Jump in the WABAC Machine (here's a link for those too young to remember Peabody and Sherman) with me. Set the controls for 1991---30 years ago. The best-selling truck at the time (and for a long time before and since) was the Ford F-150. Let me refresh your memory:
Would you call that a "small" truck? A "girly" truck? A "not really a truck" truck?
Didn't think so.
Back to the present---the 2021 Honda Ridgeline. It is within fractions of an inch of the 1991 F-150 in height (the '91 Ford pictured above rides a little higher because it's the 4X4) and length (the Ford was a two-door, so most of its length was the bed). The Honda is two inches narrower. That's it, dimensionally. The sum total.
Power? In the Ford, you could choose from 150, 185, 200 or 230 horsepower. In the 2021 Honda Ridgeline, it's 280. And I promise you whichever '91 Ford engine you chose, your fuel economy was going to be a bit to a lot worse than the Ridgeline's EPA fuel economy estimate of 18 city/24 highway. Thank the nine-speed automatic (with paddle shifters) for that (along with 30 years worth of engine advancements and Honda ingenuity).
But here in Big Gulp Nation ('Murrica), big-selling pickups apparently need to be a combination of a semi and an armored assault vehicle. So Honda has revised the Ridgeline in several ways this year to make a more compelling sales argument.
Part of that is more squared-off styling, but Honda is also making a point of comparing capabilities to the rest of the midsize truck field, noting the Ridgeline's payload capacity beats Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. The truck bed is a sheet-molding compound bed, which eliminates the need for a bedliner. And with 50 inches between the wheel wells, the Ridgeline is the only truck in its class that can haul four-foot wide building materials lying flat.
In addition to new, more rugged exterior styling, Honda has made all-wheel-drive standard equipment on all 2021 Ridgelines. There are lower ratios for first gear and reverse, giving it a bit more grunt. Honda Sensing, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard equipment, as are a power-locking tailgate, wider-opening rear doors.
There are four trim levels of Ridgeline, starting with our tester, the Sport. Base price is $36,490. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but beyond what we've just talked about, the standard equipment highlights at that price include a seven-speaker audio system, a multi-view rear camera, and tri-zone automatic climate control.
There were two options on our tester---$395 for the Radiant Red Paint and $2,800 for the HPD (Honda Performance Development) Package:
The package is fender flares, 18-inch bronze alloy wheels, a unique grille, HPD badging and decals. Frankly, I'd pass. If you do, you've got a truck for $36,885 plus $1,175 destination and handling, so $38,060 (our tester rang in at $40,860).
Bottom line here is that Honda is building arguably the best of the mid-size trucks. And if we hadn't lost our minds as a country and let our full-size pickup trucks balloon like they'd been mainlining high-fructose corn syrup, the Ridgeline would be a contender for best pickup, period.