A few weeks ago, Ram Trucks invited us out to beautiful Whistler, British Columbia to spend the day with their best off-road offerings, the 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel, and the Ram 2500 Power Wagon.
We arrived at the base of Mount Sproatt at 9 am for a quick vehicle presentation and then had the opportunity to drive the trucks up a narrow, rocky trail usually reserved for Snowmobiles and ATVs. At the top of the path at 4,937 feet of elevation was Sproatt Cabin, where we would have lunch, swap trucks, and descend back down to the base of the mountain.
For 2019 the Ram Rebel was all-new, with a fresh, sleek design, new frame, all-new luxurious interior, and unlike previous Rebels is now available in a Quad Cab configuration. Also new for 2019 is a standard coil spring suspension, while former Rebels were only offered with the air suspension. Of course, you can still get the Rebel in a Crew Cab or with the optional air suspension if so desired.
For the 2020 Model year, the Rebel gains the 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel engine option for the first time and gets some minor trim and option package changes but for the purposes of our drive other than the new optional diesel is mechanically the same.
With a starting MSRP of $60,095 Canadian for a Quad Cab or $61,795 Canadian for a Crew Cab the Rebel trim adds a ton of off-road goodies over a standard Ram 1500, such as:
- 18-inch aluminum wheels
- 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires
- Full skid plate protection and tow hooks
- Electronic locking rear axle (ELocker)
- Bilstein® mono-tube shocks
- 1-inch higher ride height
- Standard 3.92 gears
- Hill-descent control
Cosmetically the Rebel features a unique look with a standard Sport Performance Hood, a unique grille, black powder-coated front, and rear bumpers, and black fender flares. The interior of the Rebel is also unique with sport mesh cloth and vinyl seats, Rebel embroidering on the seatbacks along with red accents. A black interior option is also available if you aren’t a fan of the red.
We started in the Rebel, leaving the base of the mountain a few minutes up a rocky trail to an area that featured some steep inclines and declines, along with some standing water. I got a chance to try out the hill descent control for the first time on the Rebel and found it to work very well. You can control the speed of the hill descent control using the gear + or – buttons on the steering wheel, and the truck will do all the work descending the hill in a well-controlled manner.
Continuing along the trail, the Rebel handled everything that was thrown at it. Myself and Perry Mack from 4WD Magazine (My co-driver on this trip) were both very impressed with the turning radius of the truck, as it handled most of the tight switchbacks with ease without having to make a 3-point turn. The overall ride quality was good if a bit on the firm side as our truck was equipped with the optional air suspension in off-road two mode for extra ride height, which is quite a bit stiffer than normal mode.
We were able to place the truck on an embankment along the trail, getting the drivers’ side rear tire way off the ground, which enabled us to test out just how well the four-wheel-drive system and electronic rear locking differential worked. After stopping for a few photos, Perry was able to drive the truck right off of the embankment with almost no wheel spin, showing that the truck was distributing power appropriately through the driveline.
The interior of the Rebel is very well laid out with all the essential controls readily at hand. Materials quality as at the top of the class, and while subjective, seat comfort is also best in class to my behind. The panoramic sunroof, along with the larger cab, makes the 2019+ 1500s feel downright airy.
One feature that I found sorely missing from the Rebel was a front-facing camera. When encountering steep breakovers, you really do need a spotter to help you with your line due to a lack of forward visibility. The 2019 Ram Power Wagon is available with a front-facing camera along with 360-degree camera views, and I am honestly surprised that option wasn’t added to the Rebel for 2020. Something else I would like to see added to the Rebel is the off-road pages from Jeep, such as what we went over in our 2020 Jeep Gladiator review. While not a necessity, the software is already there, and it would be nice to see it added to the off-road-focused Ram models.
Along the rest of the trail, the Rebel felt right at home, as this is precisely the environment that the truck is intended for. We never once got stuck or felt as the truck ever put a foot wrong along the trail, even though we did add some B.C pinstripes to it through the narrowest section of the trail. (Sorry, Ram!) Overall the Rebel was very impressive, although one does wonder why they don’t add in the electronic disconnecting sway bar, along with a winch to make it more of a mini Power Wagon.
Ram Power Wagon
The 2019 Ram Power Wagon is essentially an all-new truck for 2019, but unlike the 1500’s the Heavy Duties retained the same Cab (with the all-new interior), and Box as the previous trucks. As with the Rebel, the Power Wagon is mechanically identical for the 2020 model year, with the only changes being a few new colors.
Starting at $64,245 Canadian and only available as a Crew Cab with the 6’4 inch box, the Power Wagon is the most off-road capable pickup on the market today. There’s only one powertrain offering on the Power Wagon, but it’s a good one, the 6.4 Hemi V8, which puts out 410 hp and 429lb.-ft of torque, and for 2019 is now backed by the eight-speed automatic transmission. The eight-speed solves all the complaints of poor gear spacing with the previous 6-speed transmission and now makes the 6.4 Hemi feel downright lively. A 4.10 gear ratio is the standard, and only, ratio available in Power Wagons.
The Power Wagon comes standard with these off-road features:
- Bilstein® mono-tube shocks
- ArticulinkTM front suspension
- Five-link rear coil spring suspension
- 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires
- 12,000-pound WARN® winch
- Electronic disconnecting sway bar
- Electronic locking front/rear differentials
- Complete under-chassis armor
- Hill-descent control
After lunch at Sproatt Cabin, we hopped into a black Power Wagon to begin our descent back down the mountain. One thing that was almost immediately apparent was that the ride quality seemed to be more compliant in the Power Wagon than in the Rebel with the suspension set to Off-Road 2 mode. Also helping the ride was the electronic front sway bar disconnect, we had the sway bar disengaged the whole time, which allows the front axle to move independently of the trucks frame to provide more suspension articulation.
The cab of the Power Wagon was just as nice a place to be as the Rebel, sharing the same dash design along with the excellent 12-inch screen as I mentioned before the 2019 Ram HD’s use the same cab as previous trucks as opposed to the all-new cab on the 5th Generation 1500. This does result in a few compromises. No panoramic sunroof is available on any of the 2500, and up trucks, you also do give up a bit of headroom to the new 1500, along with a few inches of rear legroom, and you don’t get the flat load floor of the 1500 either. That said, there is more than enough legroom in the back of the Power Wagon unless you’re Andre the giant, and all the new updates for 2019 make it FEEL as if it were an all-new cab.
Upon arriving at all the tight switchbacks (remember this is a trail primarily designed for snowmobiles and ATVs), I was again surprised at just how tight the turning radius was on the Power Wagon. We were behind a Rebel coming down, and during one of the corners, the Rebel had to make a 3-point turn, while in the larger Power Wagon, my co-pilot Perry Mack got the line right and made it through in one go. Pretty impressive for a larger truck with a longer wheelbase.
Another big help, especially with the Power Wagons taller hood, was the available front-facing camera. We were able to place the Power Wagon exactly where we wanted it, and thanks to the use of the camera whenever we came upon one of the spotters, they didn’t tell us to do anything different than choose the line we were already on.
Compared to the Rebel I found the steering in the Power Wagon to be a little heavier, but not in a bad way, one thing that I did notice and likely due to the solid front axle was a little more bump steer than in the Rebel, but it was perfectly manageable. As with the Rebel, the Power Wagon just laughed off anything that this trail threw at it and made for a fun descent down the mountain. While we never needed to use the front or rear electronic locker, or the 12,000lb Warn winch, it is nice to know that they’re there if you need them.
The Power Wagon has a long and storied history, first introduced in World War II as a weapons carrier, and was followed by a Civilian version in 1945. The Power Wagon was the first mass-produced 4×4 pickup truck and came with a 2-speed transfer case, 10,000 lb winch, and a transmission power take-off (PTO). A total of 95,000 trucks were built between 1945 and 1968 when Power Wagon production stopped until it returned in 2005. After spending a few hours with the modern Power Wagon in off-road conditions, you can tell that the Ram team takes the Power Wagons history to heart and strives to stay true to the trucks’ history of capability.
While we weren’t on a hardcore off-road course, this did give us a feel for both trucks in off-road conditions. Either truck could definitely handle rougher terrain and likely with ease. I do have one interesting takeaway, though. I had never previously considered cross-shopping the Rebel and the Power Wagon, but, for a little bit extra money, I feel that the Power Wagon is the better buy between the two. You get some features that aren’t available on the Rebel (or any other truck for that matter), without really giving anything up. If you so desired you could also get a lower cost Ram 2500 with Power Wagon capabilities, by ordering a 2500 Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 and then checking the box for the Power Wagon Package. That gives you all the mechanicals of the Power Wagon, including that 12,000 lb winch in a lower cost Tradesman model.
That said, the Rebel is more than capable itself and has some qualities that the Power Wagon can’t offer, such as the Panoramic sunroof, flat rear load floor, more head, and legroom. Of course, the Rebel is going to be better on fuel and if economy is really your thing the new for 2020 Ram Rebel EcoDiesel should be right up your alley.
Either way, you choose, both trucks are competent for their respective segments, and the combination of style, comfort, features, and stout powertrains go to show why Ram brand sales have increased by 175% in Canda since launched as a standalone brand back in 2009.