2021 Honda Ridgeline vs. 2021 Jeep Gladiator
Today’s hotly contested midsize truck market can be a lot like an ancient Roman gladiatorial bout. The current fan favorite is the impressive new 2021 Ridgeline, which reigns supreme as a top choice among midsize pickups by automotive experts and the buying public.
But there’s always a contender waiting to enter the arena and dethrone the reigning champion. In this case, it’s the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport. Does the Ridgeline have what it takes to fend off this four-wheeled adversary and retain its top ranking? Let’s find out as the 2021 Honda Ridgeline with AWD goes up against the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport 4X4.
Bold New Design vs Odd Visual Mashup
The totally redesigned 2021 Ridgeline rolls into the fray with a dramatic new look that’s bold, athletic, and aggressive. Pure pickup from any angle, the Ridgeline looks equally at home cruising the boulevard, at the job site, or tackling a backroads adventure. A squared-off nose, new upright grille, and new front bumper with distinctive side air vents give the Ridgeline a beefier, purposeful personality.
There’s no mistaking the Gladiator as a Jeep. But it looks like the Gladiator’s designers dipped into the Jeep parts bin much like a kid playing with a bunch of Lego®. The result is an odd mashup between a short-bed pickup in the back with the front of a Jeep Wrangler. It looks like the cargo box was bolted on almost as an afterthought to the Gladiator’s tall, squared-off body. Only one 5 ft. bed length is offered.
Honda Innovation Sets the Standard
We’re not surprised that automotive experts like Caranddriver.com recently ranked the Ridgeline as their #1 choice among midsized pickups, ahead of the Jeep Gladiator, Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, and Toyota Tacoma. Its many exclusive, innovative features simply set it apart from its competitors.
For example, there’s the Ridgeline’s exclusive, available Truck Bed Audio system that transforms the entire truck bed into a massive speaker.
Plus, the Ridgeline’s exclusive Dual-Action Tailgate® can be opened either in the traditional “down” position or to the side like a door for unsurpassed access to its ultra-tough composite truck bed that can easily accommodate 4-foot-wide items like plywood and drywall. (Try fitting those into the Gladiator’s narrow truck bed.)
The Ridgeline’s convenient and secure lockable In-Bed Trunk® is both waterproof and washable; you can even fill it with ice to transform it into the ultimate ice chest. And with the available truck-bed power outlet, you can transform your Ridgeline into the ultimate tailgate viewing party.
You won’t find any of these innovative, exclusive features on the Gladiator; even on some of the Gladiator’s pricier upper trim levels.
Modern Versatility vs Old-School Utility
The refreshed Ridgeline’s interior is getting rave reviews for its spacious, quiet, comfortable, and versatile interior. That’s because the Ridgeline shares many of its interior appointments with the stylish and award-winning Honda Pilot. And that’s a good thing, as the Pilot consistently ranks among the top SUVs in its class for comfort and convenience.
The 2021 Ridgeline receives a larger, updated Display Audio infotainment touchscreen with a physical volume knob. The new display is easy to see and even easier to use. New cloth seating inserts and contrast stitching add to the interior’s high-end appearance.
The Ridgeline also offers class-exclusive versatility with innovative features competitors like the Gladiator can’t match. These include a unique flat floor and folding 60/40-split rear seat bottoms that let you configure the Ridgeline’s interior to hold a variety of gear; even a full-sized bicycle.
As Car and Driver notes: “Rear-seat passengers will enjoy the most space of all midsize rivals.” Also, the Ridgeline offers more front and rear hip room, more front and rear shoulder room, and more passenger volume overall than its Jeep rival.
Looking for power windows, power door locks, and power mirrors on the base Gladiator Sport? We hate to disappoint you, but you’ll have to go Old School with crank windows, (yes, crank windows!), manual door locks, and manually adjustable mirrors. After all, the Gladiator Sport is built for roughing it, right?
|2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport AWD||2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport|
|Passenger Volume||109.7 cubic feet||103 cubic feet|
|Front Shoulder Room||62 inches||55.7 inches|
|Rear Shoulder Room||61.5 inches||55.7 inches|
|Front Hip Room||59.1 inches||53.9 inches|
|2nd-Row Hip Room||56.6 inches||55.9 inches|
|Power windows, door locks, and mirrors||Standard||Not available|
|Remote Keyless Entry||Standard||Not available|
Performance, Handling, and Fuel Economy
More Torque and Towing Capacity
Both the 2021 Ridgeline Sport and the 2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport come pretty evenly matched when it comes to power plants. The Ridgeline steps out with a powerful and fuel-efficient, 280 horsepower, 3.5-liter, direct-injected VTEC® V6 engine mated to a responsive 9-speed automatic transmission. It delivers a robust 262 lb.-ft of torque for the grunt to tow up to 5,000 pounds*.
The 2021 Gladiator Sport counters with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that puts out 285 horsepower, but just 260 lb.-ft. of torque. It comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission (an 8-speed automatic is optional) and its towing capacity is rated at only 4,000 pounds. That’s 1,000 pounds shy of the Ridgeline.
In terms of fuel economy, the rugged Ridgeline Sport posts some pretty impressive numbers compared to the Gladiator, achieving an EPA-estimated 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway for a combined 21 mpg. The Gladiator Sport can only manage 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway, for a combined average of just 19 mpg.
|2021 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport||2021 Jeep Gladiator Sport|
|Horsepower (SAE net)||262 lb.-ft. @ 6000 rpm||260 lb.-ft. @ 4400 rpm|
|Max Towing Capacity||18 city/24 highway/21 combined mpg*||16 city/23 highway/19 combined mpg|
The new 2021 Ridgeline mounts a serious challenge to the Gladiator’s backroads prowess with its own highly advanced iVTM4® torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, which automatically sends up to 70 percent of the engine’s 262 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels and continuously apportions 100 percent of that torque between the left and right rear wheels based on driving conditions at each wheel.
But where the Ridgeline pulls ahead of the Gladiator is in drivability, with a smooth, compliant, quiet, and confident car-like ride, thanks to the Ridgeline’s unit-body construction and robust fully independent rear suspension.
On the other hand, the Gladiator comes up short in terms of ride quality, especially on pavement. Cameron Rogers of Edmunds.com notes: “On-pavement handling is compromised by the same giant tires and solid front axle that make the Gladiator excel off-road. The steering lacks precision, and crosswinds and road ruts demand some attention.”
Additionally, the Gladiator Sport’s standard, removable soft top lets in a lot of intrusive road noise. You’ll have to pay extra for a quieter hardtop.
Technology & Infotainment
High Tech vs No Tech
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport takes automotive technology and infotainment to the next level with an array of cutting-edge features and capabilities. These include an updated 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen with a volume-control knob. It’s easier to see and easier to use. The Ridgeline’s impressive tech features Apple CarPlay®, Android Auto™ integration, plus Bluetooth® connectivity and 2 USB ports in the back row.
As the 2021 Gladiator Sport is Jeep’s base model, don’t expect to find Jeep’s available Uconnect® infotainment system. Instead, you’ll get a tiny 5-inch touchscreen with limited functionality and one USB port. In fact, you’ll need to upgrade to more expensive trim levels like the Overland to get just the basics, like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth®. Tsk.
Honda Safer by a Mile
Honda has always led the way when it comes to passenger safety. So, it’s no surprise that even the base Ridgeline Sport comes well-equipped with an array of standard Honda Sensing® suite of active driver-assist technologies. These include Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
Unlike the Ridgeline, the Gladiator Sport doesn’t offer any similar active passenger safety features at all. Again, you’ll have to move up in price level to get anything coming close to Ridgeline's standard safety technology.
Ridgeline Easily Conquers GladiatorThe battle is over and the 2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport gets a “thumbs-up” from both consumers and car experts alike for its athletic styling, unmatched versatility, roomy interior, and innovative features compared to the Jeep Gladiator Sport. All hail the victor – the 2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport!
18 city/24 highway/21 combined mpg rating. Based on 2021 EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.
Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 lbs. Towing requires accessory towing equipment. Please see your Honda dealer for details.