2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport: Smart midsize truck choice
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is hands down the best midsize truck for daily driving and the kinds of chores that prompt most people to buy a pickup. The Ridgeline might not provide all the options, towing capacity, and available off-road features of its competitors, but it is easier to live with while still offering more than a few best in class features.
Honda is nevertheless worried that some potential buyers don't think the Ridgeline is a serious truck. So the 2021 version has been restyed with a blockier — i.e., truckier — front end and an available Honda Performance Development package that includes black fender flairs, unique bronze wheels and special badging.
The underlying strengths of the Ridgeline remain intact, though. Although it is only available in one basic style, it is a good one — a unibody crewcab with a standard 3.5-liter V6, all-wheel-drive, and a fully independent suspension. That translates into more interior room than its competitors, more than enough power for everyday driving, additional traction in wet and moderate trail conditions, and a much more comfortable ride.
Although the standard bed is shorter than the optional ones on other midsize trucks, it is still large enough to lay a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood flat in it. And it offers two valuable features no one else has. One is a dual tailgate that folds down or swings to side to allow easier access to the bed. The other is a large cargo space under the bed with a hidden "trunk" with a drain plug that can be used as a cooler. That is also where the full-size spare tire is stored, which is much easier to reach than under the truck, especially when changing a flat in the mud.
Competitors may offer slightly more ground clearance, a choice of engines, different cab configurations, a longer bed, and available heavy duty off-road equipment. But the Ridgeline comes as a package that makes the most sense for most buyers most of the time.
Our test Ridgeline was a bright red base Sport model with cloth seats and the HPD package. It looked sharp and performed well during a week of test driving. The independent suspension made it much easier to live with on Portland's poorly maintained streets than other midsize trucks with solid rear axles. The additional interior space was also appreciated.
If you're wondering whether the 2021 Ridgeline is a good work truck, it can carry up to 1,580 pounds and tow up to 5,000. Although that is not as much as its competitors, it's not bad. If you need to carry or tow more than that on a regular basis, you might want to consider a full-size truck anyway.
The Ridgeline is available in three other trim levels with upgraded standard equipment and more available options, inclluding complete leather interiors. They are the RTL, RTL-E, and top-of-the-line Black Edition. The HPD package is available on all of the them. Starting prices range from $36,490 to $43,920, all of which are very reasonable.
If the 2021 redesign convinces you to take the Ridgeline more seriously, then Honda has done its job. But the Ridgeline has always been the best choice for how most buyers use a midsize truck. Now it just looks a little truckier.
2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport
Base price: $36,490
Price as tested: $40,860
Type: Mid-size crew cab pickup
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (280 hp, 262 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 18/24
Overall length: 210 inches
Curb weight: 4,436 to 4,510 pounds
Final assembly: Lincoln, Alabama
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