2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport - Maybe the most car-like, yet useful pickup.

 I think many prospective pickup buyers don't know what to make of the Honda Ridgeline. Is it really a pickup truck or is it a SUV with an open bed? Maybe it is both.

Just looking at a Ridgeline there is no denying that it appears to be based on the Pilot SUV although the Ridgeline has a longer wheelbase and overall length. Unlike most pickups the Ridgeline is only available in one configuration. There is no regular cab, or extended cab. There is no long bed. Every single Ridgeline is a 4-door with one bed size, and they are all all-wheel-drive (AWD). Very un-truck like but very Hondaesque. Honda has a reputation for being just a little different.

Does being different really matter or make the Ridgeline any less a truck? Yes and no. If you are looking for a long bed then the answer is yes. For just about anything else the answer is no it makes no difference at all. 

Let's look first at what makes a pickup a pickup - the bed size and payload capacity. The bed is 64" long with the tailgate up and 83" long with it down. If you routinely carry stuff that's over 7' you can buy a rack for the bed. There is 50" between the wheel wells so 4'X8' sheet of plywood or sheetrock will lay flat (just bring your little red flag for the bit that hangs off the tailgate). The payload capacity varies by model from a low of 1,509 lbs. to 1,583 lbs., so it is easily a half ton pickup.

The Ridgeline offers additional storage (7.3 cubic feet and it is lockable) under the rear part of the bed. You could stash many of your power tools in it, or it can be used as a ice chest (there is a drain). 
The tailgate can be opened either as a normal tailgate (down) or as a door opening on the right side which is how you access the in-bed trunk.

No matter how I try I cannot get used to Honda's shifter. I'm used to a shifter, usually a lever, that I don't have to look at. With the old mechanical shift levers you knew that Reverse was one click down from Park, and Drive three clicks down. You didn't have to look down to make sure, you just knew. I know I'm old but simple is often best. 

I will say that one thing I really like is the fact that the Ridgeline doesn't sit up too high. I like a pickup that doesn't need a stepladder to get into it. There is 7.64" of ground clearance, more than enough for everything except hardcore off-roading.


The interior at first looked maybe too car-like (i.e. nice) but on closer inspection the seat fabric looked rugged and easy to clean (leather trim is available on other models). The rear seat folds up out of the way for additional storage of bigger items that you don't want to leave in the bed. 

Under the hood is Honda's tried and true 3.5-liter, SOHC V6. It produces 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 262 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm. Power goes through a 9-speed automatic transmission (with two modes; Normal and Sport) out to all four wheels regulated by a computer (Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD). No switches to fiddle with to engage AWD, just drive it. 

At first it seemed like the fuel economy was only so-so but after cresting a nearby peak and the highway leveled out I ended getting 25.3 mpg on a highway jaunt of about 70 miles just slightly better than the EPA figure of 24 mpg on the highway.

The Ridgeline is a truck I could live. It is not overly pricey; the 2021 Ridgeline Sport AWD had a base price of $36,490. For 2020 that goes up $400. The Honda Performance Development package that adds special wheels, grille, and graphics adds $2,800, and the Radiant Red Metallic II paint adds $395. It's a handsome truck, it's versatile, and it's Honda reliable. What else do you want?


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