Brands like Toyota have a long, lustrous history of building midsized pickup trucks. The Tacoma, lovingly referred to as the ‘Taco,’ by its most loyal of fans, has been around since 1995. The Honda Ridgeline, by comparison, took a whole decade longer to hit the U.S. shores, all while bringing far less truck acumen. How then, 16 plus years later, do the two compare when facing off?
If any company can make up for lost time, it’s Honda. The people who were putting electric hybrids on the road way back in the late 90’s. The folks who were an absolute force in Formula 1. Who engineered the ground breaking B18 Type R engine and developed a Hydrogen fueled car which would literally produce drops of water as its emissions! But let’s get back to pickups for the moment.
Both look ready for the beaten trails. The Ridgeline comes with an optional HPD Package, which stands for Honda Performance Development. In keeping with the performance focused theme, it’s equipped with aggressively flared fenders, a carbon fiber patterned sports grille, 18” bronze alloy wheels and a restyled front-end for 2021.
By comparison, the 2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro has never looked more bold and brawny. A custom TRD front grille sits above a prominently displayed metal aluminum skid plate with TRD stamped in bold red. TRD black alloy wheels are wrapped in some serious rubber, and Rigid Industry LED fog lights will help light the way ahead. To further set the TRD tone, a pro graphics package wraps around the whole body, visually pushing things a step further.
Powering the two pickups are 3.5L V6 engines. Both make right around 280 hp. The more efficient VTEC power plant in the Honda translates to better performance and a higher mpg rating. 21 combined compared to 18. The Ridgeline also features a much more advanced and sophisticated 9-speed automatic transmission, compared to the somewhat outdated 6-speed automatic found in the Tacoma. The Toyota does come with a 6-speed manual option though, for those who prefer things to be especially old-school.
On dry, even pavement, the Honda is much more well mannered. With good acceleration, smooth gear changes and a personality that’s more comfortable and refined. When the going gets tough though, there’s few pickup trucks that can compare to the popular Tacoma. Loved by off-roading enthusiasts for good reasons. It offers almost 2 whole extra inches of ground clearance over the Honda. With 9.4” compared to 7.6.” The skid guard, high floor and one-piece frame rails with eight cross members ensure a strong and rigid body. The suspension is TRD tuned with Bilstein shocks for optimal performance off road. Approach and departure angles are excellent, with approach alone at 32 degrees. Other goodies include hill-start assist, active traction control, an electronically controlled locking rear differential and crawl control with multi-terrain select. The Toyota Tacoma also boasts a 6,400 lb towing capacity, over Hondas mere 5,000 lb figure.
Back over in the Honda camp we find hill-start assist and intelligent traction management for snow, mud and sand. Obviously lacking are many of the more hard-core pieces of off-roading hardware. Instead, attention is paid to things like active noise cancellation, an acoustic windshield and audio system that extends to the truck bed for tailgate parties.
When placed side by side, the distinct missions of these two pickups is clear. While the Honda Ridgeline leans more towards sport truck, with better on-road performance, the TRD equipped Tacoma is built to excel when things go beyond rough and rugged. The decision will come down to where you’ll be spending most of your time. All while keeping in mind that the Toyota is priced almost $7,000.00 higher.
Price as tested:
Honda Ridgeline HPD – $40,860.00
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro – $47,271.00