Despite a testosterone-fueled facelift, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline is neither as rugged nor as capable as other mid-size pickup trucks—but that’s OK. Instead, the only Honda with a cargo bed is a one-size-fits-all alternative to traditional pickup trucks. While the Ridgeline lineup doesn’t include an off-road-ready model or an optional diesel engine, it does have a standard crew cab that’s roomier and more comfortable than any of its competitors’. Its minivan-based underpinnings and V-6 powertrain don’t allow it to tow more than 5000 pounds, but they do enable the Ridgeline to accelerate quickly, consume fuel efficiently, and drive with unrivaled agility and refinement. Its host of standard driver assists and innovative features—including an in-bed trunk and a multifunction tailgate—further bolster the 2021 Ridgeline’s status as the truck equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.
What’s New for 2021?
Before the 2021 model year, people could say the Ridgeline looked like a lot of things, but rugged wasn’t one of them. We’re not sure that the mid-size truck’s makeover— which includes a fresh design from the front roof pillars forward—will quiet all the haters, but it definitely looks bolder than before. Enhancing this fresh aesthetic is a new package from Honda Performance Development (HPD) that’s available on all trim levels and adds black overfenders, a distinctive blacked-out grille, HPD graphics on the bed walls, and cool-looking bronze wheels. Non-HPD models get a standard set of newly designed 18-inch wheels with more aggressive all-terrain tires and reduced backspacing that gives the Ridgeline a wider track and a broader stance. Inside, there is a smattering of subtle changes, but the biggest update is the revised infotainment system. Along with improved graphics and screen icons that Honda says are easier to use, the Ridgeline now comes with a physical volume knob, addressing our years of complaints.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
This segment of mid-size trucks has become oversaturated with traditional body-on-frame pickups that provide ample towing and capable off-roading. However, the Ridgeline caters to folks who want a more comfortable and fuel-efficient alternative. While the priciest models have the fanciest features, we think the RTL has the best mix of desirable equipment and value. We’d recommend adding the optional all-wheel-drive system, since it makes the Honda useful in all four seasons and allows it to tow up to 5000 pounds (front-drive models max out at 3500 pounds). Likewise, the Ridgeline RTL receives better standard features than the lesser Sport trim level. These include heated front seats, a leather-trimmed interior, and power-adjustable front seats.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The lone powertrain is a 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 262 lb-ft of torque and hooks up to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The engine feels smooth, and throttle response is especially receptive when you call for hard acceleration. An untraditional pickup in many ways, the Ridgeline surprises from behind the wheel. On the road, it is well-mannered and feels extremely competent. Its coil-sprung independent rear suspension contributes to a carlike ride quality not available with the leaf-sprung, solid-axle setups used by the competition. Body lean in corners is minimal, and small bumps are barely noticeable. The electrically assisted steering feels appropriate. The Ridgeline’s braking performance stands out as its lone dynamic blemish. Its braking distance from 70 mph to zero is on the long side, and we thought the brake pedal felt soft and had too much travel during normal use.
Towing and Payload Capacity
The Ridgeline is quick, but when it comes to towing, it’s lacking. Front-wheel-drive models can tow a maximum of 3500 pounds. All-wheel-drive Ridgelines are rated at 5000 pounds, which is between 2000 and 2500 less than V-6 rivals such as the Chevy Colorado and Ford Ranger.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Ridgeline’s engine is the most fuel-efficient V-6 in its class, regardless of whether it’s outfitted with front- or all-wheel drive. On our 75-mph fuel-economy route, which simulates real-world highway driving and is part of our extensive testing regimen, an all-wheel-drive Ridgeline earned 28 mpg. That figure matches our results for a GMC Canyon with the diesel engine and all-wheel drive, which is impressive considering the Honda’s gas engine.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Ridgeline’s interior is tops in its class in terms of practicality and comfort. As with most other mid-size pickups, the Honda features hard plastics below the dash level. Otherwise, the materials are above average. Rear-seat passengers will enjoy the most space of all mid-size rivals. Fold-down armrests on both front seats are a welcome addition, especially since the center console sits low between them. The Honda pickup has only one bed length, 5.3 feet, which lines up with competitors’ short beds and has the second-lowest volume at 34 cubic feet. The antidote to this disparity is its locking, weather-tight in-bed trunk with a 7.3-cubic-foot capacity. There’s one more advantage: with 50.0 inches between its bed’s wheel wells, the Ridgeline is the only mid-size pickup that can fit a sheet of four-by-eight-foot building material flat on the bed floor. Clever features continue inside. The rear seat splits 60/40 and, when flipped up, provides room to fit a full-size bicycle. Unfortunately, loading large items may be difficult, as the rear doors don’t open very wide.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every Ridgeline comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It now features a physical volume knob and screen icons that Honda says are easier to use than its predecessor was. However, we haven’t had a chance to test this claim or the updated Display Audio system for ourselves. The Ridgeline also comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus, certain models can be equipped with an in-bed audio system that can liven up any tailgate party. Using actuators that vibrate, it turns the cargo bed into a huge speaker.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The Ridgeline earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and it was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Honda pickup truck also includes a host of standard driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
While Honda has competitive limited and powertrain warranties, nearly all of its competitors are more favorable because they offer complimentary scheduled maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
More Features and Specs