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Speaking with Mike Cairns, Chief Engineer of Ram

interviewed by Patrick Rall and filmed by Marc Rozman, January 2015

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See our much more in-depth interview with Mr. Cairns

We're here today talking about the Ram 1500 Rebel. This is a new model we're just launching. As you can see, awesome off-road looking truck, but it's also got chops to deliver that. We use our four-corner air suspension and we set the ride height one inch higher than normal to give us best-in-class ground clearance of over ten inches. And you can also see we're able to fit beautiful 33-inch Toyo open-country all-terrain T/A tires. Awesome tire. I love these tires. They not only deliver great mud and snow traction, but they also have really good on-road ride and handling. They're important for our customer because we have a great ride in this truck. We didn't want to give it up just because you get an off-road truck. The interior also is just awesome. you'll have to get some shots of that. It's really cool-looking, really accenting, and letting the customer know this is something special.

Is the grill just aesthetic, or does it have some cooling function to it?

The grill, that's one of the things when you do new grills. Obviously the styling guys work very closely with our product, the design office guys. We have to make sure it still delivers good aerodynamics as well as good cooling and airflow. So there's a lot of work that goes into that. We actually take it the wind tunnel to develop the shape and size to make sure we still can deliver the awesome tow-capability of a Ram Hemi as well as the good aerodynamics and fuel economy we deliver in all our powertrains.


This is the new grill for the whole line? Is it just this package for now?

That's a great question. Is this the new grill of all Ram? No. This is a unique model. We really wanted to signify that this is something special and different. So the traditional Ram crosshair grills are still out there on all our other models, but we really wanted this to look different and really have this very aggressive matte-black look. It's a tough, aggressive look.

I'm guessing price isn't available yet.

We'll have pricing.

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Will you have more of a premium model?

Yes. This model, though we haven't announced pricing, will be somewhere above a Big Horn package, somewhere between Big Horn and sport model, that kind of thing. So a little bit of a premium price, but not bad. I think you'll all be very happy with the pricing once we announce it.

[Big Horn starts at $31,485, including destination.]

Everything we see is standard on this truck?

[No,] This does feature Ram Box which is an option. There are options within the package. It is a new model that will have a bunch of other free-standing options.

The air suspension is set higher. Is that the standard setting? It rides higher than say a regular . . .

Exactly. By using the four corner air suspension, we set the normal ride height one inch higher than the normal 4x4. So it will run around at all speeds at that higher ride height. We do offer those same features. You can turn on the aero mode where if you're over about 60 miles an hour it'll drop down to improve aerodynamics and highway speeds. Or you can turn that off if you want. Then there's also an additional off-road mode which will raise the truck another inch over what you see here. And then the park entry/exit position, which will lower the truck. Now that it's an inch higher, it'll actually lower about three inches for ingress, egress, and of course using the bed, getting in and out of the bed and loading gear in, which is really great. I use it all the time.

Is there a speed limit on the off-road mode?

Yeah. In the high off-road mode, about 25 miles an hour. We will drop down then to the normal ride height. In a regular 4x4 at this ride height, it normally would only be allowed up to about 45 miles an hour. But we've re-tuned the suspension, the speed shocks, changed the geometry a little bit, so it still handles great even at higher speeds. So this ride height will stay if you want up to its top speed.

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Would be possible for current Ram owners to buy the Rebel suspension components and add them too their own truck?

It'd be very expensive, because the air suspension is all unique. If you had an air suspension . . . we're not making available the different controller to change the regular air suspension to set at this ride height because there is geometry changes and we've done all the dynamic tuning with these tires, these shocks, and that ride height.

Can you talk about the towing capacity?

The tow ratings all stay the same as a regular 3.6 4x4, the 5.7 4x2 . . .

There's a gas V6 and Hemi, there's no diesel. Was there any consideration for diesel?

Sure. We considered putting the EcoDiesel in. We love that engine. We're very proud of it. But we have such demand right now, we're looking at squeeze capacity, so we really felt on this model we'd just at this time stick to the gas engine.

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The interior [on the show truck] is standard?

Yes. The standard interior, awesome-looking, beautiful, and that's in the Rebel package. There are five exterior colors.

Is the red trimmed interior standard regardless of the exterior color?

More in-depth 2015 interview with Mike Cairns

Yes. That's why we limited it to five colors, because we wanted to make sure that interior matches with all the exterior colors.

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