Feels like the right tool for the job

It used to be that if you wanted a pickup with decent performance in the sand, it was pretty much baked into the mold: tough parts, high ground clearance and 4WD can take you pretty far off the beaten track. But as the pickup market has expanded and diversified over the past decade, so has the availability of specialty off-roaders like the 2022 Ram 1500 Rebel.

Five days with the Ram Rebel in the mountains of Colorado is a very interesting test of a key question that, admittedly, most Americans like to leave unanswered. How many truck is too many truck? The term “Raptor fighter” is used a lot in these discussions, as if anything of this off-road ilk has to compete with Ford’s desert bashing icon. That’s just not the case. The new Raptor is hugely wide – 96 inches with the side mirrors – and always in your face, while also dragging and dragging less than most trucks. In contrast, something like the Rebel takes up the same real estate as a normal half-ton pickup, has the right off-road capability, and can still tow over 11,000 pounds with the right specs.

The result is a more rounded package that is easier to live with, even if it is not equipped to run in stock form in the Baja 1000. It’s also a lot cheaper and easier to find these days on a dealer lot with no trim.

Really – and it feels strange to write about a pickup with a 12-inch infotainment screen and ventilated seats – the Ram Rebel is a fairly simple machine. It’s what many people claim is missing from the market today: an honest truck with a naturally aspirated V8 that can climb mountains without putting much effort into it. This shouldn’t be news as the Rebel has been on sale in its current form since 2019, but let’s just say the past few years have been hugely distracting, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting. For 2022, Ram has freshened things up with a new Rebel G/T trim, and that’s the Hydro Blue truck I bounced around Breckenridge in for a long ski weekend.

2022 Ram 1500 Rebel Review Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $53,045 ($71,995)
  • Drivetrain: 5.7-liter mild hybrid V8 | eight-speed automatic transmission | low-range four-wheel drive
  • PK: 395 at 5,600 rpm
  • Couple: 410 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Bed size: 67 inches
  • Maximum payload: 1,324 lbs
  • Maximum towing capacity: 11,530 lbs
  • Off road corners: 26.7° approach | 21.8° breakthrough | 23.8° departure
  • Ground Clearance: 10.8 inches
  • Empty weight: 5,345 lbs
  • EPA Fuel Consumption: 19 mpg city | highway 22 | 18 combined
  • Quick Take: An honest, capable off-roader with a bit of a soft side, the Rebel is the truck most people really need.
  • rating: 8.8/10

The current-generation Ram 1500 has received critical acclaim since it debuted thanks to its comfortable ride with coil or air suspension, a cleverly designed cabin, numerous luxury options and the decision to upgrade its proven 5.7-liter V8. For towing, pulling, even off-roading, natural aspiration remains king of the hill in many minds because the power delivery is smoother and more predictable and the overall package feels more reliable. Its 395 hp is plenty, 410 lb-ft is pretty good, and both numbers are sometimes complemented (+16 hp, +130 lb-ft) by the “eTorque” 48-volt mild hybrid system that replaces the alternator with an engine – generator on the crankshaft and a small lithium-ion battery to harvest that extra power and deploy it when needed, for example under heavy load. In practice, torque fill is smooth and virtually undetectable unless you jump right into a non-eTorque Ram to feel the difference. Not at all like boost coming on in a turbo truck.

Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case, the engine delivers a modest fuel economy of about 18 mpg combined. I saw far fewer than that climbing 3,000 feet out of Denver into the Rocky Mountains and using the truck as a ski town runabout—about 14 combined. (The optional 33-gallon fuel tank was appreciated.) The 33-inch all-terrain tires generate more highway noise than traditional all-seasons, but between the air suspension, super-comfortable leather seats, and solid 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, it’s a smooth ride to the slopes.

For off-road adventures, for which my plans were disrupted by a storm that dumped a few feet of fresh powder a day before I arrived, a short list of meaningful upgrades greatly increases the possibilities. You have 18-inch aluminum wheels on 33-inch Wrangler DuraTec all-terrains, stronger Bilstein monotube dampers with rear external reservoirs, a 1-inch lift, skid plates and a locking rear diff. Specify the optional air suspension and the truck can raise even further to provide 10.8 inches of ground clearance and impressive approach, overshoot and departure angles. But as you can see from the damaged front skid plate in the photos, sometimes even that isn’t enough. Was not me.

On the G/T trim: It’s a $2,995 package that’s mostly about the looks with some interesting choices on the inside. There’s a new front cold air intake to match the hood with “sports performance” and G/T decals, but that’s all that visually differentiates it from the normal Rebel. Inside, though, there’s extra bracing on the seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with aluminum paddle shifters, metal pedals and some new engine monitoring pages in the Uconnect 5 infotainment, which remains a joy to use. The G/T package also removes much of the red accents that adorn the standard Rebel’s cab, which I suspect will be a big plus for most people.

The most curious decision in my mind is changing the shifter from the dial on the dash to a traditional lever on the center console, which Ram also considers a “performance” decision. The dial-shifter has been a source of some anxiety among would-be Ram owners concerned about the long-term reliability of shift-by-wire technology, so score one here for the traditionalists. (Personally, I’d rather have the center console space back.) Unfortunately, selecting the G/T with a V8 also requires the addition of the Level 2 Equipment Group option, which costs another $3,245 for things like heated seats and steering. wheel, remote start, a 4G LTE hotspot, parking sensors and more. And that’s about a third of the nearly $18,000 worth of options added to this particular truck – not quite the bargain it seems based on the starting price.

Since I haven’t tested one at sea level, I can’t make any definitive statements about how the non-turbo power was undermined at 9,000 feet, or how the eTorque system helped compensate for that. I know felt as if less than all 395 horses were present, with a little muffled throttle response and more downshifts than expected to keep the engine in the power band. This was a non-issue in town. What did show up there was just the sheer size of any full-size pickup these days. The Rebel has an inch of lift, so on its own it doesn’t seem too big. Then you try to cram it into the tiny garage of your rental house and yes, times have changed. The Rebel fit with about two inches across in the front and an inch in the back, but because it had a heavy-duty tonneau cover, it meant I had to open the garage door whenever I wanted to access the five-foot bed. Searching for suitable parking spaces in a bustling ski town was also quite tedious.

But when you accept that tight squeezes are part of the deal, it’s hard to be negative about the way the Ram Rebel carries out its mission. Here I admit that I had no towing or towing capabilities, and my off-road plans were disrupted by a storm that threw a foot of fresh powder all over the area just before I arrived. Other reviews have found it handles a 10,000-pound trailer just fine, despite a curiously low payload of 1,324 pounds, aided by adaptive air suspension that also makes a huge difference in the overall comfort served here.

There’s a downside to this simplicity: most of the driver assistance features that come standard on rival trucks are paid options here. All the base model offers is forward collision warning. Some might say great, I don’t want that on my offroader anyway. But the lack of technology extends to things that would be great on a tow rig; for example, a forward camera for low-speed crawling (the high hood blocks a lot). If Jeep can add one to the Gladiator, its absence here feels like a silly mistake.

Overall, there’s a lot to like in the 2022 Ram 1500 Rebel G/T, and not much to whine about. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense formula that feels more precious than ever, as humble V8s increasingly lose ground to turbocharged V6s and turbo-fours on the precipice of full electrification. There will come a time when the Hemi’s roar is as peculiar as the Spartan interiors found on trucks 30 years ago.

And just look at the competition. The 2022 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro is now a standard V6 hybrid, subject to model bugs in its first year, and quite a bit more expensive with a starting price of $68,520. The Ford F-150 Tremor starts at $61,000 and cannot be purchased with a V8. However, a V8 Chevy Silverado Trail Boss is more comparable in my eyes, the Ram has a much more attractive design inside and out. The Ram 1500 Rebel is certainly not the most truck money can buy. But if you’re looking for a part-time off-roader that can still get the job done, in many ways that makes the most sense.

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