What is it?
This is the Ram 1500 pick-up truck. It’s very popular, but it’s not quite as big a seller as either the Ford F-150 or the Chevrolet Silverado with which it competes. Still, the Fiat-Chrysler group – which owns the Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands – reckons that Ram 1500 customers are the most loyal. Of all the pick-up trucks sold in the US since 1988, Dodge and Ram have the highest overall percentage still on the road. People love their Rams, basically.
We’ve tested Rebel trim, which comes with four-wheel drive, diff-locks, air suspension, a big, 5.7-litre HEMI V8, chunky tyres, and 26 cm of off-road ground clearance at the front.
How does it drive?
This is a pick-up truck, meaning you can’t treat it like a sports car. Ram won’t even provide performance figures when it comes to the speed. Still, you get 395 bhp from that V8, which means you can hustle the 1500 along at a reasonably fair speed. We’d reckon on a 0-100 km/h of around 7 seconds.
But, really, the driving experience is dominated by the sheer size of the thing. It’s hilarious. The raised ride height on the Rebel means you really do have to make use of the step attached to the side-still to climb in and out. And when you’re driving along, you simply tower above everything else. Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers look like city hatchbacks from this height, and actual hatchbacks are more like Micro Machines.
The size makes the Ram 1500 difficult to manoeuvre around car parks, but it makes driving on most of the UAE’s roads something of a treat. No-one messes with you. And you less go over speed bumps than simply flatten them – you barely feel a thing thanks to the air suspension fitted to the Rebel. What’s more, it’s really quite civilised. The cabin is well-appointed (which we’ll get onto later), and at highway speeds, you barely notice any wind or road noise. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and silky, and the rumble from that 5.7-litre HEMI isn’t bad, either.
The reason you’d buy the Rebel edition, though, is because you want to do a bit of off-roading. On the road, you can have the car in two-wheel-drive, but this model comes with a four-wheel-drive switch as standard (lesser Ram 1500s have to make do with two-wheel-drive only). There are also diff-locks, meaning if you get into any real off-road trouble, you should be able to engage them to get yourself unstuck.
All of that translates into something that’s really quite comfortable being thrashed about off-road. We tested the Ram 1500 at a beach made up of very, very soft sand. Everyone in the party (including a Land Rover Defender driver) got stuck at some point – apart from the Ram, which took the terrain in its stride. We reckon the power helped here – the Ram could keep its wheels spinning endlessly, meaning it wouldn’t get bogged down. And everything just felt so robust – you really have the confidence in that suspension and chassis to just plough through whatever you’re facing.
Interior quality and tech
This is the best-appointed pick-up truck we’ve ever been in. Speccing the Rebel trim may be worth it on that basis alone. Sure, cars of this type always err on the side of utilitarianism, but Ram’s competitors (perhaps with the exception of Ford) tend to take that as an excuse to garnish their truck’s cabins with all manner of nasty plastics that are ‘easy to wash down’, or ‘inexpensive to fix’. It’s all rubbish, though. With the 1500 Rebel, Ram has shown that you can have a utilitarian cabin that still makes for a reasonably nice place in which to spend time.
As you’d expect, there’s loads of space. And while the seats are cloth-covered and the materials are largely plastic, nothing feels like it’s going it’s going to snap off – everything you touch feels robust and hardy. Exactly what you want from a pick-up truck.
It’s practical, too. There are storage units underneath the rear seats, and more storage pods under the rear floor mats. The famous ‘Ram Boxes’ at each side of the bed can double as drinks coolers, and it comes with a detachable gate that’ll let you change the size of the bed to suit whatever you’re carrying. There other nice touches that nod towards everyday life, too. For example, there are a whole bunch of charging and USB ports dotted around the cabin, and there are grooves underneath stowage lids so that you can slot your phone cables through them. There’s a coin storage unit, too, and a proper phone holder. These are little things that make a big difference.
On the tech front, you’re looking at Fiat-Chrysler group’s touchscreen Uconnect system. We’ve been on record saying that it’s one of the best infotainment systems in the business, but in the face of new systems from the likes of the Volkswagen group, the layout is now starting to feel a little busy and complicated. Don’t get us wrong – all of the functionality is there. You get good phone-pairing, a good reversing camera, and everything else, and it’s all reasonably accessible, but the design could do with a refresh to address usability.
Ram claims the 1500 Rebel will give you 17 mpg on the combined cycle. That’s around 17 l/100 km. And that’s what we call quite thirsty. The fuel tank is big, but you’ll notice the fuel needle dropping pretty rapidly as you go about your journeys. The good news is that residuals are strong – even with high mileage, a used Ram 1500 fetches a pretty high price.
The Ford F-150 may be the darling of the pick-up world, but the Ram 1500 Rebel makes a stellar case for itself as an alternative. Here is something that’s big, practical, comfortable, reasonably quick, and good off-road. It ticks all of the right pick-up boxes. Plus, with the official dealer, Trading Enterprises, currently offering to pay 19% towards the down-payment, you can pick one up for a steal. Never mind that a new model is on its way, you can colour us convinced.