Critics’ Notebook: 2016 Ram Rebel Crew Cab 4×4
Without a real rebel yell, is the Rebel all that rebellious?
Once again, we must ask ourselves the old question: What's in a name? Take, for example, the "Rebel." Are we talking Star Wars rebellion rebel, here? Johnny Reb from antebellum Mississippi? That one Tom Petty song off Southern Accents that isn't great but you listen to anyway? Whatever the case may be, Ram's Rebel leaves me scratching my head. Maybe I missed the memo. We're Rebelling against what, again?
Maybe it's automotive segments. Ram's sportiest-looking pickup can be most easily slotted into the space occupied by the Ford F-150 Raptor. Only the Rebel isn't some crazed muscle machine. Don't let the name fool you: This is actually quite reasonable truck. Sure, its 5.7-liter Hemi V8 cranks out plenty of power, and the monolithic grille up front is bold, but at its base it's a practical thing.
It's nice-looking, too. That is, once you get past the absurdly large RAM lettering on the grille. But that's a Ram thing; Fiat-Chrysler's truck division likes to plaster its name and logo everywhere, perhaps as a reminder that it's no longer associated with Dodge. We get it. But the unadorned simplicity of the truck's styling is striking. In an age when the pickup world is dominated by giant grilles and questionable hood bulges, Ram's trucks seem better proportioned. Stripping out the chrome and flash, as the Rebel does, only improves its aesthetic.
The interior features embroidered tire tracks (skid marks?) traversing each seat, but the upholstery is made of a material that's the same color as many types of dirt and grease—always a plus when one plans on actually, you know, using a truck to do truck things. Although the Ram Boxes, handsome lockable storage bins beneath the bed rails, do take away some bed space, they're great for stashing tools and the like from public view. (These cubbies have removable drain plugs, too, making them ideal for storing wet, messy things, as well as ice and beer.)
Like any pickup kitted out with a V8 and big tires, the Rebel was up for a romp in the dirty sand pits near the beach in Far Rockaway, Queens. Pedestrians on the boardwalk above seemed miffed sometimes, but I guess they saw the Rebel big badge on the truck's flanks and said to themselves, "Hey, remember Southern Accents?"
The one area where the Rebel could use major improvement is the exhaust. The more I drove the truck, the more I identified with its rebel persona, but It needed a rebel yell to match. The stock mufflers were too quiet. They rebelled against a rising tide of rebelliousness.
RAM 1500 REBEL CREW CAB 4X4
PRICE (as tested): $53,150
MPG: 15 city / 21 highway
REBELIOUSNESS: 4/10, needs more loud.