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The latest Ford F-150 gives drivers the ability to use the truck as a mobile generator.

Courtesy of manufacturer

Pickup trucks used to be simple and utilitarian: a bare-bones cab and a big empty box behind it. And while theyʼve kept the utility, they’re by no means simple any more. With pickups now the top-selling vehicles in North America, automakers have taken great strides to make their offerings more advanced – and not just under the hood or behind the wheel.

In the past few years, manufacturers have been adding features to the bed and tailgate to appeal to those on the job site, making their trucks more useful than ever before.

Letʼs see how their offerings compare.

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Ford

With the recent release of the 14th generation of its best-selling F-150, Ford is the latest manufacturer to put more thought into what used to be just a place to haul your stuff. The Detroit automaker introduced an aluminum bed a few years ago, the first for any pickup, but with the new 2021 F-150, they’ve added more features aimed directly at tradespeople and those who enjoy the outdoors.

The F-150 comes standard with new cleats mounted to the sides of the tailgate to act as tie-down locations for extra-long items in the bed.

Courtesy of manufacturer

New is the Pro Power Onboard feature, basically a power generator with 120-volt plugs at the back of the bed. Normal gas-engine F-150s can generate 2.0 kilowatts, good for power saws and such. But opt for the hybrid pickup, and you would have a standard 2.4-kW output or an optional 7.2-kW system, which adds a 240-volt, 30-amp outlet suitable for welding, running a large camp trailer or other high-energy applications. What’s more, you can control all of this with an app on your phone.

Ford has also added the Tailgate Work Surface, a relatively flat top on the dropped tailgate that includes indentations to hold pencils, cups and even a tablet, which are somewhat superfluous. But what is really handy are the cleats on the sides of the gate to hold down longer items, as well as pockets to attach clamps for when you might want to cut wood off the gate. It also retains the retractable step and grab bar from the last generation, which are becoming necessary for climbing into the back as today’s trucks get higher and higher.

GMC

GMC's Multipro Gate folds out into six different positions.

David McNew/Getty Images

Making its debut on the 2019 GMC Sierra Denali, the Multipro Gate has six different positions, making it one of the most versatile tailgates on the market.

An inner gate can fold down to make a smaller, 48-inch workspace, which could be used while standing to use a computer. That same small gate can fold up when the larger gate is down to act as a stop for longer materials. With the larger gate folded down, the inner gate can fold down again to be used as a step. You can also opt for integrated speakers for the ultimate tailgate party.

The gate isn’t the GMC’s utility space’s only trick, as you can also order the whole bed in carbon fibre, a first for pickups, which reduces the overall weight of the Sierra by more than 27 kilograms.

Ram

The RamBox lockable compartments give Ram trucks extra secure storage space.

FCA US LLC/The Associated Press

Anyone needing more lockable storage space could look at optional RamBox lockers, found on either side of the Ram’s bed. While they do cut into the cargo area, the truck can still haul the ubiquitous 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet of plywood. The boxes are locked with the key fob, and have interior lighting and even a drain plug, so you can fill them with ice and beverages and be more popular than the Sierra at that tailgate party.

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Ram also offers the Multifunction tailgate. While it swings down, as on a traditional truck, it also swings open to the sides in a 60/40 split to give easier access to the bed.

Honda

The Honda Ridgeline has a lockable trunk beneath the cargo bed.

Honda/The Associated Press

Honda’s Ridgeline is a medium-sized pickup, more for personal use than for heavy-duty work. But it also has clever ways to make it more useful. Under the bed at the very back is a lockable trunk with 206 litres of space, enough for a load of groceries or some luggage. And to make access to that trunk easier, the tailgate, which swings down traditionally, also swings out to the left.

Nissan

Nissan/Courtesy of manufacturer

The Nissan Titan XD's Utili-track system allows tie-down cleats to be positioned wherever they're needed.

Courtesy of manufacturer

While every truck comes with fixed tie-down points to hook your straps or bungee cords, Nissan’s full-sized Titan and Titan XD, as well as its medium-sized Frontier, have a unique five-track rail system called Utili-track. Two rails in the bed floor, and rails in the sides and front of the bed allow tie-down cleats to be positioned wherever they’re needed. Also, those side rails accommodate various accessories, such as lockable boxes that can slide from front to back.

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