2016 RAM 1500 Rebel review

'We should turn around' isn't part of the Ram 1500 Rebel's vocabulary

Plush yet effortlessly capable, the Ram 1500 Rebel is a hooligan's best friend.
Plush yet effortlessly capable, the Ram 1500 Rebel is a hooligan's best friend.
Plush yet effortlessly capable, the Ram 1500 Rebel is a hooligan's best friend.

Highs

  • Plush ride quality
  • Bountiful interior volume
  • Strong off-road capability
  • Plenty of power

Lows

  • Awkward front fascia
  • Big sticker price

DT Editors' Rating

There are a few different ways to evaluate a truck that touts off-road credentials, but comparing hardware or build quality or legacy doesn’t quite communicate a rig’s true mettle. Sometimes you just have to go get the darn thing dirty, uncomfortable, and far removed from urban terrain to adequately evaluate its out-of-the-box capability. That’s why I took the 2016 RAM 1500 Rebel to Southern California’s mountains and desert to put the bruiser in action.

Don’t profile the style

With its distinctive face, all-terrain tires and boastful badging, it’s easy to mistake the RAM Rebel for a Ford F-150 Raptor rival, but in truth the packaging is quite different. Yes, the Rebel uses an exclusive air suspension with four different ride heights, the highest of which sits 1.0-inch taller than the standard RAM 1500. Yes, the Rebel rides on 33.0-inch tires and utilizes underbody skid plates. Yes, it has a 3.92 axle ratio and produces 396 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque from a 5.7-liter HEMI V8. But…and it’s a big but…the Rebel was primarily designed to be an aesthetic departure from the rest of the RAM lineup while the Raptor is only loosely related to its donor F-150 platform.

“Offering an off-road-style package on the Ram 1500 has been on our to-do list for some time, but the right combination didn’t present itself until now,” said RAM Trucks CEO Bob Hegbloom at the Rebel’s reveal. See, it’s that whole “off-road style” bit that alludes to the vehicle’s purpose. You can option the RAM Rebel to the F-150 Raptor’s price point, but that doesn’t mean it will transform into a competitive pre-runner.

Long-winded disclaimer aside, I set about finding how capable a beefed up RAM 1500 could be – and in the process developed abounding respect for the Rebel.

A better baseline

While the Rebel may not be a significant departure from the standard RAM line, that fact works in the truck’s favor when it comes to ride quality, cabin refinement, and interior volume.

Though the Rebel fills every inch of room between the lines of a parking spot, it’s remarkably painless to place the rig between them.

It’s hard not to feel spoiled riding in the Rebel’s cockpit. If you’re sitting up front, Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system is a treat to operate with impressive features baked into a dead-simple module. If instead you find yourself in the rear seats, it’s like a test to see how well you can spread out among 40.3 inches of legroom. Should you somehow manage to load up the 125.3 cubic feet of interior space, including a pair of cubbies under the rear seats, the Rebel’s optional weatherproof, lighted, lockable Ram Boxes eat up additional cargo.

Before the road became rough, I was able to evaluate the Rebel’s suburban demeanor. In short, daily driving this truck would be a breeze. Thanks to the Rebel’s adaptive air suspension – which automatically lowers to an “aerodynamic ride height” at speed – plus a smooth, communicative steering rack, the only clue that you’re piloting anything other than a standard RAM is a faint drone from its oversized tires. Additionally, the Rebel’s large windows and minimal blind spots (aided by a backup camera) make the massive truck feel shrunken on the road. Though the Rebel fills every inch of room between the lines of a parking spot, it’s astoundingly painless to place the rig between them.

RAM’s Rebel can be optioned with either a 3.0-liter Ecodiesel V6 making 240hp and 420 lb-ft of torque or the aforementioned HEMI V8. Should frugality be of more interest than a kick-ass sound and gobs of power, the Ecodiesel paired with the eight-speed automatic transmission will return up to 25 mpg on the highway – but even the meatier V8 powertrain averages 22 highway mpg. I didn’t really come close to that figure during my time in the driver’s seat, but HEMIs just seem to bring out the hooligan in me, so don’t count my tests as standardized.

Kicking up dust

The stage was set: after loading up at the crack of dawn, myself and a few adventure-seeking peers would tackle a moderately challenging off-road trail in Big Bear before heading for a dry lake bed in Lucerne Valley.

The first several miles off-tarmac only required two-wheel drive, giving my passengers and I a chance to gauge the Rebel’s ride quality on coarse terrain at the air suspension’s normal height. Though not quite as plush as Toyota’s TRD series trucks, the RAM gracefully progressed along the trail at modest speeds without transferring bumps to the cabin. With greater speed, the truck settled further, demonstrating the damper’s rapid rebound and improving the ride comfort. Though I’d disengaged the traction control, the Toyo Open Country tires gripped loose dirt and slippery rocks impressively under acceleration and braking.

As our route transitioned from a fire road to a series of steeper hills and larger boulders, I paused to lift the suspension, engage four-wheel drive, and plot my path with more care. While for some off-road vehicles, this transition would be more dramatic, the Rebel merely felt more sure-footed. Continual smoothness and driving ease traversed our group across small and large obstacles alike. Though there were moments when I was sure the Rebel lacked sufficient clearance, or would get bogged down in deep sand, it effortlessly rumbled along like a container ship over mild waters. The same nimble handling I’d experienced in tight parking lots also allowed me to confidently squeeze the Rebel through narrow rock corridors.

2016 RAM Rebel
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

In a moment of juvenile curiosity, I spotted a set of steep mounds and hatched the idea to mount them for a few impressive photos. Without hesitation, the RAM crawled up the loose dirt and perched atop the slope as a king surveying his domain. Without a locking differential, the Rebel would likely struggle to climb a larger, similarly steep ridge, but our journey didn’t afford any opportunities to test my theory.

After emerging from the oscillating mountain terrain, our group scurried to the dry lakebed, eager to let the RAM’s sizable powertrain suck in mouthfuls of air at higher speeds. With three miles of abandoned, cracked earth between each end of the lake, the Rebel surged forward, ushering a rooster tail of dust behind it. I’d love to convince you that my shenanigans were merely for pragmatic evaluation, but I was having entirely too much fun for that to be true. Still, the desert runs exposed the Rebel’s propensity for speed, characterized by the same stability that I’d noted over jagged ground.

Good to great

After hours at the helm of RAM’s burliest light-duty pickup, I was sure of one thing: the Rebel may be a styling package with a fancy suspension, but because it’s based on an incredible platform, it just works. Not only does the Rebel offer the same great cabin, ride quality, and interior volume as the standard 1500, it pitches in just enough rugged aesthetic to encourage owners to tackle terrain that a normal RAM could probably handle anyway.

Cars

Jaguar’s rally-ready F-Type roadster is happiest off the pavement

Jaguar is celebrating the XK120's 70th birthday by turning the F-Type roadster into a rally warrior. Built to FIA specifications, the model receives suspension and braking upgrades plus a full roll cage to protect the occupants.
Cars

Born to run (forever): The most reliable cars you can buy right now

We all dread the thought of our car turning into a money pit, but choosing a dependable vehicle from the start can help us rack up countless care-free miles. Here, we've rounded up some of the most reliable cars available.
Cars

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.
Cars

Where are you going this weekend? These 5 off-road vehicles say 'anywhere'

The body-on-frame SUV is going extinct, but there are still several options for buyers looking to skip the asphalt. To help you sort the good from the bad, we've rounded up the best off-roaders currently available.
Cars

Lime’s first carsharing service motors into Seattle this week

Lime may be better known for its app-based bike and scooter rental services, but in Seattle, Washington this week it's launching its very first carsharing service, similar to Car2go and Zipcar.
Cars

Land Rover shows its artsy side by previewing the 2020 Range Rover Evoque

Land Rover made life-sized wire sculptures to preview the 2020 Range Rover Evoque. The all-new SUV will make its debut during a private event held in London on November 22, and deliveries will begin in 2019.
Cars

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.
Deals

These headlights have 4 color settings to help save lives under all conditions

Boslla headlights are an easy-to-install solution to achieve all-weather lighting for your vehicle. After a quick ten-minute install, these lights have up to four settings to get you through anything.
Cars

The DBX SUV will go where no Aston Martin has gone before

When it launches in 2019, the Aston Martin DBX will be the British automaker's first SUV. In the meantime, camouflaged DBX prototypes will undergo strenuous testing around the world.
Cars

Ford teams up with Walmart to study consumer response to autonomous delivery

Last week it was Ford and VW, and this week Ford and Walmart are signaling a desire to work together on autonomous vehicles solutions. Ford and the giant retailer will study consumer reactions to self-driving delivery vehicles.
Cars

Our favorite fuel-efficient cars are as frugal as they are fun

You don't need to opt for a hybrid or an all-electric ride in order to achieve good fuel economy. These vehicles pack both performance and style, whether you're in the market for a luxury sedan or a game-changing pickup truck.
Cars

Out of juice? Learn how to jump-start a car with this quick guide

Jumping a car is a simple procedure, but not everyone knows how to properly do so. To make things easier, we've put together a quick-hit guide on how to fire up your vehicle using jumper cables and a second power source.
Cars

Prep your car for the coming snow and sleet with these cold weather tips

Driving in the winter, whether downtown or across the country, is rarely easy. Luckily, we've put together a quick rundown of a few things you should do to winterize your car before the snow officially hits.
DT Daily

DT Daily: Waymo’s driverless cars, ‘Fallout 76’ tips, and Racella

In today's episode of DT Daily, we discuss Waymo's foray into the ridesharing sector, along with various tips for making the most of the recently launched Fallout 76. We also sit down with singer Racella to chat about her new EP, Waves.