When the current generation Honda Ridgeline first arrived in 2017 the marketplace received it well. Offering car-like handling and performance along with truck-like capability was just the answer for many buyers.
These are people who need a truck for occasional things but really could pass on the lower quality and clunky driving experience of most mid-size and full-size trucks. To put it bluntly, the Honda Ridgeline is the truck for pickier buyers who put more priority on livability and reliability among other things.
Still though, the Naybobs out there clamor, “It ain’t a real truck because it looks dainty, and ain’t got no real frame under it”. Sure they were never the buyers Honda was after, but why not tweak the recipe a little to pull a few more of the doubters and yes men among the market into the fold.
To this, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline got a number of subtle visual updates to beef up its truck-cred like a more masculine looking facial treatment with new LED headlamps, fog lamps and a more squared off jawline in its lower bumper. At the rear, dual chrome tailpipes were added. After all a real truck has pipes right?
On our tester is likely the most important add of all, a new Honda Performance Development (HPD) appearance package that adds 18-inch bronze off-road styled alloy wheels, bit thick fender flares, a meaner looking grill and the all important stickers to spice it all up.
The verdict? It works. All week during our testing the Ridgeline caught the eye of many “real men” who would have otherwise ignored it. It gets the approval of the more masculine hairy chested grunts out there now. Finally.
Seriously though, the package does give the Ridgeline a more rugged look that’s new and fresh.
The standard 3.5-liter V6 still makes its 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque with little drama. Now through a standard 9-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive, the drivetrain performs with a level of refinement not found with its peers from Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan and Toyota.
Fuel efficiency is rated by the EPA at 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. We found that a little optimistic, achieving only an average of 17 mpg during our week. It was hot though with 100+ degree temps so the AC was on at all times.
On the highway the Ridgeline is also the best of the bunch when it comes to handling. A fully independent suspension and a uni-body chassis pays dividends in the refinement and driving experience enough such that it makes this truck worth trying even if your manhood has convinced you that it’s not coming home with you. At least you will know what you are missing.
It’s quiet, comfortable, sold and predictable at speed. Out in the rough stuff we found that it is every bit as capable as the Toyota Tacoma Trail we recently drove in the same desert. The Ridgeline exhibits sold toughness with zero chassis shudder and very low noise vibration and harshness.
At the end of the day, though subtle, the changes made to the 2021 Honda Ridgeline are improvements enough to a truck we already like to move it to our “Id Buy It” list. We liked it that much.