Mountain Wheels: Ram’s Rebel squares off against GMC’s Sierra AT4X￼
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.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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