In a midsize pickup market that is becoming more crowded, Honda plans to step up its game with the 2017 Ridgeline, a truck with more conventional look and feel than the outgoing model.

Honda says the new Ridgeline, which will go sale later this year and be built in Lincoln, Ala., still targets weekend warriors but will be more capable for light-duty construction work, too.

"This is a real truck, with payload and hauling capabilities that rival the top competitors in the midsize pickup segment," said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. Inc., this month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The unibody pickup has received a complete restyle that makes it look more like a conventional truck and less like a sport-utility vehicle. It also has grown 5.4-in. wider and 4-in. longer., allowing the bed to become the only one in its class to handle a flat, 4-ft by 8-ft sheet of plywood or drywall.

But the next Ridgeline will keep its unique storage features, too, such as the lockable "In-Bed Trunk" and dual-action tailgate. The larger bed will feature eight 350-lb tie-down cleats and an optional 400-watt AC power inverter. 

Official specs have not yet been released, but Honda says the new truck will be able to handle payloads "approaching" 1,600 lb while achieving segment-leading acceleration and fuel economy.

It remains to be seen if that will help Honda's Ridgeline get taken seriously as a work truck, but the company hopes to expand the model's options list to appeal to a broader base of buyers. For example, front-wheel and all-wheel-drive options will now be available, with torque-vectoring settings for snow, mud and sand in the all-wheel-drive versions. Driving the truck will be a 3.5-liter, direct-injected V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Several autonomous safety options can be had on the new Ridgeline, such as automatic collision-mitigation braking and lane-keeping assist technologies.

Keeping in the spirit of prior models, the new Ridgeline also will have a host of optional goodies that appeal to tailgaters and trekkers, such as the segment's first audio system in the bed, which Honda claims will be impervious to dings, dents and scrapes, and an 8-in. cabin display that is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

"For many customers, their truck isn't about the jobsite. It's about their active outdoor lifestyles," Mendel added at the Detroit launch.