Earlier this year, a glossy magazine wrote about tests of off-road vehicles in tough conditions, mentioning that the Ram 1500 Rebel had performed quite well. It should not have surprised me, then, — but it did — just how easy it was to conquer a muddy trail with the full-size pickup.

2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

The Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan include a number of off-road trails, which have a mix of obstacles replicating “real-world” trails. Somewhere on the grounds is a replica of the toughest obstacles on the Rubicon Trail, measured and re-created in the late 1980s, and maintained ever since.

offroad path

This year, I drove several Jeeps, from Renegade to Wrangler over the course. The Wrangler is the most universally mobile vehicle, because it’s small and nimble enough to make tight turns; but, last year, the Power Wagon was the most comfortable and effortless ride, with its massive size and lift. This year, I didn’t drive the Power Wagon — but the Ram 1500 Rebel took its place.

The best way to describe the Rebel’s performance may be “effortless, comfortable traction”. The Wrangler’s solid axles and short wheelbase make short work of any obstacle, but it also passes through all the trail or road imperfections. The Rebel’s independent suspension was far more compliant, soaking up shocks and vibrations easily. The long wheelbase helped the truck to feel more stable. With the air conditioning on, trails that most crossovers would get bogged down in, AWD or not, feel like paved country lanes in the Rebel.

2019 Ram Rebel on-jeep-trail

Most onlookers, I suspect, were expecting the Rebel to be a fairly mild “stripe package,” but it turned out to be a quite serious off-road vehicle. Steep muddy hills went by easily, with the traction control merely set to “automatic.” Spots where certain nameless Jeeps had to be coaxed through, were nothing to the Rebel. Like the Power Wagon, it simply went on as though there was no obstacle at all.

The long wheelbase helped in the section Jeep set up where the ground rises on the right while it falls on the left and vice versa, setting up a pattern that makes most vehicles balance on two wheels, lifting up and then crashing down (depending on how they’re driven). The Rebel made it through relatively easily, without quite the same fuss (last year, the Wrangler kept all four wheels on the ground; I’ll let you know how the 2019 did in September).

That same long wheelbase was trouble on the breakover tests; one can see places where the Ram could get “grounded,” until it could be winched out. As it is, there was, thanks to the skid plates, no damage.

The only other problem I could see was lack of visibility when cresting hills, as the hood doesn’t slope at a particularly steep angle. A front camera, pointed down at a steep angle (or with a wide viewing angle), would be helpful to avoid running into spotters or rocks. There are numerous aftermarket front-camera options, for just this reason.

The Ram 1500 Rebel was an impressive pickup; I can see it being extremely handy in industrial sites, farms, and other places where mobility is key. A Wrangler is likely more fun for recreational off-roading, but the Rebel will get you there in comfort, surprisingly easily, with its high clearances and Jeep-influenced suspension design. It’s the real deal.