GROWING MORE BUTCH: 2021 HONDA RIDGELINE SPORT HPD
Not to be a bully, but watching the Honda Ridgeline try its hand at being a truck is like watching a city boy trying to rough it in the woods with a bunch of cowboys. But, considering that even I, myself hates camping just as much as the next person suburban Starbucks addict, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get my hands dirty from time to time. After all, I can’t pick on the Ridgeline too harshly here since I am, essentially, the targeted consumer – the weekday office commuter rallying for the weekend house project with a side of Sunday Funday.
After its launch in 2017, the Ridgeline wasn’t as uniquely shaped as it should have been carrying identical parts from its mid-size Honda Pilot parent. Having a more Mommy-DIY vibe, the Ridgeline’s masculinity fell short of a Drag Queens showdown. Given some self-reflection however, the Ridgelines quest for shopping mall antics has grown more into feeling proud to park in the Home Depot Pro parking spot. If you know, you know…
The biggest changes to take place occur right at the forefront of its design cues. There is all-new sheet metal design forward of the windshield with a bulgier nose and large grille. As if it hit the gym these past few years, the Ridgeline grew some pecs and starts to flex some muscle. All trim levels even offer up a masculine $2800 HPD Package that dresses up a skirt in high heels with more rugged looking 18-inch bronze boots, fender flares and HPD stickers. With HPD standing for Honda Performance Development, this isn’t going to be quite like Ford Ranger with their Tremor Package or the GMC Canyon on their AT4 Trim – the HPD Package doesn’t modify the suspension or its off-road capabilities but simply its curb appeal.
Starting to look like a truck and smell like a truck, the Ridgeline still drives like a crossover; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because it’s based off the Honda Pilot and uses its uni-body construction, it utilizes a fully independent suspension that provides better control and comfort over a standard body-on-frame pick-up truck. The Ridgeline carries more maneuverability with confidence and feels more planted to the asphalt. The ride quality is even much better as well with hardly any noticeable road imperfections and will handle a dirt road like a rally car.
And its not like it doesn’t have the performance to boost with a standard 3.5-liter V-6 pulling out 280-horsepower with 262 lbs-ft of torque. Even a 2020 model update brought in standard all-wheel drive and a 9-speed automatic transmission that makes it fairly nimble on its toes with 0-60-mph capable in about 6.5-seconds.
Feeling more truck-like, the Ridgeline’s transmission isn’t exactly laser quick when it comes to shift changes – scrambling through all 9-gears can make it hesitate on brash acceleration. And there is a sense of overtime aggression it puts out when accelerating full throttle beyond 50-mph. It even drinks it fuel like a truck since we averaged under 20-miles to the gallon during our duration. When push comes to shove however, we can’t deny some of the truck strengths the Ridgeline offers like its terrain management system between Snow, Mud and Sand, that makes it just as capable as any truck on the market. Or that it can tow upwards of 5000lbs and haul nearly 1600lbs of payload in its bed.
Taking a step further, because of its uni-body structure, the Ridgeline takes storage to another level with its deep in-bed storage compartment that’s large enough to carry a week supply of meats and drinks for our non-existent camping retreat. It even has a built-in drain so that it can be loaded up with ice and drained after it all melts. Higher trim models aside from our entry-level Sport seen here, can be optioned with a nifty Bluetooth in-bed speaker, bringing the party from the inside to the outside.
Inside, not much had changed over the previous model still feeling more mini-van-like than truck-like. But if there is one thing for certain, like a mini-van, there is plenty of storage compartments available – a contractor’s nightmare, but glorious dream at the same time. The only change you’ll notice is that a volume knob has been added to the infotainment system – seems a bit petty to mention it now, especially sense we started complaining about it on the 2016 Honda Civic, and now, there’s a whole new Civic.
Despite our subject model being the entry-level Sport starting at $36,490, the interior was a comfortable setting with the seats featuring contrasting cloth materials and attractive materials used throughout the cabin. The back seat isn’t quite as spacious as the Honda Pilot, but does lift up for additional storage.
The hard reality is that the Ridgeline will never break the true truck thugs away from their masculine testosterone builders – the Ridgeline is for those that need a comfortable commuter for the weekday jaunts but handle the weekend warriors when duty calls for the Home Depot runs, tailgate parties or off-the-pavement adventure.
|Vehicle:||2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport HPD Package|
|Horsepower/Torque:||280-horsepower | 262 lbs-ft of torque|
|MPG:||18 | 24 | 21 (City | Highway | Combined)|
|As-Tested MPG:||21.3-Combined MPG|