For someone who loves reading and writing about cars, it should come as no surprise that I have my favorite automotive journalists. One of them is Ezra Dyer. In his early days at Automobile Magazine, he would rhapsodize about his father’s extraordinarily basic Dodge Ram pickup truck. Like e, Ezra is a New Englander. As a young kid, my grandfather, a retired forest ranger, would put me in his giant Dodge pickup he used for runs to his charcoal kiln. It had no carpet, not even a radio; that truck served one purpose-to work. Fast forward to early adulthood and my cousin would let me use his truck to drive from his cottage to beautiful Moonstone Beach in Rhode Island, nicely broken in like your favorite jeans, and I certainly didn’t worry about tracking in any sand. Call it a Yankee sense of practicality, the common thread with these trucks lay in their simplicity.
In 2019, pickup trucks are much different. Years ago, if your owned a truck you had a legitimate reason to. And that truck wasn’t usually needed to take the family to church or your date on a weekend getaway. Trucks of today are asked to be able to function like a working truck while delivering all of the amenities of a passenger car. Dodge started using Ram for its pickups from 1932 to 1954. In 1981, Dodge resurrected the Ram name. In 2011, Ram became its own brand. For 2019, the Ram entered its fifth generation. The Rebel joined the Ram pickup family in 2016 as the Ram built for off-roading.
For a truck built to go off-rad, it certainly looks the part. The Rebel gets its own unique styling. Knobby all terrain tires, tow hooks and an overall serious demeanor suggest this Ram wasn’t built to just haul mulch from the local garden center. As a result, during my time with the Rebel it got a LOT of attention. I get to drive plenty of new cars for The Garage, and most of the time no one pays any attention. That all changes when I get a truck. One guy pulled over to the side of the road while I was walking up to it just to ask me questions about it. I was asked if this was Ram’s answer to the Ford Raptor-a good question. While it is down on power, from its looks to off-road ability, yes, this is the closest truck Ram builds to the Raptor. With its striking red and black exterior, the Rebel attracts plenty of attention. Much like how men gather around whenever you’re grilling something, men, complete strangers, will want to gather around to look at, and talk about this truck. And anyone who came up to check it out was mightily impressed.
And that’s before anyone stepped up to examine the Rebel’s cabin. While Ram offers trims that are even more opulent, our Rebel had nearly every conceivable amenity many luxury car buyers would want. Solidly constructed, the materials gave an impression of durability. The general impression being the Ram is ready to take a bit of a beating inside and put up with it. Ram engineers are aware that many of their customers use their trucks as a mobile office. There is storage galore, and an impressive number of power and USB outlets. Our Ram truck had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making this truck an instant extension of your smart phone. The Ram’s UConnect infotainment continues to be intuitive and easy to use. It is worth mentioning the Ram’s back up camera is without question, the clearest I have ever seen on any car or truck, and if you are towing anything, you will seriously appreciate that. For all its toughness, the Rebel is very comfortable up front. Our Rebel was a quad cab. I’m 6’1″, and while I fit in the backseat, my knees were up against the front seatback, That, and its upright seatback, the rear is acceptable for a quick trip but that’s about it. Buyers needing more rear seat room would do well to get a Ram with a crew cab. If I am reviewing a car equipped with SiriusXM satellite radio, I will typically tune in to the stations that play the alternative rock of my college days. But none of it ‘felt’ right while driving he Rebel. So strong is this truck’s personality that Tom Petty Radio was the only music I would listen to for my week with the Rebel. For any modern vehicle brimming with all the latest technology to have that much character really says something about this truck.
While other Ram trucks offer a V-6 under the hood, that engine is not going to do you any good if you intend to actually take the Rebel to do what it was built for, and that was to leave the paved road behind you. With that purpose in mind, all Rebel’s have a 5.7L Hemi V-8 with 395hp, paired to an 8-speed automatic. The Rebel always in 4×2 mode until you select 4×4. Puttering around town or humming down the highway, the engine is quiet, but once you stomp on the throttle the Hemi comes to life with a glorious roar, and it feels like you’re driving a muscle car that can haul things. Speaking of hauling, Ram 1500’s with a V-8 can tow up to 12,750 lbs, and can handle up to 2,300 lbs. payload on the bed. All of that power is handy for when you need it, but for a truck with this level of capability, it’s absurd to expect much in the way of fuel economy. At least the Ram has a 28 gallon fuel tank so you are not constantly at the pump. In addition to the all-terrain tires and tow hooks, the Rebel differs from other 1500’s with an upgraded suspension, a locking differential, skid plates and hill descent control.
It would be safe to assume that a truck built with the capability of tacking difficult off-road situations would have to give up a lot in terms of day to day driving comfort, but with the Rebel you would be dead wrong. Ram 1500’s use a coil spring rear suspension, while other trucks use a less sophisticated leaf setup. The result is a truck that doesn’t ride like a truck. I took the Rebel for a leisurely weekend trip to the Berkshire Mountains, and I was simply amazed. Even over rough pavement, the Rebel is remarkably composed. If not for the fact I could see the truck’s bed behind me, it feels like you are driving a large crossover. It is simply a remarkable feat that Ram engineers could build such a capable truck that offers unparalleled levels of refinement.
In addition to all the equipment unique to the Rebel that we already mentioned, other standard equipment includes a power drivers seat power rear sliding window and SiriusXM radio. Options on our Rebel included an 8.4″ color touchscreen display, dual zone auto climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, heated front seats, heated steering wheel. front and rear parking assist, remote start, premium audio and blind spot detection. sticker price came to $54,250USD, including destination.
I often thought of my grandfather and his brute, no frills Dodge pickup while I was driving the Ram. I usually got stuck on how I would tell him that it is possible to have a truck that can do everything and more that his truck could but ride the way he would expect a luxury car would. Because if he wanted something nice than his single purpose truck, well, there was always my grandmother’s Chrysler LeBaron. The pickup truck as we know has evolved a long way from what I remember from my childhood, but with the new Ram, I feel like the goalposts just got moved forward. When it comes to trucks, most buyers are unwaveringly loyal to their brand of choice. Anyone shopping for a full size pickup truck, regardless of where their loyalties lie,, owe it to themselves to take a serious look at the Ram 1500. It is really that good.