Back in the olden days, by which we mean before the 2006 Honda Ridgeline, a tailgate was just a hinged door at the end of a pickup bed. Back then, brand logos were usually less than two feet tall, even. Then Honda, as is their wont, began tinkering and gaming out new approaches, culminating in the Ridgeline's clever double-hinged tailgate that could open either downward or to the side. From there, the race was on. Ford developed built-in steps. Chevy added motorization. Ram conceived a tailgate with a barn-door split. Built-in cameras and power locking are common. Thanks to the Ridgeline, we estimate that the United States Patent and Trademark Office now spends about 60 percent of its time looking at tailgate designs. So, we figured it was time to rank the top five fancy tailgates and deliver a verdict: For 2020, who throws the best tailgate party?
5. Ford F-150 and Super Duty
Ford's been building Transformer tailgates for a long time, but it hasn't made major moves lately. So its drop-down step and folding grab-handle system, so innovative in 2009 that GM got deeply insecure and commissioned an ad with Howie Long making fun of it, looks awfully familiar here in 2020. Not to say that Ford's tailgate step (a $375 option) isn't useful, but these days you need more than that to, uh, step to the competition.
4. Chevy Silverado
Standard on the High Country and available on the LTZ ( as part of the $1,550 Convenience Package), the Silverado's claim to tailgate fame is that its bed ender is power operated, both up and down. You can commence the power-closing magic via the key fob, a button on the tailgate, or a button in the cab. Chevy offers four different tailgates, beginning with a manually locking unassisted setup, but the power 'gate is the most elaborate design yet. That might not be the case forever, though. GM is working on some other ideas, including a patented built-in load ramp.
3. Honda Ridgeline
The OG Ridgeline is the truck that forced everyone else to step up their tailgate game, offering novel dual hinges that allowed the tailgate to drop down or swing out to the side, which enabled easy access to the under-bed trunk/cooler (another great idea). The current Ridgeline still has a useful dual-action tailgate and a trunk with optional resonators in the sides of the bed that effectively turn the entire cargo box into an outdoor speaker for the audio system. Sure, the sound quality is like Def Leppard performing from the bottom of a well (regardless of whether you're actually listening to Def Leppard), but the bed speaker definitely bolsters the Ridgeline's tailgating cred. For 2020, the Ridgeline added remote locking for the tailgate, which seems like something Honda would have had already.
2. Ram 1500
The Ram's multifunction tailgate will drop down or split into a 60/40 barn-door setup, wherein you can open the right side, the left side, or both. Since the tailgate doesn't drop below the plane of the bed, none of this interferes with a trailer, either. (Although we imagine the optional $295 drop-down center step might be problematic on that front, depending on the trailer.) The tailgate's load capacity is 2000 pounds, which is more than enough for loading in a side-by-side or seating your beefiest friends. You can also lower the tailgate remotely with the key fob. The multifunction tailgate is a $995 option, available on any model.
1. GMC Sierra
To those who say there's not much daylight between the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado (there's not), we give you the MultiPro tailgate. Standard on the Sierra SLT, AT4, and Denali, the six-function MultiPro is a GMC exclusive. You can drop the inset center section with the tailgate raised to make a standing desk, of sorts. Flip up a cargo guard from that position and you have a raised bed extender (a setup you can replicate with the tailgate lowered, too). With the tailgate down and that center section open, you can belly up closer to the bed, or flip down a step to mimic Ford's stairway to cargo-box heaven. (Careful, though, because you can whack a trailer hitch with this combination of openings.) Of course, no tailgate is complete without its own built-in Kicker audio system, USB port, and auxiliary input. Fortunately, this one has all of that. The tailgate tunes are standard on trucks with the CarbonPro bed and a $699 option otherwise. The system's weatherproof, as you'd expect, and delivers 50 watts RMS per channel to two speakers. We can say unequivocally that the GMC MultiPro is the best-sounding tailgate we've ever heard. And until it's dethroned by some other striver, it's the best tailgate you can get.
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