This Rebel has a cause: to get me up the side of a mountain in time for lunch.
The road to get there is really just an ATV trail that, in spots, is barely the width of the truck. It’s steep and scattered with boulders and deep muddy potholes.
It’s what Ram says the 2019 Rebel – the off-road warrior of the new-for-2019 Ram 1500 line-up – was built for.
From the outside, the 4x4 half-ton looks the part. It’s tall – an inch higher off the ground than the 1500 and able to be raised another inch still with optional air suspension. It has a black grille instead of chrome, a sport hood with vents and 18-inch wheels with 33-inch all-terrain tires.
Since the Rebel launched as its own model in 2015, it’s been popular, accounting for about 15 per cent of total Ram 1500 sales in Canada. Other truck companies offer capable off-road versions too, although some buyers probably don’t ever make them tackle much more than the speed bumps in the Costco parking lot.
To boost its off-road credentials, the Rebel has steel plates protecting its underbelly from sticks and stones, standard Bilstein shocks, tow hooks and a locking rear differential that lets you split power evenly to the two back wheels if you get stuck.
It’s also got a 3:92:1 axle ratio, which delivers more torque to the wheels than the standard 3.21:1. Again, that’s for getting unstuck. (Or for not getting stuck in the first place.)
The truck we’re in has the optional four-corner air suspension ($1,895). It’s also got a leather and sound package ($3,895). If you don’t get the leather, the fabric inserts in the seats match the tire treads. If you ever switch tires, you’ll be faced with a highly-frowned-upon tire/upholstery mismatch. The package also replaces the 7-inch infotainment screen with a vertical 12-inch screen.
Roads less travelled
So, how does it actually handle? As we start out, I make sure to hit every rock and dip. Right away, my phone flies across the cabin.
There’s a clever clip to keep phones secured and in-view – and it works, once I realize it’s there – and there’s a deep storage bin plus plenty of pockets to keep potential projectiles safely stowed.
The ride is pretty smooth, considering what we’re riding on. I’d be flying around too if it weren’t for the seatbelt, but my teeth aren’t rattling.
For the next two hours, the trail only gets worse. There are tight switchbacks, hills so steep that all I can see out of the windshield is the sky, and gullies filled with water. The Rebel handles it all, pretty effortlessly.
We make it up the mountain without getting stuck. Even though the trail was rough, we didn’t have to rough it. The Rebel has all the benefits of the regular 1500 – mainly, a smoother ride and a roomier, more comfortable cabin than most of its rivals.
If you’re not taking it off-road and don’t need rugged looks, it might be overkill. Ram, and its rivals, have cheaper trims.
For 2020, the Rebel will be largely unchanged, although it will get 1500’s optional 3-litre diesel V-6 with 260 hp and 480 lb.-ft. of torque.
- Base price / As tested: $60,095 (quad cab), $61,795 (crew cab) / $78,030 (not including $1,895 freight/PDI)
- Engine: 5.7-litre V-8 with 395 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic / 4WD
- Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 16.1 city, 11.1 highway
- Alternatives: Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss, Ford F-150 FX4, GMC Sierra 1500 ATF, Nissan Titan Pro-4X, Toyota Tundra TRD
The 1500 is already a handsome truck, although Ford, Chevy and GMC fans might not be convinced. The Rebel just looks a little sharper. It doesn’t come with big decals announcing its off-road prowess, so your neighbours probably won’t judge you if you never bring it back covered in mud.
You might need a boost to climb in, but once you do, there’s plenty of room for people and stuff. It’s comfortable and fit, and the finishes are good. The controls are simple and mostly intuitive, although the layout of the 12-inch touch screen is a little confusing at first. The crew cab’s back seat is cavernous. Heated seats and steering wheel are added options.
Off-road, it’ll take you almost anywhere you need to go. I’d been a little worried because the gear shifter, which is a simple rotary knob, doesn’t let you shift into lower gears for climbing. But it ends up not being a problem. And if you’re sticking to the road, the ride is car-like and handling is responsive.
Blind – spot and cross – path detection is a $500 option. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also on offer. You can get up to five USB ports, four of which also accept USB-C, and a three-prong power outlet. There’s no front camera to help you see what’s ahead of you on steep hills.
The Quad Cab comes with a 6-ft. 4-in. box, the Crew Cab offers a 5-ft. 7-in. box. There are optional RamBox lockers built into the sides.
If you’re looking for a truck that could fit your family and take them through the mud, the Rebel’s worth checking out, but it might be overkill for some.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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