Automobile

2021 Honda Ridgeline Review: Why It May Just Be the Perfect Truck For You

And like the bed, dirty in its current state like the rest of the truck, still looked remarkably new as well as very fine given its recent appearance update. 

The Ridgeline also found use when my brother came to visit. He had rented a Jeep Compass but instead of all-wheel drive, he got the front-wheel-drive version. When exiting our gravel drive one day, he got very stuck. I mean gravel all the way up to the frame rails stuck. The Ridgeline came to the rescue with a tow strap that quickly set the Jeep free. Nice.

The Same But Still Excellent

Inside, you still get space for five adult humans or two adult humans and three human children in car seats. Installation of said car seats is fairly simple, with LATCH points for all three car seats and teethers for them when they begin facing forward. There’s also plenty of room to slot them in quickly rather than fighting with spacing issues in the rear seat. I need to move the front seats up in our personal Volvo XC90 to clip the three car seats in. Honda also kept the folding rear seats for additional cargo space or, for this test, room for the bed ramp. 

Interior materials remain perfectly adequate for the price of the truck and Honda’s reputation. Everything feels like it’ll last for decades to come and hold up to repeated abuse, just like the liner. Better yet, the physical volume knob is back and it’s excellent. Sometimes, the old way of doing things is just the best way. The truck’s stereo and infotainment remain the same, too, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity come standard, thank the car gods. 

Honda’s standard infotainment OS, like most native systems, is trash. It’s not intuitive to use, the 8-inch capacitive screen never wants to play ball, and there’s far too much customization offered when all you want is your music and navigation. That’s about it. Manufacturers really need to give up on spending millions developing proprietary systems and just let Android and Apple do the lifting.

The driving dynamics of the Ridgeline really haven’t changed since its second generation was introduced in 2016. Steering is electric but works well to communicate what the road is doing. Suspension is pliable enough to run over our craptastic roads without throwing us out of the car while also remaining planted enough to keep us stable through our serpentine mountain roads. Put in more enthusiast terms, the Ridgeline has better dynamics than pretty much every other truck on the market. Because of its unibody design, the ride quality is great, as is its handling. You never feel like you’re in an F-150—detached from the ground and with poor steering. That, my friends, is a win. 

And the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 is… there. It’s not a tower of power by any stretch but gets the job done, even with a payload of swingset. It’s not a speed machine, the Ridgeline, but it’s not what I’d call slow, either.

In fact, if I have one gripe, it’s with the engine. While the rest of the world’s automotive manufacturers are downsizing engines, slotting in turbochargers, or going hybrid or full EV, the Ridgeline remains decidedly none of those things. I get the allure of simple and cost-efficient engineering, but a more environmentally friendly powertrain could improve the rest of the already stellar truck engineering. 

The Verdict

When my wife and I were looking for a new car last August, there were just two vehicles on our hit list that fulfilled our safety, reliability, and space requirements: the Volvo XC90 and the Honda Ridgeline. We searched for both at the time, and after coming up short for the Honda, we settled on the XC90. My time in the Ridgeline reignited my desire for this truck. In a sea of over-hyped, underused, full-size, and gargantuan pickups dominating the market, the midsize Ridgeline just does pickup-truck things. It hauls, it tows, it just freakin’ works. Plus, with the plushness of a Pilot thanks to the shared platform, why wouldn’t you want one? You’d have to be crazy to look elsewhere for a truck. 

After years of driving many trucks, I can honestly say the 2021 Honda Ridgeline is my perfect truck. There’s an earnestness to it not being some oversized half-ton, brodozer, coal-roller, or $100,000 F-Series. I don’t need a truck that sparks controversy, ignites Twitter flame wars, or is supposedly (see also: not at all) bulletproof. That’s what the Honda Ridgeline offers: A no-nonsense truck that just does what I ask it to. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also built right here in the U.S. of A., either—specifically, in Alabama. 

Honda’s pricing makes the Ridgeline even more attractive, as even with the HPD package and a few optional extras, this specific example comes in at just $40,860. The two closest rivals are the Chevrolet Colorado with the Z71 package (the closest to the HPD package and Honda’s standard equipment) that starts at $40,390 and the Ford Ranger in Lariat spec (the closest to the Honda here) that starts at $40,230. Neither, however, come close to as well-optioned as this Ridgeline in either package. You’ll likely have to spend an extra $10,000 to $15,000 to do so, and for most people, that’s make or break kind of cash.

And you definitely won’t get the Ridgeline’s dope trunk.


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