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Hagerty Employee

Review: 2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport

High school is full of people expending large amounts of energy to let people know who they are. Whether it's jocks in jerseys on Friday, thespians in makeup eleven hours before backstage call, or valedictorians in tears over a 98, most people spend their teenage years in a constant state of projection.

If Honda wants to be successful with the Ridgeline, I hope they will keep the formula similar but offer better value. They need a AWD Ridgeline EX trim level with heated cloth seats to come in under $35k MSRP once we get out of this auto shortage. Then it'll differentiate itself from the full size trucks better as well as price itself more reasonably against the new small trucks. Most of the reason the Maverick seems popular stems from its price, $20k to get a useful "truck" is a darn good deal, and you can get a nicely optioned one for under $30k MSRP. Shoppers seeing a comparable Ridgeline at $40k+ aren't going to give their money to Honda no matter how gold the wheels are.
Hagerty Employee

Couldn't agree more, bradfa. I think the next Ridgeline should match the Maverick in form factor and capability. Hopefully the pricing structure can fall in the same ballpark as well. Thanks for reading!

I have always said this is the truck for people who don't like trucks. That is not a knock as it is more car like and still has a bed.

But the problem is most people who want a truck like trucks and that has always limited the sales on these trucks. I am in the latter as I love my truck for being a truck. I want it higher up and I like the feel of a good RWD/AWD based truck.

Nice style; I love the high school analogy. Now that it has some quasi-competition Honda may have to do some price-adjustment.

It mostly looks good though the fender flares should be body colored to me as in black they stick out too much. Price is going to hurt this thing right now.

I am on my second Ridgeline, and love it. It tows more than enough for my needs, is perfectly sized for my family, and having grown up in half tons (literally took driver's ed hours in my dad's 92 Chevy Cheyenne with a manual transmission), I truly appreciate the mixing of modest capability with much easier drivability. That said, and to the author's point, people buying the Ridgeline are not trying to push a macho persona, so I wish Honda would make a Hybrid option available for it to make it an even better city truck/daily driver. I also think the Honda could stick out in another market as well: Fast Trucks. The Ridgeline is already pretty quick, but make a stripped interior, lowered, and faster R-Spec trim for the market that once bought SVT Lightning F150s and GMC Syclones. I think that would sell very well.

Early on, the Ridgeline vibe was the anti-macho persona. The type that complains about a general contractor who uses his 3/4 ton for everything. The Ridgeline club here would go on trail runs to “prove” how good they were off road and spend most of the day stacking rocks to run bypasses.

Ego is a hard thing.

At rollout it was polarizing. Honda marketing through down a gauntlet of promises which it couldn’t keep.
All the Ridgelines are good at hauling people. They are good for light duty work, light off road travel, and camping excursions. Like many SUVs, that’s not a high bar.
When it came to truck advantages, all the excuses started to roll out. When it didn’t get remarkable fuel economy for a V6, let alone against a full-size - who really needs a full-size, they said. When the suspension showed weakness when towing, you should always use weight distributing hitches with 4,000 lbs they said. And so they went.
Rather than build upon the uniqueness of it, it was a David and Goliath situation and David forgot the sling.
I have experience with Ridgelines and I’ve softened my stance. They aren’t bad, for what they are. But marketing fantasy and fanboy blindness really hurt sales.
My relative, talked all about how it is a Honda and unstoppable. Towed 5,000 lbs, tried to run the speed limit so as to not lose face. I offered to slow down, why smoke a transmission to keep up with a 3/4 ton diesel? Nope. Honda automatics don’t have a large fluid capacity nor do they have a large heat exchanger, so the transmissions are easily damaged. Period. Off road, it’s low. Bashing it across ruts and uneven sections rips stuff off. Sway - you gotta have sway control and an equalizer, these things squat like crazy.
Yet 5 dudes, blasting up to northern MN to fish for a weekend? No trailer, just gear? Perfect. Urban commuter that can grab the kids, grab groceries, or pick up some messy supplies at HD? Perfect. The highway mileage may be a little low, but it cruises 85 like a dream. Going up to Telluride, perfect. A little rain, then sleet and snow, never misses a beat.
For me, we have a family car and a properly sized truck, the Ridgeline isn’t a fit. For others, it might be a decent fit for them. The price sure beats what new pickups are going for. If you need something more, no shame in that. If not, they are worth a look. But don’t let someone convince you they are Tacoma tough.
New Driver

As a long-time Gen-1 owner (my second), allow me to add an additional plus for the R'line: It fits in my garage…with three feet (length) to spare. A full-size is nudging the drywall, so I wouldn't even be able to pass in front of it. I like the truck for many reasons, but living in the snow belt, the garage thing is a deal-breaker for a full-size. I often tow 1300 lbs of motorcycle and trailer all over the country, and the Ridge is happy with that, though I wouldn't want to do it with more than about 2500-3000 lbs. When we fly for trips we always rent a full-size Chevy/Ram/F150/Tundra and I'm always amazed that those more comfortable, powerful, barn door beasts get the same gas mileage I do, often slightly better…but they don't work in my garage…and don't have a "trunk"…or composite bed...or smooth independent suspension. It's a Goldilocks vehicle for many of us, myself included.
Intermediate Driver

I actually have the same truck in red. The local Honda Dealer I bought from actually added heated seats to my Sport for not too much extra. I have gotten a lot of compliments about the bronze wheels and the stripes and flares. It’s been one of the best daily driver/work truck vehicles that I have had in a very long time. It proved itself quite capable in the foot of snow we had this week. I’m in the Convenience store business along with 4 laundromats and a self serve Carwash. Having a smaller easy to park pickup with a huge trunk under the bed floor has worked nicely for me. It’s also eligible for a big tax write off under Section 179 of the IRS tax code since I use it for business more then 60% of the time. I will very likely buy another one when it’s time to trade in a few years.

The real question is how long will Honda sell these at the low volume they are selling. They can’t be making much money. 

No they are not over priced if you compare this to many other models as this sits right about the average price of a vehicle today. 

Nothings cheap anymore. The days of a $9,999 S10 or Ranger are long gone. 

even a Maverick optioned right is @ $30k

Intermediate Driver

Love the silky smooth J35, stellar ride quality, tidy handling, interior spaciousness, and clever bed design. Hate the cylinder deactivation and German 9-speed abomination transmitting power to the wheels. There are cheap and effective aftermarket solutions to "cure" VCM, but the transmission remains a sore spot. Honda, slide your homegrown 10-speed smoothie into this truck!

Pricing has gotten a wee bit ambitious; as similarly suggested below, an EX or even LX trim would seriously ramp up or at least stably maintain sales volume in the face of the recent "cheap truck" onslaught. The Maverick's $20K/high-MPG entry point is a brilliant move by Ford and may leave the Ridgeline high-centered.