The image of enhanced off-road capability, both real and imagined, has long been a part of the full-size-pickup formula. That attribute continues with the new-for-2019 Ram 1500, the redesigned lineup of which includes an update to the dirt-slingin’ Rebel trim level that was introduced for 2015. While we’ve already driven a good chunk of the revised Ram 1500 model range, some additional Rebel seat time in the Arizona desert reinforced that it, too, greatly benefits from the standard half-tonner’s wholesale makeover.
Serving as the little brother to Ram’s heavy-duty Power Wagon off-roader, the Rebel slots, price-wise, between the new 1500’s upscale Laramie and cowboy-chic Longhorn trim levels. It’s easy to spot, with a vented, power-domed hood and blackened fender flares and exterior trim joining an updated take on the Rebel’s characteristic “interlocking” RAM grille. It also has its own specific 18-inch aluminum wheels, up from the previous 17s, and is the only 1500 variant to ride on knobby, 33-inch-diameter all-terrain tires—now slightly larger at LT275/70R-18 versus LT285/70R-17. Ram says the new truck’s switch to Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac rubber from the previous Toyo A/T Open Countrys was largely due to the desire for quieter on-road running. And indeed, the new treads are surprisingly hushed on the tarmac given their aggressive profile, producing just a faint thrumthat we only really noticed at slower speeds.
The big tires and a set of upgraded Bilstein monotube dampers (with external reservoirs for those at the rear axle) are what set the Rebel apart mechanically. The rest of its tough-truck gear—including a one-inch suspension lift over stock; hill-descent control; an electronically controlled locking rear differential; and skid plates for the front suspension, steering gear, transfer case, and fuel tank—can be had with the new Off-Road package available on all other four-wheel-drive Ram 1500 models for $795 plus $495 for the locking diff. Non-Rebel trucks so equipped also gain a few Off Road graphics, slightly revised versions of the 1500’s standard internal-bypass dampers, and 18- or 20-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, depending on the trim level.
Ram sought to enhance the second-gen Rebel’s appeal by offering it in a greater number of configurations than before. Whereas the previous truck was crew cab only and rode on the 1500’s optional air-spring suspension, the new rig also can be had as a less capacious quad-cab four-door with steel coil springs. Rear- and four-wheel-drive setups continue to be offered, although the all-wheel-drive setup, made possible by a BorgWarner on-demand transfer case, is omitted from the Rebel build sheet. Ram says most Rebel buyers are just fine with the conventional 2WD, 4WD High, and 4WD Low modes. The Rebel trucks we sampled were all outfitted with four-wheel drive, air springs, and the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 producing 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Available later this year also will be Fiat Chrysler’s eTorque 48-volt hybrid system, which comes standard on the base, 305-hp 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and is optional on the Hemi. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic controlled by a rotary dial on the dash is the only available transmission.