Honda wants to prove its Ridgeline is a real-deal midsize pickup truck, so the 2021 model has been updated to be more truck-y. Most noticeable is the revised front styling that gives the Ridgeline a more aggressive, boxy look. Around back, dual exhaust tips hint at the standard V-6's performance.
The new Ridgeline HPD package, named after Honda Performance Development, makes the Ridgeline look tougher. It's available on all trim levels and adds black wheel arch cladding, a unique grille insert, bronze-painted wheels, and decals on the bedsides.
Inside, the 2021 Ridgeline gets an updated infotainment system and—at last—a physical volume knob. There are also new upholstery and trim details.
The changes give the Ridgeline fresh appeal, but mechanically it remains the same truck as before. That means the same FWD-based V-6 powertrain, unibody construction, and fully independent suspension.
Although some truck enthusiasts will scoff at the Ridgeline, drivers who wouldn't normally consider a truck might love its more car-like attributes.
The Ridgeline isn't intended to haul massive weight or tow enormous trailers like a larger half-ton truck. Instead, it's best thought of as an extra-practical SUV. The Ridgeline's bed keeps dirty outdoor gear, landscaping supplies, or grimy pets separate from the passenger space.
Unibody construction and fully independent suspension make the Ridgeline's road manners nicer than certain body-on-frame, solid-axle equipped competitors. That helps it perform well as a daily driver, even if its competitors are better equipped for tough work. In a 2019 comparison of the pre-refresh Ridgeline, the Honda placed second—behind the Chevrolet Colorado, but ahead of the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger. In the comparison, we appreciated its large bed, surprising capability, and dual-action tailgate. However, when loaded up, the ride suffers. A tow/haul mode for the drivetrain would make things easier when the Ridgeline needs to get to work.
What constitutes a "real" truck comes down to individual truck drivers, but there's no denying that the Ridgeline is different from every other truck on the market. Some pickup purists might scoff that the Ridgeline isn't the real deal.
However, Honda begs to differ. It touts the Ridgeline's four-foot wide bed and lockable in-bed storage area as benefits for securing cargo. The available dual-action tailgate, which opens downward or to the side, can support up to 300 pounds, easing transport of powersports or other equipment.
Maximum payload of 1,580 pounds and towing capacity of 5,000 pounds isn't as high as some competitors. And, even with the new tough-looking HPD package, the Ridgeline isn't a Colorado ZR2 Bison rival. Not every truck purist will accept the Ridgeline as "real," but some buyers may see the appeal in a unibody pickup truck. And soon, Hyundai plans to introduce the unibody Santa Cruz pickup, too.
The 2021 Ridgeline has a carryover powertrain, which is a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It's connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission, driving the front wheels as standard or with available AWD. In MotorTrend testing, an AWD-equipped 2019 Ridgeline . EPA-rated fuel economy should be similar to the 2020 Ridgeline, which got 19/26 mpg city/highway with FWD, and 19/24 mpg with AWD.
For 2020, FWD Ridgeline models had 3,500 pounds of towing capacity, and 1,465 pounds of payload. Choosing AWD increased towing to 5,000 pounds and payload to 1,580 pounds. It's possible that the 2021 Ridgeline will improve on those figures.
The Ridgeline's bed has 33.9 cubic feet of cargo space below the bedrails, plus a lockable storage box beneath the bed measuring 7.3 cubic feet.