Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Ram Rebel Crew Cab 4X4

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

Before handing over the key to the freshly detailed Flame Red 2015 Ram Rebel parked out front of FCA Canada’s Fleet Office, the PR rep warned:

A word to the wise: don’t go off-roading with me; I seem to be cursed.

“This isn’t a Raptor-fighter, you know. Don’t go trying to jump it or anything.”

He had previously admitted to heeding extra caution with the Rebel assignments and the intents of the folks reviewing it, wanting to keep it from becoming damaged on trails too narrow for a full-size truck.

All this is fair enough – especially considering the price tag shows a number north of $60-large for this rig – and wouldn’t normally be a problem except that my editor assigned the Rebel to me with the instruction that I was expected to take it properly off-road and see how much farther a truck like this could be expected to go beyond the capabilities of a “normal” truck.

Fortunately for the Ram folks (and unfortunately for me who has to answer to the editor), my plans to take the Rebel deep enough off-road to get it stuck so deep, a tractor would need to yank it out (like I did with a Jeep Wrangler and Toyota FJ Cruiser previously) fell through at the last minute. So I needed to go only as far off the beaten path as my nerve – and lack of tow help – would allow.

As luck would have it, the Niagara Region not far from my house is crisscrossed with countless “Unassumed Rural Roads” that range in ruggedness from gentle gravel (such as the one that consumed Jacob Black’s Volvo XC60 a while back) to a forest with no discernable pathway, let alone “road”. Following my brother riding his dual-sport motorcycle, we sought out something halfway between.

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The significant rain that soaked Ontario’s spring time had by now relented for a while, leaving a “road” that, when previously thick with muck, had now hardened into a concrete-like rutted and cratered surface that put the Rebel’s 33-inch Toyo Open Country A/T tires (on 17-inch wheels) and model-specific Bilstein Monotube Performance shocks to work. With the air suspension cranked up an inch higher than any other stock Ram 1500, the clearance was just sufficient to avoid putting the optional $175 Protection Group skid plates to use (covering the transfer case and front suspension).

Having grown accustomed to electronic all-wheel-drive systems found in many cars – and even some trucks – these days, the multi-step process of stopping, selecting Neutral with the rotary gear selector knob and then pressing a separate 4WD button seems cumbersome and slow to react, though an accepted practice for the hardcore off-roaders demanding a locker gear and 4WD low. For most applications, simply letting the truck do its own thing with the on-demand 4WD High will suffice and not require the multi-step process.

Truthfully, with no Rubicon Trail-like rock crawling accessible to us during the test, the muddy rut roads proved to be no real challenge for the Rebel, nor likely for many other full-on 4WD full-size trucks. Once the road became more of an ox-path, then little more than a hiking trail, the brush and branches threatened to autograph the still-shiny paintwork, and I backed out from pressing farther. My brother on his Kawasaki, decided to continue, only to call me a short while later having sufficiently stuck the KLR 650 hub-deep in a bog not much further down the trail.

A word to the wise: don’t go off-roading with me; I seem to be cursed.

The rest of the week saw the big red Ram put to the sort of work that owners might very well do: filling the bed and passenger area with work equipment and people needed to get a job done. In this case, that job was a video shoot that had me and my colleagues using the Rebel as a rugged production vehicle and sometimes-camera-car near Algonquin Park.

This is where the Rebel really shone. Loaded up with camera gear in Pelican cases, we were able to pack with little care for space management. Everything fit beneath the $450 tonneau cover except our largest kit that sat snugly inside the cabin with the passenger side rear seat flipped up. One of the excellent $1,200 RamBox cargo management system holds was filled with tents and sleeping bags; the other with ice and cold drinks.

But of course a full-size pick-up should easily swallow our gear – it’s a large utilitarian vehicle. The real surprise comes from how well the Rebel manages to treat its human cargo. The seats – finished with a whimsical tread pattern embossed into the synthetic materials and accented with licorice-red trim – are supportive and comfortable even after several hours behind the wheel.

The optional Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system features an easy-to-use navigation system, Sirius XM satellite radio and decent sound quality. The Rebel is quiet enough to actually enjoy the stereo too, despite the big, off-road rubber that normally adds a bunch of road noise to the cabin. This Ram is just as quiet as its luxurious and well-insulated premium truck brethren from the same brand. Given the price point, automatic climate control was expected, but not present here.

In-cabin storage is excellent with loads of cubbies and bins scattered around the interior to contain important stuff you might want to keep close (like a camera bag, in my case).

The Rebel comes standard with the Pentastar 3.6L V6, but order package 26W on the sales sheet, and your Rebel will be fitted with the 5.7L V8 Hemi packing a 395-hp and 410 lb-ft punch as our test truck did. The latter setup gives plenty of motivation for the big truck and a soundtrack befitting its aggressive styling.

Either engine will be fitted to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, which, when coupled with the Ram’s FuelSaver MDS cylinder-deactivation and the air suspension’s lowest, “Aero” setting, helped our Rebel earn an overall average consumption rate of 15 L/100 km after more than 1,000 km of driving, the majority of which was either highway or back-road cruising. The government rates the Rebel at 16.2 city and 11.5 highway. Given all the gear it was hauling and some off-road driving, our observed number is reasonable.

Aside from the aforementioned Bilstein shocks, higher-reaching air suspension, optional skid plates and meaty rubber, the only thing that really sets the Rebel apart from less intimidating Rams is its styling. In informally polling a number of truck owners throughout the week with the Rebel, we’ve found the unique blacked-out grille with giant RAM logo (and even larger RAM lettering across the tailgate) is polarizing at best. Aside from the silly faux-vents in the hood (they don’t actually have any opening) I think the Rebel’s styling is pretty successful in looking macho enough to attract some youthful or simply enthusiastic truck buyers.

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The Rebel is intended to tap into some of the money being spent elsewhere in the lucrative aftermarket for trucks. Having seen too many customers drive out of a Ram dealership with a brand new truck, only to immediately spend more money customizing with lift kits, fancy grilles and aggressive tire packages, the Rebel seeks to divert some of that revenue into the company’s coffers. The downside for buyers is getting an off-the-shelf truck that’s not really customized to the buyer’s individual needs. The upside is that each component fitted to the Rebel has been carefully selected and tested to perform optimally with the Ram 1500 without hindering ride quality or handling.

While the Rebel may not run through the desert neck-in-neck with Ford’s beastly Raptor, the macho Ram is nevertheless a great truck with enough proper componentry and ground clearance to get it stuck further afield than most 4x4 pickups, plus it’s sure to cost considerably less than the upcoming Ford. More importantly for most potential buyers, it should have enough of the rugged looks to make it desirable amongst the custom truck crowd without giving up anything that makes the current crop of Ram trucks so highly regarded by owners and the media alike.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 3 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4X4
Base Price $51,895
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,695
Price as Tested $61,135
Optional Equipment
Luxury Group (power folding mirrors, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, overhead console), $725; Protection Group (transfer case skid plate shield, front suspension skid plate), $175; Tonneau Cover w/Embossed Ram’s Head, $450; 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, $1000; Anti-Spin Differential Rear Axle, $525; 5.7L HEMI V8, $300; Uconnect with Navigation, $1,300; Park-Sense Rear Park Assist System, $425; ParkView Rear Back-up Camera, $450; RamBox Cargo Management System, $1,195; Trailer Brake Control, $350; Spray in Bedliner, $550.