The Toyota Tacoma is hands down the preferred pickup truck of the American overland market. The Honda Ridgeline, on the other hand, is probably the very last overland base vehicle choice among all American-market pickup trucks. We can think of an overland Subaru or two we've seen over the years, but try as we might, we can't seem to recall seeing an overland Ridgeline camper. But that hasn't dissuaded Honda from developing the Ridgeline Overland Project, a SEMA show truck that will lead to a lineup of available off-road accessories.
With a stable of reliable, rugged vehicles like the Tacoma and Land Cruiser, Toyota remains the badge to beat when it comes to overlanding in North America and beyond. But the other big Japanese auto brands have been taking notice of the small but enthusiastic overlanding niche. Nissan, in particular, has been playing around with various overland concepts, most recently with the 2018 Armada Mountain Patrol we got to take for a dusty spin.
Now Honda is getting in on the action with a show truck that's more than just a show truck. It's ruggedized the Ridgeline Black Edition with help from Jsport Performance Accessories, and it intends to launch some of the off-road components as available accessories in the near future.
The idea behind the Ridgeline Overland Project is to capitalize on the Ridgeline's superior on-road drivability while giving it the off-road chops it needs to spend considerable time off pavement. The base Ridgeline includes i-VTM4 four-wheel drive, and modifications include beefed-up underbody protection, KMC XD wheels shod in BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrain tires, and a leveling kit.
A SEMA truck doesn't really say "overland" without the obligatory roof-top tent and other off-grid camping accessories, and Honda doesn't disappoint. The Overland Project features a Mesa bed rack holding up a Roofnest hard-shell roof-top tent and accessories like traction aids and Rotopax containers. The Ridgeline cab includes a rack of its own, and a set of Jsport sidesteps makes it easier to access the gear up top.
Honda vehicles may be a rarity in overlanding, but one place you can expect the Honda badge to show up is on the generator carried along as an off-grid backup. For the Ridgeline Overland build, Honda's dropped its EU2200i generator on the roof like the cherry on a sundae.
The unibody Honda Ridgeline Overland certainly wouldn't be your first choice for rock-crawling adventures, but it could prove just the right vehicle for trips focused more on pavement and light off-roading. In fact, with overlanding growing, we'd bet there are plenty of folks that spend more of their time on highways and paved byways than on talus-traversing, canyon-diving cross-continental expeditions. The Ridgeline's more car-like on-road presence should certainly be advantageous on paved stretches of the trip, and off-road capability just needs to be enough for the trip at hand, not necessarily for a "toughest vehicle of show" award at SEMA or the local overland rally.
The Ridgeline Overland Project will be among several new on- and off-road concept vehicles Honda presents at this year's SEMA Show, which gets underway on Tuesday in Las Vegas. An intriguing debut that Honda is holding for its Tuesday afternoon press conference is what it calls a "rugged open air vehicle concept." We look forward to seeing what that one's all about tomorrow.
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