Honda knows it has a good thing going with its versatile, comfortable, practical midsize Ridgeline truck. But unlike its competitors, the Ridgeline has until now looked sort of like a minivan with a pickup bed. Happily, the revised-for-2021 Honda Ridgeline refines its proven formula, carrying over its segment-exclusive unibody construction and fully independent suspension that affords a car-like ride and thoughtful interior packaging, but adopts bolder styling that better matches its capabilities. The Ridgeline (finally) looks more truck-ish, and that’s a good thing.
Putting on a Braver Face
As the result of a more extensive redesign than the typical mid-cycle refresh, the Ridgeline wears sheetmetal forward of the windshield is all-new, and it shows. A more prominent, larger grille gives the Ridgeline a bolder look and a more upright front end. Compare the 2020 side-by-side with the 2021 and the effect is dramatic.
Both are obviously Ridgelines, but to our eyes, the 2021 model has more presence without leaning on hackneyed tropes or garishly oversized “trucky” elements; the old model resembled, well, Honda’s Pilot three-row crossover as much as its Odyssey minivan.
The trim that crosses the upper part of the grille is chrome on the RTL and RTL-E trims, and we’ll leave judgments of its attractiveness to you. On entry-level Sport trims and the snazzier Black Edition models, this unibrow has a classier, lower-key gloss black finish. The lower front fascia is restyled, too, with big side vents that serve an aerodynamic purpose but also recalls the controversial 2019 Silverado’s Megatron-helmet-style cheekbone garnishes—the Ridgeline’s is perhaps a more successful, if not more subtle, implementation of a similar idea. Out back, a revised bumper houses aggressive new twin exhaust tips, looking a bit like the sporty bumper design on some Ram 1500s.
The Ridgeline RTL-E pictured here is beefed up further by way of an HPD appearance package. Available on any trim, it improves on the Honda’s already handsome redesign. The grille treatment, with its oversized, chunky texture, is ruggedly handsome. The bronze-colored wheels are fantastic, giving a visual pop that invokes the company’s off-road powersports offerings. And like any good truck appearance package, there are big “HPD” graphics on the bed sides and a badge on the tailgate. There are other HPD packages that will be available, but we don’t have details on those yet, including how much they’ll cost. Don’t expect them to be cheap, however—HPD packages on other Honda products are several thousand dollars.
Finally, a Volume Knob!
Revisions to the Ridgeline’s insides are minor but welcome. There is an updated infotainment system that finally incorporates a real, physical volume knob—hallelujah!—and some new materials and accents inside. (The outgoing Ridgeline used an 8.0-inch touchscreen that used a fiddly on-screen touch-sensitive “slider” for adjusting volume.) All the Ridgeline’s neat, convenient storage cubbies are still there, and Honda’s low profile push-button shifter further frees up space on the console (the front seats have fold-down individual armrests); the shifter arrangement quietly was added across the board to Ridgelines of all trims last year, replacing a traditional physical lever.
There are no powertrain or running gear changes worth noting. Front- and all-wheel drive variants are available, all powered by the company’s 3.5-liter V-6 making 280 horsepower and hooked to a nine-speed automatic transmission. As before, the Ridgeline rides on a fully independent suspension; in its current incarnation, it rides comfortably and handles smartly. Welcome carry-over features include a dual-action swing-out and swing-down tailgate, a waterproof “trunk” built into the pickup bed floor, and standard Honda Sensing active-safety features (adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automated emergency braking). We’ll know more about the Ridgeline’s features and options—as well as how much they’ll cost—later, probably closer to when the 2021 Ridgeline goes on sale early next year.