Opens six ways to Sunday

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 | Photo Courtesy of General Motors

There are five different full-size pickup trucks in the US, built by Ford, GM, Ram, Nissan, and Toyota. And, contrary to what the millions of dollars in yearly ad buys tell you, they are all, more or less, the same. They have prodigious power from an enormous engine, they haul a ton of stuff in the bed or on a trailer, and they are all available with luxury packages that make them comfortable and well-equipped — if you’re willing to pay for it.

Deeply held beliefs about brand or dealer loyalty might drive you to pick one or the other, but strip all these trucks of their logos and line them up, and you’ll be hard pressed to tell them apart. There just hasn’t been that one killer feature that moved one truck above the rest. Until now.

The new 2019 GMC Sierra includes a wide variety of gee-whiz gadgets and trick features, including a carbon fiber truck bed that is more durable but exists mostly so you can show off to your truck buddies and a massive heads-up display that keeps your eyes on the road. But it’s the new MultiPro Tailgate that stole the show when I drove the new Sierra in Newfoundland, Canada last week.

2019 GMC Sierra 1500 | Photo Courtesy of General Motors

It’s a tailgate within a tailgate within a tailgate. The tailgate is basically split in half, offering an upper and a lower section, with six different functions that make life easier when you’re loading the bed — something that truck owners do constantly, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a contractor. There are two buttons on the rear tailgate, one for the top and one for the main latch releases. Press the bottom, and the whole gate opens, like a standard pickup truck would. But that magical top button is where things get interesting. Press that and the tailgate splits in half, with only the top portion opening up. Here’s mode number two, where the tailgate turns into a desk of sorts, giving you something to put your computer on or simply to lean against. There’s a load stop with two different heights, to keep lengthy cargo from sliding out of the back of the truck.

Or you can open both, and the tailgate drops open, but with the middle part hanging down out of the way, giving you easier access to the inner depths of the cargo bed. But then you can press a button on the upper gate and it unfolds into a nearly full-width step that makes it easy to climb into the bed (it also works as the ideal place to sit while tailgating, with four separate all-important cupholders at your side). A flip-up grab handle makes climbing in and out a bit safer, too.

The new tailgate is standard on the SLT, the off road-focused AT4, and the ultralux I-Want-It-All Denali trims. Traditionalists can opt out of the trick tailgate and get a regular, boring tailgate if they wish.

The Sierra shares a lot of DNA with the new Chevy Silverado that I wrote about a few weeks ago. But GMC wants to emphasize that this really is a separate truck — and with the Sierra-exclusive tailgate and carbon fiber bed options, the Sierra is the first GMC in a long time that really feels different to its corporate cousin. Denali is not just a more luxurious trim level now. There are real and tangible reasons to go buy the GMC, no matter what truck you’re looking at. But if truck buyers find the new tailgate as useful as I think they will, I can’t imagine it will take long for Chevrolet bring it to the Silverado.

It’s a rare thing when a new truck comes out with something so incredibly innovative and useful. More importantly, unlike some new truck features, it will continue to be useful every time you load something into the bed. This clever tailgate should put the new GMC Sierra on every truck buyer’s radar.

A few weeks ago, I said the American truck rivalry is as alive as ever, and this remains true. But with this new tailgate, GMC just took the lead.

The 2019 GMC Sierra is available now at GMC dealers around North Carolina.