2021 Honda Ridgeline First Drive Review | Less friendly by design
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CANTIL, California - Since entering the US market in the 1950s with the slogan “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”, the corporate image has been characterized by extreme friendliness. Even when its coupes for Si and Type R spawned an army of young brand lover who would have killed other automakers, it treated them like a stepson who put them out of the way to hug the sane, khaki, helpful Honda dealer. Hell, even their best-selling cars are named for good citizenship and compliance.
That relentless desire to be personable was the Achilles heel of the current generation Honda Ridgeline when it debuted in 2017. We had almost unanimous praise for the function and characteristics of our long-term rider, despite its gentle cup. It should be the friendly pickup in the neighborhood, with a car-like unibody construction and a more conventional look than the vaguely avant-garde original Ridgeline.
As it turns out, Americans may appreciate a more conventional truck shape, but they also expect it to appear tough. Most of the time, that means you have a grille the size and shape of a refrigerator. Despite the raves, the self-fulfilling spiral of male insecurity works in such a way that when you find out repeatedly that it's not Marlboro Man enough, even if initially okay with it, you wonder if you'd like to be seen in one.
Well, Honda heard the criticism loud and clear. They gave the refreshed 2021 Honda Ridgeline the equivalent of calf implants and reinforced it to declare safer "truck"! Everything in front of the A-pillars has been redone, the gently curving bonnet has given way to a tall, upright grille (you can see the difference between the new design on the left and the previous one above). The front edge of the bow is now blocky and the hood bulges like Schwarzenegger's chest muscles. There's so much frontal area that Honda had to build functional side vents into the bezel to maintain the same level of tightening.
The new rear bumper eliminates the dainty light and hidden exhaust for a chunky black bench over two chrome-plated pipes. Honda worked with Firestone to come up with a more blocked tread design for the tires. They push out new wheel offsets by 10 mm on both sides for a wider stance. For their commercial voiceovers, Honda even fired serious, kind, and utterly menacing Fred Savage for a more manly voiceover - and his name is John Cena!
Under the new sheet metal, the 2021 Ridgeline is the same truck that most of our employees fell so deeply in love with that they considered buying one for themselves. It's not just us either. The Ridgeline has been repeatedly referred to as the truck that most trucking customers actually need when purchasing a more muscular mid or large ladder frame.
The Ridgeline still drives like a friendly Honda crossover. By comparison, a Tacoma jumps around like a Baja trophy wagon. But that doesn't mean that the Ridgeline is as distant and soft as a Honda rider. Despite the visual similarity, it's not just a pilot with his back cut off. The Ridgeline uses a different body structure with a truss style interior construction behind the cab and has more sturdy suspension. As a result, it steers more responsively and scrubs a significant amount of body rolling and nodding movements.
In every mode except sport, the throttle response remains. Step on the pedal to do a freeway merge and the 280 hp V6 appears to be asking, “Are you sure you want to do this? Yes? Well then, 'before we give you the whole bag of beans. Exercise, on the other hand, is so sporty that it definitely affects your precious fuel economy of 18 MPG City, 24 MPG Highway and 21 MPG combined. It would be nice to bring the map with the drive settings closer to sport and turn the eco mode into a real fuel sipper.
We tested the off-road capability of the Ridgeline 2021 at Honda's proving ground in the Mojave Desert. Features like Hill Hold Assist and Mud and Sand Driving Modes may not be suitable for serious rock crawling, but they are good enough for light off-road use. Like many of its other trucking functions, it ranges from the ability to hold cargo to a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds for the majority of its pick-up customers.
In the interior, I deviate from the Ridgeline love festival of my colleagues in Michigan. Her fancy back was treated with the lumbar support and the performance adjustments for RTL panels and higher, while my poor spine has just sunk into the new fabric inserts for 2021 that can be found in the basic sports panel. Even a two-hour trip was a little tiring.
Plus, the Ridgeline's infotainment interface has been updated for 2021, and Honda is quickly shouting from the mountaintops about the return of the volume control. That's certainly not a bad thing, but the Ridgeline still doesn't have Honda's latest infotainment system, which can only be found in the Accord and Odyssey. It includes an updated touchscreen user interface, physical menu buttons (versus touch sensitive ones) and faster responses. The system instead suffers from the same convoluted menu structure, too small buttons, and worst of all, inconsistent responses similar to what we found in our CR-V infotainment test.
The general interior design remains the same, but the refresh brings some visual amenities to the cabin, such as new colors, accent trim, and contrast stitching. RTL-E and higher are charged wirelessly, and since last year all panels have offered Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We're still digging the trick 40/60 split back seat that offers storage space underneath or folds up for larger cargo.
Speaking of freight, the bed is still one of the best features of the Ridgeline. We appreciate the lockable trunk for weatherproof storage. A drain plug offers other uses, such as: B. filling with ice for a tailgate party or a fishing trip. The spare wheel is also located there. Getting an apartment while the bed is full is an inconvenience, but it is no different from most cars when the trunk is packed. The upper RTL-E and Black Edition panels also have a socket in the bed and a Bluetooth audio system that transforms the bed into a huge loudspeaker.
Almost nonexistent wheel arch bumps are a boon for loading and hauling. The Ridgeline is the only medium-sized pickup that can carry a regular 4x8 piece of plywood flat. It's also perfect for a Honda ATV or a pair of dirt bikes. However, we discovered an error when transporting a Passport C70 from 1982. Because the bed was less than 5.3 feet long, the tailgate had to be lowered for the bike to fit. This means that the reversing camera on the handle is aimed at the ground. While other trucks share the same camera location, the longer beds (standard or optional) make it more likely that what you're carrying will fit with the tailgate closed.
On the other hand, the dual-mode tailgate design is brilliant and has also been able to be locked remotely since last year. Its opening arch has a couple of intermediate stop notches, but we've found it has a tendency to sway unless the truck is parked on a nearly level surface. The ability to open to the side, however, means you don't have to drag a heavy load over it and can easily sweep loose loads like mulch or gravel off the edge of the bed.
In 2020, Honda eliminated basic RT equipment and made sport an entry-level buy-in. This year the front-wheel drive version was discontinued, meaning that all Ridgelines are now fitted with Honda's i-VTM all-wheel drive system as standard. This also means the base price will rise to $ 37,665 including the target fee of $ 1,175.
Even compared to last year's Sport AWD, the price for the other minor changes is increased by $ 430. This is still a relatively high starting point for mid-range companies, but it's gradually leveling off considering that a V6, nine-speed car, crew cab, four-wheel drive, and the Honda sensing suite of accident prevention and driver assistance systems are all standard .
To attract a few more customers, Honda launched an HPD package worth $ 2,800 for all fairings for 2021. Named for Honda Performance Development, the outfit that builds Civic TCR racing cars, Type R box engines, and IndyCar twin-turbo V6 engines, the kit includes flared fenders, chic 18-inch gold alloys, and the almighty decals on the bed. While don't underestimate actual performance, don't underestimate the performance of a truck with a large acronym sticker on it. We have a couple of enthusiastic “HPD! What's that !? ”Questions during our time at our press office, but don't take our word for it. Honda sold out its initial HPD package allocation in 30 minutes.
The HPD package is an entry into the (lucrative) area of off-road performance. Toyota had tremendous success with TRD hoists and the like, but it was too late in the Ridgeline's development cycle to mess around with the chassis. Honda says it develops vehicles holistically, and while it could have hit some springs, the rest of the truck would not have met Honda standards. Given the response to simple appearance, we expect HPD hardware to be available in the next generation. We've seen what Honda can do with powersport all-terrain vehicles like the Talon elsewhere in its empire. If they can give the Ridgeline a real package of benefits, it's easier to believe that Honda has really committed to shedding its friendly image for the Ridgeline. Either that or give the helpful Honda dealer a black belt and face tattoo.
Drive the Honda Ridgeline and marvel at Tesla | Autoblog Podcast # 638
On this week's Autoblog podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski and Associate Editor Byron Hurd. They start talking about why more people should buy the Honda Ridgeline because it's a hell of a good truck. Next up, Byron talks about Hyundais. He shares his experience with the 2020 Sonata Hybrid and talks briefly about the 2021 Elantra prototype that is currently in his driveway. Next, Jeremy shares his feelings about the BMW X1 Crossover, which he has spent time with, and prompts the gang to ponder BMW's idea of the modern interpretation of "Ultimate Driving Machine". Then Byron talks about towing his 1990 Mazda Miata with the 2020 Infiniti QX80 and closes with a discussion of the mystery of the Ford Maverick and some comments on the current state of Tesla.
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