Over the recent Christmas holiday, I had the good fortune of driving the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn with an optional diesel engine. And, last week, I drove the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with the same engine. One was crafted with luxury while the other was built to tackle tough rough trails. But, what if one truck could be both luxurious and capable – all with the same diesel engine? It would be a suave brute like the 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel.
It only takes a quick walk around the Rebel to see how it differs from the Laramie. Ram’s semi-inspired front fenders remain, but black plastic replaces chrome on the grille, bumpers, logos, and step bars. Plastic shrouding adds muscle to the hood. Lockable Ram Box storage in the bedsides, pre-installed trailer hitch/wiring, and bed lighting make work easier – as does an innovative tailgate that can split 60/40 to swing open dutch-style or flip down normally.
The Rebel’s interior is an even blend of the Laramie luxury and Wrangler spray-out ruggedness. It’s not quite as extravagant as the Laramie’s layered leather that could have come from a Range Rover, but there’s nothing cheap. Most Ram buyers will point to the tablet-style touchscreen as a defining factor. Not only does it look beautiful, but it is easy to command audio, climate, phone, and navigation with simple icons. No stupid joywheel here. Adding convenience are Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, 4G Wi-Fi, and household power outlet. Crank the 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and rock out. Also enjoy heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and twin-pane sunroof.
It comes with a full array of crash avoidance systems too. Adaptive cruise, forward collision warning with auto brake, and rear cross path detection with auto brake protect passengers and pedestrians alike. Blind spot warning, lane keep assist, and back up camera do their parts too.
The biggest difference between this Rebel and others I’ve driven is the diesel: A 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 delivering just 260 horsepower, but a ground-thundering 480 lb.-ft. of torque. That moves it smoothly down the Interstate with the turbo spinning, over hill and dale with the four-wheel-drive system locked in, or slipping through town barely idling. Proving the point, fuel economy is rated 21/29-MPG city/highway, giving this very full-size truck the fuel economy of a mid-size crossover.
Its capability goes beyond the engine. An air suspension rises up from all four corners to increase off-road ride height, lowers to improve fuel economy on the highway, and does the best of any full-size pickup at absorbing rough roads without shaking its tail fenders. The front suspension, transfer case, and fuel tank are all protected by skid plates. Hooked up and hauling, the truck can carry a payload of 2,040 lbs. or tow a 12,560-lbs. trailer. Impressive.
So, is the price. The diesel adds a not insubstantial $4,995 to the Ram 1500’s window sticker, so dig deep if you like all it offers. A base Ram starts just over $32,000, and the Rebel rises from $44,490, but our fully stoked version came to, oh holy ahem, $70,880. At that price, competitors include the Chevy Silverado Custom Trail Boss, Ford F-150 Raptor, GMC Sierra AT4, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, and Nissan Titan Pro4X.
2020 Ram Rebel EcoDiesel
- 5 passengers, 4WD Pickup
- Powertrain: 3.0L TDV6, 8-spd auto trans
- Output: 260 hp/480 lb.-ft.
- Suspension f/r: Air Ind/Solid axle
- Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Luxury, Engine
- Fuel economy: 21/29-MPG city/hwy
- Assembly: Sterling Hts., MI
- Base price/As-tested: $32,145/70,880