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The Honda Ridgeline has consistently been one of the best-rated mid-size trucks. Rugged on the outside, comfortable on the inside - this truck is just that well-rounded. But it is getting some changes for 2021. We're talking big changes. Just how big?
The Ridgeline is donning brand-new sheet metal, from its front to its rear bumpers. The nose is much more vertical now, giving off a straight-line body-style all the way around. Squared off and larger, the new grille stands out even more than before but also keeps trend with the Toyota Tacoma. There is even a Honda Performance Development (HPD) Appearance package that has been making the rounds in early photographs of the vehicle. That means the Ridgeline can come with shimmering gold wheels, special graphics, and fenders guards that are squared-off.
Under the hood, you will find that the same solid 3.5-L V6 engine is still there. It generates 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, and this power gets delivered to the front wheels (as FWD is standard) or all of the wheels (if you opt for AWD) via a 9-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain comes equipped on every trim level, but take note that if you equip AWD, the payload maxes out at 1,580 pounds and the max towing capacity is boosted to 5,000 pounds.
The interior will look mostly the same, but the updated infotainment system should stand out as the one big alteration. And it is a largely welcomed one. While the size hasn't changed, its graphics and interface look and perform far better than those on the previous model. It also sees the long-demanded return of the physical control knob. Other changes include the RTL's power-adjustable front seats that come with a heating function and the leather-trimmed interior.
So, which Ridgeline trim level should you get? You can choose from the base Sport, the RTL, the RTL-E (a security-enhanced version of the RTL), and the Black Edition (which literally blacks everything out, inside and out). We will go over these trim levels in detail, and be sure to hang on until the end where we will tell you which trim level we think presents the best deal to the Ridgeline buyer.
Compare the 2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport vs RTL - What is the Difference?
We have already discussed the Ridgeline's engine, but it can't hurt to go back over it as we compare mechanical specs on the Sport and RTL. They are both powered by a 3.5-L V6 engine that generates 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. On AWDs, towing capacity maxes out at 5,000 pounds while the FWDs can tow up to 3,500 pounds. Variable Cylinder Management (otherwise known as VCM) comes standard on this engine, as does 24-Valve SOHC i-VTEC, Hill Start Assist, Eco-Assist, and a high-capacity radiator that is equipped with two high-powered fans. This vehicle redlines at 6800 rpm and comes with remote engine start. FWD is the standard drivetrain for both of these trim levels, but the Intelligent Variable Torque Management( or i-VTM4 for short) AWD is optional. Again, the 9-speed automatic transmission comes standard and has an available heavy-duty transmission cooler (which comes standard on the AWD-equipped RTL-E and Black Edition).
The Ridgeline has a standard unibody construction with a MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension. Electric Power-Assisted Rack-and-Pinion Steering comes equipped. The Sport trim level has 18-inch painted gray alloy wheels while the RTL gets upgraded to special machine-finished 18-inch alloys. All-season tires come on each.
Now, let's talk tech. Each Honda comes with the Honda Sensing suite of standard driver aids. On the Sport and RTL, this means that you get collision mitigation braking, a a system for mitigating road departure, adaptive cruise control, an assist for lane keep, a forward collision warning, and a warning for when you depart from your lane on accident. If you want automatic high beams and blind-spot monitoring, you have to upgrade to the RTL-E. A multi-angle rear-view camera comes standard on every trim, as does tire pressure monitoring. Daytime running lights, brake assist, and vehicle stability assist with traction control also come equipped.
Both trims come with a 7-speaker, 200-watt sound system with its own subwoofer. Bluetooth connectivity, a MP3/auxiliary jack input, a radio data system, speed-sensitive volume control, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display. You can utilize smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in order to access your favorite apps. It comes in handy if you don't want to upgrade to get built-in navigation too. Also, these trims come with HondaLink, SMS text messaging capability, one 1.5-amp USB smartphone/audio interface up front, and a 2.5-amp USB charging port on the center console all come included.
The Sport and RTL are also similarly equipped when it comes to their comfort features. This list of standard features includes a push button start, power door and tailgate locks, cruise control, one-touch turn indicators, a multi-functional center console, a timer on the rear window de-frost, illuminated controls mounted onto the steering wheel, 12-volt power outlets on both the front and center consoles, tri-zone automatic climate control, seatback pockets on both front seats, and dual vanity mirrors on the sliding sun visors. The RTL does get the leather-wrapped steering wheel while the Sport does not.
Both trucks seat five people and have rear seats that are 60/40-split folding. The RTL upgrades you to a driver's seat that is 10-way power-adjustable and comes with power lumbar support and a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger's seat. The upholstery is done in a soft leather, and the front seats gain a comfortable heating function that is perfect for those cold winter mornings.
They are also similarly equipped on the outside. Both come with a dual-action tailgate, an in-bed trunk, 8 heavy-duty truck bed tie-down cleats, a fin-style antenna mounted on top of the roof, LED taillights, an integrated Class III trailer hitch (with the FWDs pre-wired for a 7-pin and AWDs coming with the 7-pin connector), fog lights, lights in the truck bed, remote entry, smart entry, and body-colored power side mirrors. The RTL does upgrade those with heating. They both have body-colored door handles. The RTL adds an acoustic windshield, a tilting one-touch power moonroof, and a rear window that is power-sliding.
Compare the 2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL vs RTL-E Trim. What is the difference?
The RTL-E obviously expands on what is offered on the RTL. It starts by adding blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beams to the Honda Sensing suite. It also upgrades to LED daytime running lights. Bear in mind that this and the Black Edition are AWD-only trucks, so you cannot get FWD.
Two 2.5-amp charging ports get equipped for rear seat occupants. The RTL-E also upgrades you to HD Radio, satellite radio from SiriusXM, a built-in navigation system with voice controls, a truck-bed audio system, and a 540-watt 8-speaker premium sound system with a subwoofer.
Inside of the cabin, there are also more convenience features that get tacked on. These include illumination for the vanity mirrors, heating for the leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a conversation mirror with a sunglasses holder, front-row courtesy door lights, illuminated cupholders up front, and blue ambient interior lighting. Two-position memory gets added to the driver's seat.
Exterior upgrades on the RTL-E include LED truck-bed lights, programmable remote entry, walk-away auto lock for the smart entry system, heated side mirrors with memory, chrome door handles, front and rear parking sensors, LED low-beam headlights with auto-on/off, and a 150-watt/400-watt power outlet in the trunk bed.
Compare the 2021 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E vs Black Edition. - What is the Difference?
The Black Edition is basically the RTL-E with a blacked-out appearance package. That means you will find that these two trucks share many features while having some glaringly obvious aesthetic differences. The Black Edition shares all of the RTL-E's driver aids and safety features. Its audio and connectivity features list looks the same as well. You will notice that this trim level gives you red ambient interior lights instead of the blue ones that come on the RTL-E.
On the outside, the door handles are body-colored. And the body color itself is - quite obviously - black. Inside, the leather seats are accented in red, which clearly matches the red ambient interior lighting.
2021 Honda Pilot: Which Trim to Choose?
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The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is a solid line-up as far as mid-size trucks go. In fact, it is one of our top picks. It does not offer a ridiculous amount of configurations, so you will not spend a bunch of time trying to figure out just how you want your vehicle to be. The Ridgeline's four trim levels are all really straightforward but offer enough options to let you customize it how you wish. You also won't spend a small fortune going above the vehicle's starting price if you decide to tack a few things on.
We do have to say that going for the RTL-E is a great option and is the one we would choose out of the four trim levels offered on the Ridgeline. Honda equips the RTL-E with absolutely everything you could possibly want and need. We recommend this trim level since it comes with standard all-wheel drive. While AWD might take your fuel economy down a few ticks, it will really help you out while traveling off of the beaten path. Its intelligent AWD system is geared to perform well in snow, sand, and mud. If you happen to live in a climate where weather can turn on you at the drop of a dime, AWD is essential. That extra traction and stability control with the power delivered by the 9-speed to all four wheels lends to an extra sense of security while driving.
That's not to mention the extra security features themselves. We really like the Walk-Away Auto Lock that comes with Honda's Smart Entry system. This ensures that your vehicle will be locked as soon as it detects you walking away. If you are someone who forgets to lock your vehicle, this system could really come in handy for you.
Of course, the RTL-E builds on more features with the addition of the satellite-linked navigation system with voice control, the power outlet that is added into the truck bed, a premium sound system with even better sound quality, and - of course - standard blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beams. LED headlights and the gorgeous blue ambient interior lighting are definitely highlights as well. Overall, it is hard to ignore just how much this trim level packs in, making it well worth the cost to upgrade.
The Sport trim is just fine for a base trim, but we think many drivers will find it too basic. It and the RTL are both FWD-standard, and it does cost more to give them AWD. You might as well spend more to get more with the RTL-E. We do think the Black Edition looks cool, but it does not really add enough to justify the extra cost. However, if you can afford it and are dead-set on a blacked-out truck, then this would be the one to invest in.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is, by all means, a fantastic choice. Whichever trim you decide to go with, we don't think you will be disappointed. In fact, we'd be quite jealous of you having one.
• Compare the 2020 Honda Ridgeline Trim Levels