2021 Honda Ridgeline Pros and Cons Review: Same but Different

Pros

  • Standard V-6 engine
  • New, truckier looks
  • Innovative storage features

 Cons

  • No 4×4 capability
  • Towing limited to 5,000 pounds
  • Outdated infotainment system

The Honda Ridgeline came back for 2021 with mostly small updates that made the unibody truck more distinctive without losing its metropolitan vibe. Before its refresh, the pickup was easily confused for the Honda Pilot SUV, but Honda gave it a new front end and a couple of other changes to toughen up its appearance. Now you can easily distinguish the Ridgeline from its platform-mate, and the changes were significant enough to earn an invitation to our 2022 Truck of the Year competition, where we had a chance to perform a thorough review.

The appearance updates come in the form of a squarer grille, reshaped headlights, and chrome trim above the grille that give the truck a more upright face. Unfortunately, Honda left the interior mostly untouched. Although every Ridgeline now gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the infotainment system itself is the same one we’ve seen in other Hondas since 2015; its low-res graphics and the time it takes to respond are a throwback to yesteryear. “Despite the refresh, the Ridgeline feels old,” digital director Erik Johnson said. “Outdated infotainment, goofy digital clock-style speedo graphics, deeply familiar switchgear—there’s no wow here.”

However, as part of the refresh, Honda replaced the six-speed automatic transmission with a nine-speed gearbox. Although we were pleased with its response, shifts, and gearing, we also felt like it often hunted for the highest gear to save fuel. But the new transmission also allowed engineers to update the Ridgeline’s drive modes, making it better when going through the sand and feeling sportier when running in Sport mode.

Just like before, the 3.5-liter V-6 engine makes 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, but we’re not complaining. The Ridgeline continues to feel powerful and agile, whether it rides laden or unladen. When towing 2,800 pounds—just more than 50 percent of its capacity—the Honda felt capable and strong. When driven on its home turf at the Honda Proving Center, it showed good body-roll control on the winding road’s corners, and it tackled broken pavement and undulations like a champ. “There is compliance and good grip, and it stays relatively planted,” senior editor Alex Kierstein said.

Even though all these changes made the Ridgeline a better truck, they were not enough to earn our highest honor. We appreciate the thoughtful details like the in-bed storage, the dual-action tailgate, and the 60/40-split lift-up rear seats, but the Ridgeline fell short when compared against our OTY criteria. While its new face is refreshing, we can’t call it an advancement in design, and while it has great engineering work behind it, it’s not enough to outshine this year’s stiff competition. Senior editor Aaron Gold summed it up: “Save for a new face and the nine-speed transmission, there’s nothing in the 2021 Ridgeline that we didn’t see in the 2017 Ridgeline.”

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