Class: Large Pickup Truck
Color: Granite Crystal
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide’s impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. “Big” rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, “Tall” rating based on 6’6″-tall male tester.
|Turbocharged diesel six
Miles driven: 125
Observed fuel economy: 13.6 mpg
Driving mix: 65% city, 35% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: N/A
Fuel type: Diesel
Snow performance: Excellent
Base price: $66,135 (not including $1895 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Cummins diesel engine ($9695), Level 2 Equipment Group ($7110), Towing Technology Group ($2095), Safety Group ($1840), sunroof ($1195), 20-inch alloy wheels ($995), Bed Utility Group ($845), special paint ($250)
Price as tested: $92,045
The great: Better than expected ride and handling, Ram-typical cabin appointments
The good: Spacious cabin, easy-to-use infotainment system
The not so good: Options add up quickly
If you’ve driven a modern 1/2-ton pickup truck recently, you know that though being capable haulers, they can be equipped to mimic the comfort and luxury of a premium-brand sedan. Ram, especially, is building pickup trucks with cabins that would not look out of place in a Cadillac or Lincoln. You may also know that modern light-duty pickups can be fun to drive, featuring the kind of power and handling that can inspire smiles on even the dullest of commutes. But, that’s half-ton pickups. What about the heavy-duty stuff?
Sadly, given the hauling and towing expectations of ¾-ton pickups, these capable beasts are tuned to work, not frolic, and the quality of ride and handling suffer as a result. Predictably, even more capable 1-ton trucks suffer additionally in the area of on-road refinement.
There is, however, a ¾-ton Ram model, new for 2023, that goes some distance towards feeling like a ½-ton truck while mostly maintaining its big-rig towing and hauling numbers. Meet the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Rebel.
The Rebel slots pricewise in the Ram 2500 lineup between the popular Big Horn and upscale Laramie trim levels, and spices things up with a serious dose of off-road and handling upgrades. Note that a Rebel variant has been part of the Ram 1500 series since way back in 2015, and offers light-duty pickup shoppers an affordable and fun option that is both sporty and comfortable.
The 2500-series Rebel is no different in mission, though the it’s much more capable as a work truck than the 1500, and not quite as much fun to drive.
For the indecisive, the 2500 Rebel may be the way to go. The big pickup comes only in crew-cab form and only with a 6’ 4” bed. Engine options include a 410-horsepower gasoline-fueled 6.4-liter V8. Also available, for a lot more money, is the popular Cummins-brand 6.7-liter diesel. The diesel produces 370 horsepower and mates exclusively to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The gas engine pairs with an 8-speed auto. All 2500 Rebels come standard with 4-wheel drive and a 2-speed transfer case.
Though the truck is treated to a number of unique trim bits, including a unique hood, what makes a Rebel a Rebel is mostly what’s underneath it. In additional to beefed up springs and an available air suspension, the Rebel employs Bilstein-brand shock absorbers at all four corners. The chassis updates also include 33-inch off-road oriented wheels and tires, as well as protective skid plates, and a WARN-brand 12,000-pound winch. All this hardware makes the 2500 Rebel a serious rock-crawler as well as a better handler on road. That’s where the fun comes in. More on that in a moment.
The Rebel does give up some towing capacity in the name of off-road capability and on-road agility, but the truck’s 14,920-pound limit is still fully fifty percent higher than most half-ton trucks, and more than most shoppers will ever need.
Consumer Guide recently spent a week in a Ram 2500 Rebel in Granite Crystal equipped with the diesel engine, and the all-encompassing Level 2 Equipment Group. The $7110 package goes some distance towards converting the Ram into a Bentley, and includes such niceties as a 12-inch touch screen, Harman Kardon premium audio, black-aluminum cabin trim, and leather seating surfaces. Price-conscious shoppers with be glad to hear that a Level 1 Equipment Group does a nice job of spiffing up the Rebel for a more budget-friendly $4410.
Anyone familiar with the current crop of Ram trucks knows the brand leads the industry in cabin design and appointments, and the 2500 Rebel lives up to that standard. Everything inside the Rebel looks upscale and appears to be well assembled and of high-quality.
All 2023 Ram 2500 pickups employ the Stellantis Uconnect 5 infotainment digital interface, and the system works very well. On-screen controls are logically arranged and operate intuitively. And, the Harmon Kardon audio system ranks among the best brand-name audio systems we’ve enjoyed in a heavy-duty truck.
There’s plenty of space in the Ram, though this author’s wife lodged two complaints: First, she found the step-in into the truck something of a reach (she’s 5’ 2”, but she’s nimble), and the passenger side front footwell includes some intrusion from the transmission tunnel forcing occupants to sit aligned slightly to the right. Pushing the passenger seat fully back helps to alleviate the problem. The rear seating area is plenty roomy, and conveniently equipped—via the back of the center console–with two USB-A and two USB-C outlets, which should be enough connectivity for even the most ardently digital passengers.
But it’s on the road where the 2500 Rebel impresses most. The burly Cummins diesel engine isn’t the snorting beast it once was, having been refined over the years in keeping with Ram’s move upscale. The diesel still cranks out almost obscene amounts or torque, but is smoother now, and far quieter. Fear not, hard-core diesel fans, the Cummins engine is still the loudest of the big-pickup diesel engines, but it quiets down impressively at cruising speeds.
The fun I mentioned earlier comes not from the under the hood, but through the chassis and steering wheel. Now, I’m not talking Volkswagen GTI fun, but the Rebel serves up far more feedback and control than I would expect from a ¾-ton truck.
In addition to surprising ride quality unladen, the 2500 Rebel—despite its off-road oriented wheels and tires—turns in almost athletically in corners, without lean or significant scrubbing of speed. Even the steering feels (relatively) good, with decent feedback and more accuracy than a huge pickup generally provides.
As noted above, the burly diesel provides all sorts of power, but throttle response can be tardy, and the engine clatter is somewhat out of step with the sportiness mission. If you need the Cummins for hauling and towing, so be it. But if you’re looking for a sportier profile, and want to save almost $10,000, we suggesting test driving a 2500 Rebel with the standard gasoline V8.
Regardless of your engine choice, the 2023 Ram 2500 Rebel is a surprisingly livable machine that’s more fun to drive than any ¾-ton pickup has a right to be. If the price of this fine beast seems high, consider going with the gas engine and the less-inclusive Level 1 Equipment Group option package. You’ll be ahead some money, and still have a big rig that’s surprisingly entertaining to drive—and still seriously capable.
2023 Ram 2500 Rebel Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)