Part 4 - First Drive Review: 2010 Dodge Ram Power Wagon

First Drive Review: 2010 Dodge Ram Power Wagon

Part 1: Introduction and Specs
Part 2: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Unloaded
Part 3: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Towing 16,500 pounds
Part 4: 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Power Wagon Off-Road
Part 5: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x2 Regular Cab Dually Hauling 1,500 pounds
Part 6: Summary and Conclusions


Some might not remember that the Power Wagon was first introduced in 2005 as the no-compromise, flagship off-roader of Dodge Ram HD pickups. It was meant to evoke the Dodge Power Wagons of the 1940s-60s that were direct descendants of the trucks that helped transport troops and supplies during World War II.

The strategy of using a specialized off-road pickup to promote the rest of the lineup should sound familiar. It’s what Ford has been doing well with its new F-150 SVT Raptor SuperCab that’s been recognized by the mainstream automotive media for its incredible high-speed off-road capabilities.

The Power Wagon is just as capable and exceptional as the Ford F-150 Raptor but in its own, unique, way.

Where the Raptor depends on its specialized long-travel suspension to accomplish Baja-1000-style feats off-road, the Power Wagon features solid front and rear axles, locking front and rear differentials, and electric sway bar disconnect for maximum low-speed articulation and maneuvering off-road.


Unfortunately, Dodge let the Power Wagon wither on the shelf for several years, giving Ford and Hummer the opportunity to look like they were the only brands willing to meet the needs of the most demanding off-road enthusiasts.

Enough of that, Dodge said; the Power Wagon is back and the automaker is going to promote it, starting with retro giant vinyl stickers that remind us of the old Macho Power Wagon trucks from the 1980s. According to Dodge execs on the Ram HD drive, Ralph Gilles, chief designer for the Heavy Duty pickups and the new CEO of the Dodge Car Brand, made a heritage wall of the Power Wagon pickups from a generation ago to find just the right look to accentuate their purpose-built capability in the dirt. The sticker design was locked in about six months ago and replaces the previous, low key, chrome metal badging. We’re sure the introduction of the aggressive looking Raptor also helped push things to a more extreme degree with the new Power Wagon.

The Power Wagon is only available with the 5.7-liter 383-horsepower, 400 pounds-feet of torque Hemi V-8.

A few years back, Chrysler’s Mopar Underground showed off a Cummins-powered version at Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, but that was a one-off truck. The 12,000-pound Warn Winch that’s integrated into the Power Wagon’s front bumper blocks where the intercooler would need to sit for the Cummins engine.

One gripe about the 2005-09 Power Wagon – one that’s not legitimate, if you ask hardcore Power Wagon fans – was that it rode terribly stiff when it was driven on city streets. That’s not the point of the truck, they’ll tell you. Regardless, city driving manners seem to be greatly improved. The same hydro-mounts that made driving an unloaded dually 3500 a better experience also helped the Power Wagon. It’s more civilized on the highway too (we drove it on the freeway for a story that’s coming soon). Like the rest of the Heavy Duty lineup, the Power Wagon’s unique Bilstein shocks have also been retuned by changing the valving.


The rocky landscape of Moab and the off-road capabilities of the Power Wagon seem fused in our minds. We’ve always thought of the Power Wagon as the ultimate full-size rock crawler but in Texas we didn’t have boulders to climb, we had mud to slop through after two days of heavy rains.

The Power Wagon’s 33-inch tall LT285/70R17D BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires aren’t the best choice for mudding but its 2.5-inch taller suspension than a standard Ram 2500 4x4 and front and rear lockers helped ensure we weren’t going to get stuck even if the truck slid around the gloppy conditions like it was on rollers. We kept our foot on the accelerator and powered out of soupy pools and sticky ruts.

We’re not fans of the Hemi’s 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission for towing but it’s plenty responsive for off-roading, especially paired with the Power Wagon’s unique and very short 4.56 final drive ratio.

We wish the Hemi had more power, larger displacement or both for optimal locomotion because the Power Wagon tips the scales at almost 6,600 pounds. There’s definitely a weight trade-off for the extra capability a solid front axle affords.


Through tight turns and rapid changes in terrain, the front axle and higher ground clearance was invaluable keeping the truck out of the dirt. The front sway bar electronic disconnect helped, too. Sway bars are designed to distribute load force from one side of the vehicle to the other, minimizing body roll while cornering. But they also limit axle articulation off-road. When the sway bar is connected, the Power Wagon loses about 9 inches of articulation. At speeds above 18 mph, if you forget to re-engage it, the sway bar will automatically hook back up.

We mentioned earlier about not liking how the gearshift lever blocks access to the transfer case dial. On the Power Wagon, it also blocks access to the sway bar disconnect buttons – which really should be condensed into only one button because there’s no need to have discrete buttons to connect and disconnect the bar.

Overall, we’re big fans of the Power Wagon and very happy to see Dodge continue to sell this model in 2010. It truly has go anywhere capability.


Part 1: Introduction and Specs
Part 2: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Unloaded
Part 3: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab Dually Towing 16,500 pounds
Part 4: 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Power Wagon Off-Road
Part 5: 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 4x2 Regular Cab Dually Hauling 1,500 pounds
Part 6: Summary and Conclusions


Whoa, this one PW in black (these stickers on a black don't look so tragic) could be mine - I'm just lovin' it!

If I got a Power Wagon, it would be without the stickers. Those look soooo bad. They look about as bad as the Dodges I've seen with an FX4 sticker. hahahahaha

"The Power Wagon is just as capable and exceptional as the Ford F-150 Raptor but in its own, unique, way".

Take the PW to baja and the $hit will fall apart. Just like ChryCo.

@Frank: Easy there. I love the Raptor. If I bought an off-road truck, it would be in my garage in a heartbeat. That said, the Raptor is only rated to tow 6,000-lbs. The PW is rated to pull over 10,000. I'd love to see how well a crew cab Raptor will be able to jump. My point is this: If a Raptor is a Baja race truck, a Power Wagon is a support crew truck. You need both to win an off-road race and if one doesn't come back, they both lose.

The Power Wagon is also a heavy duty model. Why compare towing numbers between a heavy duty and a light duty Raptor? Why are people even comparing them at all?

Because people take their brand loyalty to extremes and cant admit that another truck could possibly be better than there brand. Im a Dodge guy myself, do I like the raptor, yes I think its an awesome idea and kudos to Ford for producing it as it seems it will be a big hit. On the other side I do Like the Power Wagon as well and both trucks do what they were built to do. I've never had urge to go screaming across sand dunes, so I dont ever see a raptor in my driveway, and my half ton Ram hasnt let me down in the mud, snow, and whatever else I've put it through, so I dont see myself needing a Power Wagon either. So I guess the point come down to buy you like and who honestly cares what someone else has to say about it, its your descion and your money not theirs.

Actually funny I mentioned not buy a power wagon as when I was looking to buy new truck last year, I had the chance to buy a 2006 Crew Cab Power Wagon with the six speed, and I passed on it cause I didnt need the crew cab. Funny since I ended up with a 05 Ram Crew Cab. I still kick myself for passing it up

I think it has less to do with brand loyalty and more to do is with people forgetting they are comparing a half ton to a 3/4 ton. Of course, each will have some advantages and disadvantages like all 3/4 tons and half tons do. But Mike says if he had to chose an offroad truck, it would be the Raptor.

@scott...hed choose the raptor prbly bc he likes doing more baja styled stuff

Maybe. From what I read in the Raptor first drive, he likes the Raptor for its overall versatility. Yes, the Raptor does baja styled stuff. But he wrote that the Raptor had no trouble beating the rocky challenges, and he also said the hill descend control was the best he's driven to date. One. Two. Three. The Raptor can do it all: high speed stuff, rocky challenges, and hills.

The reviewer is right, the Power Wagon needs a bigger engine. I know we've been a bit spoiled by the horsepower the new gas v8s make like the hemi and the iForce, but trucks have gotten heavier over the years too.

Dodge needs to build a 7 litre hemi, maybe a even larger.

@clapper...they have a 6.4litre hemi coming 2012 genteraing 500hp...i really hope it goes in the hds and 1500s

true not exactly a ford fan but i like the raptor..but the raptor cant tow that if your do serious off roading and towing and alotta work the pw is the choice...if you use ur truck just for fun and off roading then go with the raptor..both great trucks

The only way i would buy a power wagon was if it had a diesel,and definietly take those gaudy stickers off!!

I love Ford but i really like the Power Wagon and like the new stickers too. But really the Raptor and the PW arent really the same truck both are great but both are made to do different things.

Raptor- Fast off roading and fun to play in.

Power Wagon- Best off roading 3/4 ton truck and made to get to remote job sites ( still great for play)

The PW would be my choice of truck due to my location and the terrain I drive in. My '05 Ram 4x4 is great, but the PW would be better suited for my overall off road driving needs. I don't mind them PW stickers at all. The black truck in this article with red stickers looks cool enough.

I like the Raptor as well for what it can do, but all in all, the PW is my type of truck. For those of you who are brand loyal, put your egos aside and really look at the truck for what it can do for you or each individual who wants one.

Keep the rubber side down

I'd love a Cummins powered Power Wagon with the 6-speed manual, but I guess it would make a very heavy truck. I'd also like to have coil springs in the back of the truck.
So far I still like this new version, but I'll certainly miss the manual transmission.

Hey mike - so would be there a PW-version with badges, not these stickers or at least a delete-options available for it (without guarantee lost)?

I'm not sure why you guys are comparing the two. The Ford would beat the Dodge at Baja racing but the Dodge would beat the Ford, hands down, at rock crawling. The Raptor wouldn't have nearly the articulation that the PW has because because of the stabilizer bars and if you get both stuck, guess who can pull themselves out with the 12000 lb winch. Plus, you would snap the half-ton axles in the Ford pretty quick doing rock crawling. But, if i was doing balls out racing in the desert or prairie, I'd no doubt go with the Raptor. Two different trucks with two different off-road purposes.

you obviously did not read the reviews on this site. the raptor has no trouble with rocky challenges or climbing hills - it has the best hill descend control he has ever seen. the raptor is more versatile.

Dear Mike, I am writing from Brazil and I need a new truck for off-road and heavy loading. After all, what do you think? Power Wagon or F-150 SVT Raptor? Thanks, buddy.

best hill decent control is a manual tranny. sounds like someone in here works for ford, no reason to argue obviously a 3/4 ton truck is better at being a 3/4 ton truck.

essa nova ram e maravilhosa um sonho de consumo de todo brasileiro uma pena todos assim como eu nao poder tela show

I am interested on buying a new truck, and looking at these 2 in comparison, my god does that Dodge look like crap! it looks like it was manufactured in the late 80's! also its suspension is not fox shocks triple internal bypass, doesnt have the same down hill decent control, it also doesnt have an "offroad" mode to allow the driver to hit higher RPM ranges, it also doesnt weigh 6000 to 7000 pounds...

ok fine the raptor doesnt have a 12k lb winch...big deal, i can buy an aftermarket winch and get it installed if need be.

I dont even know why they are comparing these two vehicles, the SVT blows this Chrysler out of the water! or blows it out the dirt i should say LOL

If i want a truck for towing, i would buy a F250 super duty, if i want a bad *** offroad truck, SVT Raptor hands down!! nuff said. should know that front live axles are a must have for off-roading...

also concider this......the Raptor is made for fast driving on dunes...

the power wagon is a mean metal killer can go anywere...."not as fast as the raptor"

but who needs a super fast driving truck when going in the mud..snow...or does not make sense to loose control...and not even be able to steer or brake at all..

fyi the kore guys race a prepped power wagon in baja and they regularly kick ass with it the raptor is great but once you have to haul your gear as well it falls short it is more a rich kids toy than amans truck. but if i had the cash i would have both.

True... the 2 are very different trucks but truth be told, I'm currently honestly trying to decide between the 2 for my next truck. I use my vehicle (like many folks) 90%-plus for on-road, however when off-road (for hunting, trail-wheeling in the NW, and snow runs up to around 12-15" deep) I am often solo, and need to be assured I'll be able to get myself out of a tricky situation.

I also used to help build some pretty serious off-road vehicles, including doing a lot of the design work on my own heavily modified Toyota/Chevy hybrids, and did some collaboration as well with ORD and Marlin Crawler along the way... so I'm not particularly "green" to this topic, nor would I consider myself a bona fide expert however.

All that aside, what I've seen from hours upon hours of reviews is that there is a small but growing (and *very* vocal) group of Ford Raptor fans that insist it is doggone rock-crawler capable... despite having 11-12 inches of axle travel (vs. a reported Power Wagon's travel of around 32 inches), no front locker (not even as an option) and no winch.

And worst of all, although it's considered a 1/2-ton truck, it's total GVWR restriction given the supple suspension means that your total capacity, **including occupants** is right about 1100 pounds. Put 5 adults in the cab (or myself, my buddy and all our gear) and your "pickup bed" can now hold about a whopping 100 pounds - or perhaps a bag of helium sufficient to provide 20 pounds of lift should you choose the 6.2 liter as I was hoping to order mine with.

Any by the way, add a winch mount, winch bumper and front locker and you'd better lose at least one (or more) of those occupants or an equivelant amount of gear.

I'm probably sounding overly negative about the Ford. In all honesty however I prefer it overall and despite all the drawbacks I just mentioned (which seem to be off most folks radar -especially the Ford finatics) it's the one I am leaning towards ordering. But in doing so I know up front it's going to require that I now haul all my gear to camp in a trailer, then unload before I go trying to put our deer, elk or bear in the back - or anything else heavy. And I understand that it will require ordering a separate winch (and resulting heavier winch bumper) along with having a locker installed in the front axle. And still I won't have the option of a front sway bar disconnect or the amount of wheel travel the Power Wagon has no matter what I do...

And also from a suspension-efficiency perspective, anyone planning on installing a winch in a Raptor should keep in mind the fact that if you install a winch (very heavy), and different bumper for the winch (heavier than the hydroformed factory Ford one) you are adding that weight at the farthest forward position in relation to the front suspension. This puts that added weight at the worst possible position for the dampening of the shocks to be able to control their inertia (adding a locker only has minimal effect for most purposes, both because of the minimal weight and because it is unsprung weight.) So if you're going to equip a Raptor as I am, I'd certainly suggest not not planning on those high-speed whoop-de-doos most Raptor fans seem enamored with.

Still, I've driven the Raptor and I like it a bit better than the Power Wagon - and it's probably what I'll get. Folks just need to take items like these (many have been missed in many of the reviews I've seen thus far) into account if they are really honestly going to try to set up a Raptor as a bona fide trail crawler. Just my long-winded 2 cents.

Just bought the 2010 Power Wagon, I'm not brand specific, I buy whatever truck does the job I need, I'm a contractor, I need to plough. salt, and tow a big trailer, and go into places even jeep guys get stuck, pulled out a couple, so I know. This truck is king. Raptor would be great to play in the sand, but thats what my dirt bikes are for.

i only read a couple of posts on here but i just wanted to say is that some critics are saying that the SVT Raptor is a desert assault vehicle and the Power Wagon is more like a forestry vehicle. the Power Wagon is set up to crawl over rough terrain and the SVT Raptor is set up to go fast. the Power Wagon's suspension limits it to go fast over stuff and the SVT Raptor's gear ratio limits it from crawling over rocks.

Yall are funny. The only person who made any sense was ScottL. Honestly if i wanted to spend that much on a vehicle that that's best quality is it can go fast in sand i would build myself a sand rail... If your looking for a truck to drive around town don't buy either. Save some money and buy a regular half ton. If your looking for a truck that can work and go anywhere buy the power wagon. If you live in the sand dunes, you are rich, and you have minimal mechanical skills then buy yourself a raptor. Look at the facts instead of arguing brands. Im still driving my 93 dodge ramcharger in good ole' havre montana. Ive pulled countless vehicles out with my stock worn out half ton suspension. 210,000 hard miles... And i never get stuck. Not to mention she starts in -35 F without being plugged in every single time. Granted i dont do any severe rock climbing. If i was going to do that i would lift a wrangler. I know your gonna say that im bias because i drive a dodge and i dont really care. As a mechanic i choose what works and lasts over what looks cool.

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