First Drive: 2016 Ram Rebel 1500
Guts, Glory, Ram. It’s a bold marketing slogan, and for 2016, there’s plenty of bite to back up that bark. One truck that is making a big splash in the ½-ton market is the all-new Ram Rebel 1500. It’s the company’s take on a modern-day off-road package. Fit with skidplates, all-terrain tires, and a built-in suspension lift thanks to Ram’s air-ride suspension, the Rebel goes far beyond a sticker package. In fact, it has the looks and features to be competitive against the likes of the Ford F-150 FX4, Chevy 1500 Z71, and Toyota Tundra TRD.
To be clear, the Rebel is not meant to be a Ford SVT Raptor fighter. While its in-you-face grille and styling may lead you to believe that the Raptor was its intended target- that simply isn’t the case. We picked up a set of keys to a 2016 Ram Rebel 1500 Crew Cab and made it our home base for chasing buggies around Johnson Valley, California, during the 2016 Nitto King of the Hammers race. Once the official KOH week had come to a close, we spent a little time exploring the trails and rocky desert in the all-new pickup. Here’s what we learned.
Inside, you’ll find an extremely modern and spacious cabin. Aside from the tire-tread sewn into the seats, we liked the overall layout and abundant storage options. We’re still slowly getting acclimated to the 8.4-inch touch screen, but overall found it user friendly.
There’s no doubt that your average truck owner will spend most of their time on-pavement. Thankfully, the 5.7L Hemi V-8 and eight-speed transmission make on-road driving a pleasure, not a pain. Thanks to excellent tuning and gear selection, the wide array of gears shift smoothly in-town and on the highway. We were hoping to see a little better fuel economy given the modern setup, but we peaked around 15 mpg of mix use driving. Ultimately, it’s hard to complain about the 395hp of 410 lb-ft of torque.
Since the Rebel is an off-road-oriented pickup, that’s the spot we spent the most time. We found the air suspension and Bilstein shocks worked well together, although we did top out the air suspension quite a bit when running at its highest off-road setting. We did find the ECS to be a bit invasive, but you can defeat most of the nannies by holding the traction-control button for longer in four-wheel-drive high. Considering we were following a group of modified Wranglers, we were impressive how well the completely stock pickup did keeping up.
The lack of a true selectable rear locker was never an issue in the desert as the limited-slip differential did a very good job of getting the truck up the trail. Part of the trail-prowess is the segment-exclusive multilink rear suspension. You’re essentially getting similar architecture as the Jeep Wrangler, but with beefier components and air bags. As an added bonus, the suspension automatically compensates for added weight. This means you can
Is the Rebel better than just purchasing a standard Big Horn trim and adding small lift? We say yes. The air suspension and Bilstein shocks are excellent factory features and we like the bumpers and overall styling that’s unique to the Rebel. If you are hauling around a variety of cargo and trailers, you’ll be especially happy with the air suspension. Overall, the Rebel does a great job of checking most of the boxes for anyone looking to have a comfortable daily driver that’s competent in an off-road setting.