It’s tricky making sense of automotive sales figures these days. Trends are tough to isolate because sales spikes and dips can have as much to do with supplier shortages and lingering effects of the pandemic as actual consumer preferences. Even still, heavy duty (HD) pickup sales have been on a steady incline in North America for more than a dozen years with Ram’s HD trucks eroding an increasing chunk of both Ford’s and GM’s HD truck sales.
With a look at the current lineup of Ram 2500 HD trucks, it becomes clear why the brand is enjoying such a surge. The diversity of products and drivetrains is solid, but, more importantly, Ram seems to be paying attention to what HD truck buyers are seeking.
A case in point is the new 2023 Ram 2500 HD Rebel that slots between the mid-trim Laramie and beastly off-road Power Wagon models, filling what’s sure to be a popular middle ground just as the 1500 Rebel has done in Ram’s half-ton lineup.
Chassis and Towing
With its sway-bar disconnect plus front and rear locking differentials, the Power Wagon remains Ram’s most capable off-road rig, but the Rebel has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to help take it down some gnarly trails, too.
The same basic structure as the Power Wagon is found underneath the HD Rebel including its live axle front end and coil-spring rear, and there’s a limited-slip differential, plus a locking rear differential (although an open front diff). There are skid plates to help protect the transfer case and the fuel tank, and 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires wrapped around 20-inch wheels (18s with chunkier rubber will be made available later).
While lacking the Power Wagon’s full 26-inch articulation, the HD Rebel nevertheless impressed with its own suspension still offering more flex than expected from a heavy-duty rig. The rest of the suspension setup is standard Ram 2500 HD fare with stiffer springs, which does reduce its off-road prowess somewhat (unless you don’t mind really bouncing around over the rocks).
Those stiffer springs surely help keep the HD Rebel stable when cornering (no easy task with a rig weighing up to 3,700 kg or nearly 8,200 lb), but the primary benefit is that this truck can do real heavy-duty hauling that the Power Wagon can’t. Ram also offers its celebrated rear air suspension option for the HD Rebel that helps load levelling and offers even better ride quality.
When properly equipped, the HD Rebel is rated to tow up to 7,652 kg (16,870 lb), massively surpassing the Power Wagon’s 4,795-kg (10,570-lb) capacity. Those stiffer springs on the HD Rebel also allow it to carry a 1,424-kg (3,140-lb) payload, which is nearly double the Power Wagon’s. For those keeping score, Ford’s F-250 Tremor offers slightly greater payload and towing capacity than the Rebel, and greater ground clearance.
The HD Rebel gets all the usual towing equipment found on HD trucks for trailering, but is also available with Ram’s Trailer Reverse Steering Control that enables backing up to be simplified. There’s also a new auxiliary camera that can be affixed to a trailer to give either an outside or inside view as one of the auxiliary camera options that can be displayed through the infotainment system. The rear-view mirror can be switched to display a rear camera view, flanked by the displays captured by cameras in the door mirrors, as well.
Aside from the HD Rebel’s superior towing capability, the other advantage over a Power Wagon is the choice of the standard 6.4L V8 with 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, or an optional 6.7L Cummins inline-six diesel that delivers 370 hp and a monumental 850 lb-ft of torque. Because the Cummins weighs a significant 600 lb more than the gas engine, its payload and tow capacity are actually lower than the 6.4L’s.
The truck with either engine roars up to highway speed deliberately, if not with any real urgency, rather like a locomotive building steam. The diesel’s copious torque surely means the HD Rebel can accelerate with the same determination whether towing a trailer or not. Our test drive day was divided between both the gas and diesel variants and neither felt appreciably quicker than the other under normal driving.
The diesel’s extra bulk can be felt over the front wheels when cornering, but even still, both trucks provided surprising composure for such large machines. They’re also impressively quiet, especially when cruising at highway speeds when the engines are barely turning above idle speed, and the lack of wind noise, especially with such massive side mirrors, is genuinely remarkable. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the aggressive all-terrain tires, whose presence is always heard, especially at highway speed.
Off-road, the diesel’s instant torque allows the HD Rebel to effortlessly tackle hill climbs, although the gas truck certainly didn’t struggle either. Both offer electronic descent control (EDC), but with the 6.4L, the engine braking in 4-lo is strong enough that the EDC wasn’t even needed. If you’re going to get your HD Rebel stuck, make sure it’s the gas-powered version since the optional 12,000-lb Warn winch doesn’t fit thanks to the diesel’s additional cooling needs.
Both 6.4L and 6.7L engines utilize a Borg Warner transfer case that allows shifting between 2-Hi and 4-Hi while on the move, but picking 4-Lo requires a shift into neutral first. The eight-speed automatic with the 6.4L engine is actuated through a rotary knob, while the diesel gets a six-speed and a column shifter.
Ram’s interiors have become the standard of the truck industry offering both an abundance of amenities and lots of style and quality. The HD Rebel’s cabin is no exception, getting model-specific seats and a choice of leather or cloth finishes. The latest version of Ram’s Uconnect infotainment system was displayed though a 12-inch vertically oriented touchscreen and can be configured to prioritize specific functions a driver uses most often. It connects wirelessly to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and worked seamlessly during the test. The system’s menus are sensibly laid out and it’s easy to dig into the multitude of off-road or trailer assist applications baked into this system. Even still, it’d be nice to have access to the heated steering wheel and heated seats via hard buttons rather than having to go through a multi-tap procedure. An 8.4-inch touchscreen system is standard.
While it’s a long climb up to the HD Rebel’s cockpit, once there, the seats are comfortable, with either a five-passenger or six-passenger layout offered, and the rear seat offers ample space for long-legged passengers. The HD Rebel comes only in crew cab configuration with a 6.4-foot box, and the clever Ram boxes are still offered with a handy on-board power outlet. The Rebel can be distinguished from other HD models by its blacked-out trim, powder-coated bumpers, Mopar sport performance hood, and, of course, the Rebel badging.
Starting at $75,950 with the 6.4L V8, the HD Rebel offers good value within the segment, but opting for the diesel engine adds more than $9,000 to the sticker. Coupling that cost with the greater expense of diesel versus gasoline means buyers will need to rack up lots of kilometres to make that engine pay off. The extensive option list ensures a buyer can customize an HD Rebel for all their work and adventure needs, but it won’t take much to push the cost well over $100,000.
Dealers are accepting orders for 2023 Ram 2500 HD Rebels now.