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Six Big Things to Know About the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

ONE: It’s hot.

The Rebel is the fastest-selling member of the Ram family. Brand reps won’t disclose the average duration a Rebel is in dealer inventory before it’s sold, but they insist no other Ram model has a briefer stay. What’s clear is that buyers snapping up Rebels are smitten by the truck’s encompassing approach to severe-terrain performance — and stirred by its image.

Indeed, by making the off-road-readiest Ram 1500 a separate model — with its own badging, styling, and equipment — product planners borrow a bit of the marketing magic of the Wrangler Rubicon, a profit-spinning phenomenon generated by their corporate colleagues over at Jeep. They’ve also appropriated a little of the aura of the mighty Power Wagon, an even more formidable three-quarter Ram.

In the off-road-optimized half-ton segment, Toyota has its 2019 Tundra TRD Pro, Nissan its Titan Pro-4X, Chevy its 2019 Silverado LT Trailboss, and GMC its ‘19 Sierra AT4. As a model with a distinct identity, however, the Ford Raptor may be Rebel’s closest competitor — although the F-150-based truck has roots as a high-speed desert runner, not as a hard-rock rambler.

The 2019 Rebel saunters onto the scene as part of the fully redesigned Ram 1500 lineup. These all-new pickups are larger yet lighter than their 2013-2018 generation predecessors. They’re restyled, more aerodynamic, and packed with new luxury, connectivity, and safety features. The Rebel slots into the middle of the seven-tier roster, above the Tradesman, HFE (High Fuel Economy), and Big Horn models, and below the increasingly luxurious Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited.

TWO: It’s cool.

Thanks to new sheetmetal with stronger character lines, every ’19 Ram looks better than its predecessor. Stylists dub the theme “unbreakable interlocking.” Among its more effective touches are 1.5-inch-taller cargo-box walls that not only bolster carrying versatility but allow the body’s beltline to flow uninterrupted from cab to bed.

There’s greater differentiation between models, too, each getting its own array of brightwork, bumper trim, and wheel design. Gone for good in Ram’s split from its Dodge-brand heritage is the bold, crosshair grille. Erased as well are Peterbilt-evoking terraced front fenders. The new face of Ram is more unified and elegant, particularly on upper-trim models, where the trapezoidal grille’s various horizontal elements bleed into narrower LED headlamps set in gracefully integrated fenders.

No model stands apart more vividly than the Rebel. It gets the “unbreakable interlocking” bodywork, but applies its own grille, bumpers, and graphics. The original Rebel joined the Ram lineup for model-year-2016, and the ’19 updates its matte-black grille while retaining its distinctive basket-handle motif. The Rebel also gets its own painted bumpers, with a steel powder-coated lower section in front. It comes standard with the domed-and-ducted Sport Performance hood similar to the one available as an option on the ’19 Laramie.

The tailgate of every other model has a chromed Ram’s-head shield, but Rebel’s spells R-A-M in big block letters. (Like Rebel’s other exterior insignia, the letters are removable, in a nod to badge-delete customization.) It has specific wheel-arch flares and its own wheels — black-accented alloys available only in an 18-inch diameter. Other Ram 1500s come with 18-to-20-inchers, and 22s are available on Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited.

Speaking of tailgates, Ram finally gets one that’s fully damped to ease down rather than simply drop open. Rebel, however, isn’t available with the power-open capability – via keyfob or cabin button – that’s optional on Laramie and standard on Longhorn and Limited. Every Ram gate uses a strut for lift-assist, though, and every one is now aluminum, saving 19 pounds versus the previous steel unit.

Indeed, weight-savings is a theme with the ’19 Ram. The truck maker says mass is reduced by about 225 pounds on average. Unlike Ford’s pioneering adoption of aluminum for the F-150’s cab and bed, however, Ram’s body and box remain steel, with aluminum reserved for some chassis elements. Lighter weight benefits performance, towing capacity, and of course fuel economy. On that last count, Ram introduces active grille shutters and an active front air dam that lowers 2.5 inches as the truck approaches 35 mph. Optimized as it is for off-road clearance, however, the Rebel is not fitted with the aero-enhancing dam.

THREE: It’s muscular…and electrifying.

Like the lion’s share of 2019 Rams, the Rebel is ordered most frequently with Mopar’s 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Returning with 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, it’s the tried and true choice, as smooth and strong as any rival’s mainstay V-8. It is not, however, the most interesting of the three available engines.

Standard on Tradesman, HFE, Big Horn, and, for the first time, on Rebel models is a 3.6-liter V-6 with 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. Those figures match the 3.6-liter V-6 in the previous-generation Ram, but the 2019 version acquires the automaker’s new eTorque mild-hybrid system. This integrates into the powertrain a belt-drive motor generator supported by a 48-volt battery pack. Its neatest trick is to provide a supplemental jolt of torque, but there are other benefits.

The system is included with the V-6 and an extra-cost option with the V-8. Its electric motor comes on automatically when the truck moves off the line, delivering a hit of “launch torque” – an additional 90 pound-feet for the V-6, an extra 130 pound-feet for the V-8. The system also fills in troughs in engine torque between shifts or in light throttle cruising, minimizing downshifts that take a toll on mileage and powertrain smoothness. It furnishes enough incremental torque to more frequently trigger the V-8’s fuel-saving four-cylinder deactivation mode. And doubling as a starter motor, the generator is strong enough to restart both engines in a barely noticeable 1/10 second during their idle-stop/start sequence. The lithium-ion battery recharges via regenerative coasting and braking.

Joining the eTorque V-6 and Hemi V-8 in Ram’s intriguing-engine triumvirate is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. It originated the engineering labs of Italy’s Fiat – the Ram/Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler parent corporation now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The diesel six was available in the 2018 Ram 1500, where it made 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Expect about the same when it joins the new Ram line during calendar 2019. It won’t be available with eTorque but should have enough low-rpm grunt to sate Rebel owners who recognize torque’s role in overcoming off-road obstacles.

No matter the engine, all ’19 Rams use FCA’s new generation 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Gear selection is via a rotary dial mounted knee-level on the dashboard, just right of the steering wheel. Moving through satisfying detents, the dial is sized and positioned for easy access and takes but a little acclimation. Manual gear control is possible with steering-wheel-mounted buttons, but they’re rather dainty given Ram’s scale, and using them with the wheel turned is tricky. Overall transmission behavior is exemplary. Rebel owners will appreciate their truck’s throttle-response-enhancing 3.92:1 final-drive ratio. That tall gearing is standard only on the Rebel, though it’s included in the tow package offered on Tradesman, Big Horn, and Laramie models. It supplants otherwise standard 3.21:1 and 3.55:1 ratios.

Ram doesn’t segregate tow ratings for the Rebel, but they should generally be in line with those of similarly outfitted Ram 1500s, which means they’ll range from around 7,290 pounds with the Quad Cab V-6 to 11,690 for a short-bed Crew Cab 4×4 with the V-8 and to 12,750 for the same truck with the eTorque V-8.

As of mid-May 2018, the EPA had released fuel-economy ratings for only the non-eTorque V-8 2019 Ram. They are 15/22/17 mpg city/highway/combined with 2WD and 15/21/17 mpg with either 4WD system. Those ratings are increases of up to 2 mpg over the 2018 Ram with the same Hemi but with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Expect analogous increases for 2019 V-6 Rams, which carry over their 3.6-liter and 8-speed automatic but gain eTorque. Aero-enhanced and lighter, redesigned Rams with the turbodiesel V-6 will aim to beat 2018 ratings of 20/27/23 with 2WD, 19/27/22 with 4WD.

FOUR: It’s tenacious.

When they introduced it for model-year 2016, its creators pitched the original Rebel as a sort of Power Wagon Jr. It approached the three-quarter-ton marvel’s go-anywhere capability, but in a more manageable size and at a more attainable price. That identity is reinforced for ’19, with the new Rebel more dialed-in to its mission – even as it enjoys the extra civility endemic to all redesigned Rams.

Every ’19 model save the HFE is available with a new 4×4 Off-Road package that includes an electronic locking rear axle, off-road calibrated shocks, a one-inch suspension lift (to 9.7 inches), Hill-descent Control, and 32-inch on/off-road tires. The package also borrows the off-road-biased rear suspension geometry from the Rebel, along with its skid plates under the transfer case, steering components, oil pan, and gas tank.

Rebel begins with the package and then builds on with standard front tow hooks, exclusive 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrack tires, and Bilstein shocks kept cool by remote reservoir. It also protects for the jolts of the trail with a slightly slower steering ratio than other Rams. And you can fit its 18-inch wheels with a forged functional beadlock ring, courtesy of the Mopar accessories catalog.

Like all Rams, the Rebel comes with the truck’s segment-exclusive coil-spring suspension. Improved for ’19 with upgraded components, the suspension works with the new-generation chassis to extend Ram’s class-leading ride quality and overall composure on pavement and off. Ram also remains the sole full-size pickup available with a four-corner air suspension. It further improves bump absorption, automatically levels the truck to compensate for load or towing, and can lower about three-quarters of an inch to ease passenger or cargo access. And not to bury the lead, but pump it up and it delivers as much as 11.7 inches of lift to clear roots, rocks, logs, and loam.

Previously standard on the Rebel, the air suspension is a Rebel option for ‘19 as a cost-saving measure. You can also save dough by specifying a two-wheel-drive Rebel Crew Cab. Yeah, you’ll score the image, but you’ll sacrifice the indomitability. Every 4WD Ram has low-range gearing. True to their multidimensional roles, Big Horn, Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited 4x4s equipped with the V-8 get a 4WD system than can be left engaged on dry pavement. Part-time 4WD that should be disengaged on dry pavement is mandatory on the HFE and all Rebels.

FIVE: It’s spacious.

We’d contend it already was the most accommodating-full-size pickup and argue the 2019 Ram 1500 strengthens that claim. Room, seat comfort, ergonomics, even cabin materials are top-notch. The Rebel cuts its own figure with specific interior trim and unique upholstery — and now it’s available in handy Quad Cab size.

Only Ford and GM offer half-ton pickups with two-door regular cabs. Ram continues for 2019 as the four-door Quad Cab with two compact-sized rear doors and as the Crew Cab with four full-size doors. Quads use a 6-ft-4-in bed, Crews are available with 5-ft-7 and 6-ft-4-inch beds.

Crew Cabs account for 70 percent of Ram sales and previously was the sole Rebel cab style. Adding the lower-priced Quad Cab makes the 2019 Rebel’s more affordable — and more maneuverable. That’s good news on tight trails, where the Quad is shorter than the Crew Cab short bed (Rebel is unavailable with the long bed) by a valuable four inches in wheelbase and overall length.

Both cabs are roomier than before, with the Crew exploiting its extended length to provide a limo-shaming 45.2 inches of rear legroom. It also fits its rear bench seat with a reclining backrest. Alas, its available only on the Laramie, as an option, and on the Longhorn and Limited, where it’s standard. The Rebel does, however, benefit from a host of other 2019 Ram improvements, including active noise cancellation; a power-sliding rear cab center window; upper and lower gloveboxes; and between its front bucket seats, a remarkably voluminous center console with bins and panels enough to create 12 different storage arrangements.

A power driver’s seat with power lumbar is standard. And Rebel’s upholstery is a combination vinyl and cloth with a two-tone tread pattern and embroidery – all complimented by its exclusive black, red, and diesel-gray cabin-color scheme. Also unique are textured-film dashboard appliques, a bevy of ruby-red bezels, and Rebel-themed rubber floormats.

As on every ’19 Ram, the controls move with tactile sureness and those that turn – such as the generously sized rotaries governing transmission, audio, and climate — and those that toggle — like the ultracool flippers for air suspension, traction control, tow/haul, and parking sensors – are ribbed and dimpled for slip-free efficiency.

The 2019 Ram breaks new ground with a 12-inch central-dashboard touchscreen interface for audio, vehicle-feature, and imbedded navigation systems. The portrait-oriented screen is optional on Laramie and standard on Longhorn and Limited; only Tesla drivers get a larger display. Rebels come with the otherwise standard 5-inch screen, but most buyers are likely to upgrade to the 8.4-inch display, which provides plenty of real estate for the clear icons and crisp graphics that distinguish FCA’s latest Uconnect systems.

All in all, it’s an engaging environment, with Rebel’s unique décor creating a real sense of occasion. The high-step in is a less inviting part of the experience, and you’ll make good use of the cabin’s well-positioned grab handles. Less conveniently placed is the turn-signal lever — inexplicably too short to reach easily without removing your hand from the steering wheel — and the lever for the new electric parking brake — an undersized wafer of plastic on the far-left-bottom of the dashboard. At least the electric brake saves 20 pounds over the old manual system.

SIX: It’s cheaper than last year…but still not cheap.

The most popular Ram is the Big Horn Crew Cab short-bed 4×4 with the Hemi V-8. Its base price is $44,735. That’s before options but, like all base prices quoted here, includes the $1,645 destination fee slapped on all ’19 Ram 1500s.

The least expensive 2019 Rebel – a 2WD V-6 Crew Cab – starts at $45,640. Last year, the least costly Rebel — a 2WD Hemi Crew Cab — was priced from $47,140. So Ram succeeds in lowering the price of Rebel admission by $1,500. But it’s still tops the base price of the people’s choice Big Horn Hemi 4×4 — even one equipped with the 4×4 Off-Road Package, deftly assembled and smartly priced at just $795.

Rebel’s unique looks, hardware, and interior help account for its price premium, of course. But don’t imagine Ram isn’t also charging for that Rebel image. If you’re at a dealership in time to find one in stock, you’ll be looking at a base price of $46,340 for a Quad Cab Rebel with the V-6 and $47,535 for a Quad Cab with the non-eTorqe Hemi V-8 (remember, all Quad Cab Rebels are 4WD). As with any Hemi-equipped 2019 Ram, you’ll add another $800 for the eTorque system.

Base price of the entry-level Rebel V-6 Crew Cab rises to $49,140 with 4WD. Equip it with the base Hemi and prices start at $46,834 with 2WD and $50,335 with 4WD.

With demand so strong, don’t anticipate much bargaining power on any Rebel. And don’t expect to find dealers stocking too many conservatively optioned Rebels.

Our recent test example is probably typical. A Crew Cab 4×4 with the non-eTorque Hemi, it was equipped with the air suspension ($1,895); black tubular side steps ($700); and for the cargo box, a soft tonneau cover ($650), and, courtesy of the Bed Utility Group ($200), cargo tie-down hooks and LED lighting. Brightening the cabin was a wonderous dual-pane panoramic moonroof ($1,595) and an audio upgrade with a subwoofer ($495). Brightening the body was classy Billet Metallic paint ($245).

Our tester was also fitted with the pricier of Rebel’s two main option packages, the Level 2 Equipment Group. This builds on the Level 1 Equipment Group, which costs $2,000 and includes among its features an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, power folding outside mirrors with turn-signal and puddle lamps, a universal garage-door opener, power-adjustable pedals, heated front seats and steering wheel, rear-window defroster, the 8.4-inch Uconnect system, foam bottle-holder inserts for the front doors, and a single-disc CD player.

At $3,040, the Level 2 Equipment Group includes all that, plus keyless entry; a security alarm; front and rear park-assist sensors; dual-zone automatic climate control; two extra USB ports (one fully functional, one charging only); a three-prong 115-volt rear-seat outlet; and, since this was a Crew Cab, Ram’s clever rear under-seat storage system. Ram’s 8.4-inch Uconnect system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the unit in our test Rebel was further enhanced with imbedded navigation, at an additional $770.

Our tester was also equipped with blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, a $500 option. It’s a useful driver assist, but far narrower in scope than the Advanced Safety Package that’s a $1,595 option exclusive to Laramie, Longhorn, and Limited.

This package brings Ram to the leading edge of half-ton-pickup safety tech. It contains forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking that can bring the truck to a stop to mitigate a frontal collision. It adds adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, even in stop-and-go driving. Included as well is lane-maintaining automatic steering and automatic high-beam headlamps.

The Advanced Safety Package also adds hands-free automatic parallel and perpendicular parking, a likely stress-reducer for many full-size pickup drivers. Curiously, though, the anxiety relief provided by blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection is standard only on the top-of-the-line Limited model. Otherwise, it’s the $500 option fitted to our test Rebel.

Bottom-line sticker price of our Rebel tester? A gripping $72,030. A more rational approach to Rebel life would be a lightly optioned V-6 4WD Quad Cab, of course. But after warming our palms on the heated steering wheel; basking in the light of the panoramic roof; tractoring unimpeded up a rocky incline; appreciating the seamless performance of the Hemi powertrain; enjoying the all-surface composure of the air suspension; marveling at our Crew Cab’s rear-seat acreage; and, yes, noticing admiring glances from other pickup drivers, we’d have troubling citing what precisely we’d consent to do without.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]