Which of the Detroit Big Three's Trucks Has the Top Tailgate?

ford-f-150-tremor-2024-03-tailgate 2024 Ford F-150 | photo by Christian Lantry

In the land of pickup truck battles, the winners never sleep, meaning there’s always innovating to come up with new ideas, tricks and gimmicks so there’s something new, fresh and chat-worthy when a pickup debuts. For the 2023 North American International Auto Show’s debut of the new 2024 Ford F-150, the automaker’s mild refresh of its perennial bestseller included some nifty new content, like a new multimedia screen, some fresh trailer tech and something that always generates a lot of controversy: a funky new tailgate.

Related: More 2023 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

So, we had a look around the show floor to see what the latest state of tailgate tech is among the Detroit Three automakers, the market leaders in pickup trucks, to determine if Ford’s new Pro Access Tailgate is likely to be a deciding factor in bringing new buyers into the fold or keeping the ones they have with a neat piece of new tech.

Ford Pro Access Tailgate: Like Ram’s, But Quirkier

The new Pro Access Tailgate on the 2024 F-150 isn’t that dissimilar from the Ram Multifunction Tailgate in that it splits the tailgate itself so it can open as a traditional tailgate or like a vertical door. But whereas the Ram gate opens into a 60/40 split, the Ford version adds a door in the middle of the tailgate with an immovable panel on each side.

The Pro Access Tailgate door opens to three detents at different angles (37, 70 and 100 degrees), preventing you from accidentally slamming the door into a hitched-up trailer. The door opens on the driver’s side, so while that isn’t entirely helpful for putting things in from the curb, it does mean you don’t have to walk around the whole truck after getting out of the driver’s side door. The new Pro Access Tailgate will be optional on the F-150, and it supplements the innovative fold-down tailgate step that Ford introduced back in 2006.

Pros: Easy access to the bed for loading things in (don’t have to reach over the lowered tailgate), and the power up-and-down function makes it easy to raise or lower in traditional style

Cons: No more grab handle or bed step (there’s an optional kick-out, under-bumper step), and there’s no loading big, bulky things into the bed via a forklift; to get into the bed easily, you have to use the door and not lower the tailgate

Ram Multifunction Tailgate: Open Wide

Over at the Ram booth, there’s the Multifunction Tailgate that’s available on the Ram 1500. It splits 60/40 to open up the sides, as well, but you must open the left side (the 60 bit) before you can open the right side (the 40 bit). But once you do, you have full walk-up access to the bed without reaching over the tailgate, which makes it very easy to reach things all the way in the back of the cargo box.

Like Ford’s Pro Access Tailgate, however, there’s no real handle to pull yourself up into the bed, just a retractable single step under the bumper to step up into it. So as with Ford’s new tailgate, in order to get into the bed easily, you have to open the Multifunction Tailgate door-style, not fold-down tailgate style.

Pros: Wider opening than the Ford system, and you can open both sides and load something in with a forklift at Home Depot on a wooden palette; opening the tailgate allows for curbside loading

Cons: No handle to climb up and in with, and you must open the doors to enter the bed; power-operated lowering, but no power-operated raising the tailgate, unlike the Ford tailgate

GM Multi-Flex/MultiPro Tailgate: Do More With Your Door

While Ford and Ram have opted to go with side-opening tailgates that split as their nifty gimmick, GM has done something quite different. The Chevrolet Multi-Flex Tailgate and GMC MultiPro Tailgate are the same thing: a tailgate that has six different configurations to allow for a variety of uses. It kind of has a tailgate within a tailgate, with a smaller door that folds down independently in the upper part of it. The tailgate can be reconfigured to be a bed extender, work table, bed step or more. At first, GM’s take on the tailgate looked like it would be gimmicky — until we tried it and found it to be actually quite useful and innovative.

GM’s tailgate does have a couple of drawbacks, however. It adds considerable weight to the tailgate, making raising it an effort, and if you should have a hitch ball inserted into your hitch receiver, it will smack against the ball and potentially damage the tailgate — so no opening the full tailgate functions while you’re trailering.

Pros: Multiposition functions are genuinely useful and add a significant degree of function to the bed without needing extra accessories; includes a fold-down handle in the bed for climbing up into it

Cons: Can’t open the full extension with a trailer attached (or even if you have a hitch ball inserted); you can’t quite get as close to the bed as you can with the Ford and Ram systems; you still have to lift items over the lowered tailgate

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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