Rock Star: We Drive the Mopar Ram PowerWagon in Moab

Rock Star: We Drive the Mopar Ram PowerWagon in Moab
Words, Photos and Video by John Stewart for

If Mopar’s Ram Runner is the celebrity go-fast truck of the 2010 Mopar lineup at this year’s Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, the ‘Moparized’ PowerWagon is king of the crawlers.

Even in factory trim, the standard Ram Power Wagon can make mincemeat of rocky trails. It may not be fast, but it has crushing grip in the form of axle articulation, gearing and front and rear locking differentials. To make it better, an enthusiast might add a little lift and a little more tire, but at that point, he’s just about hit the ceiling.

With the PowerWagon concept you see here, Mopar engineers took that thought and ran amok.

They didn’t just go really big with 40-inch tires. The whole truck is shorter, much taller, has extra rear suspension flex, and it has ground clearance to burn.


The interplay of these changes make for an exponentially better, dare we say ridiculously better, ground pounder out of the standard Power Wagon.

For starters, the geometry between truck, tire and ground has been fundamentally altered. Because the PowerWagon concept is 29 inches shorter than a standard Power Wagon, its breakover angle (the point at which it will become hung up on a rock or the ground as you’re cresting the apex of an obstacle) is much better. The bed has also been shortened, with less rear overhang, improving the departure angle (the point at which the rear of the truck will hit an obstacle as you crawl up or over it). The angles of approach might stay the same, but the tendency to high-center or drag the rear bumper will be significantly reduced.

On top of that, there’s a 4-inch lift and a four-link coil-spring rear suspension lifted from the light-duty Ram 1500 that travels more freely than the rear leaf spring straight axle on the standard Power Wagon. With 40-inch tires plus the lift, there’s an estimated 8 inches more ground clearance, adding up to something in the neighborhood of 16 inches at its lowest point under the truck.


So now you have a truck that passes over obstacles you would normally have to put a tire on, and when you come to something really big, can keep the tires on the ground for traction. It’s not super light, like a rock buggy, and it doesn’t have 4-to-1 low range, but it’s also street legal and drivable around town, once you get used to the size of it.

Jumping into the PowerWagon concept will remind you that this is a very tall rig. Getting in and out is more of a challenge, and keeping track of tire placement at ground level is that much harder. Even for a driver used to full-size pickups, the distance from seat to ground makes for an uneasy disconnect between visual cues and what the tires are doing.

Our seat time involved a bit of trail driving with some rock running involved, but nothing that let us get completely used to the altitude of the truck in extreme situations. Based on what we did see, we think it would take quite a bit of exploring to find a ledge or stairstep this Ram would not walk right up. Gearing, though taller than stock, offers good throttle feel at low speed, with 4.56 gears in the axles and a 2.72 low-range ratio. Just in case a huge boulder should leap out, stout, tubular rock rails made by Rock Slide Engineering are there to protect the rocker panels.

Stability did not seem to be hugely compromised, as the truck was actually fun to power slide through sandy corners and spin doughnuts at the dunes. That’s likely because at 83.5 Inches, the PowerWagon concept is 4.4 inches wider than a standard Power Wagon. The width comes mostly from broad 40x14.50 tires on 17-inch wheels. The BFG K2 Mud Terrains with Kevlar sidewalls offer good traction, with excellent sidewall protection at low inflation pressures.

The PowerWagon concept keeps the same 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and five-speed automatic in the standard Ram Heavy Duty Power Wagon, but with a bloodcurdling exhaust note that reminded us more of a Trophy Truck than a rock crawler. Also, like the standard Power Wagon, the axles retain 4.56 gears. Four-wheel antilock brakes are part of the package, but traction control is not available. According to the specifications supplied by Mopar engineers, the PowerWagon concept weighs 6,500 pounds, about 72 pounds less than a standard Power Wagon.

What are the tradeoffs? Finding a handy place for a 40-inch spare is always a magic trick; in this case, it’s taking up most of the now-very-short bed. And with the crew cab gone, the PowerWagon concept is strictly a two-seater. Still, this is a charismatic 4x4 with a huge visual presence, not to mention extreme capabilities. Most of the parts used are readily available in the marketplace, so it would be possible to duplicate the PowerWagon concept. And it would take a lot of cutting and wrenching. But to a guy who appreciates big trucks, it would be worth the work. Just be ready to modify the garage.




Check it out, Blue oval fan boys.

It's pretty.. don't get me wrong.. but the cost of the "readily available parts" has not been disclosed nor has the cost of the time to tranform said vehicle.

The Raptor is a turn key solution.. this is just something to drool over that very few will ever copy. And I would be very surprised if Dodge pushed this truck into production, as it would fill an even smaller niche in the market than the Raptor.

How can you even compare this to a Raptor???? That is what the Ram Runner is for! There is NOTHING Fords lineup that is even remotely close to the capability's of the Power Wagon either this one or the 2500 version. Ford thought of doing the Big Hoss that would have been the closest thing to a Power Wagon competitor you could of had!

I agree that there isn't a factory "rock crawler" out there other than the Power Wagon. I wouldn't compare this to a Raptor as they are built for different purposes. It would be cool to see a "kit" offered. Mounting the Ram 1500 rear suspension to a HD pickup would be a complex affair that would be beyond the scope of most backyard mechanics.
It's a cool truck.

to me the truck is to big, the raptor is pretty sleek and fast this i dont think could be street legal which makes it way different from the raptor

The styling looks awful. Capability-wise, I don't see very many Dodge guys buying a truck with a single cab and a useless bed just so they can climb on some rocks. A feeble effort Dodge....feeble.

Given that many 4WD enthusiast magazine have modified many full sized pick-ups by shotening the bed, and now, boat-siding them as well; I think there are more buyers for this style of truck than realized.

the raptor is very slow and very underpowered for now but the 6.2 would be a much better. once again you people are comparing mangos to watermelons it just dont make sense and coil overs are much better then leaf spring but much more complex

As Mike Levine said, "Mopar's Ram Runner can be compared to the Raptor, but not the one you're thinking of." He says it should be compared to this: Raptor XT wins hands down.

For the price of the Raptor XT you could build a ram runner from a full load Laramie 1500 and buy a diesel to tow it around with. Or a regular Raptor and a Super duty. So the extra $60k that the XT costs gives you 90HP a few more inches of travel in the front and rear, different final drives, and its not street legal? Cool truck but no way it's worth the money. Check this out

Thats what 100+ grand should buy.

What a JOKE! He about rolled it in the video. If I want this, i go rip off the top of my fullsize bronco on 40s. And the best part? I can take my buddies and another 40 incher in my bronco. WEAK! Plus, it'll never see production.

@Jordan: Yes, the Raptor XT is likely more expensive than building your own Ram Runner, its probably not $60K less. The Raptor XT comes with a roll-cage. Youd have to account for that too in a Ram. Im working up a quick comparison of the trucks for Friday. Interesting that, like the Ram Runner, the Raptor XT also has a multilink rear end instead of leafs.

i like the hemi 5.7L but i would rather take the hemi 6.4L.

.....that would make you unstoppable...."just my thinking"


.....the other day i saw a ford advertisement.....and it said "the competition give you this and that...and that....but the truth is that ford f150 33 years best selling pick-up in america"


@Neil Kaltsulas


"keep driving you corolla"

I like almost everything about it but the lift and tier size could be smaller with a nice 35in tier and a little shorter on the lift it would be perfect

This truck looks ugly like every new HD Dodge Ram.The head lamp looks like a puppy sad.

@ Mike Levine I wasn't trying to compare prices of the Ram Runner to the Raptor XT. My point is that the XT does'nt seem like its worth the extra $60k over the "regular" Raptor. Ford has some cool turn key dragster mustangs that are similar in concept to the XT. But they aren't priced 2.5 times as much as there street legal counterparts. (The Raptor retails for $40-45k right? This truck close to 100).

The real funny part about all of this is that these are one off machines that arent going to make production. You cant just buy a couple parts to turn the regular pickup into one of these. Dodge should spend more money on real world vehicles since by the looks of the sales numbers not very many people want what there already selling.

If I want a rock crawler I'll buy a rock crawler. Not a bastardized Ram. Please explain the point of buying a vehicle like this which would be virtually useless as a pickup and then participating in an activity that is sure damage all the pretty body work. Not seeing a market at all for this as many are more than happy buying a late model Jeep, Bronco or Scout and doing it up the way they want far cheaper.

1st of all, you ford fan boys shut up, ur jst mad that this things a beast.

2nd of all dodge should convert this to an SUV bc the beds basically useless and then they could carry more ppl and just mount the tire on the back

Oh yes. All the Ford guys are worried about a "truck" that is in a smaller niche than the Raptor. *rolls eyes* At least the current Power Wagon is a usable 3/4 ton truck.

What's next Ram? Bolt on monster truck kit? Bolt on mud racer kit? Can we hit any other small interest groups that will not translate into sales?

IMHO the NuKizer 715 is essentially the same truck and looks way nicer.

didnt say you were worried about it, you guys sure seem mad about it tho, and if you didnt really care you wouldnt comment

"sure seem mad about it tho,"

Say the guy who starts the post with telling someone to just shut up. LOL

BTW I drive a Titan, not a Ford. That being said, it does not exclude me from having an opinion of another companies vehicles. Ram is the only vehicle line that sells for Chrysler. It doesn't need more exposure or money thrown at it. Let alone exposure at a Jeep enthusiast's event. Let Jeep make Jeeps. This appears more of a "Look what Ford did with the Raptor!! Let's jump on the bandwagon of making small volume high priced vehicles!" Mind you this is from a company struggling to stay afloat and looks to be outsourcing the design of these vehicles. Especially the RamRunner. The Raptor was an in house project from the start.

All I think this is is an engineers shot at making a production crawler that keeps a low center of gravity while having the ground clearance to go most places a factory truck would NOT go and still being streetable. Like was said before people are comparing apples to oranges. The raptor is a baja inspired truck, the Ram Runner is a Crawler/ Dune inspired truck. Two different categories. Period.

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