Review: Ram Rebel is a handsome, daily drivable off-roader

It has the looks for the off-road crowd.

HAVE TRUCK, WILL PULL GEAR: The Ram Rebel looks the part, and is just the truck you need to haul your skimobile or powerboat.
HAVE TRUCK, WILL PULL GEAR: The Ram Rebel looks the part, and is just the truck you need to haul your skimobile or powerboat. –FCA

When the Ram 1500 Rebel debuted at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, I described it as a “Bro Truck.” I meant it as a compliment. Two years later, I’m glad to have been proven right.

Positioned as an alternative off-road truck to the Heavy Duty Ram Power Wagon, the Rebel packages sensible weekend warrior gear with some of the boldest styling you’ll find on the truck market.

As long as there have been trucks, there have been special options geared toward those looking to take their truck off road, and many truck makers have offered off-road packages. But in the last decade, a small section of the truck market has spun off into true enthusiast pickups. These are trucks that in previous decades would have been built using a parts catalog and hours in the garage. Now you can get fully loaded pickups like the trail-ready Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, or the behemoth Ram 2500/3500 Power Wagon.

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The 1500 Rebel joins that club, showcasing Ram’s new alternative grille. Other unique touches to the Rebel include black wheel flares, massive black “R-A-M” lettering across the tailgate, and a revised front bumper with more aggressive approach angles. This opens up more of the front wheels to grab at obstacles when climbing up a trail, while 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires do the grabbing. Our test model was also fitted with a front suspension skid plate and transfer case skid plate; both are part of a $195 protection package.

To further ensure off-road dominance, the Rebel comes with an air suspension system that can raise and lower the truck with the push of a button. It can raise up to 9.3 inches of ground clearance for the front axle, and will automatically lower at highway speeds for improved stability and aerodynamics. An available tonneau cover is supposed to further improve aero, and if climbing into the big Ram Rebel is a concern, you can manually lower the whole truck to a temporary “climb-in” height.

INSIDE JOB: The Rebel gets a standout interior, complete with Uconnect entertainment. —FCA
Boston.com Dealer Specials:

When you finally climb into the Rebel, you’re greeted with an equally bold interior. The dials, vents, door handles, and center console all have bright red accents. The front bucket seats have red fabric on the sides, and the centers of the cushions have a tire-tread pattern. In all, it looks like something you would put together with items from the accessories isle in your local auto parts store.

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But overall, the Rebel’s cabin shares its layout with the rest of the Ram lineup, including unique rotary dial shifter and 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen. Uconnect has one of the best infotainment layouts in all new cars. While other automakers play with proprietary controllers, we like this simple, tablet-like layout. In addition, there are plenty of USB ports and even a wall-style power outlet.

Our test model came with heated front seats, heated steering wheel, power sliding rear window, backup camera, and front and rear parking sensors. The latter are a must if attempting to park in Boston’s tighter spaces.

But it goes without saying, the Rebel is more at home out of the city and on the trail. The Rebel is available with the 3.6-liter V6 engine or the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. We drove the V6, making 305 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission to push button four-wheel-drive with low range. The look of the Rebel might demand you go for the optional V8, with its 395 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque, but the V6 provides plenty of acceleration.

Fuel economy is listed at 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, 19 combined. In mixed driving, we had fuel economy of 18.5 mpg.

As for handling, the big tires don’t take much away from the ride, as the air suspension is the best blend of comfort and performance. It sops up bumps in the road, but never exhibits too much body roll. Take this car out on the trail and it will go just about anyplace a conventional Ram 1500 4×4 can go, though the all-terrain tires give it an edge in more various types of terrains.

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The 2017 Ram 1500 starts at $26,395, but the Ram Rebel expectedly fetches more, starting at $44,995. The 4×4 model starts at $47,095. Toss in all the options on our test model, and you’re paying over $50,000.

Since the Rebel is offered as a 4×2, that should tell you that it’s not quite at the level of trucks like the Power Wagon, Raptor, and others. But the Rebel is the ultimate weekend warrior machine, providing a truck that looks as wild as the jet skis, snowmobiles, or speedboat that you might be towing with its 10,150-pound capacity.

The Rebel’s bark might be bigger than its bite, but many truck owners buy them for specifically that reason. Why not go for a truck with big, bold styling, and some (but not all) of the gear to back it up?

 

Ram 1500 Rebel

THE BASICS

Ram 1500 Rebel (2016 model, carries over to 2017 with minor price changes). Price: $45,200. As tested: $50,400. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 16/23. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 18.5 mpg. 3.5L V6, 8AT, four-wheel drive. Body: four-door pickup truck.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 305. Overall length: 229 in. Wheelbase 140.5 in. Height: 77.5 in. Width: 79.4 in. Curb weight: 5,395 lbs.

THE GOOD

Head-turning looks, terrific ride, great Uconnect infotainment.

THE BAD

Tough to park; not exactly the pure off-road truck that the Power Wagon is.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you already have several brightly colored power toys, you’ll want this truck to pull them.

ALSO CONSIDER

Nissan Titan PRO-4X, Ford F-150 FX4, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.

George Kennedy is a freelance automotive journalist. He can be reached at George.H.Kennedy.iii@Gmail.com or on Twitter @GKenns101. 

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