2015 Ram 1500 Rebel review: A truck for your kid, that is, the kid in you

2015 Ram Rebel

2015 Ram Rebel

How old are you, guy? No, not what it says on your birth certificate. How about your psycho-social age? If your Facebook quiz says there’s a lot of boy in your man, have we got the truck for you. We’re signing you up for the 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel.

By man-boy, we’re not talking juvenile, just enough orneriness to not be, well, boring. Because Ram Rebel.

Hey, they named it, not us.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel interior

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel interior

It looks the part. The Ram Rebel has a tough guy look that’s purely intentional, with tow hooks sticking through a contrasting color front pan, a bulging hood and a new Sam Elliot mustache grille design. The crosshairs grille was menacing, but the laconic cowboy is what every truck driver would like to be. If he can’t be, well, maybe his truck can.

Indeed, even Ram says that the Rebel “makes a statement.” Although the luxury themed Ram 1500 Laramie has the same grille for 2016 (a bright crosshair grille for 2015), the Rebel has a one-inch ride height increase. There’s air suspension for even more ride height—with a lowered position for easier entrance and exit. It comes standard with big 33-inch tires, fender flares to cover the sizier rubber, skid plates for the front suspension and transfer case, and the manly of manly feature, tow hooks. Ram says the 10.3-inch ground clearance is best in class. We didn’t go around and measure, but whether it is—and what’s included in its class—that’s still a lot.

There’s certainly no wonder the truck’s brand. It’s writ large—18 inches across—on the grille, and on the tailgate, it’s three feet wide. That’s a foot wide for R, a foot wide for A, and a foot wide for M. Our test 2015 Ram Rebel was finished in Granite Crystal Metallic Clear Coat. Don’t dare call it gray.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel back seat

The 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel back seat has the same tread marks as the front. It also lifts and folds to make a flat interior cargo floor. (click to enlarge)

The 2015 Ram Rebel is available only as a crew cab with a 5’ 7” bed—spray-on liner is standard—but with either the 3.6-liter V-6 or the 5.7-liter Hemi engine rated at 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Both rear and 4×4 drive are available, and an eight speed automatic comes with the package. Our tester was the Hemi with four-wheel drive. A rear anti-spin differential, which puts power to both rear wheels when more throttle is applied, helps in off-road conditions, and when then driver stomps on the gas coming off the line, not that we’d ever do that. The differential automatically unlocks for normal on-road driving,

Ram interior designers machoed up the cabin, with a two-tone color scheme officially “black” and “red” though it looked more gray and metallic wine, with the red on assorted trim bits, such as the trim around the dash ventilation ports and on the door panels, red contrast stitching on the steering wheel, and red around the base and sides of the seat.

Perhaps the most eye-catching interior feature is the embossing on the seat bottoms and backs with a tread pattern that looked like the seat had been run over by off-road tires. It’s something that people seeing it for the first time snag someone else to point out it out for the first time. Interior designers everywhere else, eat your hearts out.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel back seat wheel and tire

The wheels of the 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel are special to the model, and the tires knobby and loud. (click to enlarge)

Fortunately for anyone actually wanting to get to sit on those tire tracks, air suspension comes standard on the Ram Rebel. It takes step-in height from 23 inches in the “Entry/Exit” mode, to 25 inches in “Aero” mode, and 26 inches for normal and up from there for off-road. Your yardstick may vary. The difference of just a few inches, however, goes from hard to get in to really hard to get in to really really hard to get in. Getting up to driving speed raises the suspension out of Entry/Exit mode—naturally—so to return to Entry/Exit to let everyone out means pushing a button and waiting for the suspension to settle. #firstworldproblem

Ditto, the truck drops from the off-road mod to normal at road speeds, and down to aero on the highway, but you’d never know from driving it.

The 2015 Ram Rebel with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and its 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, it makes all the right performance truck noises and in rear-wheel drive mode makes the knobby tires scrabble for traction. Despite the substantial curb weight, the Rebel is rambunctious and doesn’t have trouble merging on the freeway.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel tailgate

The huge “RAM” on the tailgate of the 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel is brand name, not instructions. (click to enlarge)

But then, those big tires, as neat they look and effective as they surely would be off-road, are heavy, and that translates into sidewall flex over bumps, and that comes off as a rougher ride than smaller tires would have. And the pattern makes highway whine, subdued, but still there.

Speaking of the freeway, we have it on good authority that if you set the cruise control at 75 mph, you’ll get 19 mpg on the Interstate. But not in your jurisdiction, Mr. Officer. More conservative speeds might actually return the official 21 mpg EPA highway estimate. We enjoyed watching the light that said when the truck was running on four-cylinders—the 5.7-liter Hemi has cylinder shutdown mode—and it will do it on the highway, too. Overall, we matched the city mileage estimate of 15 mpg in mixed highway and local driving, the latter on hilly roads that we’ve found are hard on fuel economy numbers.