The 2022 Ram 1500 Rebel Feels Like the Right Tool for the Job
The Ram Rebel is a straightforward, honest off-roader with a reliable V8. Hard to go wrong with that.
Used to be that if you wanted a pickup with decent performance in the dirt, well, that was pretty much baked into the form: Tough parts, great ground clearance, and 4WD can get you pretty far off the beaten path. But as the pickup market expanded and diversified over the last decade, so too has the availability of dedicated off-roaders like the 2022 Ram 1500 Rebel.
Five days with the Ram Rebel in the mountains of Colorado is a really interesting test of a key question that admittedly, most Americans are content to leave unanswered. How much truck is too much truck? The term "Raptor fighter" gets thrown around a lot in these discussions, as if everything of this off-road ilk needs to compete with Ford's desert-bashing icon. That's just not the case. The new Raptor is wide as hell—96 inches with the side mirrors—and in your face at all times, while also towing and hauling less than most trucks. By contrast, something like the Rebel occupies the same real estate as a normal half-ton pickup, has appropriately amped-up off-road abilities, and can still tow over 11,000 pounds with the right spec.
The result is a more well-rounded package that's easier to live with, even if it's not equipped to run in the Baja 1000 in stock form. It's also a lot cheaper and easier to find on a dealer lot without a markup these days.
Really—and this feels like a strange thing to write about a pickup with a 12-inch infotainment screen and ventilated seats—the Ram Rebel is a pretty simple machine. It's what a lot of folks claim is missing from the market today, an honest truck with a naturally aspirated V8 that can climb mountains without making a big deal about it. This shouldn't be news, as the Rebel's been on sale in its current form since 2019, but let's just say the last few years have been mighty distracting, and you'd be forgiven for forgetting about it. For 2022, Ram freshened things up with a new Rebel G/T trim, and that's the Hydro Blue truck in which I bounced around Breckenridge for a long skiing weekend.
2022 Ram 1500 Rebel Review Specs
- Base price (as tested): $53,045 ($71,995)
- Powertrain: 5.7-liter mild hybrid V8 | eight-speed automatic transmission | four-wheel drive with low range
- Horsepower: 395 @ 5,600 rpm
- Torque: 410 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm
- Seating capacity: 5
- Bed size: 67 inches
- Max payload capacity: 1,324 pounds
- Max towing capacity: 11,530 pounds
- Off-road angles: 26.7° approach | 21.8° breakover | 23.8° departure
- Ground clearance: 10.8 inches
- Curb weight: 5,345 pounds
- EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city | 22 highway | 18 combined
- Quick take: A honest, capable off-roader with a bit of a soft side, the Rebel is the most truck most people really need.
- Score: 8.5/10
The current-gen Ram 1500 has been snagging rave reviews since it debuted thanks to its comfortable coil-or-air-sprung ride, a smartly designed cabin, plenty of luxury options, and the decision to retain its tried-and-true 5.7-liter V8. For towing, for hauling, even for off-roading, natural aspiration remains king of the hill in many minds because the power delivery is smoother and more predictable, and the overall package feels more reliable. Its 395 horsepower is plenty, 410 lb-ft is pretty good, and both numbers are augmented (+16 hp, +130 lb-ft) at times by the "eTorque" 48-volt mild hybrid system that replaces the alternator with a motor-generator on the crank and a small lithium-ion battery to harvest and deploy that extra power as needed, like under heavy loads. In practice, the torque fill is smooth and pretty much undetectable unless you immediately hop into a non-eTorque Ram to feel the difference. Not at all like boost coming on in a turbo truck.
Connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case, the engine returns modest fuel economy of about 18 mpg combined. I saw far less than that climbing 3,000 feet out of Denver into the Rocky Mountains and using the truck as a ski-town runabout—around 14 combined. (The optional 33-gallon fuel tank was appreciated.) The 33-inch all-terrain tires generate more highway noise than traditional all-seasons, but between the air suspension, super-comfortable leather seats, and the solid 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, it's a smooth ride to the slopes.
For off-road adventures, my plans for which were dashed by a storm that dumped a few feet of fresh powder a day before I arrived, a short list of meaningful upgrades significantly raises its abilities. You've got 18-inch aluminum wheels on 33-inch Wrangler DuraTec all-terrains, stronger Bilstein monotube dampers with rear external reservoirs, a one-inch lift, skid plates, and a locking rear diff. Spec the optional air suspension and the truck can rise up even further to provide 10.8 inches of ground clearance and impressive approach, breakover, and departure angles. Though as you can tell by the damaged front skid plate in the photos, even that's not enough sometimes. Wasn't me.
About the G/T trim: it's a $2,995 package that's mostly about the look with some interesting choices on the inside. There's a new cold air intake up front to go with the "sport performance" hood and G/T stickers, but that's all that separates it visually from the normal Rebel. Inside though, there's extra bolstering on the seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with aluminum paddle shifters, metal pedals, and some new engine monitoring pages in the Uconnect 5 infotainment, which remains a treat to use. The G/T pack also removes a lot of the red accents that adorn the standard Rebel's cabin, which I suspect will be a big plus for most folks.
The most curious decision in my mind is changing up the gearshift from the dash dial to a traditional center console lever, which Ram also bills as a "performance" decision. The dial shifter has been a source of some angst among would-be Ram owners concerned about the long-term reliability of shift-by-wire tech, so score one for the traditionalists here. (I'd rather have the center console space back, personally.) Unfortunately, selecting the G/T with a V8 also requires the addition of the Level 2 Equipment Group option, which tacks on a further $3,245 for things like heated seats and steering wheel, remote start, a 4G LTE hotspot, parking sensors, and more. And that's about a third of the nearly $18,000 in options added to this particular truck—not quite the bargain it seems from the starting price.
Having not tested one at sea level, I can't make any definitive statements about how the power output was sapped at 9,000 feet without a turbo, or how the eTorque system helped offset that. I do know it felt like fewer than all 395 horses were present, with throttle response a bit muted and more downshifts than expected to keep the engine in the power band. This was a non-issue around town. What did crop up there was just the sheer size of every full-size pickup these days. The Rebel has a one-inch lift, so it doesn't seem too big in isolation. Then you try to cram it into the tiny garage of your rental house and, yikes, times have changed. The Rebel fit with about two inches to spare in front and an inch in back, but because it had a solid tonneau cover, this meant I had to open the garage door whenever I wanted to access the five-foot bed. It made searching for suitable parking spots in a bustling ski town pretty annoying, too.
But if you accept that tight squeezes are part of the deal, it's hard to drum up a negative about the way the Ram Rebel goes about its mission. Here's where I admit that I had no towing or hauling opportunities to present, and my off-roading plans were dashed by a storm that dumped a few feet of fresh powder on the whole area right before I arrived. Other reviews have found it handles just fine with a 10,000-pound trailer despite a curiously low payload rating of 1,324 pounds, helped by adaptive air suspension that also makes a huge difference in the overall comfort served up here.
There is a downside to this simplicity—most of the driver-assist functions that are standard on competing trucks are paid options here. The only thing the base model provides is forward collision warning. Some might say great, I don't want any of that on my off-roader anyway. But the paucity of tech extends to things that would be great on a trail rig; for example, a forward camera for low-speed crawling (the high hood blocks a lot). If Jeep can add one to the Gladiator, its absence here feels like a silly oversight.
Overall, there's a lot to like in the 2022 Ram 1500 Rebel G/T, and not a lot to gripe about. It's a straightforward, no-bullshit formula that feels more precious than ever as simple V8s lose increasing ground to turbocharged V6s and turbo-fours on the precipice of full electrification. There will come a time when the Hemi's thrum is as quaint a throwback as the spartan interiors found on trucks 30 years ago.
And just look at the competition. The 2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is now a V6 hybrid by default, subject to first-year model bugs, and a lot more expensive with a $68,520 starting price. The Ford F-150 Tremor starts at $61,000 and can't be had with a V8. A V8 Chevy Silverado Trail Boss is more comparable though to my eyes, the Ram has a far more attractive design inside and out. The Ram 1500 Rebel certainly isn't the most truck you can buy. But if you're seeking a part-time off-roader that can still put in work, in many ways, it does make the most sense.
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