Long-Term Test First Report: 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel 12 Crew Cab

First Report: A worthy winner

The original Ram Rebel came out of a corporate exercise to determine what a light-duty Power Wagon might look like. The first generation was good, but there was always room for improvement. We were excited to finally get our hands on a second-generation Rebel on the excellent new "DT" platform, which was engineered as a variant from the outset. This truck so thoroughly impressed us during our 2019 Pickup Truck of the Year competition that we crowned it our winner.

Featuring unique wheels, grille, 33-inch DuraTrac tires, and a sport hood, the Rebel receives an exclusive interior treatment, as well as Bilstein shocks matched with steel spring (our preference and how we ordered our tester) or air suspension, full skidplating, towhooks, and 3.92 gears with an electronic rear locker. Beyond the standard Rebel is the more upscale Rebel 12 with an incredible 12-inch touchscreen and leather seating.

The 33-inch Goodyear DuraTrac tires seem to be the new darling of OE off-road packages. It's a good, but not great, all-around tire choice.

Our Rebel came to us essentially loaded, save for the air suspension option. A crew cab starts at $47,990 well equipped, but added to our tester was Billet Silver Metallic paint ($200), Bed Utility Group with adjustable tie-downs and LED lighting ($450), Rebel 12A with the aforementioned powered leather seats and 12-inch screen with Sirius 360L and a nine-speaker stereo ($2,495), Level 2 Equipment Group ($3,000), 5.7L Hemi V-8 with MDS and VVT ($1,395), Panoramic Sunroof ($1,495), Deployable Bed Step ($195), Rear Wheelhouse Liners ($195), 33-gallon Fuel Tank ($495), Blind Spot with Cross-Path Protection ($595), RamBox Cargo Management System ($995), Trailer Brake Controller ($295), Spray-in Bedliner ($595), and a destination charge of $1,695—for a grand total of $62,035. This gives us a pretty darn luxurious yet capable 4x4, without stepping up to a decked-out Limited that comes with obvious compromises when in the dirt.

You might ask why we chose a Rebel with the steel spring suspension over the adjustable air suspension, and the answer is simple: trail performance. While we love the self-leveling nature of the air suspension, its kneel mode for easy access, and the ability to increase ground clearance by raising it up, the steel spring setup is capable of higher performance. Both suspensions feature Bilstein monotube shocks, but the shocks aren't shrouded by airbags on the steel spring setup, allowing them to dissipate heat better. Having driven both versions, we think the steel spring is better-tuned for higher speeds and overall feels smoother and much more capable when pushing the truck to the limits. If you plan on doing lower-speed trail riding and tow a lot, the air suspension is still a good choice.

Our love affair with our Rebel started from the second we slid into the driver seat. The interior is just about perfect, with every switch and button where you expect it, roomy accommodations, and quality materials with fantastic fit and finish. Thanks to the controversial shifter "knob," the center console is massive enough to hide a 15-inch laptop computer and has some innovative features, such as the sliding cupholder tray and upright phone storage. We appreciate all of the class-leading technology, such as the 7-inch configurable driver information center, 12-inch screen, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Rebel has just enough red accents inside to give the truck is own personality—a welcome respite for typically all-black interiors.

Our truck is equipped with the 395hp and 410-lb-ft 5.7L Hemi V-8, backed by an eight-speeed automatic. The combo is good, but not quite best in class. We'd appreciate some firmer shifts, or at least a selectable sport mode, because the trans errs so far on the side of smooth that sometimes shifts can be a little gummy. That being said, the Rebel is more than adequate for just about any job, and the trans never seems to hunt or get caught flat-footed. Interestingly enough, the eTorque version of the Hemi is not available in our configuration, we are told, due to the weighty options on the truck.

The EPA rates our truck at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, and so far, we aren't even close. We are hoping it'll loosen up after a few thousand more break-in miles and less stop-and-go commuting. At least with the optional 33-gallon fuel tank on board we have some serious highway range.

Ram does a good job of equipping its trucks with front towhooks that are large enough to be useful with a strap or shackle.

All Hemi-equipped Ram 1500s feature an interior noise-canceling system, which, in addition to the exceptional outward visibility and great ride from the coil suspension, makes the Rebel one of the most enjoyable trucks for a long highway jaunt. Unlike some of the other trucks on the market, the Ram is one that you can find a comfortable seating position in immediately. Did we mention its quiet? So damn quiet.

We did have an opportunity to do a couple hundred miles of towing already, including transporting our Week to Wheelin' Bronco from the shop to the photo studio, and we have to say, the progressive rear coils do the job. With the proper tongue weight, the Rebel was poised and towed like a champ, despite its decidedly off-roading bias. The integrated trailer brake controller works flawlessly, and we loved the blind spot monitoring system that can automatically detect a trailer, and its length, within the first couple of turns. No inputs from the driver are needed, and you have an electronic set of eyes monitoring the blind spot next to the trailer.

If first impressions are an indicator of what the relationship is going to be like, the Rebel just might end up being one of our favorite pickups we've ever had the pleasure of having in our fleet. So far, we like it that much.

 

Report: 1 of 4
Previous reports: First report
Base price: $47,990
Price as tested: $62,035
Four-wheel-drive system: Part-time, electronically controlled, two-speed

Options as Tested
Billet Silver Metallic paint ($200), Bed Utility Group ($450), Rebel 12A ($2,495), Level 2 Equipment Group ($3,000), 5.7L Hemi V-8 with MDS and VVT ($1,395), Panoramic Sunroof ($1,495), Deployable Bed Step ($195), Rear Wheelhouse Liners ($195), 33-gallon Fuel Tank ($495), Blind Spot with Cross-Path Protection ($595), RamBox Cargo Management System ($995), Trailer Brake Controller ($295), Spray-in Bedliner ($595), Destination Charge ($1,695)

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 4,166
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 12.98
Test best tank (mpg): 15.16
Test worst tank (mpg): 11.59 (towing)

Maintenance
This period: None
Problem areas: None

What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Technology, capability, comfort
Not: Trans shifts too soft, umm

Logbook Quotes
"Lots of compliments at the gas pump for the Rebel—even more than when we had our Raptor. "
"The 12-in screen is clutch; it's a statement piece and everyone wants to play with it. "
"Wish the trans shifts were a little firmer. It's nice from a comfort standpoint, but it's too gooey. "
"Just towed about 6,000 pounds and the truck was an absolute joy to tow with. From the brakes and handling to the confidence with the load—no problem. "
"The RamBoxes are perfect for a grocery store run when the kids are in the truck. Room for everything and everyone."

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