Manufacturers love to tout the off-road capability of their trucks and SUVs, and most of these claims are valid in most dirt-related environments (see: Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Range Rover). But for the hardcore off-roaders, one often has to make modifications — new tires, suspension, shocks, skid plates, et al can be added for unstoppable prowess off the beaten path. But here’s the downside: those rugged alterations lead to a harsher, noisier ride, plus they can be expensive — and, if executed improperly, they can downright ruin a vehicle.
To solve all the conundrums above, the factory-fresh off-road pickup enters the scene. With multiple trim levels and packages, most manufacturers make pickups specifically for doing battle with dirt. Ford has the FX4 package and the Raptor version of its F-150. Chevy has the Z71 Silverado. Toyota has the Tundra TRD PRO. And now Ram has the Rebel, to fill the need in its own off-roading lineup.
Though it looks the part, the Rebel is not meant to do battle with the Ford Raptor. (It’s more akin to Ford’s FX4.) Modest improvements have been made to the truck’s chassis for the sake of capability off-road, but that’s about it. The Rebel gets Bilstein shocks, an extra inch of ground clearance, Toyo Open Country tires and powder-coated skid plates. The Rebel also gets a new grille and massive “Ram” badges that can be seen from the International Space Station. While these changes have been polarizing to the truck-loving community, the Tonka-esque brashness has appeal.
Ram 1500 Rebel Specs
Engines: 3.6-liter V6, 5.7-liter HEMI V8
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Horsepower: 305 (V6) / 395 (V8)
Torque: 269 lb-ft (V6) / 410 lb-ft (V8)
Drive: 4×2 (V8 only) / 4×4
Max Towing Capacity: 7,610 pounds (V6) / 10,640 pounds (V8)
Max Payload: 1,880 pounds (V6) / 1,810 pounds (V8)
When I was confronted with a rain-soaked off-road course in West Virginia, the Rebel’s modifications helped it perform admirably. The extra ride height made navigating inclines and ruts a breeze, and the truck’s traction control kept the Rebel on the move in the soft, wet mud. It may not be invincible like Ram’s heavy-duty off-road offering, the Power Wagon, but what made the Rebel shine here was the smaller size — a much-appreciated aspect on the narrow trail carved out in the wooded portion of the course.
On the road it was as comfortable as any other truck its size. The ride was a bit stiffer with the new off-road-friendly suspension setup, but it remained relatively comfortable. What also helps is the Rebel’s adjustable air suspension. It can be lowered to “Normal” and “Aero” ride heights when on the road, in order to help combat decreases in fuel economy and handling caused by the higher ground clearance. In short, the road manners were not affected by its off-road bits.
For 2016, the Rebel starts at $43,270 with 4×2 and 4×4 configurations available as well as two engine options, a 3.6-liter V6 or a 5.7-liter HEMI V8. That borders on pricy, but nowadays pickups are more luxury items than they are workhorses, and that’s about on par with the average transaction price for a full-size pickup. Considering that, the Rebel comes well equipped from the get-go, and satisfies the fair-weather off-roading enthusiast who wants both the image and capability of a dedicated off-road machine, without sacrificing real-world, on-road comfort.