The Honda Ridgeline defines the term “urban pickup,” but it’s no pushover when it comes to tackling rough roads and weighty loads.
It also provides a comfortable cabin for five people, clever convenience touches and a rock-solid reputation, which are traits that are no less important to truck buyers.
The second-generation Ridgeline that arrived for 2017 (the original dates back to model-year 2006) competes with midsizers from Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota. Similar entries from Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram truck division are reportedly on the horizon.
Strictly speaking, the Ridgeline is more utility vehicle than pickup. It shares a unitized (frameless) platform with the Honda Pilot and Passport, only with an open box instead of an enclosed cargo area.
For 2021, the Alabama-built Ridgeline gets a much bolder grille and a bulging hood. A sizeable trim piece (available in chrome or gloss black) directly below it appears to extend into the headlight lenses. The front bumper juts out, which should provide additional protection from minor skirmishes (the rear bumper has also been redesigned).
As before, the cargo box has some ingenious features that are in keeping with the Ridgeline’s multipurpose character.The floor is wide enough to accommodate 4x8 sheets of building materials between the wheel wells. There’s also no need for a protective liner due to the bed’s composite-plastic construction.
A lockable storage area beneath the floor contains the spare tire, provides added space for stowing bulky valuables such as tools and groceries, and can also function as an ice chest. It’s accessible by swinging open the standard “Dual Action” tailgate from the right-hand side, or by dropping it down in the traditional manner. When lowered, the tailgate can support 135 kilograms.
The Ridgeline can be outfitted with an available Truck Bed Audio System with six weatherproof transducers built into the side walls. They act like speakers by transmitting audio vibrations from inside the cab to those seated or standing outside (ideal for year-’round tailgate gatherings).
Interior changes focus on the 8.0-inch touch-screen that receives new icons and a physical volume-control knob, which might seem like a small thing but is important for keeping your eyes on the road instead of the screen.
The Ridgeline’s fold-up rear-seat cushion allows you to load everything from potted plants to bicycles to giant-screen TVs. Speaking of loads, the Ridgeline is capable of 680 kilograms of cargo and it can tow up to 2,270 kilograms.
The 280-horsepower 3.5-litre V-6 carries over, linked to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 12.6 l/100 km in the city, 10.0 on the highway and 11.1 combined.
All-wheel-drive is standard with all Ridgeline trims. The system sends 70 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels and can direct 100 per cent of that amount to either one, depending on driving conditions. There are also selectable Mud, Sand, Snow and Pavement traction-mode settings.
The base Ridgeline Sport is priced at an estimated $44,500 in Canada, including destination charges. It comes with the usual comfort gear plus an assortment of dynamic-safety tech including forward-collision alert, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
The remaining three models — EX-L, Black Edition and Touring — offer a wealth of extras. The latter two are further maxed out with a seven-speaker, 540-watt audio system, leather-trimmed interior, front and rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
A new Honda Performance Development appearance package adds a more aggressive-looking blacked out grille, fender flares, bronze wheels, and HPD graphics. The package is available on all trims. There is no added off-road functionality, however.
Considering its do-just-about-anything mission, calling the Honda Ridgeline the automotive equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife is certainly fitting. Styling updates gives the 2021 version a much-needed shot of character, especially in a world where the tough-truck look is currently in vogue.
What you should know: 2021 Honda Ridgeline
Type: All-wheel-drive midsize four-door pickup
Engine (h.p.): 3.5-litre SOHC V-6 (280)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Market position:The Ridgeline continues its fun and flexible ways, but deft character-changing alterations could allow it to snag some traditional pickup buyers who don’t need the capability, the bulk and power of a full-size truck.
Points: Reshaping the front end shifts it to bold from bland. • Standard V-6 delivers reasonable fuel economy. • Plenty of active-safety tech covers most contingencies. • It might be a good time to introduce a hybrid and/ or two-door extended-cab versions. • Recent expansion in the midsize pickup class means greater competition ahead.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); front and rear emergency braking (std.); inattentive-driver alert (n.a.); lane-departure warning (std.); road-departure mitigation (std.)
L/100 km (city/hwy): 12.6/10.0
Base price (incl. destination): $44,500 (est.)
Ford Ranger SuperCrew
- Base price: $40,400
- Midsize AWD pickup uses a turbo 2.3-litre I-4 with 270 h.p. Off-road package opt.
Toyota Tacoma Double Cab
- Base price: $28,100
- AWD version comes with a 278-hp V-6 mated to six-speed automatic trans.
GMC Canyon Crew Cab
- Base price: $42,500
- Base AWD pickup uses a 3.6-litre V6. A turbo-diesel, I-4 engine is optional.
– written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media