2023 Ram 2500 Rebel: first drive

For many consumers, a pickup truck is never big enough, never strong enough. Perhaps that's why so many pickup truck enthusiasts are now opting for the Ford F-250, Chevrolet Silverado 2500, GMC Sierra 2500 or Ram 2500, so-called Class 2 vehicles (trucks are, in North America, classified from 1 to 8 according to their weight combined with their total load capacity. Thus, all "regular" pickup trucks, from the smallest Ford Maverick to the F-150, Silverado 1500 or Ram 1500, are Class 1 since their maximum gross vehicle weight or GVWR is 6000 pounds or 2721 kilos. For Class 2 pickup trucks, this GVWR increases to 10,000 pounds or 4,535 kilos. Up to this limit, any driver with a regular driver's license can operate these vehicles with their load. From Class 3 on, such as the Ford F-350 or GM or Ram HD 3500 with a limit of 14,000 pounds or 6349 kilos, some states or provinces may require a commercial operating permit.)

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So why would consumers choose Class 2 pickups? Very often these pickups are used commercially, but very often they are chosen to pull a large heavy trailer! It's amazing to see that their popularity has jumped 265% since 2019 according to the figures put forward by Mike Szymkiewicz, Product Manager at Stellantis Canada, during the recent presentation of the all-new Rebel version of the Ram 2500s from this manufacturer for the North American market. And this phenomenal growth also applies to Ford and GM products (note that Toyota only has Class 1 pickups) despite the economic slowdown that was feared after the pandemic!

The Rebel is added to the Heavy Duty lineup
The Ram Heavy Duty 2500 pickup lineup is already available in six versions from the simplest Tradesman work truck (base price $58,340) to the very luxurious Limited (starting at $86,440) to the Big Horn ($61,240), the impressive Power Wagon ($74,790), the popular Laramie ($76,415) and the Limited Longhorn ($81,890). Ram's designers understood (as did the competition, for that matter), that there was a lot of difference between the tastes and needs of 2500 pickup enthusiasts, almost as much as on the car side.

But Ram was missing an option that would attract the person who wants a Ram 2500 that is both practical and rugged like the Power Wagon and "sporty" like...a version that didn't yet exist in the lineup! These designers understood that a 2500 version of the Rebel was missing, as it has been in the 1500 range for a few years. The Rebel therefore "falls" between the Power Wagon (which already represents 12% of Ram 2500 sales in Canada) and the Laramie. The Rebel HD 2500 has a base price of $75,950 (to which must be added some $2095 in shipping and preparation costs).

Unique design
The Rebel version of the Ram 2500, which has a body like that of the Power Wagon, can be recognized by its specific all-black grille, its hood with a more "performance" design and exterior decorations unique to the Rebel version. So, the Rebel 2500 joins the Power Wagon, Ram TRX 1500 and Ram Rebel 1500 to form what could be considered the manufacturer's "performance off-road truck" line.

The interior, meanwhile, continues the theme Stellantis has used for all of its Heavy Duty trucks. The dashboard is similar, but it comes with a new 12-inch information gauge and a new rearview mirror with blind spot images on the ends. The large 12-inch screen is an option on this Rebel, and I must highlight the efficiency and ease of operation of the Stellantis UConnect 5 system including XM Sirius radio and Harmon Kardon's 750-watt sound system with 17 speakers. Available only as a four-door Crew Cab with a 6-foot-4-inch mid-size bed, the Rebel can be equipped with either bucket seats or a bench seat in front and a flexible bench seat in the rear with your choice of leather or cloth upholstery. Incidentally, accessing the interior is no easy task with the Rebel 2500 (its ground clearance is slightly higher than that of the Power Wagon). Indeed, the sill is very high and there is no step (an accessory you don't want to have in off-road situations since it can get snagged!). There is, on the other hand, a kind of small and rather thin step under this threshold, but it is certainly not wide enough!

I'll save you a long description of the body since it is rather bare. Stellantis leaves it up to Ram owners to equip their bodies as they see fit. However, the optional Ram Box with lockable exterior compartments is available. I would have liked some sort of rear-loading aid to climb aboard though. Oh yes! Stellantis announces the maximum load capacity of this cargo box at 3140 pounds.

A robust powertrain
The Rebel HD 2500 is available with the base engine, a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that makes 410 horsepower and 429 ft-lb of torque. It's combined with an eight-speed automatic transmission and an electronically controlled Borg Warner transfer case (on the dashboard) which, however, does not include 4 x 4 Auto mode (there's only 2WD, regular 4WD and 4WD geared at 2.54:1). The Rebel is also available with the Cummins' 370 horsepower and 850 ft-lb of torque inline 6-cylinder turbodiesel, but only with the six-speed automatic transmission (and, of course, the transfer case for four-wheel drive). However, as ironic as it may seem, the Rebel 2500's towing capacity with the diesel engine is lower than the Rebel with the V8. Why is that? Most likely because the diesel-powered truck is heavier than the gasoline-powered truck, which takes weight away from the GVWR. Incidentally, the Power Wagon version does not offer the option of the turbodiesel engine because, apparently, there would not be enough space for cooling with a Warn winch. The Warn 12000 winch is available with the gasoline Rebel, but not with the diesel engine.

Ram Rebel HD 2500s have a multi-link rear suspension (while the competition sticks to conventional leaf springs). What's more, as an option, buyers can opt for rear air springs that will allow the vehicle to lower when it needs to be loaded (and bring the sill to a more attainable level) or to help attach a trailer. The Bilstein shocks react according to the Frequency Response Damping principle, which helps reduce rear suspension bounce. While this mechanical description may sound like the Power Wagon, it should be noted that while the Power Wagon's two axles (front and rear) are electronically lockable, in the Rebel only the rear axle can be locked. And while the Power Wagon's front stabilizer bar can be disconnected, the Rebel's cannot. The standard final drive ratio of the Rebel's axles is 3.73:1, but the options list includes the possibility of a 4.10:1 final drive ratio. The tires on my test Rebel HD 2500 were winter-rated Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac on 18-inch wheels (Power Wagons come with 17-inch wheels). There are 20-inch wheels in the Rebel's options catalog.

For towing, Stellantis offers optional cameras for the Rebel to get a good 360-degree view of the trailer. There are even tire pressure monitors. Note here that these Rams come with the Reverse Guidance System, which makes it easier to maneuver while backing up with the trailer attached.

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