The Honda Ridgeline was a very interesting vehicle when it first appeared on the scene. It had some whiffs of the Chevrolet Avalanche when it first appeared, and was supposed to be everything that the old Ridgeline wasn’t. It certainly seemed to be on the right track, with car like comfort, good fuel economy, and even a commendably sized bed. However, the one thing the Ridgeline didn’t have on its side was strong sales numbers, with the truck often being relegated to being a mere afterthought in the sales race. But Honda is not ready to call it quits, and has unveiled the first major update for Honda’s sole pickup entry.
The first change that many buyers will notice is the beefier exterior styling, the first generation model could be described as a rather bland looking truck, but here, the second generation Ridgeline is much leaner and dare we say it, meaner. The front fascia is all new, and comes to the dance with sharper LED infused headlights, and a new hood that now features a prominent power bulge. Tweaked front fenders help bring attention to the squared-off nose, and the crossbar that now bisects the lights. This bar comes in two hues, with Sport and Black Editions getting a gloss black trim, while RTL and RTL-E models get bright chrome accents. The body color effect is extended further down the bumper, and a revised skid plate helps promote a more rugged persona.
An all new HPD package makes its debut here, and it was designed with input from Honda’s Performance Division (HPD.) This trim is one of four PPO trims that buyers can equip to the Ridgeline, and in this case, it adorns the truck with splashes of black trim, bronze wheels, HPD logos on the sides of the truck, as well as a unique front grille design. This is the first time the HPD treatment has made its way to the Ridgeline, and we think it manages to make the truck look very special, especially when paired with the correct paint colors. All Ridgeline models also benefit from a 20 mm increase in track, and the tough wheels help project a broader presence that encourages buyers to push the truck hard when necessary
With the exterior getting the bulk of the upgrades, the interior prefers to take a subtler approach to its updates. That’s fine with us, considering that the outgoing Ridgeline was already very comfortable, with the cabin being one of its core strengths. However, Honda designers upgraded some of the essentials, with the infotainment system being replaced with an updated Display Audio System. Fans rejoice, there is finally a physical volume knob, as well as revised touch controls that are designed to be easier to use.
Sharper graphics are also on tap, and the software is now quicker than before too. Sport grade models get new cloth inserts for the seats, and contrasting stitching is used across the model range. Luxury focused RTL and RTL-E models benefit from new accent trim for the center console, dashboard, and even the steering wheel. Thankfully, the rear seat’s ability to split 60/40 is still intact, which is welcome news for buyers that need to do alot of hauling in the cabin.
Performance for the 2021 Ridgeline is still provided by a 3.5 liter V6 that is good for a healthy 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. A nine speed automatic is the sole transmission choice here, and we still expect this silky smooth gearbox to continue its serenade through the gears with minimal fuss. The Ridgeline also comes equipped with a novel torque vectoring system that sends 70 percent of the engine’s torque reserves to the rear wheels, and modulates 100 percent of the torque between the left and right side wheels. The system does have an odd availability scheme with RTL-E and Black Editions getting the tech as standard equipment (versus Sport and RTL models) that only have it as an optional extra.
The Ridgeline’s “ACE” platform continues to shine for 2021, and it still benefits from and advanced and rather novel body construction layout. When combined with the independent rear suspension, the setup allows the Ridgeline to tow up to 5,000 lbs and haul 1,850 lbs of cargo when equipped with the all-wheel drive system. The bed itself can haul items up to 4 ft wide, and an under bed trunk opens up 7.3 additional cubic feet of storage space that is secure from prying eyes, and allows the bed to focus on doing tough hauling jobs.
Honda did not release any pricing or detailed specification information for the 2021 Ridgeline, but the Japanese auto giant did reveal that those missing details will make themselves known when the Ridgeline formally goes on sale in early 2021. With all of these changes and revisions, Honda is looking to inject some vigor into the Ridgeline’s sales figures, and perhaps the effort will bear fruit but only time will tell.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.