In what seems like something that should have already happened by now, it seems that Honda is slowly repeating history in a microcosmic way. In the early part of the 20th century, Soichiro Honda was an accomplished engineer despite having little-to-no formal education. He made it his goal to work for the largest engineering company on the planet at the time, which happened to be Toyota. But Soichiro was turned down for a job by the Japanese automaker after his newly created piston rings were cited for falling short of the quality threshold for Toyota. Jobless, but undeterred, Honda eventually decided that if you can’t join’em… beat’em, and founded his very own auto manufacturer to compete with Toyota. As you might have guessed, Honda has done well for himself since that decision.
Fast forward about a century, and once again, Toyota has been the forerunner (no pun intended) when it comes to SUVs and, especially, pickup trucks. The Toyota Tacoma TRD has been dominating the off-road compact truck market for quite a while, but once again, Honda has come along and jumped in with a new version of their own Ridgeline called the TrailSport.
Designed to compete in the off-road market, the TrailSport grade brings a little more toughness to a truck that has often gotten flack for driving a bit too much like a car. General Grabber A/T Sport all-terrain tires measuring 245/60R-18 all-around start things off on literally sturdier footing. Although ground clearance remains at 7.9-inches, the TrailSport gets a specific suspension tune as compared to other Ridgeline trims. Thinner anti-roll bars work with softer springs to help the fully independent suspension of the TrailSport to move and react better to more dramatic road conditions often found when the pavement ends.
In a good-new-bad-new situation, the Ridgeline TrailSport does get a protective steel skid plate to protect the bottom of its engine from being ripped up by jagged rocks. The less exciting news, however, is that the most substantial underbody protection actually resides on the Pilot TrailSport. The reason for this is that the Pilot recently underwent a full redesign, whereas the Ridgeline will not be due for a new generation for another year or three.
In a bit more underwhelming news, the 2024 Ridgeline TrailSport also does not get any power increases compared to its sibling trims. The same 3.5-liter SOHC naturally aspirated V-6 sits under the hood making a respectable 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. That power is still routed through a capable nine-speed automatic transmission and onto either just the front wheels or all four corners.
Much in the same vein as TRD does with the Tacoma, the TrailSport will be available in a trim-specific Diffused Sky Blue exterior paint. Also helping to differentiate it from others, the TrailSport gets a “rugged mesh” front grill unavailable on other grades. Orange font set against black accents do well to help differentiate things, though not as well as the giant “RIDGELINE” stamped on the rear of the liftgate.
Officially, pricing has yet to be released, but the TrailSport is expected to be in the low $40,000 range. And though the Ridgeline TrailSport is not quite the Baja-level off-road monster the Tacoma TRD Pro is at the moment, the Toyota has had a multiyear head start. But fear not Honda fans, we’ve all seen this before, and given a little time, we can have faith that, once again, Honda will end up doing just fine.