Switching out of the posh, luxurious Ram 1500 Limited, the top and most-expensive trim in the 1500 lineup and climbing up into the 1500 Rebel felt like shifting from a classy conversation with Frank Sinatra to a grungier storytelling session with Metallica. One truck is a street king, the other a beast that belongs on a bumpy two-track road somewhere deep in the vast wilderness of a National Park. Of all the models in the Ram 1500 lineup, the Rebel is the most capable off-roader. Boisterous looks, plenty of underbody skid plates, knobby tires, upgraded Bilstein shocks for a taller overall ride height, and other goodies like hill-descent control and a button that engages the standard locking rear differential. Kamil just finished up a date with Ford’s Raptor, now it was my turn with Ram’s counterpart.
With a starting price of $42,240, the 2019 1500 Rebel offers a flexible array of powertrain, drive, and cab configurations, and may be the ideal choice for you if you’re looking for a spirited truck that isn’t afraid to get dirty and thrown around. It’s definitely a truck that can be daily driven, with a few things to consider:
Those tires though
The Rebel wears quite the pairs of hiking boots: 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac LT275/70R18 all-terrain tires. Wrapped around unique black 18-inch wheels, these meaty tires come standard and give the Rebel a confident, grippy footprint on rock, slick ice, and pretty much anywhere the pavement ends. But the added traction does come at a cost, however, as a quick search on Tirerack.com showed replacement tires listing for $274.99 a piece, or a little over a thousand dollars for all four. Prior to hopping in the Rebel for the first time, I was preparing to hear an endless drone from these all-terrain tires, especially on the highway, but to my surprise they weren’t overwhelmingly loud and livable in everyday driving. There was only an occasional, faint “Hummmm” that crept through the cabin only noticeable on slow city streets.
Cylinder count and fuel economy
Like other members of the 1500 family, the Rebel offers a standard 305 horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 with eTorque mild-hybrid technology or an available 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with an optional mild-hybrid version. All pair with an eight-speed automatic transmission, a 3.92 rear axle, and selectable four-wheel-drive. While the roaring 5.7-liter V-8’s thunderous power brought joy to my ears and made the Rebel an absolute riot to drive, the return on investment at the pump wasn’t the best. With my test model’s $445 optional 33-gallon fuel tank (26-gallon standard), I averaged 15.17 mpg after 398.8 miles of 80% highway, 20% city driving. That’s slightly less than the EPA estimated 17/15/21 mpg combined/city/highway. Dropping down two cylinders brings in an estimated 21/19/24 mpg combined/city/highway, while upgrading to the V-8 paired with the eTorque system slightly increases the eight-cylinder mileage to 19/17/22 mpg combined/city/highway.
Its gunslinger looks, inside and out
The Rebel looks like the kind of half-ton truck you’d expect to line up for a quick draw on some dusty high noon Western showdown. With big, bold, and intimidating exterior appearance tactics, the Rebel carries a noticeable in-your-face flair compared to many of the more conservative trims in the 1500 lineup. You won’t be particularly “blending in” with its taller stance, bulgier domed hood with functional air vents, blacked-out fender flares, bumpers, grille, and headlights with LED accents. Passersby won’t underestimate its two heavy-duty front two hooks or smirk at its wheels that belong in Moab. Inside, the Rebel’s cabin is more on the rugged side with “Rebel” badging and red trimming on the door panels, around the air vents, steering wheel stitching, and seat piping. While you don’t get the elegant leather you’d expect in the Limited or Laramie trims, you do get seats done up in a two-tone mix of cloth and vinyl, and the center cloth pattern mimics tire tread. Multimedia fanatics should be aware that the Rebel comes with a smaller 5.0-inch touchscreen for the Uconnect system. The impressive 12-inch tablet-sized touchscreen isn’t available unless you fork over another $2,995 for the Rebel 12 package, which also adds full leather upholstery.
Air suspension vs traditional
The two different suspension setups offered on the Ram 1500 each have their pros and cons. While the optional adjustable air suspension creates an almost magic carpet floaty ride, soaking up every single little bump or crack in the road, splurging on the “4-Corner Air suspension” tacks on an additional $1,795. You do get a maximum of close to 11 inches of ground clearance thanks to the adjustable air suspension highest off-road mode. That said, with more moving parts in the air suspension than the standard common shock and spring duo, reliability comes into play. A brief read through an online forum/message board for current Ram Rebel owners revealed pricey problematic mishaps like the potential for blown fuses, leaks, and the system not leveling properly in colder conditions. If an air spring goes out, expect to pay in the $370-$450 neighborhood for the part… and that’s on the low end, not including labor. The compressor itself costs close to $600 (Source, RockAuto.com). In the end it comes down to a pick-your-poison scenario with the Rebel: do you want a slightly bumpier ride or a more expensive total cost at the dealership and the question of longevity?
If you’re deciding between cab choices the Crew Cab is the way to go when shopping around for a new Rebel or for that matter, any trim of the Ram 1500. Opening the stubby, small rear doors on my Rebel tester, I found it very cramped in the rear seat being a tall, lanky 29-year-old. It’s important to note too that you do get a longer 6-foot 4-inch bed with the Quad Cab. Opting for a larger Crew Cab configuration, with a smaller 5-foot 7-inch bed however, is definitely worth the nearly $3,000 upcharge (starting MSRP of $47,740). Bigger doors open wide to a massive backseat, with an impressive generous amount of room for three adults to comfortably spread out while you’re bombing down an unplowed north woods road. Note that on the Rebel, you cannot get both the Crew Cab with a 6-foot 4-inch bed.
Towing and payload
Looking to put your Rebel to work and pull a trailer full of snowmobiles or pack its bed with a cord of firewood? Keep in mind the following bragging rights when deciding between cab sizes, engines, and either two- or four-wheel-drive.
- Crew Cab, 4×2, 3.6-liter V-6 with eTorque
Maximum towing 7,520 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,930 pounds
- Crew Cab, 4×4, 3.6-liter V-6 with eTorque
Maximum towing 7,370 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,770 pounds
- Crew Cab, 4×2, 5.7-liter V-8
Maximum towing 11,540 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,850 pounds
- Crew Cab, 4×4, 5.7-liter V-8
Maximum towing 11,340 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,840 pounds
- Crew Cab, 4×2, 5.7-liter V-8 with eTorque
Maximum towing 11,430 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,740 pounds
- Crew Cab, 4×4, 5.7-liter V-8 with eTorque
Maximum towing 11,190 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,720 pounds
- Quad Cab, 4×2, 3.6-liter V-6 with eTorque
Maximum towing 7,750 pounds, Maximum hauling 2, 320 pounds
- Quad Cab, 4×4, 3.6-liter V-6 with eTorque
Maximum towing 7,410 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,710 pounds
- Quad Cab, 4×2, 5.7-liter V-8
Maximum towing 11,690 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,980 pounds
- Quad Cab, 4×4, 5.7-liter V-8
Maximum towing 11,470 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,970 pounds
- Quad Cab, 4×2, 5.7-liter V-8 with eTorque
Maximum towing 12,750 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,890 pounds
- Quad Cab, 4×4, 5.7-liter V-8 with eTorque
Maximum towing 11,330 pounds, Maximum hauling 1,820 pounds
[Disclaimer: Ram tossed us the keys to the 1500 Rebel and included a tank of fuel.]