Mountain Wheels: Ram’s Rebel squares off against GMC’s Sierra AT4X |

Mountain Wheels: Ram’s Rebel squares off against GMC’s Sierra AT4X

All the truck you’ll ever need, the off-road-oriented Ram 1500 Rebel really shines when put into mud and muck.
Andy Stonehouse/Mountain Wheels

I recently had a second shot at moderately updated versions of two similar but different, off-road-oriented pickups of that now-regular $80,000 price range, both of which I also drove in 2022.

That at-one-time astronomical amount of money puts you in a very, very, optioned-out Ram 1500 Rebel G/T — base priced at about $55,000 but almost $77,000 in the truck I had. That latter number is also the actual base price of a 2023 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X edition, which rose to my vehicle’s nearly $81,000 price tag with a few extras.

Both are ultra-rugged, ultra-massive machines that are preprogrammed for mud, sand and snow, and are so tall and wide that cleaning snow off their roofs is a real chore. Or getting aboard, for that matter.

But in the thick of a genuine off-road situation, or tasked with their more traditional job of menacing other drivers on highways and in parking lots, they’re both awesome, each in its own way.

I think you could replicate much of the Ram’s core experience in that almost $30,000-less base model, with the biggest addition being the 395-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V8, this one mild hybrid eTorque system that uses a battery-powered motor generator rather than an alternator. Treat it poorly, enjoying the absolutely oversized shift paddles and the eight-speed transmission, and you’ll get the 13 mpg I got; the EPA says up to 22 highway mpg, maybe.

Like the whole Charger/Challenger gang, Rebel also gets a full set of digital race track and drag strip meters, but without the 700-horsepower Ram TRX engine, those seem a little silly.

Ram has perhaps less refined on-road manners than AT4X, even with an optional, four-corner air suspension system, but that loose tarmac feeling also gave it a more playful spirit on gravel and dirt — and it still makes full-blown Hemi noises pretty much all the time. It’s also considerably longer than the Sierra, with a crew cab setup that produces one of the biggest rear seats in any vehicle available.

Even with nearly $20,000 in options, the Rebel lacked the proximity cameras, running boards or the fancy multi-function tailgate GMC offers, and still has an old-fashioned manual tilt steering wheel.

But its simplicity might also appeal to some drivers, with a more straightforward 4×4 system and electronic locking rear axle. I dialed everything in and the Ram absolutely ate up a super-steep and muddy test slope, both forward and backward, and it comfortably dominated washboard gravel and snowy surfaces.

Mine had also been upgraded with the nearly Tesla-styled, 12-inch vertical navigation screen, which can be split between functions and feature vastly improved map and even back-up camera resolution. The G/T package also added sporty leather seating and a Mopar cold air-intake system. And, yes, Ram just announced new electric versions of their trucks with up to 500 miles of range. Long live 13 gasoline mpg in the meantime.

Things were a little better during my super-snowy Breckenridge weekend with the Sierra, whose 17 mpg was exactly what the EPA promises — make of that what you will. Credit a 6.2-liter Ecotec3 V8 with a feistier 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, plus an 11-inches-of-clearance mass that includes a 2-inch lift kit, race suspension, a $1,200 set of rock rails and skid plates.

The GMC was a genuine pain in the butt when covered in snow, requiring ungainly ballet-styled perching on those rails to try to clear things out but … if you want an extremely tall, extremely aggressive and equally off-road capable vehicle, this would be it. The full suite of trail and parking cameras made navigating and parking the beast a little easier; built-in grab handles in the window frames also make it marginally possible to get aboard.

Used for its stated purpose, AT4X’s high-tech approach to off-road work pays off. A three-mode terrain system, sort of hidden in the left-hand trailer control knob, allows both standard 4×4 and more sharpened rock-crawling settings, including a one-pedal acceleration/deceleration option for really precise throttle work over precarious surfaces.

It’s also more Jeep-like than even the Ram with front and rear lockable differentials, a more precise hill-descent control system the a front-view camera for blindly apexing awful hills

That upgraded suspension means on-road character was a little less vulgar than in the Ram, even with oversized mud tires, making for a more grounded driving experience.

The GMC’s big price tag does give it an almost Denali-styled suite of interior details, from carpeted mud mats to a suede headliner, massive pinstriped and stitched leather seating, doors, dash and armrests. The Google operating system 13.4-inch navigation screen is high tech at its best, and desperately wants to know your whole Google search history, as well. Other fun features include a flappy-paddle starter switch, a range of digital trailering tools and a 12-speaker Bose stereo system, as well as that six-way MultiPro tailgate. The head-up display is almost holographic and even more freaky when used for off-roading.

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