Review: 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel is big, beefy, off-road goodness
The 2019 Ram 1500 has been completely revamped as a new generation of the pickup truck. Core expectations from the Ram line continue forward, but a new mild hybrid system and better efficiency and capability have been added. We spent a week in the Rebel off-road model and learned a few things.
When we were first introduced to the Ram 1500 in this new 2019 iteration, it was in Arizona at a launch event. There, we saw the myriad of technical changes and upgrades that have been made to the new-generation 2019 Ram 1500.
In a nutshell, the new Ram has a drag coefficient similar to most sedans thanks to aerodynamic improvements, it has a lighter load and better ergonomics due to the use of lighter-weight materials in key components, and it has a stronger framework to allow more capability. With all of these changes, plus a new mild hybrid setup, the 2019 Ram 1500 might look similar to its outgoing generation, but underneath it's a very different truck.
In fact, our greatest beef so far is that we have yet to try the new eTorque mild hybrid system, which was delayed in release and has only just recently begun production. The mild hybrid has a lot of promise for further improving the truck's efficiency, and we're eager to find out if those theories on paper translate into the real world.
What the Rebel model is
Now that we've spent a week in the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel model, we do have more insight into the new pickup's design and capability. The Rebel is, of course, the Ram 1500's off-road-centric model with better gear for off-pavement excursions. This comes at a price, which is mainly paid on the highway where the meatier tires and heavier suspension translate to a somewhat rougher ride and slightly less confident handling. The tradeoff isn't a bad one, though, and is well worth making if going off the paved and cultured path is your thing.
The Rebel model is a trim point model for the Ram 1500 and comes standard with several add-ons that are either exclusive to it or offered only as options with other trim points of the truck. Specialized, larger, and meatier off-road tires (33-inch Goodyear Duratrac) are standard on the 2019 Rebel to offer better grip and capability when there is no pavement. These ride on 18-inch alloy wheels that attach to a fortified suspension with beefier shock absorbers than are found on the standard Ram 1500 trucks. The rear axle becomes the Ram 1500 line's higher-torque 3.92 differential, with an electronic lock for the axle to force 50:50 between the tires. Front tow hooks, hill descent control, a trailering kit, LED headlamps and fog lights, and some interior upgrades are also standard on the Rebel.
As far as its general accoutrements go, the 2019 Ram Rebel is nicely outfitted for the price, with much of the cost paid for this trim going towards the upgraded hardware. The Rebel is very similar to the Big Horn/Lone Star model in terms of interior fitment. The Big Horn/Lone Star in its basic 4x4 configuration runs about US$40,000. Upgrading to the bigger engine and more advanced off-road gear in the Rebel requires about a $5,500 jump.
The look of the Rebel, inside and out
Most of the exterior changes for the 2019 Ram Rebel model are obvious when it's sitting side-by-side with a 1500 sibling. A more aggressive grille, fender flares, hood vents, more obvious undercarriage protection, more heavily-accented bumpers, and more ground clearance due to the larger tires are just some of those changes.
The Ram 1500 Rebel can be had in either the smaller four-door Quad Cab configuration or the larger Crew Cab. Both have the same wheelbase, although the Quad Cab includes the 6-foot 4-inch (1.93-meter) cargo bed while the Crew has the 5-foot 7-inch (1.7-m) bed.
Inside, the Rebel has stitching on the seats and dashboard to delineate the model. The seating has performance upgrades that include a cloth-vinyl mix with heavier bolsters. The tire tread pattern mimics the truck's Goodyears, but is no longer embossed, being instead a print in the new Ram. A black and dark ruby color scheme is exclusive to the Ram 1500 Rebel's interior.
The Rebel's interior is otherwise the same as any 2019 Ram 1500. Not such a bad thing, really, as the Ram's new insides are exceedingly spacious and well-done. Seating in the front is very comfortable and the driver is treated to a large, fat steering wheel and easy access to most vehicle controls. Ram re-did the gear selector knob, making it more tactile with better feedback when used. Like all of the controls in the Ram, that knob now feels workable when wearing gloves, a key point in truck use.
We're also fans, of course, of the 2019 Ram 1500's infotainment system. Our test model Rebel had the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen, which can be found in all of Chrysler-Jeep's products with the infotainment upgrades. This is one of the best systems on the market, with ease of use, clear graphics, and excellent capability all built-in. We generally skip Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connections (standard) with Uconnect, as the Bluetooth connection offers plenty of connectivity on its own. Add in the optional Wi-Fi hotspot and there's little need to plug in a device unless real-time-updated navigation is needed.
Speaking of information screens, the Rebel includes a larger driver information screen (that's "Rebel" branded). That screen offers information on the truck's current status, including off-road data like pitch and yaw, component heat measurements, and so forth. It's an easy-to-read screen that's clear and often useful.
Powerful engines, lots of bragging rights
The 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel can be outfitted with any of the three engines available for the 1500 pickup truck. It comes standard with the 3.6-liter V6 with eTorque. A standard 5.7-liter V8 Hemi, as we drove it, and the same engine with eTorque added are also available for the Ram Rebel.
The eTorque mild hybrid system includes engine stop-start and regenerative braking. The latter stores a limited amount of power in a small lithium-ion battery (430 watt hours). This battery reduces weight from the engine by providing power to accessories independently, improving fuel economy and power output in the process. It also adds a moderate amount of boost to the engine itself.
The V6 is rated at 305 horsepower (227 kW) and 269 pound-feet (365 Nm) of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission powers the rear wheels or, optionally, all four in four-wheel drive. Towing is rated at up to 7,730 lb (3,506 kg) with this engine equipped on the Ram 1500.
The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with eTorque in the 2019 Ram 1500 produces 395 horses (295 kW) and 410 lb-ft (536 Nm) of torque. The same eight-speed automatic, reprogrammed for the engine's output, is used here and both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive are offered. Maximum towing is 12,750 lb (5,783 kg) for this setup. A best-in-class number for a half-ton pickup truck right now (including the Nissan Titan XD).
The same engine without eTorque, which is what we've driven so far in the 2019 Ram 1500 and Ram Rebel, has the same power outputs, but towing is reduced to a maximum of 11,610 lb (5,266 kg). This is due to the difference in real-world engine output capabilities for the engine with and without the mild hybrid system. The mild hybrid removes some encumbrance from the engine, in terms of power output leeching, that improves output to the wheels. So while the bench test maximum outputs for the engines are the same, the eTorque system essentially improves the torque output band, allowing more power earlier in the curve, which improves capability.
In the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, this better torque curve would also mean better power output at lower speeds when out on the trail. Because our test model didn't include eTorque, however, we were unable to test that theory.
What we did test was the 2019 Ram Rebel's well-earned reputation for both off-road driving and on-road comfort and confidence. The Rebel is a great-looking and well-mannered pickup truck both around town and on the freeway.
The 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel is a fun, well-equipped, road-worthy truck that adds great style to the pickup, good capability for workhorse duties, and excellent off-road credibility for finding fun times. This is a solid combination that covers many of the wants of today's buyer.
Product Page: 2019 Ram 1500