Bolder, brutish Ridgeback - Honda gives its double-cab bakkie a major overhaul


• Honda gave its Ridgeback bakkie a major facelift.

• The Ridgeback is only for sale in America.

• The bakkie is available in front- and rear-wheel-drive configurations.

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For a decade and a half, local bakkie fans have jealously observed Honda's double-cab from afar.

If you want to own one, an American life is your only option to make that possible. Unlike most of the large bakkies that American customers buy in record numbers, the Ridgeline is not a heavy-duty haulage double-cab.

It is closer, in design-purpose and robustness, to a conventional SUV. Why do the Americans have access to Ridgeline and the rest of the world doesn't? Due to the size of America's bakkie market, Honda could justify the original investment in a country-specific unibody double-cab.

Honda Ridgeline

2021 Honda Ridgeline (Honda Media)

Dream spec - yet average demand 

Since the second-generation's launch in 2017, Honda has not achieved spectacular success with its Ridgeline, despite a very compelling technical package. With independent coil suspension at all four wheels and a monocoque platform, the Ridgeline has smoother ride quality and better cornering stability than any other double-cab bakkie.

The sacrifice for all that handling agility and stability is reduced loadability and a modest tow rating. Amazingly available in both front- and four-wheel drive, the Ridgeline, with torque distributed to both axles, can only haul 2.2-tons, which is a lot less than a Hilux or Ranger, at 3.5t.

You don't get to carry a great deal in the loadbox, either, with only 720kg of payload. That said, the Ridgeline's tow and load ratings are quite similar to Ford's Ranger Raptor.

If the Ridgeline was available in South Africa, would it be a bakkie you'd consider over the Hilux and Ranger? Email us.

Honda Ridgeline

2021 Honda Ridgeline (Honda Media)

Getting the styling right 

You would imagine that the formula of Honda durability and a sophisticated platform, with some potent 3.5-litre V6 power, would make this Ridgeline the perfect bakkie for urban users. In theory, that might be the case, but one of the reasons sales have been weak is its appearance. 

Since the first-generation Ridgeline launched back in 2006, it lacked the square proportions and bold design details of bakkie rivals from Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Toyota. But now, that has changed. The Ridgeline has been updated and finally looks like a proper bakkie. Where Honda had faulted with Ridgeline in the past, was not differentiating it adequately from looking like a double-cab MPV. This mistake was part of the Ridgeline bakkie's platform legacy, which it shared with Honda's large MPVs. 

The Honda design department has now finally given the Ridgeline an appearance worthy of a bakkie. A much bolder front grille design and reshaped bumper give it more presence. There are also aero vents shaped into the corners of that new front bumper and dual exhaust tips at the back. 

Inside it remains massively spacious and comfortable, thanks to the transverse engine configuration, which is unlike any other double-cab bakkie and allows for car-like seating ergonomics. Especially for the second-row passengers. 

The performance aspect of Honda's double-cab bakkie has not been altered with its new exterior redesign. That means a 208kW 3.5-litre V6 engine, driving through a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this large Honda bakkie, is its status as the world's largest and most powerful front-wheel-drive bakkie, in its standard factory specification. Those buyers who need some additional traction can opt for all-wheel drive.

Honda Ridgeline

2021 Honda Ridgeline (Honda Media)

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