2019 Ram 1500 Rebel Off-Road Review: The Winning Ways of Ram’s Battle-Ready Pickup Truck
Knobby, 33-inch tires? Check. Lifted suspension? Check. Hemi V8? Check. Cramped Quad Cab? Check.
The 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, By the Numbers:
- Base Price (Price as Tested): $44,695 ($51,220)
- Powertrain: 5.7-liter V8 | 395 horsepower, 410 pound-feet of torque | eight-speed automatic transmission | rear-wheel drive with part-time four-wheel drive
- EPA Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city | 21 highway
- 0-60 MPH: 6.4 seconds (Car and Driver testing)
- Top Speed: 108 mph
- Off-Road Angles: 21.7° approach / 21.4° breakover / 25.8° departure
- Towing Capacity: 11,530 pounds
- Quick Take: The Ram Rebel will take you places the 1500 Limited and its bling 22's simply can't. Big tires, big suspension, and big attitude—that's what it's about.
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel: The Pros
- V8 power, baby. The Rebel doesn't like the idea of having a V6 as a beating heart, even though it can be outfitted with the 3.6-liter Pentastar with eTorque. (You'd be hard-pressed to find a six-cylinder Rebel at a dealership due to the extremely low take-rate.) The 5.7-liter Hemi under the hood simply wants to go, and it wants everyone to take notice of its 395 ponies heard loud and clear through a dual-pipe exhaust system. On the trails, the smooth, free-breathing V8 delivers as much or as little horsepower and torque as your right foot demands. That directness is ideal when charging through swampy mud holes and sand dunes alike.
- A factory-installed one-inch suspension lift kit and newly designed Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs get the job done. My tester came equipped with the standard coil spring suspension instead of the optional four-corner airbags, but I never felt cheated during the off-road test. Wheel articulation is fluid when crawling over ruts and rocks while medium-to-high-speed runs on wide open trails are eerily comfortable. A lofty 9.9 inches of ground clearance and 18.9-degree approach angle allowed me to tackle most obstacles virtually head-on rather than at an angle.
- At last, a front-facing camera. One of my biggest complaints of the outgoing Rebel was the lack of a grille-mounted camera to aid in parking and off-road situations. The half-ton truck's muscular hood makes it even more difficult to see what's in front when approaching any sort of obstacle, be it a downhill scramble or a parking curb. Being able to see what lies ahead through the infotainment screen is a serious advantage.
- As we said during our on-road review of the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, the "giant off-road-ready Goodyears" are well-suited to almost every road scenario imaginable. In this case, near-freezing temperatures and muddy trails in Northwest Indiana proved no match for the LT275/70R-18 33-inch Wrangler DuraTrac tires, which provided the right amount of bite on soft and hard surfaces alike even when pumped to an mpg-friendly 50 PSI.
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel: The Cons
- That rotary shifter is a real form-over-function choice, all the more galling on a truck like the Rebel. Having extra storage space to store your crap is great until you get stuck somewhere off-road (and you will get stuck, eventually) and try the old Drive/Reverse rocking trick. Rapidly shifting gears to work yourself free is nearly impossible with the delayed action of the rotary shifter. Plus, operating that sucker with big, bulky gloves during winter can be downright annoying. Ram knows this, which is why the all-new Ram Heavy Duty retained the old-school shifter in Cummins diesel-powered models.
- As mentioned above, the optional air suspension isn't required for most on- or off-road scenarios. But folks in certain geographical locations, however, could use the extra inch of ground clearance the $1,795 add-on offers (10.7 inches compared to 9.9) in its height-adjustable glory, while others could benefit from the super-low entry and exit setting of just 6.1 inches. It certainly rides a bit better overall. And how do you explain to previous-gen Rebel owners that the suspension they received at no extra charge will now cost them a pretty penny?
- The overkill off-road macho interior is a bit much. I get it, it's a Rebel and not a run-of-the-mill Tradesman, but the wild print on the seats and the anodized red accents throughout the cabin are over-the-top without being funny or endearing like the rest of the truck's amped-up nature.
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, The Off-Road Experience
Right away the biggest surprise was how smooth everything was, even without the air suspension. The steering, the pedals, the suspension, the whole package. Power delivery was linear and predictable, which is important when climbing muddy hills, and the brakes offered a strong initial bite even when caked with mud, which is important when descending said muddy hills. The Rebel exuded a sort of mechanical synergy that I never experienced in its predecessor, which drove like a 1500 on steroids but also like an underpowered Power Wagon, plagued with brutish feel off-piste.
Whipping the Rebel's rear end around on sandy, gravelly mounds was fun and effortless, and the half-ton pickup felt right at home slinging dirt and whatever else happened to fall under those tires. However, the real challenge was in the woods, where narrow and muddy trails with deep ruts could quickly go from "piece of cake" to "holy sh*t." This is where one characteristic of this specific truck turned out to be a positive, where normally it'd be seen as a negative: the Quad Cab.
For most intents and purposes, the Ram's Quad Cab is just fine for most single folks who don't typically haul more than one or two bodies. But if you have kids or a dog, or even a passing need to carry a third person sometimes, don't even think about it—just jump straight into a Crew Cab. It's that cramped back there. But in the tight trails of Badlands Off-Road Park, the shorter wheelbase was a thing of beauty, negotiating three-point turns and slipping between trees or rocks much easier thanks to the shorter overall length (228.9 inches to the Crew Cab's 241.8). Even in serious mud, which more often than not made the rear tires beg for grip, the Rebel carried on to the surprise of the park's resident Jeepers.
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, The Verdict
Perhaps the strongest argument you can make for the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel is how easy it is to turn anyone into a recreational off-roader. For this test, I had motorsports contributor and friend to The Drive Ryan Lewis along for the ride. Ryan also happens to be a professional racing driver and racing coach, which means that he spends most of his days behind the wheel of something like a McLaren 720S. Needless to say, he was out of his usual scene.
Watching Ryan approach boulders slowly and with the utmost care was downright hilarious, knowing that the same obstacle could be taken with speed and head-on. But seeing him become more comfortable with the truck's vast capabilities little-by-little was a testament to the reassuring feeling the Rebel provides. This further confirmed how far the Rebel (and Ram trucks in general) have come in recent years. It's softened its approach just enough to bring new buyers into the fold, but not enough to take away from the astounding ability to conquer practically every obstacle—all while heating your hands and butt if you so desire.
The Rebel isn't perfect; no truck is. With that out of the way, its price tag won't force you to reconsider your line of work (let's not forget the Raptor starts at $57,435), and it can tackle moderate to difficult off-road trails while oozing panache and confidence. And if you like playing in mud, it's pretty darn good at that too.