Honda’s Ridgeline has always worked well as a truck. Its towing and payload abilities fulfill most typical hauling needs, and its unibody construction and independent rear suspension deliver the best on-pavement ride and handling in the business. But the Ridgeline doesn’t look enough like other trucks. It rides too low, the nose is too stubby, and the bed comes in only one length, which aligns with other mid-size pickups’ short option. Trucks from Ram, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and General Motors all cast similarly shaped shadows. The Honda? Nope. It looks like a crossover that’s halfway done morphing into a truck, and that screws with people’s minds and expectations. For 2021, with the second-generation Ridgeline in its fourth year, Honda has decided to butch it up. Make it more trucky. More rugged. Tougher.
The leading edge of Honda’s mucho-macho offensive is the new HPD package. HPD stands for Honda Performance Development, and it’s part of Honda’s push to create cachet (and profits) in the vein of what Toyota’s done with the TRD brand. While Toyota’s off-road heritage evokes jungle treks, African safaris, and United Nations disaster relief, Honda’s history in the dirt is intertwined with motocross bikes, Trail 70s, and ATVs. Honda has campaigned a Ridgeline race truck in Baja, but they’ve still got work to do translating their powersports off-road cred to the automotive side.
All the 2021 Ridgelines get new, taller sheetmetal forward of the A-pillar, with new headlights and a blunter grille. As with most other trucks, that big grille is heavy-hauler cosplay, hinting at massive cooling and air-intake needs. Most of it, however, maybe two thirds of the surface area, is actually blocked off. Only the bottom part is open and allows air to flow through it; much of the