Welcome to Critic’s Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today’s edition: the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel in Quad Cab form.
The 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, By the Numbers:
Base Price (Price as Tested): $42,095 ($54,250)
Powertrain: 5.7-liter V-8, 395 horsepower, 410 pound-feet; eight-speed automatic transmission; part-time four-wheel-drive
EPA Fuel Economy: 15 city / 21 highway
0-60 MPH: 6.4 seconds (Car and Driver testing)
Top Speed: 108 mph (governor limited)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 6,800 pounds
Quick Take: The new Rebel takes all the inherent goodness of the 2019 Ram 1500 and slathers on a layer of off-road frosting to better serve those who take to the trails (or at least want to look like they do).
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel: The Pros
- This is one handsome truck. Every variation on the new Ram looks good, but the added inch of suspension lift, blacked-out nose that goes heavy on the pissed-off bull allusions, and hood that looks like a rankled cat with its hair up all dial the Rebel to near-monster truck levels of attitude.
- Rides well, as every new Ram 1500 does. While all previous-gen Rebels scored Ram’s four-corner air suspension, the new one only offers it as an option; coil springs are standard, and came equipped on the tester I logged several hundred miles on over the course of the Christmas break. Even without the delightful air suspension, though, the Rebel rode delightfully, with near-unibody comfort and barely a hint that the suspension was ready at any moment to take on more than half a ton of added load in the bed.
- Those giant off-road-ready Goodyears— 33-inch Wrangler DuraTrac tires, in case you were curious—proved as well-suited to New York City’s mean streets as they are pounding through mud and over shattered stone. The Rebel plowed over potholes and rough spots without notice, something that doesn’t even happen in other pickups…or, hell, even luxury cars nowadays, what with high-end automakers trying to reduce sidewalls to near-invisible thickness.
- The interior of the new Ram is a marvel every automaker ought to study—not just for their own trucks, but for every SUV, sports car, and sedan they build. The cloth-and-vinyl seats are comfortable even on six-hour slogs; the giant control knobs are, quite literally, very handy; the gauges and displays are all easy to read and intuitive to use; and cubbies and charging ports abound. (Kudos to Ram for adding the very-radar-detector-friendly 12-volt outlet at the top of the dashboard.)
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel: The Cons
- To paraphrase Jack Donaghy talking about Liz Lemon’s hair, rear legroom is…fine. My Rebel came in Quad Cab configuration; the name may be easily confused with the bigger Crew Cab’s moniker, but the space in back certainly won’t be. While the Crew Cab offers a capacious 45.2 inches of rear leg room, the Quad Cab has just 35.6—less than a Honda Civic Coupe. Stick a couple large men in front—presumably not an uncommon situation in a truck like this—and that rear bench becomes little more than a well-upholstered parcel shelf. And not even a particularly roomy one, at that; with the front two seats occupied, I barely had enough room for my luggage and other assorted items when driving back after Christmas. Granted, people who actually need room for four or five will likely opt for the longer cabin, but considering the Quad Cab’s back doors look almost full-size from the outside, the room in back is a letdown.
- Those aforementioned giant off-road tires do no favors on the open road, where their knobby tread pattern helps contribute to a shocking amount of rolling resistance. Let off the gas at 75 miles per hour on a seven-percent grade, and watch the digital speedometer bleed down with startling velocity. Or, in a more applicable test, switch over to the real-time fuel economy gauge, and watch the number plummet as your speeds rise. Ram quotes up to 21 miles per gallon on the highway for a 4×4 Hemi-powered 1500; the Rebel was running on the bad side of 16, even with the help of fuel-saving tech like active grille shutters and cylinder deactivation. Any Rebel buyers should absolutely fork over the $445 for the XL-sized 33-gallon fuel tank.
- The Ram Rebel ain’t the Ford Raptor-fighter the plastic-clad, lifted body might make you think it is. There are new Bilstein shocks up front and the rear suspension geometry is tuned for off-road use, giving it an edge over other Rams off-road, but anyone with hopes of keeping up with their buddy’s saurian F-Series while zooming across the high desert is better off waiting for Fiat Chrysler’s forthcoming king of the tyrant pickups.
- You can indeed get the super-cool 12-inch vertical screen that’s one of the all-new Ram’s marquee attractions…but doing so adds $2,590 to the price, as it only comes as part of a package that also adds leather seats and a 900-watt stereo. That extra screen real estate is cool…but not loaded-MacBook Pro cool.
- While the pseudo-camo pattern on the cloth actually works better than aesthetites might expect, the red trim accenting the interior is…a little much. And that was on a truck with the red-and-black exterior seen here; imagine how much more glaring it’d be on a solid-white Rebel.
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel: Value
Convenience features always go a long way to add value to a pickup truck; a loaded Ram 1500 Limited costs nearly twice as much as a stripper Tradesman model, but considering the former doubles as a luxury car and the latter is barely tolerable for a cross-town move, the fancy truck seems like a better value in some ways. After all, a Ram Limited could well be the only vehicle in your driveway…but unless you and your spouse lack children, hate your pets, and shop at stores with names like “Peyton’s S&M Playpen,” you’re not likely to make a base-model work truck your sole mode of transportation.
For its part, the Rebel Quad Cab sits somewhere between those two. With its small back seat and bad highway fuel economy, it’s not as easy to imagine anyone using it as their sole household vehicle as it is with a Limited or Laramie. The former is easily rectified by spending an extra $2,800 for the new Rebel Crew Cab, if you can live with an extra four inches of length and 7.6 fewer cubic feet of bed space; the latter, though, would mean swapping off those ribbed rubbers for more road-worthy tires…at which point, why’d you bother spending thousands more for the Rebel over a Big Horn with the off-road package?
2019 Ram 1500 Rebel: The Bottom Line
The new Ram 1500 Rebel is a surprising reminder of how quickly we, as Americans, have become used to the idea of trucks as do-everything vehicles. Compared to its slow, simple forebears of two decades, this pickup is practically a Gulfstream. Yet held up against the likes of its plush, capacious siblings, it seems cramped and even a little crude. That’s no failure of the Rebel; if anything, it’s a reflection of how far the new Ram has moved the yard markers for the class as a whole that we can even feel disappointed in this trail-conquering machine.
That said: If your life does indeed involve driving off the beaten path and over hill and dale on a regular basis, the Ram 1500 Rebel will serve you well. But if your #trucklife needs extend more to towing, hauling, commuting, or any of the hundred other tasks pickups do well on roads paved and dirt alike, you’re probably better off with another rig in the lineup. Don’t buy the Rebel just to look cool. Nobody likes a poseur.
Oh, and one pro tip: If you do go for the Rebel, spring for the RamBoxes on the sides of the bed. They almost make up for pickup trucks’ lack of trunks all by themselves.
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