Meet the Honda Ridgeline – A Revolutionary Pickup Truck

Pickup Trucks were once relegated to the farm or the construction site. It seems that those hard-working folks and the pickups they drive have changed their image. Nothing shows that off more than the 2021 Honda Ridgeline.

Honda broke the mold on pickup trucks when they brought out a unibody Ridgeline as a 2006 model. Based on their already successful Acura MDX  | Honda Pilot SUV, they were already producing in the Ohio, USA factory. With the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive, these very utilitarian vehicles had a sense of style that other pickups were missing.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and Honda is now making its second-generation Ridgeline; this one is missing the sweeping line between the bed and the cab that stood out on the first generation. Standing out from other mid-sized pickups with details like a dual function, side swinging tailgate that had not been seen on pickups prior.

A Two-Way Tailgate?

The fact that the Ridgeline tailgate swings two ways is intriguing. Open it like a regular car door, or drop it down like pickup trucks have done for eons with their conventional pickup truck tailgate.

Buyers of the Ridgeline tend to be more suburban than rural and are looking for uses that fit into their lifestyles. While they may not be loading the bed up with building materials or hay from the field, they are going to the garden center or big-box hardware store for home projects.

Something you don’t see in other pickup trucks is a trunk under the bed of the truck. The swing-out tailgate makes that truck easy to access. Cause anyone who has ever owned a pickup knows it is the perfect tailgate party vehicle. Now can have a party cooler for ice and drinks with a drain at the bottom, at the rear of the bed. A slide-out spare tire and tools reside under the front of the bed. All are accessible by flipping open the access door at the rear of Ridgeline’s bed. Not to mention a great place to hide and secure items since it is waterproof and lockable.

When we first received this media review, Ridgeline, the tailgate only opened the conventional way. With some online searches on different forums, the side opening tailgate mechanism has been known to malfunction.  See our YouTube Video on the DIY repair of this mechanism.   

The Work End of a Pickup Truck

The business end of any pickup truck is the bed, and while this is not the size of a full-size pickup, it has been designed for the people who will use it the most. The bed is made of steel reinforced composite, not just a stamped steel bed like other pickups. It is wide enough to carry 4-foot-wide building materials (the bed is 50-inches wide.) A higher floor accommodates the under-floor storage area, and the protrusions from the wheel wells are less than you would see in a conventional pickup truck. Ridgeline has a 33-cubic-foot-bed, and the truck’s payload capacity is the best in its class, rated at 1,583 pounds.

And yes, you can tow with the Ridgeline, with its 5K lbs towing capacity.

HPD Package

Honda’s HPD or High Performance Division badging on the 2021 Ridgeline

This Ridgeline Sport AWD came with the $2800 Honda Performance Division Package, which is essentially a lot of exterior decorative elements, Fender flares, 18-inch bronze-colored alloy wheels, an HPD blacked-out grill, and HPD decals and emblems on the bed of the Ridgeline.

Cabin

The Ridgeline is a four-door pickup truck with bucket seats up front and a bench seat with storage underneath in the rear. You never see bench seats in modern vehicles. Back in my day, you could always tell if a guy and girl were courting in his pickup.  How you ask? The girl always sat in the middle right next to her man.

Our Sport model, the bottom of the line, features very durable cloth seats that I would say would be impervious to many things from pets to kids and all the debris that might find its way in when running around suburbia.

I found the inside very classic and not a whole lot different than you might experience in one of Honda’s SUVs. Switchgear, gauges, and center display are all very familiar to Honda and Acura drivers.

Ridgeline has a functional interior with durable seat fabric and plenty of storage space. Note the pushbutton transmission selector.
Ridgeline has a functional interior with durable seat fabric and plenty of storage space. Note the pushbutton transmission selector.

Overall Thoughts

Classic Pickup truck looks in a useable size.

I was impressed with this well-designed body-on-frame truck. It will be perfect for those folks who want the utility of a pickup but the passenger ability of a four-door vehicle, all in a size that will not make parking impossible in an urban or suburban area. The option of front-wheel or all-wheel-drive is great, depending on how and where you will use it.

HPD option includes these bronze alloy wheels on the Ridgeline.

While I found the interior lacking, I remind myself that this is just the base model. Though for a $40,860 price tag, including destination and handling. While it had the standard Honda Sensing safety system, I would like side monitoring and a more intuitive (and less red glow) center display.

Would I buy this truck?  At first, probably not, but I would surely put it on my list if I were buying it second-hand. Honda vehicles have an exceptional history of reliability and dependability.

Words, Videos, and Images by William West Hopper

William West Hopper at the National Press Club in Washington DC
William West Hopper opened a Washington Automotive Press Association Meeting at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

Mr. Hopper has been interested in cars and trucks since an early age – He even remembers when the first Honda CCVC (before the Civic) arrived on the US shores and the excitement of the first Honda Accord, a revolutionary 2-door hatchback that took the country by storm in 1977.

Mr. Hopper is President Emeritus of the Washington Automotive Press Association in Washington DC< and a member of the International Automotive Press Association.

You can find him on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and other social media outlets.


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