Given the proliferation of soft-roady crossovers with knobbly tires, it’s about damn time Honda beefed up its unibody pickup truck. After all, the Pilot TrailSport is already on sale and making a splash, and the Passport TrailSport is doing the same in two-row form. The 2024 Honda Ridgeline TrailSport probably won’t hold a candle to the Ford Maverick Tremor off-road, but it doesn’t need to. Instead, it’ll make hauling your dirt bikes to the trailhead a little bit easier.
While the 2024 Honda Ridgeline TrailSport certainly isn’t a serious off-road rig, it has everything you really need for light off-roading, starting with a steel skid plate protecting the oil pan from getting acquainted with rocks and tree stumps. Mind you, the front end of the Ridgeline is all it protects, which could leave other vital components vulnerable to obstacles. There’s no word on rear differential protection, or a fuel tank skid plate for that matter. Common sense dictates this isn’t a vehicle for Jeep-like rock crawling, but some extra steel could be the difference between making it home and ripping a hole in a necessary component.
While the TrailSport, like other Ridgelines, comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, it gains the vital enhancement of 245/60R18 General Grabber A/T Sport all-terrain tires. These OEM-fitment all-terrains feature tough-looking sidewall lugs and a chunky tread pattern that should pay serious dividends when the going gets rocky, sandy, or just plain dirty. Curiously, the Ridgeline TrailSport featured in Honda’s press photos isn’t actually rocking these tires, instead sporting a more highway-focused tread pattern and shaved sidewalls for anonymity. Needless to say, this is exceptionally weird, although it’s possible a set just wasn’t ready in time for photography. [Ed Note: Seems unlikely. -DT].
As you’d probably expect, the final piece of the off-road hardware puzzle on the 2024 Honda Ridgeline TrailSport is a new model-specific suspension package. Don’t expect any new suspension arms, but Honda has changed up the spring rates, damper valving, and anti-roll bars, which is about as complete of a suspension package as most manufacturers go.
Honda claims the new suspension bits “increase articulation,” which likely means softer anti-roll bars since those are a huge limiting factor for suspension articulation over the rough stuff. Interestingly, Honda makes no claims of increased ground clearance, so it’s possible this truck maintains the stock 7.6 inches of ground clearance, a figure that’s bested by the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz. Ground clearance like that is a serious handicap on the trails, so maybe don’t take your Ridgeline TrailSport to Moab. [Ed Note: You can actually make 7.6 inches of ground clearance work well off-road, depending upon where that clearance is. If it’s at the bottom of the diffs between the wheels on the same axle, that’s no problem. As a tire climbs an obstacle, it’ll bring that diff up with it. But if the vehicle has low rocker panels, like the Ridgeline does, then you can expect some severe limitations off-road. All of this is to say: It’s not just about the ground clearance figure, it’s about where the ground clearance is. -DT].
The 2024 Honda Ridgeline TrailSport also gets a fantastic shade of blue paint, orange accents, black trim pieces, five-spoke wheels, and a unique grille, but those cosmetic alterations pale in comparison to the updates every Ridgeline gets for 2024. For starters, a new tailgate features an enormous Ridgeline wordmark, a throwback to classic trucks that’s gaining popularity in the market. From the outside, this should be the easiest way to tell a 2024 Honda Ridgeline from a 2023 model, but tailgate swaps may happen for some enthusiastic owners.
Inside, the 2024 Honda Ridgeline gets a seven-inch partially-digital instrument cluster that should be familiar to anyone who’s driven a new Civic. Digital tachometer on the left, digitally-displayed information in the middle, analog speedometer on the right, all with fonts and flourishes that seem far more mature than the cluster on the outgoing model.
Complementing the big tech upgrade in front of the driver is a nine-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Not only does this infotainment system feature a much nicer interface than the all-red tile setup of the outgoing model, it ditches capacitive touch pads for actual physical buttons and gains a rocker switch for track selection. Count this as a win for human design.
Rounding out the interior changes is a redesigned center console featuring a substantially taller storage cubby with an integrated armrest, space for two smartphones, a less concave bezel for the cupholders and electronic shifter, and a USB-C port in addition to the expected USB-A port. Sure, that might not be the most exciting bit of news, but it’s the sort of thing that makes a real livability difference. Mind you, the outgoing model’s individual front armrests haven’t survived the switch to a new console, so captain’s chair enthusiasts might be disappointed.
The 2024 Honda Ridgeline TrailSport is still a unibody truck with a devoted following, just subtly enhanced. It will still have the turning radius of the space shuttle, it will still have the J35Y6 3.5-liter V6 engine that requires valve adjustment and timing belt replacement every 100,000 miles, but it will still also be all the pickup truck most families need, with a five-foot four-inch sheet molded composite bed, a 5,000-pound towing capacity, and plenty of interior space. Sure, it isn’t the best off-road pickup, but a little extra capability for rutted cottage trails never hurt anyone and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the best Ridgeline yet. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but Honda better get it up soon, as this thing goes on sale in early December, slotting conveniently in between the mid-range RTL trim and the fully-loaded Black Edition.
(Photo credits: Honda)
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