Great Moments in Midgate History

2022-05-14 20:47:39 By : Ms. Helen Lu

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The 2024 Silverado EV marks the return of the midgate to Chevrolet, but the bow-tie brand is far from the only one to experiment with the setup.

Chevrolet incorporates a number of innovative features in its 2024 Silverado EV. The list includes an 800-volt electrical architecture, a four-wheel-steering system, and the availability of General Motors’ Super Cruise hands-free driving assist system.

The Silverado EV also marks the return of what’s known as the midgate to Chevy’s truck line. Previously offered on the now-defunct Chevy Avalanche, the midgate allows Silverado EV owners to expand the length of the pickup’s bed by folding the rear seatbacks down and allowing access to the cab.

Granted, the Silverado EV’s cabin isn’t completely closed off when its midgate is in use, but the truck’s ability to quickly transform its bed’s length gives the battery-powered pickup an extra bit of versatility missing from competitors such as the Ford F-150 Lightning, Rivian R1T, and GMC Hummer EV.

Of course, the Avalanche is far from the only prior pickup to feature a midgate. In fact, other automotive brands have incorporated a similar setup in both concept and production models. Click through to see some of these midgate-equipped vehicles.

So maybe the midgate of Nissan’s SUT concept from the 1999 Detroit auto show functioned more like a mid-mounted liftgate than a mid-mounted tailgate. Does it really matter? The liftgate at the rear of its cab served the same basic purpose as that of a dropdown-style midgate.

One year after Nissan’s SUT, Ford revealed its own midgate-equipped concept at the 2000 Detroit auto show. Dubbed the Equator, the boxy show truck features a small bed tucked behind its ample passenger compartment. While the Equator’s stubby bed appeared functionally limited, the truck was capable of expanding its bed’s length courtesy of the cab’s drop-down rear bulkhead.

Chevrolet brings the midgate to the masses with the introduction of the Avalanche for 2002. The Chevy Suburban-based pickup includes a 5.3-foot-long bed. However, lowering the truck’s midgate expanded the bed’s length to a smidge more than eight feet.

A second-generation Avalanche arrived in 2007. It maintained the midgate of its predecessor while welcoming more mature styling and updated underpinnings. Alas, Chevy pulled the plug on the Avalanche following the truck’s 2013 model year, leaving a midgate-sized hole in its lineup for the better part of a decade.

Cadillac received its own version of the Avalanche, the Escalade EXT. As the name implies, the 2002 Escalade EXT shared its basic exterior and interior style with that of the smaller Escalade SUV (the longer Escalade ESV, with which the Escalade EXT shares its wheelbase, materialized a model year after its pickup-truck kin).

Like the Avalanche, the Escalade EXT included a midgate for additional cargo-carrying capability. Whereas the Avalanche came standard with a 285-hp 5.3-liter V-8 and rear-wheel drive (four-wheel drive was optional, while Avalanche 2500s offered a 340-hp 8.1-liter V-8 engine), the half-ton Escalade EXT comes exclusively with a 345-hp 6.0-liter V-8 and all-wheel drive.

Predictably, the Escalade EXT followed the path of the Chevy Avalanche and received a redesign for 2007. Cadillac ultimately abandoned it following the 2013 model year, thus ending its pickup truck experiment (for now, at least).

Subaru decided to dabble in the pickup space with its Outback-based Baja. The unibody pickup arrived for the 2003 model year with seating for four and an approximately 3.5-foot-long bed. In order to maximize the Baja’s versatility, Subaru fit the truck with a midgate (or Switchback door in Subaru-speak) that expands the cargo area by more than 2.5 feet. Unfortunately, a fixed rear window limited the truck’s ability to haul items that are both long and tall.

Kia signaled an interest in the pickup truck space when it debuted the KCV4 Mojave concept at the 2004 Chicago Auto Show. The mid-size concept features an extended cab and a nearly six-foot-long bed. A power-operated sliding bed wall, however, allowed the KCV4’s bed to lengthen to a total of more than seven feet. Alas, none of that made it past the concept stage.

GMC attempted to blur the line between SUV and pickup with the introduction of the 2004 Envoy XUV. A sliding rear roof panel and power-operated rear window allowed the Envoy XUV to quickly transform from a fully enclosed SUV into a four-door pickup with an enclosed cab and a small, nearly 3.7-foot-long exposed cargo space. Drop the XUV’s midgate, though, and the length of its bed swelled to a little more than six feet. Despite its innovative versatility, the Envoy XUV’s time in the GMC model line was short. The complicated (but cool) SUV-pickup hybrid ended production after the 2005 model year.

GM brought the midgate to its Hummer brand by way of the H2 SUT. Serving as the truck sibling to the H2 SUV, the 2005 H2 SUT traded the enclosed area aft of the SUV’s second row for a small 2.9-foot-long open-air cargo box. Dropping the SUT’s midgate increased the cargo area’s length to six feet.

Despite the limited practicality of the SUT’s tiny bed (at least with the rear seats in use), the model survived until the 2009 model year. GM killed off the Hummer brand as a whole following the 2010 model year, though the automaker eventually dusted off the name and pinned it to a GMC-badged electric truck and SUV (the former of which arrives for 2022, the latter for 2024).

Dodge revealed the unibody Rampage concept truck at the 2006 New York auto show. The front-drive pickup packed a 345-hp V-8 engine, sliding rear doors, and a midgate for hauling longer cargo (albeit at the expense of shuttling passengers in the truck’s rear seats).

Consider the Toyota A-BAT concept and the Dodge Rampage concept the opposite sides of the same coin. Like Dodge’s concept truck, the A-BAT was a unibody pickup with a midgate. Unlike the V-8-powered Rampage, though, the A-BAT relied on a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. So while these two midgate-equipped concepts may have mirrored each other in a number of ways, Dodge went with outright horsepower and in-your-face looks while Toyota kept an eye toward efficiency and conservative style.

The compact pickup is back, and Volkswagen is likely considering throwing its hat in this ring that currently includes the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz (well, in the United States at least). If it does, then the German automaker’s Tarok concept from the 2019 New York auto show likely previews the vehicle with which VW plans to compete in this space.

At first glance, the Tarok appears to follow essentially the same compact-pickup blueprints as the Maverick and Santa Cruz. Yet, this VW concept includes one special trick missing from Ford’s and Hyundai’s small trucks: a midgate. As such, the four-door Tarok concept is able to haul items as long as six feet with its tailgate closed, topping the figures of the midgate-less Maverick and Santa Cruz by more than a foot.

Bollinger’s B2 electric pickup concept shares a few key traits with Chevy’s Silverado EV. Notably, both are battery-electric four-door pickup trucks with cab-integrated midgates. The B2, however, has an additional trick: a pass-through between the truck’s cab and frunk. As such, Bollinger’s pickup is capable of carrying items nearly 20 feet long (though the frunk pass-through’s 14.0-inch opening means these long items also need to be narrow). With its midgate closed, the B2’s bed measures six feet long. Alas, Bollinger's canceled plans to mass-produce the B2.