Honda’s Ridgeline pickup is a really good truck.
It also has a bias towards on-road performance, unibody construction, and a reputation for being a truck for urban and suburban use.
In other words, it’s not rugged enough, despite a recent makeover that made the styling more macho.
Personally, I’ve never taken issue with the Ridgeline’s mission. I am of the belief that not all trucks need be rugged — some trucks are simply meant more for tailgating and hauling small Home Depot hauls than they are for off-roading or towing yachts. And that’s OK. There’s a place in the market for trucks that do their work in the concrete jungle and not the Rubicon.
Not to mention that the Ridgeline is quite wonderful to drive, like an Accord on stilts. I did recently get a quick spin in a refreshed Ridgeline, and while it felt a bit more truckish than before, I’d still prefer it for daily driving, especially with an unladen bed, over the rest of the trucks in its segment.
But apparently, truck buyers aren’t satisfied with a city slicker. Not only did the Ridgeline trade its sleek business-casual appearance for Carharts and flannel, now Honda is offering a TrailSport trim.
This trim appears to be about more than just appearance, however — it promises functionality for those who go off-road.
Honda says the TrailSport trim will be available across Honda’s light-truck lineup and over time will include more-aggressive tires, increased ground clearance, better underbody protection (read: skidplates), “enhanced” all-wheel drive, and off-road suspension tuning.
You’ll note that Honda said “light-truck lineup” yet it only offers one truck: The Ridgeline. This is why I’ve spent the introduction to this post talking about the Ridgeline — I’d bet dollars to doughnuts the Ridgeline is the first Honda to be offered with the package, and it will likely have the best off-road effort the brand can muster.
As far as other Honda products that might get the treatment, the Passport seems a natural choice, as does the CR-V. I could see the pilot getting a lighter-duty version of TrailSport.
Of course, this could also mean Honda has another truck or two planned, but that may be reading a bit too deeply between the lines.
The first TrailSport models are slated to hit dealers in the fall. Honda says the front and rear styling will be more rugged, there will be cladding that’s more durable, all-weather floor mats, and unique interior trim bits such as stitching. All-wheel drive will have torque vectoring.
The other modifications mentioned above are slated for future models, with the exact setup apparently depending on how off-road-oriented/capable a model is to start with. Honda also mentions full-size spare tires in the press release.
“TrailSport represents the next chapter in our rugged direction and will bring exclusive styling to our existing light trucks that will appeal to buyers seeking adventure,” said Dave Gardner, executive vice president of National Operations at American Honda, in the release. “Our U.S. engineering team is leveraging more than 20 years of experience creating highly capable light trucks to develop this new series of adventure-ready vehicles.”
And that, along with the logo, is the only information we get.
If a Ridgeline TrailSport trim sounds like a competitor to the FX4/Z71/TRD/PRO-4X trims offered by the competition, that’s because it almost certainly will be.
It also sounds, at least to this author, as if the addition of the TrailSport trim to the Ridgeline is a way for the brand to have its cake and eat it, too, by offering the base truck for city dwellers who use their bed for concert tailgates while offering the TrailSport to those who like to spend their weekends playing in off-road parks.
Furthermore, a TrailSport-trimmed Passport can help bolster that vehicle’s reputation for getting outdoorsy families to the trailhead, while a Trailsport CR-V can go up against the Toyota RAV4 TRD, presenting itself as a family hauler capable of some (very) light off-roading.
We’ll know more about this trim come fall.
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