The new Honda Ridgeline gets a more rugged exterior update for the 2021 model year.

The fight for new truck buyers remains strong with Honda being the latest brand to offer up an updated Ridgeline for 2021 featuring a substantial exterior redesign that looks to satisfy the calls for a more traditional look.

The new model also gets additional tweaks to keep the functionality the Ridgeline has touted both in terms of utility and performance, including the top standard payload capacity for a V6 all-wheel-drive truck.

“Truck enthusiasts have long recognized Ridgeline as an incredibly versatile and capable pickup, and now it’s got the rugged looks to match,” said Art St. Cyr, vice president of Auto Operations for American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

(2021 Chevy Silverado gets Multi-Flex six-way tailgate.)

“The Ridgeline signals a new direction for our light-truck designs, one that more effectively communicates all the hard work that goes into making Honda pickups and SUVs such proficient on- and off-road performers.”

Honda’s looking to make sure that the new Ridgeline is thought of a full-on, off-road truck.

The biggest change for 2021 is the truck’s overall exterior shape, which is altered by getting an entirely new front-end design. The new look is a bit more aggressive with a “power bulge” on the hood accented with a more squared-off front end and bigger, more upright grille. Most of its competitors have been upsizing the grilles and Honda is clearly following suit.

The grille also sets the stage for new crossbar that splits the headlights, making it almost look like the front-end is squinting to see what’s in front of it.

Adding to the more rough-and-tumble appearance is the decision to extend the body color down the front bumper where it meets a tough-to-miss skid plate, which suggests the Ridgeline is ready for adventure.

The rear end gets some minor tweaks for the new model year, with a reshaped bumper that makes it easier to see new twin exhaust pipes. The noise coming out of that new dual exhaust comes from the truck’s 3.5-liter direct-injected VTEC V6 putting out 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque while mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.

Not only is the powertrain, well, powerful, it’s smart too. The Ridgeline’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring system, which is available on the Sport and RTL and standard on RTL-E and Black Edition, sends as much as 70% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels while shifting 100% of the torque between the left and right rear wheel depending upon the driving conditions. Additionally, the Intelligent Traction Dynamics System optimizes power delivery based on road conditions.

The interior of the 2021 Ridgeline gets a few upgrades to the audio system, including a volume knob.

(The pickup truck battle of the tailgates.)

A more-truck like exterior is supported by the truck’s solid frame and fully independent rear suspension. This means it offers a great ride on tarmac or on trails, plus it boasts the “best-in-AWD” class standard 1,580-pound payload capacity. It can also tow up to 5,000 pounds so those motorcycles in the pictures aren’t just props, owners can really haul them.

The bed area is where the Ridgeline shines and has for sometime. It’s big enough to do the standard big-box home improvement store run despite the fact the truck is slightly smaller than others in the competition pool.

Not only can it carry what the bigger boys do, it will look better after its done — and perhaps longer. Ridgeline also comes standard with a washable, lockable In-Bed Trunk, offering an additional 7.3 cu.-ft. of secure storage space under the bed floor.

Ridgeline’s versatility is highlighted by its Dual-Action Tailgate, which opens downward or to the side, making access to cargo in the bed easy. The tailgate can handle dynamic loads of up to 300 pounds, supporting long payloads such as motorcycles and ATVs, the company notes. Inside the bed are eight standard tie-down cleats rated at 350-pounds each, for securing loads, and the bed is constructed of glass fiber-reinforced SMC composite that resists dents and scratches without the need for a separate bed liner.

With more squared off front end, the look of the new Ridgeline matches its performance.

Additionally, buyers can make it the ultimate tailgater, with the In-Bed Audio system, which turns the bed into essentially a giant speaker while the In-Bed truck can be filled with beverages and ice as it doubles as a built-in cooler.

The redesign touch was much lighter on the interior with an updated audio system, including new graphics and icons, plus a volume knob. In Sport trim, the truck gets new cloth seat inserts, all trims get new contrast stitching on the seats. Meanwhile the Sport, RTL and RTL-E have new dash, steering wheel and center console accents.

(Honda quitting F1, shifting resources to EV development.)

The truck gets the standard mix of advanced driver assisted tech, including collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist and more. Pricing and availability for the new model will be “available closer to its on-sale date early next year.”

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