Hardcore off-road enthusiasts basically live in the great outdoors. They’ll venture off the beaten track any chance that they get, but here in the UAE at least, they’re in the minority of pick-up owners. The vast majority of truck-buying consumers just want a daily driver and value comfort and refined on-road manners way ahead of rugged capability. Still, most end up paying for tech that they’re not going to use, but Ram — the brand that only makes trucks — has struck the perfect balance by offering another variant based on the 1500 that can nonchalantly flatten dunes and also afford a very comfortable ride with the new Rebel. This sure is one smooth dirt machine.

There are several trims of the 1500 ranging from the work-ready Express to the fancy Laramie Limited (with the Big Horn, Sport and Longhorn editions sitting in between meaning there’s literally a Ram for everyone’s needs) but the Rebel, first launched in 2015, brings a one-of-a-kind off-road design to the full-size truck segment and is the most flamboyant of the lot.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

The traditional crosshair grille is ditched for an all-new blacked-out version featuring a prominent “RAM” letter badge that sits atop a completely new black off-road front bumper with a powder-coated surface. It incorporates a powder coated billet silver skid plate, new front tow hooks and new LED fog lights. The black bezel bi-functional projector headlights with LED marker lights do a sterling job in illuminating the road at night and the aluminium, twin-snorkel sport bonnet brings yet more muscle to proceedings. From the Power Wagon wheel-arch mouldings, flat-black badge, mirrors and lower body panels all receiving the blacked-out treatment, the profile has a very distinct trail-ready presence about it as do the 17in one-piece aluminium wheels which incorporate matte black painted accent pockets and come wrapped in huge 33in tyres. It distinguishes itself from the other trims further via a bold new blacked-out “RAM” stamped tailgate with the “Rebel” and “4X4” badges emphasizing its unique-ness. The rear bumper also gets the black powder coat finish with flared cutouts around dual chrome exhaust tips and the tailights match the headlights with their black bezels. Overall, this two-tone truck really stands out but it isn’t just the exterior that has been spruced up, the interior has been given a serious overhaul too and looks every bit as brawny as the rugged exterior.

It shares its layout with the rest of the Ram lineup, including the unique rotary dial shifter and 8.4in Uconnect touch screen and though there are several highlights in there such as 4G Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility (oh and plenty of USB ports and even a wall-style power outlet) the pick of the bunch is the grain vinyl seats finished in Black and Radar Red with the Rebel nameplate embroidered on upper seat bolsters. What’s the big fuss about that you say? Well, interestingly, the Sedoso fabric inserts have been embossed with the Toyo tyre tread pattern — and it actually matches the Rebel’s footprint! The centre console also has a Ram logo embossed on it while the all-black instrument panel and door armrests look a treat with more Radar Red and Light Gray accent stitching. The splash of red — which also finds its way on the vent rings, door accent rings, door trim spears and centre console — brings a bit of life to the predominantly black cabin while the deep all-weather rubber floor mats (with contrasting Radar Red Ram’s head) do a fine job in containing dirt and debris. That’s all well and good but how does the Rebel perform? In a word, brilliantly.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Its trail-running capability has been boosted thanks to a 1.0in raised ride height which improves off-road approach, departure and breakover angles and goes some way to make this Ram feel unstoppa-ble. Rather than work your way up to larger dunes, you’ll be confident enough to tackle the biggest ones immediately. And with the shocks supplied by Bilstein (with unique tuning), a new steering cali-bration along with the increased height of the air suspension (I just wish the system would raise the truck a bit quicker — but at its lowest setting, it certainly strikes an attractive stance) it would take a lot stop this pickup in its tracks. In fact, the huge tyres — a set of Toyo Open Country A/T all-terrains (their aggressive tread pattern dig deep and provide terrific traction — they also provide a comfortable ride on the highway without a hint of tyre roar) and suspension lift combine to give the Rebel a best-in-class ground clearance of 10.3in while the softer rear stabilizer bar provides improved dynamics. And with it packing a 395 horsepower 5.7-litre Hemi V8 (which earns it the distinction of being the most powerful regular cab truck available in the Middle East) paired to a slick eight-speed automatic, and with an Anti-Spin rear differential and a traction control system with 4WD, 2WD, 4WD Lock, and 4WD Low settings (it always finds a way to keep you moving forward) the big and bold Rebel is a blast both on and off-road.

It’s both rugged and smart in equal measures which means whether you are a country boy brushing off your work boots or a city slicker sporting a suit, the handsome Ram 1500 Rebel has got your back.

 

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