2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport HPD – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Photos and Story By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Leave the rough riding, leaf spring, solid rear axle domestic pickups to Urban Cowboys. Honda has a better solution to taming bucking bronco truck behavior. Their 2021 Ridgeline, based on the platform of their Pilot SUV, is fully independently sprung, with coils at each corner. That design refinement makes Ridgeline the choice of Suburban Cowboys.
Just in case truck diehards don't feel enough kinship with the Ridgeline's sophisticated underpinnings, Honda offers a visual enhancement package sure to entice lariat ropers everywhere. They call this the HPD Package, which retails for an extra $2,800 over and above the AWD Sport's base price of $36,490. The extra charge covers a set of black fender flares which set off brass tinted 18-inch HPD alloy rims backspaced to fill out the extended fender flares.
The intricately crafted BBS-like rims looked particularly good against the Radiant Red Metallic paint of our test Honda. They're fitted with Firestone Destination LE2 radials (245/60R18) that are mud and snow rated. Further HPD enhancements consist of tasteful HPD bedside graphics, blacked out front grill, and affiliated decals and plaques to inform onlookers that this Ridgeline is something special.
Given the sophistication of its suspension, it comes as no surprise that the all-wheel-drive Ridgeline masters bad pavement without so much as a flinch. On one stretch of appallingly bumpy back road, the Ridgeline coped with jarring ups and downs as though they didn't exist. The steering always felt Honda-precise, the Firestones never lost grip on the corrugated road surface, and the Ridgeline stayed glued to nasty pavement that would have befuddled lesser trucks.
Helping seal the driving deal is the Ridgeline's torquey and responsive 3.5 liter V6 VTEC engine which feeds 280hp to all 4 corners through a paddle shifted 9-speed automatic transmission. All four models of Ridgeline (Sport, RTL, RTL-E and Black edition) boast V6 motors and standard AWD. The Sport model we drove was fitted with manually adjustable leatherette and cloth seats. If heated, power adjustable leather front seats are necessary, you will have to bump up to the RTL model, which carries a premium of close to $4,000 over and above the base price of the Sport.
The Ridgeline is tow rated at 5,000lbs. This limit puts it at a significant disadvantage to other small pickups like the Toyota Tacoma (6,400lbs), Chevy Colorado (7,000lbs.), Ford Ranger (7,500lbs.), Jeep Gladiator (7,650lbs.). So if trailering is a priority, you might want to look elsewhere. Among these contenders, however, only the Honda's 50 inch wide bed will tote a 4'x8' sheet of building material flat in back. The Ridgeline's unique practicality also scores points over the competition with its lockable 7.3 cubic foot, weather tight storage bin hidden beneath the floor of the 5'3" long bed. Inside the cabin, 109 cubic feet of space make life easier for transporting passengers or loads. The 60/40 split rear seats fold flat against the rear cabin partition to provide plenty of weather and theft-proof storage inside the cabin. We were able to transport a mountain bike sideways inside the cabin with no disassembly needed.
Unlike so many small trucks that become a chore to drive and park, the SUV-derived Ridgeline allows you to deal with the suburban maze effortlessly. With a zero to sixty mph run of 6.5 seconds, and a standing start quarter mile sprint of 15 seconds at 92mph, it's quick enough in a straight line to conquer passing situations and freeway merges without delay. It also returns 21MPG in overall driving, which is better than all other compact pickups save the 24MPG Diesels from Chevy (Colorado) and GMC (Canyon).
When Honda recently restyled the Ridgeline by eliminating its slanted bedside buttresses in favor of more conventional flat topped side rails, the pickup lost much of its visual panache in favor of loading practicality. But Honda has reclaimed this truck's idiosyncratic identity with the sharp looking HPD Package. The bronze alloy rims and sizeable graphics leave no doubt that this distinctive pickup is a Honda product.
2021 HONDA RIDGELINE AWD SPORT HPD
- ENGINE: 3.5 liter V6, VTEC with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 18MPG City/24MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $40,860
HYPES: Big Rig Horn, Sweet Motor/Gearbox
GRIPES: Luddite Tailgate
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10