2023 Ram 2500 Rebel Test Drive and Review

What to buy when you want a Power Wagon with a Cummins turbo-diesel engine.

Christian Wardlaw

Review QuickTakes:

You may have noticed the popularity of full-size pickup trucks with oversized tires, off-road styling, and overlanding equipment. These days, it seems like everyone wants one of these rigs, so Ram rolled out a new 2500 Heavy Duty Rebel for the 2023 model year.

Modeled after the popular Ram 1500 Rebel light-duty truck, the new 2023 Ram 2500 Rebel provides most of the capability a truck buyer gets with the off-road-oriented Ram 2500 Power Wagon combined with greater towing and hauling capacity. The Rebel is not as talented off the pavement as the Power Wagon because it doesn't come with that truck's electronic locking front differential and disconnecting sway bar. However, the Rebel is significantly more talented on the pavement, where its 14,670 pounds of maximum towing capacity and 3,140 pounds of maximum payload capacity trounce the Power Wagon's numbers.

Plus, you can get the new Ram 2500 Rebel with a Cummins turbo-diesel engine, something the Power Wagon doesn't offer.

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Taking a higher view of the 2023 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty lineup, the truck comes in regular cab, crew cab, and Mega Cab (a larger crew cab) styles with a standard or long cargo bed. In addition, you can choose between Tradesman, Big Horn, Laramie, Power Wagon, Rebel, Limited Longhorn, and Limited trim levels, and base prices range from the mid-$40,000s to the high $80,000s. Those prices include the destination charge to ship the truck from the Coahuila, Mexico, factory that builds it to your local dealership.

For this Ram 2500 review, I test-drove the new Rebel model in the mountains between Yucca Valley and Big Bear City, Calif. It came with the Cummins turbo-diesel engine, Level 2 Equipment Group, Safety Group, Bed Utility Group, Towing Technology Group, extra-cost paint, and 20-inch wheels, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to a staggering $94,195, including the $1,895 destination charge.

Ram provided the vehicle for this 2500 Heavy Duty review and paid for lodging and meals during the evaluation period.

Christian Wardlaw

2023 Ram Rebel Design Is Powerful in Every Sense

Ram offers the 2500 Rebel as a crew cab with a standard 6-foot-4-inch cargo box. It shares its styling with the 2500 Power Wagon but doesn't have that model's retro bodyside graphics. Instead, it gets a Mopar sport performance hood. Both trucks have 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, but you can get exclusive 20-inch wheels on the Rebel.

In addition, the Power Wagon has a factory-installed 12,000-pound Warn winch, which prevents it from offering the Cummins turbo-diesel engine. The winch is an option on the Rebel, available only with the truck's standard gas-powered V8. My test truck didn't have the winch, but it did have the new-for-2023 power telescoping trailer-towing mirrors.

It is difficult to climb into or out of a Ram 2500 Rebel, so if you're not strong like bull, you'll probably want to upgrade your new off-roader with the optional power-deployable running boards. Unfortunately, my test truck did not have them, so hoisting my middle-aged body aboard aggravated a shoulder injury, especially in the cramped parking lot at a restaurant.

Christian Wardlaw

Once you're aboard the Ram 2500 Rebel, you'll likely find plenty of comfort regardless of your assigned seating location. The seats are supportive, with plenty of room in every direction, and the test truck had leather upholstery with heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel. I sampled a truck with the available front bucket seats, but you can get a front bench seat with a center seatback that folds down to provide cupholders and storage.

Speaking of storage, there is plenty of it in this truck. Ram equips the 2500 Rebel with bins, shelves, and trays galore. The 40/20/40-split rear-seat sections fold flat to provide secure in-cab cargo room, and if you flip the cushion up, you can access the under-seat storage area. In addition, Ram Bins are available, providing hidden storage within the cab's floor.

Ram Bins differ from the available RamBox storage areas built into each side of the truck's bed. My test truck did not have them, but they lock, have LED lighting, and include drain holes so that you can use them as a portable cooler. Ram also offers a spray-in bedliner, LED bed lighting, an LED trailer hitch light, and a 115-volt AC power outlet. You'll also want to get the bed step for climbing into the bed to tie down cargo.

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New Tech Evolves the Art of Hauling and Towing

For the 2023 model year, the Ram 2500 lineup offers several new technologies as upgrades. They include an available 12-inch digital instrumentation panel with reconfigurable menu tiles, a Trailer Tow Pages app, a camera-based digital rearview mirror with available side camera integration, and a Trailer Reverse Steering Control semi-autonomous steering-assist feature.

All of these new features, in combination with the power telescopic trailering mirrors, make the 2023 Ram 2500 a better towing rig than before. For example, the Trailer Tow Pages app allows the driver to monitor a trailer's brakes and lights. In addition, the digital rearview mirror provides a clear view of what's behind the truck when you've loaded the cab or bed with gear, and as an upgrade, it pairs with side-mirror cameras to show what's on either side of the truck and trailer.

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Trailer Reverse Steering Control allows the Ram 2500's owner to input a few data points about a trailer and use a knob on the dashboard to input the direction the trailer should go when reversing. Then, the truck automatically translates those inputs into the steering action necessary to back the trailer in the desired direction.

Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to sample these towing features. I can say, however, that they bring the Ram 2500 up to par with other heavy-duty pickups and should work well with the Ram's numerous exterior camera views. Also, I thought the digital rearview mirror suffered too much reflection on a sunny test-drive day. As for the new 12-inch digital instrumentation, it poses a challenge at first but is undeniably helpful once you get the hang of it.

My test truck had the optional 12.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which replaced the standard 8.4-inch touchscreen. Both systems use Ram's latest Uconnect 5 software and feature wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, SiriusXM 360L premium satellite radio, and a navigation system. In addition, the evaluation vehicle had wireless smartphone charging and a 17-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system.

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The larger, portrait-mounted 12.0-inch system also comes with Ram Connect subscription services, including access to a 4G Wi-Fi hot spot and Alexa Built-in. Note that the Alexa tech only works with an active subscription to Wi-Fi service. In addition, Off-Road Pages is part of the infotainment system. This tech helps you keep track of the Ram 2500 Rebel's body pitch and roll when you're on treacherous trails. It also provides quick access to the forward-facing camera and shows your exact latitude, longitude, and current elevation.

Using the 12.0-inch Uconnect 5 system is easy, although glare and reflections can make it hard to see and use the climate control buttons that frame either side of the display. In addition, I typically prefer screens mounted in landscape instead of portrait orientation. Nevertheless, it was easy to pair an iPhone 13 Pro and run Apple CarPlay. The voice recognition system worked well, if not flawlessly, and the Harman Kardon audio system produced impressive sound.

Christian Wardlaw

Ram offers an optional Safety Group for the 2500 Rebel, and my test truck had this upgrade. It installs adaptive cruise control with full stop capability, full-speed forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring (including for a trailer), and rear cross-traffic alert. The package also has automatic high-beam headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Ram's prescribed driving route did not present many opportunities to test these driving assistance and collision avoidance systems. On two-lane desert highways, the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist performed well, but the road's light traffic and lack of multi-lane sections proved an easy lift for the tech. However, I sure did appreciate the surround-view camera system and the front and rear parking sensors while slotting the truck into parking spaces at a shopping plaza and a restaurant.

Christian Wardlaw

Driving the Heavy-Duty Rebel Is a Heavy-Duty Job

Stick with the Ram 2500 Rebel's standard 6.4-liter V8 gas engine, and you'll enjoy 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. It also comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission and provides the Rebel's maximum towing and payload capacities of 14,670 pounds and 3,140 pounds, respectively. Compare those figures to the Power Wagon's 10,520 pounds of trailering capacity and 1,560 pounds of payload capacity, and it's clear what the Rebel brings to the party.

My test truck had the optional 6.7-liter turbocharged diesel inline six-cylinder engine, which supplies 370 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque. This upgrade costs $9,695, reduces towing and payload capacity to 19,980 and 3,140 pounds, respectively, and has a six-speed automatic with a column-mounted shifter imparting all the quality and substance of a snapping chicken bone. Plus, due to packaging requirements, you can't get the optional 12,000-pound Warn winch with this engine.

Spending almost 10 grand extra for the Cummins is a decision only you can make. From my perspective, I'd recommend sticking with the 6.4-liter Hemi V8. However, it is worth noting that the Cummins-powered test truck averaged 16.6 mpg driving from Yucca Valley up to Big Bear and then down to the off-roading area Ram set up. Since the EPA doesn't rate heavy-duty trucks for fuel economy, I can't tell you if that's good or bad.

The Ram 2500 Rebel does not have the Power Wagon's front locking differential or disconnecting front sway bar, but it remains a capable off-roader. Ram fortifies the Rebel with 18-inch or 20-inch wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires, skid plates, a limited-slip rear differential, and an electronic locking rear differential. It also features an off-road suspension and 11.1 inches of ground clearance. In addition, a self-leveling rear air suspension is available.

Christian Wardlaw

Playing off the well-known proverb, if it looks like a truck and drives like a truck, it probably is a truck. No matter the situation, the Rebel is unashamedly, unabashedly, and most assuredly a truck.

For example, the recirculating ball steering is slow and sloppy, making travel on narrow and winding two-lane roads slightly unnerving. In addition, the test truck's 33-inch all-terrain tires lacked grip in curves and corners and proved loud on the pavement. For the uninitiated, driving something this large, heavy, stiff, and powerful takes some acclimation.

Christian Wardlaw

However, the Ram 2500's class-exclusive five-link coil-sprung rear suspension delivered a reasonably smooth ride considering the Rebel's mission and unloaded cargo bed. Also, though the Cummins turbo-diesel is expensive, it provides exceptional response thanks to 850 lb-ft of torque starting at just 1,700 rpm, accompanied by its signature diesel clatter. In the Ram 2500 Rebel, you can effortlessly cruise all day long on the arrow-straight highways that crisscross this nation.

As for the Rebel's off-road performance, it successfully tamed terrain I would never have tackled on my own. Of course, it always helps to have spotters and a path already vetted by professionals. Still, the trail Ram sent me down looked impassable to my city-boy eyes. Yet the Rebel climbed, maneuvered, articulated, and descended with the utmost grace.

Christian Wardlaw

Is the 2023 Ram 2500 Rebel a Good Truck?

Based on a day spent driving the new 2023 Ram 2500 Rebel, it is a good truck. But at more than $94,000 as tested, the price is a real problem. Of course, you can save a big chunk of change by sticking with the standard V8 and passing on the Level 2 Equipment Group that loads the Rebel up with luxury-grade creature comforts, but you'll be looking at dropping about $69,000 on this truck.

Not only is the value proposition questionable, but all of the Ram 2500's rivals are about to get significant updates and improvements. For example, the redesigned 2023 Ford F-Series Super Duty is likely to set new standards among heavy-duty pickup trucks, and the refreshed 2024 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD could pose new threats to the Ram Heavy Duty.

So, while this year's improvements are welcome, Ram will need to keep it up to remain competitive.

All vehicle pricing includes MSRP plus destination charges (set at the time of publication) and will be rounded to the nearest thousand.

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Christian Wardlaw
My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.