For one, either of the swinging tailgate sections can be opened independently. They open to a full 88 degrees. In conventional flip-down mode, the tailgate works just like a normal one, too, with a 2,000-pound rating. The bottom line is that while it gives a variety of types of access to the load area, it doesn't "do" anything else. It's a $995 option on any Ram 1500.
Its closest analogue is the Honda Ridgeline, which works basically the same way, but on that truck the tailgate swings as one piece. And the Honda's load rating isn't as hefty as the Ram's tailgate: 300 pounds. As Honda says, that's sufficient to hold the weight of the part of an ATV hanging out of the bed, or something similar, but it's a lighter-duty unit (and a lighter-duty truck) than the Ram's overall.
Let's also get Ford's one-trick tailgate out of the way before comparing to the more analogous, and complicated, GM MultiPro. A bit of trivia: Ford's optional Tailgate Step is actually designed and supplied by Multimatic, better known as the outfit that builds the Ford GT and produces the DSSV spool-valve shocks. This step has been available for years. It pulls out of the top edge of the tailgate when the tailgate is lowered, deploying a single step. A separate handle pulls out from beside the step and flips up, giving a handhold. While it was initially (and infamously) mocked by competitors, with load floor heights as high as they are it's better than toting around a stepstool. It's currently a $375 standalone option.
Now we get to the GMC MultiPro tailgate, the most complicated and multi-functioned around. It's essentially a tailgate within a tailgate, with a fold-out stopper that deploys from the inner tailgate. This gives it several functions depending on the position of all the parts. It can still be used like a normal tailgate, dropping down at the push of a button or using the key fob. A second button on the tailgate deploys the inner gate. With the tailgate up, but the inner gate down, you have a work surface. With both gates down, you can stand closer to the bed floor.
The load stop is a panel that deploys from the inner gate. With the whole tailgate down, it can be used as a load stop. Likewise, with the tailgate up but the inner gate down, it can also be used as a load stop for larger items. With both tailgates down, the load stop can be folded out and used as a bed step. There's also an assist handle, like Ford's, except it deploys from the inside corner of the bed rather than the tailgate itself. You can see a full video demonstration above.
How does the Ram stack up? While it doesn't do nearly as much as the GMC MultiPro, it does allow for even better and closer access to the bed floor. And by using a barn door arrangement, it lets you swing either half of the gate open in a situation where the Ridgeline's tailgate might swing into an object. We would like to see a load stop panel function, which would be easy enough to integrate, but for now the Ram offers a nice middle ground in terms of functionality, and beats everybody on access.
Taking a step back, the horsepower war, in heavy-duty trucks in particular, is nearing a point of diminishing returns. Adding a multi-function tailgate is a relatively responsible new front to open in the battle to win over truck buyers. For one, all of these trucks offer the consumer some value. In particular, all help with the issue of high bed floors. The Ford and GMC tailgate steps help you get in to deal with the load, and the MultiPro's inner gate can be folded down to get you a few inches closer to the bed floor itself. The Ram and Honda gates, by swinging away entirely, give owners unbeatable access. Once you've used a swing-away tailgate, it's easy to see why others would like to copy it.
Furthermore, this is a nice profit area for manufacturers. Baking in more convenience features inevitably improves the bottom line and drives transaction prices up. We are also glad to see that some of these are options in the full-size trucks, so you're not forced to buy them. However, the Honda's tailgate is standard (and arguably a major part of the whole Swiss Army knife appeal of the truck), and the GMC unit is standard only on some trims (SLT, AT4, and Denali) and unavailable on others.
We're particularly in favor of the simpler, swing-and-drop tailgate style, adding some real utility without unnecessary complexity. We can't wait to try out the Ram's unit in action, and have already put our long-term Ridgeline's to the test.