Redesigned 2021 Honda Ridgeline becomes more of a lumberjack
Honda has redesigned the Ridgeline utility truck for the 2021 model year. Changes include an improved all-wheel drive system, a new front-end design, and interior improvements. Overall, Honda is pushing the off-pavement capabilities of the vehicle.
Currently, the Ridgeline is the only car-based pickup truck available in the US. As a utility truck ("ute"), the Ridgeline mixes the comfort and maneuverability of a car with the versatility and usefulness of a pickup. It boasts the largest interior in its class (versus other midsized pickups), and more cargo bed room (including the under-bed storage and overall width) than its competitors – yet it's never been considered a serious off-road powerhouse. "It's not rugged," some might have said. Cue the Monty Python lumberjack song.
Honda hopes to change that perception by pushing the ruggedness and capability of the 2021 Ridgeline and its improved i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system. This system can send up to 70 percent of the engine's power output to the rear wheels, and up to 100 percent of it to either wheel (left or right) on the rear axle. Driver-selectable modes for the AWD system include mud, sand, and snow.
Powering the Ridgeline is a 3.5-liter V6 that outputs 280 horsepower (208.8 kW) and 262 pound-feet (355 Nm) of torque. This goes to a nine-speed automatic transmission in either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, depending on drivetrain choice. If that setup sounds familiar, that's because it's also in the Honda Pilot and Passport crossover-SUVs. The Ridgeline shares several components with those two utilities.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline with AWD equipped has a maximum hauling capacity of 1,580 lb (716.7 kg) and a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lb (2,268 kg). These numbers are unchanged from the 2020 model year Ridgeline.
Exterior changes to the 2021 Ridgeline are all ahead of the front pillars. A new hood with a larger bulge at center, more aggressive front fenders, and a more square-shaped grille (as opposed to the more rounded Pilot-like grille previously) make up the most obvious changes. LED headlamps are also added as standard in 2021 and different packages for the Ridgeline, such as the Sport and Black, have blacked-out grille work while the RTL and RTL-E trims have chrome grilles.
A few finesse touches to the new Ridgeline's fascia also serve to improve aerodynamics, though this does not seem to have improved overall fuel economy. Expected numbers (pending testing) are 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg (12.4 and 9.8 l/100km) on the highway for the AWD model, unchanged from the 2020 model.
Interior changes are largely cosmetic, with the exception of an upgraded head unit for infotainment. The new screen doesn't change size, but it has better graphics output using Honda's newest Display Audio interface. Honda is also bringing back the volume knob in the new Ridgeline.
Remaining standard equipment includes Honda Sensing, a suite of collision mitigation and driver assist technologies that include forward collision warning, lane keeping assistance, and road departure mitigation.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline was designed in the US and is manufactured in Alabama. It will begin production for an early 2021 release, with pricing and other details coming closer to launch.
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That any industrial design human interface engineer would even ponder eliminating the analog-style volume control should be grounds for firing. Seriously. And even if commonsense did not dictate that, simply watching the reaction to those companies that have attempted it over the years should be plenty convincing.