The 2023 Ram 2500 Rebel replaces one type of capability with another
For more than a decade, Ram’s Power Wagon has been the brand’s beefy off-road king. Boasting 26 inches of front wheel articulation, an electronically disconnecting front sway bar and locking differentials on each axle, this three-quarter-ton killer is capable of traversing seriously tough terrain. But according to Ram, potential customers wanted even more from a rugged off-road pickup. Specifically, buyers were clamoring for a diesel option and more towing capacity than the Power Wagon’s 10,520-pound limit. But instead of just pushing the diesel into the existing Power Wagon and calling it a day, Ram has instead carved out an additional off-road niche for itself. Enter the 2023 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Rebel.
Ram used the Power Wagon model as a starting point to create the Rebel. Skid plates are handy to protect the fuel tank and transfer case. 33-inch Goodyear tires wrap 20-inch eight-lug wheels. But the main differences between the two will determine the line you take off-road. The Rebel gets by without the Power Wagon’s disconnectable sway bar, sacrificing a measure of front-wheel travel in exchange for a stiffer setup. And while the Power Wagon has locking differentials on each end, only the rear axle is lockable on the Rebel.
This compromise sees a massive gain in what the Rebel can carry. The Hemi-equipped Rebel has a payload capacity of 3,140 pounds and is capable of towing a 16,870-pound granite crush, giving it almost double the payload of the softer, more springy Power Wagon. three tons of additional towing capacity. The Rebel can also be fitted with rear air springs to keep those extreme loads level. That’s tough enough to pack eight Polaris RZRs—seven on a trailer and another stuffed into the bed. Or throw a RZR in the back of a toy haul trailer and enjoy all the conveniences of home. Granted, the motorhome might not do well on the trails – we’d advise leaving the fine china at home.
However, brute force is only part of the equation. The Tow Tech Package ($1995) adds trailer reverse guidance, a cargo view camera and a surround-view camera setup. Telescoping side mirrors electrically extend several inches for a better view of what’s behind you. One of the coolest options is an auxiliary camera that plugs into a port on the rear bumper. The camera is attached to a 55 foot long cord, so you can finally solve the mystery of what your horses are doing on the trip. All camera feeds can be viewed on the digital rearview mirror, where up to three images can be displayed simultaneously. An optional 12-inch digital instrument cluster offers a tiled view that can display five key stats at a glance. Tile layouts can be saved in driver profiles, making it easy to switch between things like towing, off-road details and powertrain temperatures. Ram claims that over 200 tile configurations are possible.
Under the hood, the familiar 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 is standard, producing 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. It’s hooked up to an eight-speed transmission that transfers power to the rear or all four wheels via a two-speed transfer case. The Rebel is also Ram’s first rugged off-road truck with an optional diesel engine. Prodigious torque is to be expected, and the 370-hp 6.7-liter turbodiesel inline-six doesn’t disappoint, developing 850 lb-ft at just 1,700 rpm, routed through a six-speed automatic transmission.
We spent the majority of our time in diesel, which is a welcome if somewhat contradictory option. Since the engine is heavier than the Hemi V-8, the diesel-powered Rebel can’t tow as much as its gas-powered sibling. Also, the Rebel’s optional 12,000-pound ($2,500) Warn winch isn’t available on diesel models because it would prevent air from flowing to the engine’s auxiliary cooling equipment. Our advice: don’t get stuck.
But unless you intend to load your Rebel to full load, the diesel is well suited to the Rebel’s character on any terrain. Hit the gas on the highway and it cruises to its 3200-rpm redline with all the urgency of an early-morning mall walker. Noise-canceling software keeps cabin rattle to a minimum, though at a steady 70mph there’s still the prominent hum of big Goodyears singing along the tarmac. Obviously the tires would be much happier off-road.
Our destination is just outside the town of Big Bear Lake, located two hours east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino National Forest. Plenty of off-road spider web trails in all directions, with a variety of terrain and extreme elevation changes. As we cross an 8,000 foot ridge, we leave the highway and enter the forest.
When it comes to tackling the tough stuff, the Rebel takes a refreshingly old-school approach. There’s no confusing array of drive modes, just a choice of high- or low-range four-wheel drive and rear differential lock. Even so, activating the differential was a hit-and-miss affair, sometimes requiring up to 30 seconds of patience before it engaged, other times simply refusing to comply with our request.
Once all systems were finally online, the Rebel was virtually unstoppable. We also noticed a distinct behavioral difference between the two powertrains when using the 2.64:1 low range. The diesel’s plentiful low-end torque and relatively high 3.23 first gear provided a more springy and consistent climbing, while the Hemi’s shorter 4.71 gearing required much more finesse in acceleration. Manual shifting would have helped here, but it’s not offered on the Rebel.
Shift placement is also specific to each engine. The diesel features a traditional column shifter, while the Hemi sports the PRNDL dial found elsewhere in the Ram lineup. Beyond that, the interiors are identical. The bench seat offers room for six and is available in cloth or leather, with premium leather reserved for the front buckets. Soft-touch materials abound in the cabin and pair well with textured black accents on the dash and doors.
When it hits dealerships in December, the 2023 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Rebel will start at $68,940 with the Hemi engine, with the diesel fetching a premium of $9,595. Historically, the Power Wagon has accounted for about 3-5 percent of Ram 2500 sales, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Rebel will boost or cannibalize those numbers. Since the Rebel offers almost as much off-road capability, along with some compelling performance upgrades, we’d say it all comes down to how much stuff you want to take with you off-road and how far you want to go.
2023 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Rebel
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, Rear/4WD, 5 or 6 Passenger, 4-Door Pickup
Base: gasoline, $68,940; diesel, $78,535
6.7-liter 24-valve diesel inline-6 with turbocharger and intercooler, 370 hp, 850 lb-ft; 6.4-liter 16-valve V8, 410 hp, 429 lb-ft pushrod
diesel: 6-speed automatic; petrol: 8-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 125 feet3
Bed Length: 76.3″
Unloaded weight (CD east): 7000 lbs.
PERFORMANCE (CD IS)
100 km/h: 7.5 to 8.2 s
1/4 mile: 15.8-16.3
Maximum speed: 100-105 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
NA – HD trucks are exempt from EPA classifications
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