Honda’s Ridgeline – it’s the kind of truck most people need.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens. There are always more photos at the end of my reviews.
Pricing: 2021 Honda Ridgeline
Base price (Touring trim): $51,555
Price as tested: $51,555
Honda says in its literature that the Ridgeline looks muscular and rugged. That might be the case for some onlookers, and I can certainly appreciate some of the details the designers have added – but the truth is, compared to all the mega-selling half-tons on the market, it’s actually a less muscular, less-rugged looking truck. It’s a more refined and streamlined truck than the average one on our roads, and in my opinion, that is perfectly fine.
There is a slight departure from the previous Ridgeline’s very obvious Honda Pilot roots, and the Ridgeline is starting to get its own character. But it’s still a very inoffensive, somewhat bland (and I’m saying that as a compliment) design.
Now in my opinion, this is the best looking Ridgeline yet. The front end got a new bolder grille, complete with LED daytime running lights and fog lights. Headlights are hybrid LED/halogen and the tail lights are LED as well.
Out back, the Ridgeline looks a bit more like the business, thanks to the dual tailpipes being visible – while remaining nicely fitted into the bottom of the bumper. I also like how the rear window is inset into the surround, giving the rear of the cab some visual depth.
The handsome 18-inch rims are shod with meaty and aggressive 245/60-sized tires. The overall package certainly looks more like a normal truck than ever before, and I really like it. Every single person that commented on it liked the styling and the colour was a big hit too.
The Ridgeline’s interior is starting to show its age. The cabin is a few years old now, and materials are a mixed bag of hard and soft plastics, the bottom two-thirds of the dash and door panels being hard. There’s a textured plastic on the centre console and door panels that Honda calls “technical grain”. Whatever that means.
Overall, everything still looks fine, works well and comes across as relatively refined. The design is relatively clean and uncluttered, and I like that. Build quality appears to be excellent, although I wasn’t a fan of the sharp unfinished edges on the plastic around the door pockets – it’s a stark contrast in quality to the lovely upholstered panels with contrasting stitching you find right above that.
The heated steering wheel sits in front of an interesting instrument bin that combines traditional and digital gauges and an information screen.
The comfortable heated and ventilated perforated-leather-upholstered seats are power-adjustable and have their own adjustable armrests – very nice! The seats are also well-bolstered which is a nice and somewhat unusual addition on a truck.
At this point, I am not a big fan of this generation of Honda touchscreen any more – it’s from a number of years ago, and occasionally we found it slow to react to inputs and less intuitive in terms of its user interface compared to most modern systems. The system handles your phone, navigation, vehicle settings and the 540-watt 8-speaker sound system, which is pretty good. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are integrated and works nicely.
There is a standard sunroof overhead – it’s too bad this hasn’t evolved into a nice big panoramic roof by now.
Driver assistance technology is plentiful. The Ridgeline gets automatic high beams, forward collision warning and collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and rear cross traffic monitoring, a back-up camera and front and rear parking sensors. Everything worked well for us, but the backup camera’s picture is oddly compressed and so grainy, I had to go out back to check if Honda was using a potato as a camera.
There are three rear seats, each with a headrest and seatbelt. One big difference between the Ridgeline and the competing full-size trucks is the rear seat space. While I had plenty of headroom and a few inches of legroom to spare and each of the three seats can accommodate an adult, it can’t compare to the limo-like legroom and width you find in the other extended cabs. The seats are very comfortable however, and the two outboard ones are heated.
Rear passengers get their own climate control panel, air vents and two USB plugs. The middle seatback folds down to become a large armrest with two cupholders and a storage bin – each rear door also gets a cupholder and storage space.
There’s a power sliding rear window which is controlled from the front seats.
There is an open bin under the climate control in the centre stack – it’s not rubberized, so whatever you slide in there isn’t going to stay put if you step on the gas. A wireless charging mat can be found at the base of the centre stack, along with 12V and USB plugs.
The centre console bin has a scrolling lid – inside is a large open space along with 12V, auxiliary and USB plugs and a sliding organizer tray. The front doors have numerous bins and storage spaces on different levels.
The rear seats split 60/40 and flip up and out of the way, making for a very large and flexible cargo space inside the back seat area. When they are in use, you can still use the significant space under the seats for storage, which would be handy on a road trip.
Of course, there’s the truck’s box out back – it measures 64″ long by 50″ wide (between the wheel wells). There are 8 heavy-duty tie-down hooks, excellent LED box lighting from the sides and a switchable 115V 150/400W power outlet.
A very cool feature is the In-Bed Trunk – it’s a huge (207L!) lockable, watertight (but drainable) underfloor storage compartment. Not only is this very useful in many scenarios, particularly for road trips, fishing excursions, etc. – but it also is probably not a well-known feature and thus becomes even more secure – since many bad guys won’t even know to look for it.
Under the Hood
The Ridgeline is propelled by Honda’s proven 3.5L V6 that puts out 280HP at a soaring 6,000 RPM and 262 lb.ft of torque at 4,700 RPM. The transmission is a 9-speed and all the power is sent to all four corners via an all-wheel drive system.
Fuel economy is rated at 12.8/9.9 L/100km (city/highway). We averaged 12 L/100 km over our week in the Ridgeline, spending most of our time in the city – some of it on the freeway, much of it commuting. That’s notably better than any full-size truck we’ve driven that isn’t a hybrid or a diesel.
The old-school V6 does a great job motivating the Ridgeline off the line, and has enough jam to keep things going, even while passing at highway speeds.
There are driving/terrain management modes for Normal, Snow, Sand and Mud. Obviously the weather was fine during our time with the Ridgeline, but we have driven one during the winter and the all-wheel drive system is truly amazing and incredibly competent.
The transmission is managed via Honda’s electronic gear selector which uses a combination of push and pull buttons. You can select the Sport mode by tapping D(rive) a second time and there is an ECON mode as well, if you want to try to be a tad thriftier. Shifts are very smooth, and the transmission always seems to be in the right gear – it does an excellent job.
The Ridgeline’s independent rear suspension sets it apart from most mid-size trucks in that it rides and handles better than almost all of the competition. The ride is crossover-like rather than truck-like, and the handling is outstanding – it surprised me with its willingness to carve into the occasional cloverleaf coming off an overpass and merging onto the freeway. Likewise, the Ridgeline’s road manners are fantastic around town and it’s very easy to drive. The turning circle and ease of parking also needs to get a mention here – you simply don’t get that with other trucks.
If you are doing any kind of off-roading, the Ridgeline has maximum approach and departure angles of 20.4 and 19.6 degrees respectively.
We really enjoyed the driving position – it’s high and gives you a commanding view of the road.
The Ridgeline has a dual-action tailgate – you can choose to flip it down as per usual, or you can swing it open using the left-sided hinges. That makes it particularly easy to load up – especially when it comes to loading and unloading the In-Bed Trunk.
Truck users like their tailgate parties and the Ridgeline has a pretty nifty feature called TruckBed Audio. While you’re parked, you can turn on a sound system in the truck bed (it turns the inside speakers off) and it sounds pretty good!
If you’re towing, the Ridgeline can tow up to 5,000 pounds and has a heavy-duty radiator and transmission cooler. That’s less than full-size trucks but more than a lot of truck owners need, as a recent survey shows that the majority of full-size truck owners don’t tow stuff – ever.
The independent rear suspension that contributes so nicely to the ride and handling is also part of the issue in terms of limiting the Ridgeline’s capacities – the towing as well as the payload, which maxes out at 1,485 pounds.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was pretty high, considering this is a truck. Let’s just get this out of the way – she’s not a truck girl, but she said this is a truck she wouldn’t mind owning. It was easy to drive and park, and that’s not something she has found in other trucks.
Like I said at the beginning – this is probably the truck most people need. Here in Alberta, if you pay close attention, you will notice a staggering amount of trucks being used as commuter vehicles. They are almost invariably not towing or hauling anything. And for those folks, this truck will do everything they need and more. Except it will use less fuel, be more comfortable and much easier to live with.
If you need to tow or haul stuff in the box, obviously you need to check the capabilities out in case the Ridgeline can’t handle what you’re moving around. But if it does, this is the truck you should look at. It’s nice to look at, lovely to drive, offers a full suite of driver assistance technology and a reasonably luxurious space for significantly less money than the full-size trucks out there.
I’m not a truck guy – but if I am being honest, this is the truck I would get. Because I would find it easy to live with, and it would do all I would ever ask from a truck.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Honda Canada.
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