When it comes to off-road pickup trucks, there are varying degrees of capability usually correlating with what the goals are for the truck and what you’re willing to spend on one. Looking for something that’s just a bit more capable, with a mild upgrade or two over a regular 4×4 pickup? Something like Ford’s Tremor packages might be a good idea. Are you looking for something that combines capability and luxury? GMC’s AT4X trims fit that bill. Want to go ripping across the steppe at full chat, pouncing over ripples and jumps? Any Ford with a Raptor badge will do that. But if you want something that’s more of a workhorse and less of a plaything, few trucks can compete with the Ram 2500 Power Wagon.
Related: 2023 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Rebel Joins the Off-Road Party
Based on the heavy-duty Ram 2500 crew-cab pickup, the Power Wagon features front and rear locking differentials, a massive suspension lift and even a standard winch built into the front bumper for dragging you out of sticky situations in the rough.
But a vocal group of customers have lamented something about the Power Wagon: It’s great for doing what it does (crawling over just about anything), but not for doing things an HD truck is good at (towing and hauling). So Ram has come up with this, the 2023 Ram Heavy Duty 2500 Rebel, to fill in the very few spots where the Power Wagon is deficient and that Ram customers want addressed.
Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman
What It Boils Down To
Essentially, think of the new ‘23 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Rebel as a Power Wagon with bigger wheels, better towing options, no front locking differential or standard 12,000-pound Warn winch (it’s optional), and one key engine option: Ram’s Cummins turbo-diesel. See, one of the biggest complaints about the Power Wagon from would-be customers is that you can’t get it with the diesel, but Ram told us on several occasions that the Power Wagon’s standard integrated winch makes the diesel a nonstarter — the cooling system of the diesel engine goes where the winch is located.
In the Rebel, the winch is optional, making the turbo-diesel 6.7-liter inline-six-cylinder possible. The diesel engine adds around $9,600 to the truck’s price tag, and it makes 370 horsepower and a whopping 850 pounds-feet of torque and works with a six-speed automatic transmission. The standard engine is the 6.4-liter heavy-duty Hemi V-8 making 410 hp and 429 pounds-feet of torque that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Why would you want this? Well, think of the new 2500 Rebel as a direct response to the Ford F-250 Tremor, itself a package meant to combine the best elements of a towing HD truck and an off-road-capable HD truck. Your best tow rating for a Ram 2500 Power Wagon is 10,590 pounds, but the Ram 2500 Rebel can drag up to 16,870 pounds. Payload capacity is up significantly, too, from a high of 1,630 pounds in the Power Wagon to 3,140 pounds in the Rebel. Now, the most interesting bit is that these big numbers aren’t achieved with the optional diesel engine — they’re gas-to-gas comparisons. The diesel engine itself is so heavy that its payload and towing ratings (1,970 pounds and 14,920 pounds, respectively) are less than the gas-engine Rebel’s when equipped with the 4.10 final drive gear.
What makes the Rebel able to achieve these numbers is its slightly different suspension, a five-link coil-spring rear suspension that’s just like the Power Wagon’s but enhanced in ways that emphasize towing capability over ultimate off-road prowess. It also offers an optional rear air suspension, something the Power Wagon doesn’t have, but loses the disconnecting front sway bars that enable the Power Wagon to achieve better front suspension articulation. The Rebel has also been designed to have a higher gross vehicle weight rating.
So, you’ve given up some of the Power Wagon’s crawl-over-anything ability in exchange for a better towing setup — which is apparently exactly what a number of would-be Power Wagon buyers want. I’d say think of the Rebel as “Power Wagon Lite,” but that’s not entirely accurate. It might not have all of the Power Wagon’s off-road prowess, but it delivers other abilities the Power Wagon doesn’t.
Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman
On the Street
Your first challenge in driving the new 2500 Rebel is getting into it, as it doesn’t come with running boards (fixed and powered versions are optional). Getting into the super-lifted cabin is quite literally a climb. Like the Power Wagon, the Rebel gets a lifted suspension, but it features larger 20-inch wheels (18-inch wheels are a late option) that aren’t beadlock-capable running 33-inch tires versus the Power Wagon’s 17-inch wheels and tires. Once you’ve lifted yourself into the cabin, you’ll realize that Ram’s HD trucks are still just a tick behind the industry in some ways. Yes, you can option the cabin out with different interior treatments on the Rebel, including swaddling it in leather, but certain amenities are absent, like a telescoping steering wheel or wireless phone charging.
The cabin itself is still a stunning place to be, however. The high seating position provides a commanding view over everything outside the truck, though you’re so high that it often obscures your immediate surroundings — you’ll be relying a lot on your surround-view camera system and will need to be careful if you have little ones about; they can easily disappear from view if they’re close to this massive truck.
“Massive” is the operative word in discussing how the 2500 Rebel drives, too. This is first and foremost a heavy-duty truck, not some smoothed-out light-duty 1500 version for commuting and family transport — and it drives like it. From its unusual quick-ratio steering to its difficulty navigating any sort of parking lot, you’ll feel every inch and ounce of the 2500 Rebel’s bulk. That’s a benefit for towing a heavy trailer or filling up the bed with logs, and it reinforces the idea that this really is a specialty vehicle built for a specific purpose. Unless you live somewhere out in the boonies of Alaska and commute to the local supermarket via logging roads, the 2500 Rebel is too much truck for casual everyday use.