2016 Ram Rebel yells for off-road adventure

2016 Ram Rebel at a glance

Vehicle type: Off-road pickup

Base price: $43,170

As tested: $49,330

MPG: 15 city, 21 highway

Engine: 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

The 2016 Ram Rebel is a big-wheeled backwoods pickup that combines Ram’s heritage of building Army command vehicles with luxury pickups that double as an office.

Rebel’s styling channels the heavy-duty, off-roading Ram Power Wagon and the ’70s-era Lil’ Red Truck without the twin exhaust stacks. The front view diverts from Ram’s traditional cross-hair grille with a blacked-out insert with silver “RAM” lettered across. Projector headlamps with black bezels and LED marker lights go tandem with an aluminum hood cut by twin faux snorkels.

The tailgate gets its own giant block “RAM” Power Wagon wheel arches that house 17-inch alloy wheels within 33-inch tires.

This tribute to youthful indiscretion is powered by a standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine that makes 310 horsepower, 269 pound-feet of torque and 25 mpg on the highway. There’s also the backwoods-stomping 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 that bellows out 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 is a little underpowered, but you’ll be fully satisfied with the HEMI. Two-wheel drive is standard with the HEMI, but that’s pointless, so get push-button four-wheel-drive. Gas mileage really shouldn’t be at the top of your list if you’re buying a sumo-sized pickup engineered to tackle ugly terrain, but cylinder deactivation and an 8-speed automatic transmission help the HEMI achieve 15 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway.

The Rebel is a little big for tight trails but annihilates gravel and mud with a one-inch factory suspension lift to improve approach/breakover angles, skid plates to protect soft bits underneath, tow hooks just in case and off-road tires to claw through it all.

Engineers tapped Ram’s optional air suspension to give drivers a range of ride heights from curbside service to river fording. While the suspension clobbers rutted trails and potholes, it shakes and bounces over washboard pavement. If pulling a trailer is in the plans, you’ll appreciate the integrated dash controller, rear bumper pre-wiring plugs, and Class IV receiver hitch.

With a crew cab, there’s plenty of room for four or five to stretch out and enjoy heated front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and ear thumping audio with satellite radio.

Ram Rebel’s interior packs a technological punch. Like the Chrysler 300, our truck had a reconfigurable LCD instrument cluster and knurled dial for the gear selector. High in the center dash is the UConnect touch screen with colorful icons for audio, navigation and climate control that are simple enough for my 2-year-old daughter to figure out. Redundant buttons with proper volume and tuning knobs, as well as voice commands, let owners give orders as they please. USBs are front and rear, plus there are Bluetooth calling/streaming audio connect devices.

The deep front console can store small laptops. There’s plenty of open storage between the front seats with clever clips to hold MP3 players or phones. McGuzzler cup holders put a death grip on drinks.

In the bed, lockable and lighted “Ram Box” cubbies are integrated to the bedsides and even have glow-in-the-dark emergency pulls should one of Dorothy’s munchkins get locked inside. Bed tie-downs cinch ATVs or construction tools and a bed divider keeps gear from sliding. Get the tonneau cover to keep cargo dry.

Meant to elicit warm feelings for the jacked-up pickups from your youth, Rebel’s styling will raise the roof at your local roadhouse, strip mall or … children’s museum. Just keep in mind it is a huge, rough-riding truck that is no friend to parking garages and tight city streets.