The pickup truck segment is a strange one. For most truck drivers, the downsides of driving a truck every day, like bad gas mileage, uncomfortable ride, and crude interiors, are fine because they use them for their intended utilitarian purpose. The other chunk of truck drivers choose to drive a truck as their everyday vehicle, rarely using it as a truck. This second group is what makes the lack of popularity for the Honda Ridgeline confusing. However, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline might turn the tides a little bit.
Is the Honda Ridgeline a good truck?
For one, Consumer Reports ranked it higher than any other truck for one. For two, Honda made it; Of course, it’s a good truck. More than those slightly nebulous reasons, Honda just gave the Ridgeline a big refresh while also giving it some attention from Honda Performance Development (HPD).
Think of HPD like other performance tuners and outfitters like Toyota’s TRD or Nissan’s Nismo. The thing is, the Ridgeline shouldn’t need all this fuss to be revered; it’s a good truck. Car and Driver says that the Ridgeline has always been good at doing truck things. It has enough hauling and towing capacity for most people’s needs, yet most consumers aren’t into it.
The problem is, the Honda Ridgeline is ugly. It always has been. A few aspects make the Ridgeline look very untruck-y, like the lower ride height, the chunky and short front end, and no bed length options.
What is Honda going to do about it?
As I mentioned before, Honda is looking to make the HPD name similar to what Toyota has done with its TRD series stuff. The HPD hopes to boost the cool factor for truck people who need their trucks to not only be good but also look good. I get it.
Toyota has made a strong name for its off-road focused 4x4s with the TRD packages that conjure images of overlanding and extreme capability; Honda’s HPD is wisely centered around its undeniable dominance in the motorcycle and ATV industry. Even though Honda put a Ridgeline in the Baja, its motorcycle and ATV products’ dominance has never really translated to its automotive side.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is getting reworked to look more tough and trucklike. All new Ridgelines will get beefier on everything from the A Pilar forward. Car and Driver says that the new Ridgeline is also getting new headlights and a less minivan-looking grille. In the truck world, everything has to be big. Truck buyers seem to equate “big” with “strong.”
Where the rubber hits the road
Aside from making the trucks look cooler, Honda has now bestowed every Ridgeline with AWD as standard along with new 18-inch wheels. Car and Driver very generously praise the new (and improved?) volume knob placement in the truck’s interior just to give Honda some well-earned positive reinforcement.
The HPD, which is what we are here for, after all, costs an extra $2800, but really does add a lot of curb appeal to the Ridgeline. The package includes tough-looking black fender flares, a unique grille design, Subaru-ish gold wheels, and HPD graphics.
The HPD does look cooler, but unlike a TRD truck, there isn’t much here other than some dress-up. It doesn’t offer any suspension upgrades or more power or anything like that. But the Honda doesn’t really need any of that, it needed a leather jacket and a cigarette so the cool kids would let it hang out with them behind the school dumpster, and that is what the HPD package gives it, some street cred.