Ford claims the 2024 Ford F-150 is finally putting an end to the “Tailgate Wars” — automakers’ quest to offer the wackiest means by which to access the bed of a truck from the rear. Ford’s is a heck of a claim, so let’s go through the other contenders in this fierce conflict of truckish bed-gadgetry: the Honda Ridgeline and its swinging tailgate, the Ram 1500 with its Multi-Function Tailgate, the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado with their mighty Multipro tailgate, and Ford itself with the “Man Step.” Let’s start way back in 2006.
The Ridgeline’s Dual-Function Tailgate
When the Honda Ridgeline launched for the 2006 model year, it was a hard left turn from every other midsize pickup truck America had ever seen. A unibody truck not unlike a Honda Pilot, it had no separate frame, its engine was mounted sideways, and it had one novel dual-function tailgate. Pull the standard latch, and the tailgate drops down like any truck’s tailgate. However, pulling a hidden latch lets the tailgate swing out, offering greater bed access and entry to the hidden under-bed storage compartment. This was a novel idea that’s still incredibly practical today. As a bonus, the Ridgeline’s tailgate isn’t crazy heavy, which means it’s easy to swing in and out.
It’s roughly the same setup as the one in the modern Ridgeline; check it out:
Ford’s ‘Man Step’
While the Honda’s entire tailgate can drop down or swing out, it can’t help you get into the bed like Ford’s “Integrated Tailgate Step,” which even included a handle. While certainly a complete suite of bed access tools, the slide-out handle is rather clunky and the tailgate step rarely wants to retract smoothly.
As you might expect, Chevy made fun of Ford’s tailgate in a commercial, calling it a “Man Step”:
GM’s MultiPro Tailgate
In 2018, GM showed off its MultiPro tailgate, a tailgate within a tailgate within a tailgate. The tailgate includes a step, as well as a work surface that is on the same level as the tops of slots on the inside of the bedsides that create a second load floor. Here’s a young David Tracy taking a close first look:
Not only is this tailgate astoundingly complex, it can even house some of the worst Bluetooth speakers I’ve heard in my life. Regardless, do you reckon Xzibit approves of the tailgate-within-a-tailgate design?
Ram Multifunction Tailgate
In 2019, Ram took a segmented approach and splits its tailgate in two. Both halves fold down together like a traditional tailgate, or each can hinge out like barn doors on an old Chevrolet Suburban. While this is a more elegant solution for access while hitched to a trailer, it does result in Ram trucks with this novel tailgate looking like they have asymmetric ass cracks. Oh, and each half of the Ram tailgate is surprisingly heavy, with significant force required for a complete latch.
The New 2024 Ford F-150 Pro Access Tailgate
Ford appears to see the benefits of Ram’s design, but didn’t want its trucks to sport an Auburn Hills Butt Lift. As a result, the blue oval is lobbing a third option into the party — a tri-segmented tailgate with a door in the middle. With the tailgate up, the left and right panels are fixed, while the center panel pivots along its right edge for ease of access. Not only does this give the tailgate a symmetrical look, it lines side-hinged access up with the bumper step.
Speaking of the bumper step, now’s a good time to get into the nitty-gritty of what makes this setup especially special. Ford claims to have made the bumper step deeper and wider for extra usability on the 2024 F-150, a pragmatic touch that should benefit owners. As for the hinged panel, it features hinge detents so it doesn’t smash into your trailer, and its top cap incorporates clamp points for cutting lumber and other truck activities.
Ford claims that its Pro Access Tailgate increases the depth a human can reach into the bed by 24 inches (you no longer have to reach over the tailgate). Oh, and it opens to a maximum angle of 100 degrees, just in case you wanted more reach than you’d ever imagine. Nothing succeeds like excess, right?
[Editor’s Note: I’d just like to point out that, it appears the main part of the tailgate is a big U-shape, with wide tailgate sections on the left and right, and a thin but probably absurdly stiff structural member at the bottom, parallel to the axis of rotation when the tailgate folds down. The hinged door cantilever off the right wide section of this main U-shaped part. Here’s a look at the stiff structural member:
Here you can clearly see the seal and the striker on top of that stiff member:
I can’t wait to get an up-close look. -DT]
In addition to the main players, there have been some intriguing honorable mentions in the tailgate wars this millennium (if we go further back, we can find some even weirder ones, but let’s keep this list to “modern” tailgates). The most recent of these is on the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. These tailgates feature hidden pockets (see above) — perfect for stashing a little bit of road safety gear.
The Subaru Baja had an utterly conventional tailgate with one exception — its license plate holder flips down so you can haul a big load with the tailgate open and remain street-legal. Granted, most trucks don’t have their license plates on their tailgates, but Subaru used to be weird at some point.
Is the GMC Envoy XUV a pickup truck? Well, it has a tailgate, but that tailgate has a piece of retractable glass that mates with a retractable roof to create an unbroken roofline. A tailgate with glass is definitely weird, but this oddball SUV falls into a weird grey area of vehicles.
The continuation of the tailgate wars feels as good as guaranteed. With Ford firing the latest salvo, don’t be surprised if we see return fire from Ram or General Motors within the next few years.
(Photo credits: Ford, Chevrolet, Subaru, GMC)
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