Honda Goes Off Road: Will New TrailSport Trim Offer More Rugged Adventures?

With its new TrailSport trim, Honda follows a well-worn path charted by most other SUV and light truck manufacturers.

TRD, FX4, Wilderness, AT4: If you follow off-road-capable vehicles, all these names mean similar things to you. They designate a “rugged” version of a vehicle, one that’s ready to “adventure on a deeper level,” as Subaru notes in its marketing copy.

Today, Honda jumped on the off-road bandwagon with the introduction of the TrailSport trim. According to Honda, TrailSport will become “the rugged halo for Honda light trucks.” That means it will adjust its design and components “to further advance the rugged direction of the brand’s existing light trucks without sacrificing on-road dynamics.”

These include more aggressive tires, increased ground clearance, off-road-tuned suspension, underbody protection, and expanded all-wheel-drive capabilities. You can get a very, very thin idea of Honda’s TrailSport brand identity with the 18-second video below.

Will It Invigorate Honda’s Lagging Sales?

While Honda shared few details about its TrailSport trim today, it’ll likely first apply the off-road formula to its Ridgeline light pickup and no doubt more than one of its SUVs and crossovers: HR-V, CR-V, and Passport.

The Ridgeline, for one, has struggled to compete with offerings from Ford, Toyota, and Chevy. Honda hasn’t sold more than 35,000 Ridgelines since 2007. Compare that with 100,000 Ford Rangers in 2020, or a whopping 238,000 Tacomas, and you can see Honda’s predicament.

Could the TrailSport trim put Honda on the radar for rugged outdoor adventurers?

Honda TrailSport Announcement

As noted, Honda was thin on details in its announcement today. So without further ado, here’s what the brand had to say, in its own, unedited words.

The first models to incorporate the TrailSport treatment will feature rugged front and rear styling, durable cladding, and exclusive interior touches, including high-contrast orange stitching and signature all-weather mats that are easier to clean. With Honda’s best-in-class i-VTM4™ torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system, they will want to get dirty tackling trails, without sacrificing comfort or the best-in-class on-road dynamics of the brand’s light trucks.

Over the next few model years and depending on the model, TrailSport off-road capability will further increase with upgrades like more aggressive tires, full-size spare tires, increased ground clearance, off-road tuned suspensions, underbody protection, and expanded all-wheel drive system capabilities.

“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. “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.”

Expressing the exhilaration of outdoor adventure, the design of the new TrailSport logo is inspired by nature’s beauty and the spirit of exploration. TrailSport will build upon Honda’s more than 50-year legacy of extreme off-road engineering and performance that includes its motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-sides and light trucks.

It sounds like Honda is giving its trucks the TRD Pro treatment. It’ll be interesting to see how big (or small) it aims with things like suspension lifts, tires, and options as the models roll out.

Sean McCoy
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Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.