By Derek Price
The first time I drove the new generation Ram 1500, I marveled at just how much it felt like a car: smooth, silent and refined.
Never before has a truck delivered so fully on the promise of what a modern pickup should be, feeling like it combines several competent vehicles into one package. It has the cabin space and utility of an SUV, the quiet, relaxing experience of a nice car, mixed with build quality and technology that’s up to snuff — and in some ways surpasses — the newest and best crossovers.
How will this kinder, more cultured Ram formula fit in with a rugged off-road package?
That’s the question I was asking myself while driving the new Rebel, Ram’s aggressive-looking trim that comes from the factory with serious off-the-pavement chops.
A beefed-up suspension and massive off-road tires — Goodyear’s 33-inch Wrangler DuraTracs — both noticeably detract from the ordinary Ram’s magical smoothness. But they do add considerable capability, especially when you weigh the entire suite of goodies a Rebel comes with.
It includes a one-inch suspension lift, electronic locking differential, underbody skid plates, hill descent control and new Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs for cooling under extreme use. It’s a well-rounded package, made even sweeter by the assertive grille with RAM lettering, unique vented hood and menacing, blacked-out accents.
One potential downside: while Ram made its outstanding four-corner air suspension system standard on the Rebel in the past, it’s an optional upgrade for 2019. The new Rebel comes standard with coil springs now.
For a truck with such serious capability, the drawbacks are minimal. The off-road tires have a barely noticeable hum at low speeds, and the strengthened suspension is stiffer over bumps and less composed in turns. But all those differences are subtle and easily livable for everyday driving, in my view.
One thing the Rebel is not, though, is a Raptor. Ford’s off-road monster remains untouched in capability, occupying a planet of its own as the king of high-speed blasts through the wilderness.
I’m not alone in wishing Ram and Chevrolet would build a head-on Raptor fighter, but the expense and — let’s face it — lack of a real-world need for trucks like that make it a hard sell. I’ve never met anyone who needs to race through a Mexican desert to get to work. It’s just cool to think you could.
The Rebel benefits from the same upgrades that make the 2019 Ram 1500 such an impressive product, enough to win Truck of Texas, Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year and number of magazine and internet comparison tests so far.
Lighter weight, a stronger frame, an aerodynamic profile and unmatched cabin materials and construction all combine to make the new half-ton Ram stand out against the competition. It’s more fuel efficient, more capable in towing and payload numbers, and dramatically more comfortable thanks to innovative ways of reducing noise and vibration in the cabin.
Pricing starts at $44,095 for the Rebel crew cab with two-wheel drive. 4×4 versions start at $44,795 for the quad cab or $47,595 for a crew cab.
Ram has also introduced the Rebel 12, featuring its massive 12-inch touchscreen system, for an additional $2,995.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4X4 ($47,495). Options: Tri-fold tonneau cover ($450), 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine ($1,195), panoramic sunroof ($1,295), rear wheelhouse liners ($195), 33-gallon fuel tank ($425), 9 speakers with subwoofer ($495), four-corner air suspension ($1,795), blind-spot detection ($595), spray-in bedliner ($495). Price as tested (including $1,645 destination charge): $59,680
Wheelbase: 144.6 in.
Length: 232.9 in.
Width: 82.1 in.
Height: 77.6 in.
Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (395 hp, 410 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 21 highway
Why buy it?
It has handsome, aggressive styling and serious off-road ability. Combined with the many upgrades and innovations on Ram’s new half-ton platform, it’s a compelling truck for people who want added capability in their daily-driver pickup.