With vehicle names like Rubicon, Power Wagon, and Raptor on the tip of many off-roader’s tongue, the introduction of another off-road vehicle is going to raise expectations. Sometimes these expectations are a little farfetched and unfounded. After all, getting a showroom-fresh rockcrawler or desert-ready prerunner up to today’s fuel economy standards and past the corporate bean counters is no small feat. FCA already does part of this with the amazingly capable Rubicon Wrangler and Ram Power Wagon. But just because Jeep makes the Rubicon and Ford makes the Raptor does not mean everyone and his brother needs one. As it turns out, Ford still sells plenty of FX-4 F-150s and Jeep still sells tons of Sport JK Wranglers.
To those ends, the Ram Rebel is not a Raptor fighter (as some may have expected), but we are more than willing to bet Ram will still sell several. Why? Because the Rebel is pretty close to what the buying public wants and needs: a half-ton 4x4 truck with good gas mileage, big off-road tires, and cool wheels. It’s good for work and for weekend runs to the trails or to drag your dirt bike out to the hills.
The Rebel 1500 comes with 33-inch tires, skidplates, a powdercoated steel bumper, an aggressive grille, an off-road–themed interior, 3.92 axle gears, an eight-speed automatic transmission, an optional rear limited slip, a tuned air ride suspension (with improved off-road geometry), Bilstein shocks on all four corners, and a 1-inch higher ride. The Rebel is available with either a 305hp Pentastar V-6 that makes 359 lb-ft of torque or a 395hp 5.7L Hemi V-8 that makes 410 lb-ft. The Rebel with a Hemi can be optioned with 3.21 gears and as 2WD or 4WD. The Rebel with a Pentastar V-6 is available only as a 4WD. No manual transmission is available.
Both the V-8 and V-6 trucks offer light-duty fuel economy in a heavy-duty-feeling truck, and you know Ram knows heavy-duty. The best part is the Ram Rebel comes with the feel of a lifted and modified truck but, at the end of the day, carries a full factory warranty.
We got a chance to run a few preproduction, late-2015 Rebels through their paces. This might be the perfect combination of refinement and rugged components for that daily driver/work truck that spends the weekend as an off-road warrior. In short, we want one.
We are not sure if the Rebel name is more influenced by an iconic orange Dodge that was used extensively off-road or the Rebel Alliance from a certain popular sci-fi film series, but either way the name fits. As far as we are concerned this Rebel can sling dirt in the face of Boss Hog or space dust in the face of Darth Vader. The preproduction Rebels we played with (all Hemi-powered) had plenty of power at hand.
We got to drive the Rebel in Cinder dunes of northern Arizona as well as in the snow and slick mud. The truck handled all we tossed at it with ease. We would prefer a lever for the transfer case and a lever for the transmission selector, but despite our cries it seems the mechanical lever is going the way of the dodo bird. The Rebel has a bunch of electronic knobs and buttons to control which direction you’re headed and at what speed. Having said that, turning the ESP/traction control off (with a button) allowed us to get the truck a little sideways in the cinders and in the mud without the safety nannies kicking in too noticeably. In the loose cinders the traction control kicked in to prevent the truck from developing wheel speed—even if wheel speed was what the driver wanted.
The interior of the Rebel is also different from the standard Ram 1500. With tire-print-embossed seats and a black headliner, the interior of the truck has a definite feel of the dark side, with a few off-road cues tossed in for good measure. We’re still not sure about that knob gear selector or the transfer case buttons. We get the “cowboy Cadillac” aspect of the fancy electronics, but mechanical levers nearly always work whereas knobs feel like more of a suggestion than a control.
You’re not going to miss the badging on the front or rear of the Rebel. You know it’s a Ram. This bold styling gives the truck definite attitude and makes it stand out above your standard Ram 1500. We dig the aftermarket-looking front bumper, and we noted that there is plenty of room back there for a hidden winch. Various plastic parts look like they could easily be removed for a more prerunner look.
The Rebel’s air ride suspension and reworked control arm mounting points did everything we wanted them to off-road, and the stance is aggressive. So this is not a Raptor fighter, but the suspension is supple and capable even over decent-sized bumps. We did notice a thunk, the kind that seems to accompany air ride suspensions when a wheel reaches full droop.