Cool Ram Runnings at FCA's Winter Drive

Chrysler Winter Driving Event 029[3] II

By Aaron Bragman

I'm standing in the middle of an abandoned, snow-covered airport tarmac in rural Canada, about an hour northwest of Montreal, wondering how I drew the short straw for events this week. While I'm watching journalists drift a new 2015 Dodge Charger around a skid pad that looks like an arctic tundra, my colleagues are enjoying a Honda launch event in Miami's South Beach and a Porsche event in Southern California.

But as I shiver at the 2015 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Winter Drive media event at the ICAR track, a privately run facility built on the grounds of the unused Mirabel airport in Quebec, I have to think that I'm having the most fun out of anyone this week. Sure, the temperature gauge on the Jeep Wrangler I drove here from Montreal registered 3 degrees. But before me, arranged in a semicircle on more than a foot of hard-packed snow, is every Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicle to feature some form of all-wheel drive. Among them are the 2015 Ram 1500 4x4 Laramie Limited EcoDiesel, the Ram Power Wagon and the thing everyone wants to try — a Ram 2500 Heavy Duty with a snow plow on the front end.

All-Wheel-Drive Focus

FCA invited journalists to this frozen winterscape to learn just how many of its vehicles feature all-wheel or four-wheel-drive systems, and the answer is: more than you might expect. Twenty-two FCA vehicles feature some form of all-wheel drive, nearly half of its total lineup, but amid the Chrysler 200 sedans and Jeep Renegade SUVs sit the pickup trucks I've come here to drive. FCA set this up as a two-part event: The morning will be an on-road course, a snow-covered slalom that leads into a skid pad that then follows into a groomed yet totally snow-packed road course. The afternoon will involve a low-speed off-road course meant for the trucks and Jeeps to demonstrate how their systems work on extreme terrain in low-grip (i.e., ice and snow) situations.

Bragman montreal

I make a beeline for the new 2015 Ram Laramie Limited EcoDiesel, FCA's new top-of-the-line luxury pickup. It's already running (it's horrifically cold on this windswept artificial plain), so inside the amazingly luxurious saddle leather interior is toasty warm. Both the heated seats and steering wheel are blazing hot, to the point where I had to switch off the wheel as it was too hot. I switch the truck into 4-High, push the locking-differential button (as we're on snow, not pavement) and head off to the slalom.

All passenger vehicles in Quebec are required by law to sport snow tires from mid-November through mid-March, and these trucks are no exception. Traction is astonishingly good, even with the stability and traction control switched off, as the 1500 makes quick and easy work of the slalom. It understeers predictably on the skid pad, but with some practiced throttle input and steering adjustments, it's possible to set up a fun four-wheel drift around the circle for a few laps. I head to the actual road racing course with stability control back on, and the Ram proves to be amazingly surefooted even at higher speeds. It builds a serious level of confidence in the driver, and combined with the traction of the snow tires, it's a lot of fun.

Powering Through the Snow

The afternoon brings us to the off-road course, where amidst the Jeep Renegades and Wranglers sit two vehicles I'm itching to try: the Ram Power Wagon and Ram 2500 snow plow. First, I hop into the Power Wagon, one of the most capable off-road rigs ever to come out of a factory. Based on the 2500 Heavy Duty, it has an amazing level of off-road technology including front and rear locking differentials, electric front sway bar disconnect and Ram's "Articulink" front suspension. Suffice it to say that low-grip situations are no challenge for the Power Wagon, as demonstrated by Ram spokesperson Nick Cappa, who towed the 2500 plow truck with the Power Wagon on a sheer sheet of ice, with all of its systems engaged (see the video).

The Power Wagon also climbs over anything with such ease as to almost not even notice. Lock the front and rear diffs, head for the nearest 18 percent grade, and you're up and over with ease. The downslope is a cinch too, thanks to the Power Wagon's low gear and electronic hill descent control function. Aim where you want to go, keep your foot off the brake, and the truck slowly walks you to the bottom. This is something of an old-school, traditional 4x4 — not like Ford's Baja race-truck-inspired Raptor. It's meant for slower, thoughtful off-roading instead of blasting through the dry washes at 75 mph, and it's very good at what it does.

But the truck everyone is eyeing is now ready for me to take the wheel, a Ram 2500 with an articulated plow. I've never driven a plow truck before, but after some basic instruction on how to operate the thing it becomes a simple affair. There are some tips that I'm made aware of: maintain speeds below 15 mph to start, get some momentum before dropping the blade in heavy snow, be cognizant of where the edges are, etc. The plow itself is controlled via a hand-held pistol-grip controller in the truck's cab, featuring thumb controls for raising and lowering, tilting up and down, and angling left and right. It has a strap on it that allows you to hold it in your right hand, and still keep both hands on the steering wheel (another tip on how to plow properly).

Chrysler Winter Driving Event 016[5] II

A few passes in the deep snow of the tarmac proves just how much torque and four-wheel grip can do to move tons of frozen water, placing it just where you want it. The 1,500 pounds of steel plow and hydraulics hanging off the front end of the truck are noticeable, but are balanced with a 1,000-pound block of steel in the bed to prevent tipping when you come to a stop.

Overall, the sensation one gets when diving into a long stretch of deep snow is one of unstoppable power — like the truck could push anything out of its way without even breathing hard in the process. It's a lot of fun for about 20 minutes — but I'm not sure I'd want to do it day in and day out, starting at 3 a.m. and going for 24 hours straight like many plow operators sometimes do. Unlike the fun I have (like driving these rigs today), that's definitely not an easy job. photos by Aaron Bragman


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When did plowing snow become such a huge talking point?

Boy this site sure seems to be Ram biased. LOL!! No those are nice trucks but don't understand all the snow plowing either. Almost spring now.

nice job Ram again, why you ask it is relevant, mainly its nice to see what actual trucks can do, not the small car/truck crossovers.

Man I do like that new POwer Wagon! I have seen one near by, and in all black with the dark blue accents, it is just mean as he!! looking! But when I talked to the guy who owns it, I would not want to have to feed IT! he gets 8mpg cty and maybe 16 hyw! NOT for me! I do have one car mentioned here, and that is a Charger R/T AWD it is a 2014, which is the last years model, and it also happens to be the last year you could get an R/T with AWD! meaning a HEMI! It is great in snow (up to the fog lights) about 8" or so, unless the snow is powdery so the car does not get hug up, and I get 17 mpg cty and 25 mpg hyw! something I can live with! It is all black, with NO chrome at all! except the exhaust outlets! and with the Hemi it goes like he!!, and being all black you would be surprised to see how NO ONE has pulled out on me, and how they move over in the high speed lane? maybe they think I am a cop? Sorry for the rant about a car here at PUTC, but it was mentioned in the story! I think my next truck will be the 1/2t Ram diesel, or maybe a Colorado diesel when they come out! for my wife as she now drives the Z-71 we have! and she does like the new Colorado!

If Ram, according to an article is only selling around 500 PowerWagons a year, then FCA would be best to drop the vehicle. There would be a far more marketable vehicle they could build using the 1500 chassis.

FCA should look at manufacturing an off road orientated V6 Diesel Ram 1500. That would be an attractive vehicle for the off roaders. It's only problem would be it's size in some off road situations, like the PowerWagon or the F-150 would encounter.

Back to the PowerWagon. I would hope it can push that snow plough. I would think any 4x4 HD would be able to.

Sandman, I just read an article on the FX-4 with the 3.5 EcoBoost in a new aluminium F-150 is only returning 13mpg. Imagine it's off road FE or loaded and having to do a little work. It would definitely drop into single figures. Not good for endurance.

I do think the VM V6 4x4 Laramie would only get that 3.5 EcoBoost, aluminium F-150 kind of FE towing a 9 000lb trailer. The Ram couldn't have a load and tow at the same time.

I suppose each 1/2 ton manufacturer has it's good and bad points. The Ram has great FE and can carry a load and tow. While the 2015 aluminium F-150 3.5 EcoBoost can tow and carry sort of a load with poor FE.

But, remember the aluminium F-150 was designed to have good FE. As it!

The 4x4 Laramie with the diesels appears to be more appealing than the PowerWagon or the FX-4 aluminium F-150.

What many forget is, irrespective of what pickup is bought. They are mainly a SUV and car alternative, not a business proposition.

Ahhh, now I get it. I have had a couple of post deleted--that were not remotely uncivil to anyone, but were critical of Fiat products. That last couple of puff pieces explain it must be trying to protect advertising $$$$ from Fiat... .

I have awesome power and 16 mpg in a 7000 pound truck ! That my friend is great,love the 6.4 HEMI ! And it is quick for 7,000 lbs I can get high 6's 0-60 ! And it sounds like a truck should,V-8 POWER !

Posted by: Cory | Mar 10, 2015 5:00:01 PM

I believe you are alot optimistic on your 0-60 times. 6.4 Hemi is a great engine but don't get me wrong it isn't a rocket.

Granted this is at around 5k in elevation I don't believe a 6.4 is anyway as fast as any 1/2 ton as these big power 1/2 tons that weigh a ton+ less then your truck.

I just read that the grille on the new Laramie was added to the ugly grille list. I have to agree. It is UGLY!!!

I do think you are correct. That grille is disgusting.

FCA really need to invest money into the Ram. It needs a mid life facelift without those ridiculous grilles and an improved rear suspension.

But, I do think Ram is aware of the suspension. They are just building what the average customer wants.

A car or SUV alternative.

@Big Al from Oz - remember that they said Ram sold 500 crewcab Power Wagons. That does not mention the doublecab. The doublecab is probably more popular as a toy since it would be lighter and shorter. Lighter would also mean more capacity so it might be more popular for work use. HemiV8 keeps mentioning park Rangers with PowerWagons and all of the pictures he posted were doublecab.

I'm not seeing anything challenging for any pickup. How about a field with obstacles and 2 feet deep snow?

The authors fixation with the Ram plow truck is amusing. As the saying goes: " The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys". LOL

I want to know how that air ride works in -40C weather. Does it freeze up?
That sort of thing does occur with commercial tractor units.

@big AL, not sure why people talk about this truck and that truck and towing MPG's and why its such a big deal. I have towed mostly campers over 6k dry weights with chevy's, dodges and now a F250 diesel. I can honestly say, towing in the 6-8K pound range all of those returned 8-mid 9's MPGS in the half ton gassers, my current diesel does 9K+ pounds and 13mpg in the northeast(although it drops in the 12 range when up in the mountains), point is, if your gonna tow some decent weight with a halfton truck, expect poor MPG end of story. I can also say at work our 2500/3500 twins have the same issues towing the same relative weights, and they are gas engines and I have seen 7mpg out of those when towing a 5K pound genie lift on a trailer. we use a 2500 reg cab chevy with the 6.0l gas to do plowing, and it does quit well doing that, probly not much different than the ram does here, but it is nice to see articles about this stuff for those of us who use these types of trucks in this application everyday.

I see the PowerWagon similar to the Raptor in one aspect. That is its size is a limiting factor.

Both these vehicles do extremely well off roading for their sizes. Like has been mentioned put them against a Wrangler to drive off road and I'd say most would be more comfortable with the Wrangler.

Those 3 vehicles on road is where they are more of a liability, due to their on road manners. So if you want an off roader then I wouldn't buy one of these, unless you specifically require and have the ability to use the vehicle's off road specific capabilities.

If you aren't going to off road and just buy for my new term "wank wagon" then I'd buy a high end Ram or F-150. It would be far more comfortable and easier to drive, which equate to a safer on road vehicle.

I'm a big believer for off roading to look for endurance and ease of operation. If most are dual cabs, then there are many wank wagons out there.

We all oh and ah over the Dakar and Baja racers and buggies, top fuelers and any performance vehicle. But can we really use this? Even that 700hp Chrysler. Who could drive it and truly state I can maximise the vehicle capabilities.

Even with just a full size, I'd like to see if anyone could maximise more than a couple of hundred horse power off road.

People who buy a PowerWagon don't really buy them for work or tow or even to necessarily off road.

Any vehicle that is highly loaded will have much poorer FE. Even a little buzz box. In the Northern Territory some you people had little Corolla's and Focus's. They would drive to Darwin at a high rate of knots and get around 18mpg.

They look nice and cool. That's why they sell.

@Big Al - my beef with the PowerWagon are related to cost and function. As you have pointed out, it's size is its own worst enemy offroad....... so why buy a 3/4 ton truck with limited cargo capacity for the sake of a slight improvement when size IS the limiter?

I'd buy a regular 3/4 ton gasser if I needed a 3/4 ton 4x4. Size limits where i can go so might as well have a truck that can carry my toys to the size limiting trail. I've done that most my life - bikes and ATV's are vastly more offroad capable than any pickup.

@BigAl - I have to add..... that has been my point about vehicles all along. Buy what you want but at least understand its capabilities and limitations.

I totally argree with your above comment.

But, it isn't just limited to the PowerWagon. The Raptor is the same size as the Power Wagon or even slightly larger. The Raptor weighs less as well.

Like myself, I bought what I did because I can. The 4x4 BT50 GT is a bit of a wank wagon in it's own right. Especially since the mods I've done to it over the past 12 months.

The biggest difference is I've tailored the vehicle to suit my style of off roading. Which is essentially off road touring and some more challenging weekend stuff and the ability to put a 20' boat in the water and drag it out.

Do I really require this? Nope. It purely a life style vehicle. The trade off we have with our global midsizers in comparison to US midsizers is ride comfort. But they have improved markedly over the past decade or so.

So, for us to rant and rave about our load capability comes at a cost. Right now I don't mind as for me I'm not uncomfortable .....yet. But when I do become uncomforatable in my pickup, I'll buy a nice SUV with 4hi and lo.

I laugh at some of the comments regarding rock climbing etc and buying a PowerWagon to tow 7 400lbs across sand dunes. I would love to see a PowerWagon tow that much weight up a sand dune.

As I've mentioned earlier, people who own these types of vehicles should start becoming more sincere in why they are choosing these vehicles. It's not for tow or load.

Most are bought because we can. A wank.

Cool. Ram trucks are very interesting.
By the way, a Ford F-150 2.7L Ecoboost does 23mpg highway as tested.

@BigAl - a tight trail off-roader isn't going to buy a Power Wagon or Raptor.

That is sort of my point.

Buy what you want just be aware of its limitations.

My point is that a guy wanting an offroad capable truck but wants to tow and haul stuff is best served by anything other than a Ram Power Wagon.
A winch can be added to anything and 2 inch leveling kits as far as I've been told, does not hurt warranty. Same with adding a decent set of tires.
The PW has front and rear locking diffs, swaybar disconnect, and full skidplates - advantage only if you want play over capacity. There is a huge loss of capacity to gain some play.

If one wants a 4x4 with higher speed abilities then narrow trails aren't going to be as big an issue. You won't be able to modify a pickup to rival the Raptor. Play over capacity does take a hit with a Raptor. Towing is on par with most "non-max tow" trucks and is less than most "average" F150's. BUT you can't build a competitive version yourself...
Ram found that out the hard way with the Ram Runner kit. My local dealer built one and never could sell it.

Buy what you want just be aware of its limitations.

Sure there is always the poser crowd but "street cred" weighs heavy. like i said on TTAC "you can't pose with a lambo body kit on a VW bug."

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