since the last time we chimed a ridge. The Honda Sensing Suite with active and passive safety functions has been standard since the appearance of this generation. A push-button shifter was introduced as standard last year, and the infotainment system will finally get its volume control back for 2021.
The gearshift lever is now connected to a standard nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, which means that the old six-speed and front-wheel drive base models are no longer available. With more aggressive gear ratios, the 2021 Ridgeline is significantly faster if you get it right. Our test team reported a very fine line between a strong start and a total bog, but if you get it right you can get to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, about a second faster than most other second generation ridgelines that we tested.
Otherwise, however, the performance is the same as ever: even with the rest of the class, it’s dead. Yes, you may have noticed that the tires look a lot better off-road than they did before, but it doesn’t look like it. Honda worked with Firestone to add some chunky tread blocks to the shoulders of the Destination LE2 all-season tires to make them look cooler and added a wheel offset to slide them out flush with the body. The blocks probably help a bit in the mud and sand, but that’s it.
You will get the tire fairing regardless of which 2021 Ridgeline you buy, but not the wheels you see here. Our test truck came with the $ 2,800 HPD Pearance Package, which also includes the massive plastic fender flares, a different grille, a darkened trim, and the HPD stickers and badge. You’d have trouble spending so much money on the same aftermarket parts. So if you don’t really love the look, skip it.
At least it has nothing to do with fuel economy. When shopping around Ridgelines, you may have noticed that the highway rating has dropped slightly. Making the truck look tougher was bad for aerodynamics, but the Honda designers worked hard to reclaim any lost drag coefficient. For example, these new inlets under the headlights are functional. While the team hasn’t completely mitigated the losses, the Ridgeline still achieves one of the best gasoline-powered fuel economy values in its class.
Even without the wheel and sticker package, the pricing of the 2021 Ridgeline is easy to mix up. At first glance, it seems to have risen a ton. However, this was not the case when comparing features. Yes, the base price is thousands more than it was in 2020, but that’s because the Cheer front-drive model is gone. Compared to the all-wheel drive model of the previous year, the price has barely increased and in the configuration with all-wheel drive and four-door cabin it is still at the level of the competition. You can buy a midsize cheer truck as the Ridgeline, but only if you sacrifice space and some cable capability.
With the Ridgeline’s biggest flaws – its downright unfortunate appearance and lack of a volume control – fixed, there’s really no reason not to recommend it. No, it’s not for the hardcore buyer, but these people are a minority of customers. For everyone else who just does basic trucking, hauling something and want to drive a little off-road, the Ridgeline delivers just as well or better than the others.
Looks good! More details?
|2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport AWD HPD|
|BASIC PRICE||$ 40,465|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$ 40,465|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, four wheel drive, 5 pass, 4 door truck|
|ENGINE||SOHC 24-valve V-6 with 3.5 l / 280 hp / 262 lb-ft SOHC|
|CURB WEIGHT (F / R DIST)||57/43% (4,444 lb)|
|Length x width x height||210.2 x 78.6 x 70.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.8 seconds at 93.2 mph|
|BRAKES, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.80 g (average)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.8 s at 0.61 g (average)|
|EPA CITY / HWY / COMB FUEL ECON||18/24/21 mpg|
|ENERGIEKONS, CITY / HWY||187/140 kWh / 100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.96 lb / mile|