Let me address something that have been brought to my attention even before the arrival of the 2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport you’re seeing on this page.
Many truck folks have dismissed the Honda Ridgeline for years because it is not built like a truck. However, those who have owned a Ridgeline will tell you that it has all of the utility and capability of its competitors in its class.
Honda continues to offer this proven pickup truck and it has found plenty of owners over the years. And, they will tell you that, yes, it is a pickup truck!
So, why are truck folks up in arms when I roll up in a Honda Ridgeline.
To explain, I must peel back the skin first. The Ridgeline shares its unibody architecture with the Honda Pilot and Passport SUVs, along with the Odyssey minivan. All four vehicles also come from the same assembly plant in Lincoln, Alabama.
However, just about where the cab becomes the bed is a completely different underbody structure. The trusses have been strengthened to manage a truck-like load – rated at 1,568 pounds for in-bed payload. One look at that specific piece underbody structure will make you look twice to see that Honda actually created it as sort of a truck frame.
For 2021, Honda made several revisions of its unibody pickup. The Ridgeline received a new front-end clip. I guess, that’s it. The rest is a familiar truck-like shape that combines both cab and bed in one single body. It looks like it is two body units, but a closer examination of the “separation” between the two body elements will tell you otherwise.
The tailgate opens like a normal pickup truck with the tailgate down, However, the tailgate can be opened from the passenger side with a latch underneath it. It swings away towards the driver side giving you greater step-up and loading access to the 64-inch-long bed. The wheel well protrusions are almost non-existent, allowing wider items to fit into the bed.
Just beyond the tailgate is the In-Bed Trunk, where you can fill up to 7.3 cubic feet of lockable stuff to hide from prying eyes. You can also use it as a cooler, which there is a drain plug that will allow the melted ice to be let out of the In-Bed Trunk.
By the way, one of V&R’s readers – and fellow car club member – gave this feature a new name: The “Brunk.” Thanks, Giuseppe!
This specific Ridgeline Sport, a post-production package was added. The HPD package represents Honda Racing Development, the motorsports arm of Honda in the U.S. responsible for its IndyCar engine efforts among other racing pursuits The package includes a special grille treatment, bronze-colored alloy wheels, black fender moldings, a decal treatment on the bed and a badge on the tailgate.
The Ridgeline has the largest cab space in the mid-size pickup truck class. There is comfortable cab seating up to five people on these cloth seats inside this Sport model. You get a lot of headroom inside overall for adults.
The instrumentation is a mix of digital and analog screens and dials. On the center console, you get the push-button transmission found on many other Honda models. The touchscreen for the infotainment system stands above a useful center stack, which includes a lot of storage spaces for mobile devices and more. There are seven speakers of sound inside the cabin, including a subwoofer. If you’re looking for the ultimate tailgating rig, step up the RTL-E and Black Edition models to get the truck bed speaker system.
There is only one driveline choice for the Ridgeline. It starts with a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. It is connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission and the standard Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD system. This system includes Snow, Sand, and Mud modes with pre-set traction settings for these conditions. Performance is fine. There is some indecisiveness in the transmission on occasion. It will do passing and on-ramp maneuvers just fine.
As for fuel economy, I observed an average of 22.0 MPG in my care.
The ride quality is just fine. The Ridgeline does not ride like its platform mates, in particular the Pilot and Odyssey. However, it felt smoother than some of its mid-size competitors. The difference would be when the roads became uneven. You felt the articulation as it manages through the ruts.
Overall, handling was on the soft side. There was some roll and lean felt during some maneuvers. Compared to other pickup trucks in its size class, the Ridgeline was a bit more poised overall.
The steering system felt OK. The turning radius was a bit on the medium side – not too wide and not too tight. On-center feel was fine, keeping within the lanes even without the Lane Keeping Assist System active. Braking was also fine, with solid stops in normal and panic situations. Pedal feel was pretty good.
Our 2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport tester with the HPD package came with a sticker price of $40,860. Pricing for the Ridgeline lineup starts at $36,490. You have a choice of four trim levels with standard all-wheel drive.
Yes, the truck guys will never be convinced that the Honda Ridgeline will never be a truck in their eyes. That’s fine. This is not a popularity contest – not in a time when you cannot get a lot of vehicles off showroom lots. That includes the Ridgeline.
If you are still not convinced that the Honda Ridgeline is a truck or not, may I suggest that you discover one for yourself. You will find that it is a very useful vehicle that can do the job as well as the other body-on-frame trucks in its class.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Oh…wait…there’s more! Look out for a video version of this review on here and V&R’s YouTube channel!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
All photos by Randy Stern