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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs. 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Comparison

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 9/7/2015 Benson Kong, Robin Trajano

The electronic warning indicator might be the single most vexing (albeit informative) automotive invention of all time. Not that it's new or anything—its existence predates World War II—but the lovingly christened and begrudgingly tolerated "idiot light" can be equal parts empowering and frustrating. Especially when you're trying to have a good time in an off-road truck.

Ah, the off-road pickup. The niche's profile has really been elevated over the past half-decade even if sub-brands such as Pro-4X, FX4, and Z71 have propped the field up longer. Ford's F-150 SVT Raptor went on sale in 2009, and suddenly it seemed everyone wanted to be an off-road enthusiast. The Raptor was a flared-fender sight to behold, more accessible and generally easier to justify to a spouse than a heavy-duty Ram Power Wagon.

Naturally, every owner survey and OEM market research slideshow we've seen concedes a different reality. By and large, truck buyers don't care about off-roading. Or the off-roading occurs so infrequently it'd make you question the whole business of selling off-road trucks … but think of how cool you'd look behind the wheel! To those who actually use their off-road trucks off-road, our plaudits. If glossy brochures aren't nudging the rest of you with the imagery of towing trailers, pulling tree stumps, or doing other hard, honest work, there's going to be a shot of a forest/desert/mountain trail or mud pit appealing to your ego. "I can do that, too!" Optics go a long way in selling anything. We realize consumers want to look good in their purchases but we as enthusiasts made a pledge to ensure there's substance behind the façade. Any automaker can create an off-road package with graphics and shocks. We want to know which truck plays best in its supposed "natural" habitat.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

"Transmission temp warning," associate road test editor Nate Martinez hollers out the driver-side window. "Probably the left-foot braking."

He's at the helm of a 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, we're at the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area just north of Los Angeles for some midweek wheeling. It's a mild summer morning, not much warmer than 80 degrees.

For the princely sum of $10 in gate fees, the Tundra and a 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi have gained admission to Hungry Valley. Five dollars a pop is a drop in the bucket compared to the two trucks' MSRPs. The new Rebel, the most off-road-oriented Ram 1500 model on offer since the previous-generation, dealer-assembled Ram Runner, starts the bidding at $42,465. That only gets you the Pentastar V-6 and rear-wheel drive. For added boldness, tack on another $5,100 for four-wheel drive with the 395-horsepower, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, as our test truck did. Select $4,885 worth of options including a limited-slip rear differential, RamBox, skidplates, and Uconnect with the 8.4-inch touchscreen, and you end up with our two-tone Flame Red/Brilliant Black, $52,450 all-inclusive truck.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Ram concedes the Rebel isn't intended to be as manic an off-roader as the Ram Runner, but the Rebel still received big changes to honor its debut. The new-design exterior with the prominent, mustachioed front end encompasses the most polarizing Ram 1500 aesthetic transformation since the 1994 model year. Chassis and suspension tweaks aim to give the Rebel greater off-road performance credibility while retaining the fantastic on-road behavior that helped earn the half-ton Ram its back-to-back 2013 and 2014 Truck of the Year crowns. Air suspension comes standard with Rebel-specific Bilstein dampers, and the adjustable ride heights have been altered from those of the standard Ram to better reflect its off-road mission. (Example: The Rebel's "Normal" height is roughly equivalent to other Rams' "Off Road 1" height.)

The Tundra TRD Pro has its own set of Bilstein shock absorbers working in conjunction with the front coil and rear leaf springs, all tuned to harmoniously cooperate whether it's traversing concrete highways or a fire road up in the mountains. Positioned a rung above the optional TRD Off-Road package, this Tundra is the TRD Pro flagship. Our Inferno orange specimen starts at $45,195 for the CrewMax cab. An extra $3,200 for the 17-inch forged TRD wheels swathed in BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires is money well-spent, and $410 for a drop-in bedliner and a two-piece mini tie-down set with hooks push the Toyota's total to $48,805. In truth, neither truck present is a straight-up Raptor rival. However, both brands will gladly take would-be Raptor customers' cash.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi

Not included with the price? The transmission temperature warning on the Tundra's instrument cluster, which had illuminated while Martinez and I were messing around in Hungry Valley's four-wheel drive practice area. We had been tackling the manmade obstacles, taking turns driving and spotting. Of course, the warning turned itself off once the truck started moving and passing air where it needed to go. That fleeting warning passed, revealing a larger concern with the Tundra: making sure the mud flaps and exhaust outlet tips sitting immediately behind the wheels (and therefore in danger of getting whacked by the objects that were just driven over) get nicked as few times as possible.

2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Engine Straight On© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Engine Straight On

Neither truck is ideal for the Rubicon Trail, as both have too much front and rear overhang and too long a wheelbase, but the TRD Pro and Rebel suspensions can soak up the blows the creepy-crawly conditions like those found in Hungry Valley. Both trucks offer comfortable perches with outstanding visibility of upcoming obstacles, and each boasts abundant low-end grunt to promote effortless idle-creeping through the hairiest terrain. But it didn't take long to find the differences in these off-roaders. The Tundra's BFG tires had a bit more stick at the points of contact, finding traction a smidge more easily than the Ram's Toyo Open Country A/T IIs. Not that the Rebel was fighting for grip. Conversely, the Ram required a little less human muscle to handle while bounding from rock to rock. The Tundra's steering effort was higher at slow speeds, and its cab jiggled more and needed more time to settle as the tires dropped and rose. The Rebel glided over the same jagged topography, its suspension masterfully controlling the cab whether the air springs were set to Normal or inflated to the 1-inch-taller Off Road position.

Both Ram and Tundra excelled at comfort in this arena. In fact, pickup trucks are among the most comfortable vehicles on sale today. Automakers have been able to contain unloaded-bed, rear-axle hop, while better tires, enhanced cab insulation, and smart suspension tuning make the TRD Pro and Rebel a pleasure for commuting. Tire noise abatement is remarkable for the pair, so much so that the primary noises registering to the driver are wind-sourced (on the Rebel) or originate from the burbling and deep TRD exhaust (on the Tundra). Ram continues to score highly for on-road comfort, and the TRD Pro is the most comfortable Tundra we've experienced yet.

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

That comfort and smoothness allow the trucks to build speed deceptively quickly. Sitting higher off the ground has a strange way of dulling the sensation of speed. Yes, the V-8s are roaring, but there's not as much drama in the speed they're generating, unlike, say, in a low-slung Ariel Atom. In a straight line, the two keep pace with one another up to 40 mph; the 14-hp less powerful Tundra comes alive thereafter, besting the Ram to 60 mph (6.6 versus 6.8 seconds) and through the quarter mile (15.2 seconds at 91.8 mph to 15.3 at 89.4). Though both engines rate their power peaks at 5,600 rpm, the Tundra's quad-cam V-8 feels much happier high up in the rev range.

The gas-powered motivation came in handy when we graduated from the 4WD practice area and entered Hungry Valley's interior, where dozens of trails awaited our exploration. After marking out a short loop where we'd be able to stage repeatable runs, we set off, with Martinez in the Rebel following me in the TRD Pro.

For the next few minutes, I felt like I was back in Baja California. Last year, Martinez and I did 2,500 miles of Baja primarily off-road with the then-brand-new TRD Pro lineup over seven days ( "We Are the Baja Stormtroopers," April 2015 ). Whipping the Tundra around in America's California helped me remember those moments, like how the consternation of feeling I was in a "foreign" place gradually melted away with seat time. Like how the fun that can be had in the dirt increases with added speed. During instrumented testing, the BFGs only managed an average lateral acceleration of 0.66 g (the Ram's Toyos did 0.71), leaving the Tundra to clock a laid-back 30.6-second figure-eight time at 0.53 average g (the Ram took 29.1 seconds at 0.60 g). In the loose stuff, where the stability control isn't actively working to induce understeer once the meager grip gives out on pavement, the Tundra's power and handling can be harnessed by the driver. You steer, it steers. You gas, it goes. You brake, it slows down.

"Watch out," Martinez warned while sitting in the Rebel at our start/finish point. "Traction control is super aggressive."

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

The first mistake I made was trying to drive the Rebel like the TRD Pro — whereupon the Ram promptly made me feel like an idiot. With the cluster display alternating between "service throttle" and "service brakes" warnings, it was quite clear the Ram didn't like my left-foot braking or the speed I was trying to carry. The steering effort is calibrated to feel heavier for a greater sense of directness for greater precision when rock crawling, so it felt even heavier as the truck fought my inputs. The Toyos' grip off-road trailed that of the Tundra's BFGs. The Ram got into the ABS sooner and more frantically, while the stability control took the gas pedal out of the driver's control. We worked up a sweat hustling the Ram.

"I just want to stay out here all day," Martinez wistfully said when we finished while eyeballing work emails on his iPhone.

"Yea, but I don't want to run in the Rebel again," I determine.

The Rebel and TRD Pro are very close in everyday livability, comfort, and fuel economy (14.4-14.5 combined Real MPG). Ram puts out great, consumer-focused features, and the superbly appointed interior still heads the class. Off-roading isn't everything, but the fact is we'll happily take more (tiebreaking) off-road capability in the Tundra TRD Pro any day of the week.

2nd Place: Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi

Looking for a little more special spice off-road.

1st Place: Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Ready to feel like an off-road pro gone incognito?

How To Boost Your Off-Road-Truck Street Cred

2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi vs 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Short of splurging on a certain bumper/hitch receiver-dangling accessory that resembles a part of the male anatomy, how can you elevate your off-road truck's street cred for cruising the boulevards? Here are the factory insights we gleaned from the Ram 1500 Rebel and Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.

Big Badges Don't let anyone forget where your allegiance lies. The Tundra Pros things up with specially stamped side panels in the bed and satin black badge trimmings. Mindful of potential cases of amnesia, the Ram features enormous "Ram" lettering splashed across the tailgate. Also a good idea, apparently: hood vents that don't actually channel air.

Rad Tires Sure, all-terrain street tire treads are engineered to optimize grip in all conditions, but they also must be pleasing to the eye. Ram was so excited about the Toyo Open Country A/T II that it embossed the tread pattern into the seat inserts. The Tundra's optional BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO is a well-known quantity in the truck community. Owners have self-reported more than 100 million miles of use through surveys, nearly 8 million more than the second- and third-place tires combined (within the on-/off-road all-terrain category).

Actually Go Off-Roading The United States offers a fantastic array of outdoor off-highway touring possibilities, everything from wintry forests to sand dunes, rock gardens to water bogs, extinct volcanoes, river crossings, swamplands, and more. Enjoy it all, and always remember to tread lightly.

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 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel 4x4 Hemi2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro 4x4
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUTFront-engine, 4WDFront-engine, 4WD
ENGINE TYPE90-deg V-8, iron block/alum heads90-deg V-8, alum block/heads
VALVETRAINOHV, 2 valves/cylDOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT345.1 cu in/5,654cc345.6 cu in/5,663cc
POWER (SAE NET)395 hp @ 5,600 rpm381 hp @ 5,600 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET)410 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm401 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
REDLINE5,800 rpm5,900 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER14.9 lb/hp15.4 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION8-speed automatic6-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE/LOW RATIO3.92:1/2.63:1/2.64:14.10:1/2.41:1/2.64:1
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REARControl arms, air springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, air springs, anti-roll barControl arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs
STEERING RATIO19.1:118.1:1
BRAKES, F;R13.2-in vented disc; 13.8-in disc, ABS13.9-in vented disc; 13.6-in vented disc, ABS
WHEELS8.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum8.0 x 17-in, forged aluminum
TIRES285/70R17 121/118R M+S Toyo Open Country A/T II285/70R17 121/118R M+S BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO
WHEELBASE140.5 in145.7 in
TRACK, F/R68.6/68.0 in68.7/68.7 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT229.0 x 81.5 x 75.3-79.1 in228.9 x 79.9 x 77.2 in
TURNING CIRCLE39.8 ft44.0 ft
CURB WEIGHT5,885 lb5,851 lb
WEIGHT DIST., F/R56/44%56/44%
HEADROOM, F/R41.0/39.9 in39.7/38.9 in
LEGROOM, F/R40.9/40.2 in42.5/42.3 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R65.9/65.7 in65.7/65.5 in
PICKUP BOX L x W x H67.4 x 66.4 x 20.0 in66.7 x 66.4 x 22.2 in
CARGO VOLUME50.3 cu ft56.9 cu ft
PAYLOAD CAPACITY915 lb1,349 lb
TOWING CAPACITY10,150 lb9,800 lb
GVWR6,800 lb7,200 lb
GCWR15,950 lb15,300 lb
0-30 2.3 sec2.3 sec
PASSING, 45-65 MPH3.63.5
QUARTER MILE15.3 sec @ 89.4 mph15.2 sec @ 91.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH138 ft145 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.71 g (avg)0.66 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT29.1 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)30.6 sec @ 0.53 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH1,550 rpm1,600 rpm
BASE PRICE$47,565 $45,195
PRICE AS TESTED$52,450 $48,805
AIRBAGSDual front, front side, f/r curtainDual front, front side, f/r curtain, front knee
BASIC WARRANTY3 yrs/36,000 miles3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY5 yrs/100,000 miles5 yrs/60,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE5 yrs/100,000 miles2 yrs/25,000 miles
FUEL CAPACITY32.0 gal26.4 gal
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON15/21/17 mpg13/17/15 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY225/160 kW-hrs/100 miles259/198 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB1.13 lb/mile1.33 lb/mile
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB13.5/16.1/14.5 mpg 13.5/15.6/14.4 mpg
RECOMMENDED FUELUnleaded midgradeUnleaded regular


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