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2021 Honda Ridgeline Road Test Review: Ultimate Utility Vehicle

I’ve said this about the Honda Ridgeline for years, and I’ll say it again — this time with more emphasis — about the freshly-updated 2021 Honda Ridgeline: This is the most flexible utilitarian vehicle you can buy.

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In a world stuffed with trucks and SUVs that’s quite a statement, but even a brief review of the Honda Ridgeline’s capabilities proves my point. First, it’s a unibody (or car-based) truck, which means ride quality and comfort are on par with mainstream SUVs when using it as an on-pavement family hauler. And let’s be honest, that’s how almost every SUV is used almost all the time.

However, don’t assume Honda’s Ridgeline is some weak-knee’d (or weak framed) truck wannabe. I’ve seen this truck in extreme off-road circumstances, with two wheels off the ground (on opposite corners) while navigating narrow, deeply rutted terrain. This is a common move employed by automakers when introducing redesigned versions of their off-road hero vehicles (think Jeep Gladiator/Wrangler, Land Rover Defender, Mercedes G-Class, and of course the new Ford Bronco). Well, the Ridgeline can do that maneuver, too, without its unibody frame bending or twisting. And then it can pull back on pavement and deliver a very comfortable, car-like ride.

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The Ridgeline also offers its class-exclusive in-bed trunk, a 7.3 cubic foot storage space underneath the truck bed, with a lockable lid, drain plugs, grocery hooks and available cargo space dividers. It’s not as roomy as a full-size SUV’s cargo area, but it does offer secure, weather-protected storage space if you’re using the Ridgeline as a 5-passenger family hauler in addition to an open bed cargo hauler.

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Of course, if you do want to use it as a traditional truck, the Honda Ridgeline can carry 1,583 pounds and tow 5,000 pounds. And with a bed that’s 60 inches wide (50 inches at the wheel wells) and 63.6 inches long, the Ridgeline can haul 4-foot wide sheets of plywood or drywall, stacked flat and secure. The 3.5-liter V6 offers 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, making the truck feel quick and responsive to throttle input, even when carrying people and/or cargo and/or towing.

Add it all up and you’ve got a highly capable (and comfortable) people hauler, cargo carrier, trailer puller and off roader. Did I mention the Honda Ridgeline is the most flexible utilitarian vehicle you can buy?

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Well, if there was any question on that point with previous versions, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline adds several upgrades to put all doubt to rest. These include standard iVTM-4 all-wheel drive on every version (previous versions came with standard front-wheel drive). There’s also more aggressive styling from the A-pillars forward and new factory installed performance packages. These include a $2,800 HPD (Honda Performance Development) Package, with 18-inch alloy wheels and off-road tires, fender flares, a revised grille and HPD badging. Or a $1,465 Utility Package with running boards, roof rails and crossbars. Or a $1,315 Function+ Package with a hard tonneau cover, bed cargo net, trunk cargo net, trunk cargo dividers and a first-aid kit.

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These upgrades come on top of the 2020 Honda Ridgeline upgrades that included standard Honda Sensing safety technology (forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and smart cruise control), a standard 9-speed automatic transmission, standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a standard remote locking tailgate, and wider-opening rear doors.

Honda Ridgeline pricing ranges from $37,715 for the base “Sport” model up to $45,145 for the top-level “Black Edition”. In between are the RTL and RTL-E trims, with new dash, steering wheel and center console accents for 2021. All models get new contrasting seat stitching, and all benefit from the return of the traditional, physical volume knob (replacing the annoying, highly non-function volume buttons that hampered the driving experience of too many Hondas for too many years).

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If you’re seeking a utility vehicle, there are more to choose from in 2021 than ever before. If you’re seeking a utility vehicle with the widest spectrum of use cases, you just found it.

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