Rear steel springs, front air suspension, Wrangler DuraTrac tires, Laramie interior, Limited grille, and what sounds like a diesel under the hood. What could this grab bag of parts, all wrapped up in a partially camouflaged but otherwise normal-looking Ram 1500 mean? Let’s take a closer look.
According to our spy photographer, this prototype wasn’t something Ram wants anyone to know about. Our photo ace told us the guys from Ram were more protective than they were with the Wrangler Rubicon prototype we spotted awhile back, saying engineers shooed him away and even tossed a couple pebbles in his direction. The mama-bear level of protectiveness and collection of random parts is suspicious to be sure.
About that odd suspension layout, we speculate the steel springs might be an effort in testing a new payload package, which might serve to rectify the current Rebel’s lowish tow and payload ratings. Front air springs are also perplexing. Our best guess is that Ram might be testing the Rebel’s off-road air springs with a heavier 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 engine, one the photographer says he heard while shooting. Given Ford’s latest offerings for the 2018 F-150, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched.
Tire partnerships are important for manufacturers. The 2017 Ram Rebel is wrapped in Toyo tires, but this thing is wearing Goodyears. Is this foreshadowing an end to Toyo’s partnership with Ram? Or maybe just a few engineers testing a different set of tires?
To confuse us even more, a Laramie tan interior with a Limited grille? We chalk it up to be one of those test-mule anomalies. Maybe the test engineers wanted to be a little more comfortable in case those front air springs aren’t the right fit.