If you've been eyeballing and comparing the 1/2-ton off-road trim packages, you can now add the ‘15 Ram 1500 Rebel to the list of currently offered 4x4-centric pickup trucks, which includes the Chevy Silverado Z71, Ford F-150 FX4, GMC Sierra All-Terrain, Nissan Titan PRO-4X, and Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. Each of these trucks has admirable 4x4 qualities. For several years, the most off-roady package offered by Ram was the Outdoorsman, so we were excited to see an even more dirt-worthy trim come down the pipeline when Ram introduced the Rebel in January of this year. Obviously, we jumped at the chance to take a closer look at and get behind the wheel of a pre-production Ram Rebel both on- and off-road in sand, gravel, mud, and snow to see how it measures up to the rest of the playing field.
In the halls of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the ’15 Ram 1500 Rebel is considered one of ten different Ram truck models. To the average consumer, it’s simply a trim package. At first glance you’ll quickly notice that the new Ram rolls on wide mud- and snow-rated 33-inch-tall tires. The Rebel-specific grille, bumper, hood, and badging are also hard to miss. We have to admit, the front end looks a lot cooler in person than it did in the initial intro images. The photos didn’t do it any favors and accentuated some unflattering body lines. Many people likened its looks to everything from a handlebar mustache to that of Star Wars alien character Nien Nunb. The multi-piece front bumper is actually an admirable feature if you use the truck in the dirt. It provides more ground clearance than the standard Ram 1500 bumper/air dam, and each section is removable so it can be easily replaced if damaged. The front recovery points are also Rebel-specific and slightly less desirable than the Ram 1500 4x4 components. The Rebel hooks are a closed-loop design and don’t offer a lot of room for a tow strap. You would likely have to use a clevis, which would surely damage the hook opening in the bumper. We’d prefer either an open hook, like on the Ram 1500 4x4, or something similar to the hook/loop found on the Ram 2500 4x4 and Power Wagon.
Moving to the rear, there will be no mistake about what truck you are driving, thanks to the oversized cartoonish Ram logo on the tailgate. The dual exhaust frenched into the rear bumper acknowledges that extra thought went into looks and performance. The shiny polished tips and extra ground clearance are appreciated on our end.
The interior of the Rebel is similar to the Sport trim level in its lavishness. Inside you’ll find Rebel-specific seating and a black headliner that gives the truck a more menacing, high-end feel. Attractive, high-quality Radar Red accents and stitching are sprinkled throughout. We love the extra seat bolstering that helps keep you in place when bouncing around off-road or carving canyon corners aggressively. However, the Toyo Open Country tire-tread-embossed seat material is a little too gimmicky for our personal tastes.
Tire clearance for the 285/70R17 Toyo Open Country AT II tires comes from a 1-inch lift via the Ram’s air suspension front and rear. The Rebel is not available with steel coil springs. Damping duties are handled by a quartet of Bilstein shocks. Additional tire clearance is provided by the Rebel-specific front bumper, which offers a slightly larger wheel opening than the standard Ram 1500 front bumper. We really like the 17x8-inch Rebel wheels. We’re especially happy that Ram refrained from fitting 20s on an off-road-centric truck. The 17-inch wheels offer more tire sidewall for improved traction and a better ride off-road, especially when aired down. The black-painted wheels have a machined aluminum outside surface. This is the area most likely to come in come in contact with trail debris, so it makes the wheels less likely to receive unsightly paint chips and dings. Interestingly, the Rebel can be had in 2x4 and a 4x4 models. A 395hp 5.7L Hemi V-8 mated to a TorqueFlite eight-speed ZF transmission is available in both and backed with either 3.92 or 3.21 ratio axle gears. If you would rather have a V-6 Rebel, you can get the 305hp 3.6L Pentastar engine backed with a TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission and 3.92 axle gears. However, the Pentastar-powered Rebel is only available in a 4x4 configuration. No EcoDiesel version of the Rebel is currently available and likely won’t be for some time, if ever. The 3.0L EcoDiesel already makes up nearly 20 percent of Ram 1500 orders, so there is little incentive to allocate additional diesel engines to the nameplate. We’d love to see an EcoDiesel Rebel, but we also understand the reasoning.
The Ram Rebel rides, drives, and performs on- and off-road very similar to our 2013 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year winner, the Ram 1500 Outdoorsman. Both 4x4s have air suspension, a 5.7L Hemi V-8, TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission, and 3.92 axle gears. If you raise the suspension to the highest setting (Off-Road 2 mode for standard air-suspension Ram truck) for more ground clearance on either 4x4, the ride becomes a bit firmer. The normal ride-height of the Rebel suspension is essentially the Off-Road 1 setting of a standard Ram 1500 with air suspension. The Rebel will lower a total of about 3 inches from normal ride height when switched to entry/exit mode. The Off Road setting of the Rebel is about 1 inch over ride height. The suspension reverts to normal ride height if speed exceeds 25 mph. For the smoothest ride, we’d recommend only using the Off Road setting when extra ground clearance is needed. For improved fuel economy, the Rebel will automatically go into aero mode and lower about 1/2-inch if a speed of 60 mph is reached for more than 20 seconds or instantaneously if the vehicle hits 66 mph. It’s been our experience that this can be a ground-clearance hindrance if you enjoy blasting down desert two-tracks. Fortunately, you’ll find standard skidplates under the fuel tank, transfer case, front axle, and steering assembly. An open differential is standard on the Rebel, but an optional clutch-pack limited slip is available. We’d like to see the Ram 1500 get an optional selectable locker across the board, even for two-wheel-drive models but especially on a truck like the Rebel.
The Rebel has great compression braking off-road when you manually shift the transmission into First gear low range and slightly ride the brake. It’s difficult to drive aggressively and manually flip through the transmission gears via the buttons on the steering wheel. You’re probably better off picking a gear or leting the transmission do all the work and shift itself, especially if the kind of driving you are doing involves a lot of steering wheel juggling.
The tires of our tester were aired down to 40 psi for the off-road sections. This improved flotation and traction on the loose gravel and cinder surfaces, but we would probably go a little lower if it were our call. The 3.92 gears are a no-brainer for us. The penalty in fuel economy is likely so minimal that it’s not worth losing the extra oomph, especially if you plan on towing a trailer with your Rebel.
Ultimately, the ’15 Ram 1500 Rebel is not an extreme off-road competitor for the Power Wagon or Ford Raptor (which is not even available for ’15 or ’16). The Rebel trim is more of a unique affordable off-road appearance package with features that will make it perform off-road better than a base-model Ram 1500. The Rebel will be available at the end of the second quarter of 2015 in five colors, including Granite Crystal Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, Flame Red, Bright White, and Brilliant Black. Both monotone and two-tone paint options will be offered. Pricing was not available at press time, but we suspect the base model Rebel will hit the mid-to-high $40,000 mark. Keep your eyes out for a more in-depth on- and off-road review when we get our hands on a Ram Rebel for the week-long 2016 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year testing.