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2021 Honda Ridgeline Looks Tough Without the HPD Kit

The regular Ridgeline shows off its gnarlier tires and new grille.

The refreshed 2021 Honda Ridgeline's more muscular styling, wider track, and meatier tires generated a lot of buzz. But the truck we initially saw was festooned with Honda Performance Development (HPD) parts that will be offered as a $2,800 styling upgrade package—including fender flares, special wheels, a unique grille, and nifty graphics. Thus, the 2021 Ridgeline that Honda showed the world was an exaggeration of what the actual midsize pickup would look like when it went on sale. Or so we thought. The 2021 Ridgeline is officially on sale, and it turns out, the base truck resembles its HPD-modded version—for the most part.

Regular Ridgeline vs. HPD Ridgeline

Right off the bat, the non-HPD-equipped Ridgeline is less expressive-looking. The grille is a simpler affair with horizontal slats instead of the HPD grille's nostril-y wavy mesh, and the fender guards don't look like they're suffering from inflammation.

The wheels, too, are toned down for regular Ridgeline duty. The entry-level Ridgeline Sport trim wears an 18-inch split-five-spoke design, not unlike the base wheels on the Honda Accord sedan. From there, every RTL-trim Ridgeline (RTL and RTL-E) gets a set of chunky, plain-looking five-spoke 18-inch rims, and the range-topping Black Edition rolls on—you guessed it—gloss-black versions of the RTLs' five-spokes.

Even without the HPD package's upgrades, the Ridgeline still looks notably beefed-up compared to the pre-refresh model. What stands out most to us is how noticeably wider the (now all-terrain) tires stand out on every Ridgeline trim. This mostly serves as a reminder of how scrawny and car-like the previous Ridgeline's rolling stock was, that the more substantial stompers do a lot of the heavy lifting in improving the unibody Honda's apparent truckiness.

The changes bolster the Ridgeline's excellence. Sure, it can't tow as much as some traditional, body-on-frame midsize competitors, but it already drove a whole lot better and was stuffed with clever storage solutions and roomy packaging even before Honda improved upon the truck's looks.