2016 Ram Power Wagon: Trail Driven

RAM PW 3

By Aaron Bragman

When I think about heading off-road and hitting the trails, I have to admit — my first thought usually involves an SUV of some kind, such as my 2015 Jeep Wrangler — something smaller, lighter, with a short wheelbase and plenty of ground clearance on chunky tires that can scale rocks and ford streams without undue effort. But what about a pickup truck? When most folks think about off-road pickup trucks, it's usually in relation to an off-road package that enables the truck to get through a rough job site, unless you're looking at the TRD Pro offerings from Toyota or Ford's light-duty F-150 Raptor.

But there's another unique offering that combines immense capability with some exclusive factory parts: the Ram Power Wagon. Based on the Ram 2500 crew cab, the Power Wagon is perhaps an unlikely candidate for an off-road vehicle, but Ram is so confident in its go-anywhere abilities that it recently invited me to Arizona to drive the 2016 Power Wagon up the back way to the Crown King Trail from Lake Pleasant Regional Park to the tiny mountain town of Crown King. And after 50 miles of trails, dirt, rock and moderate obstacles that would seriously challenge most "off-road" trucks, I came away mightily impressed at this monster's abilities.

The Power Wagon is big, one of the biggest trucks in the Ram lineup. It's a physically imposing beast when you walk up to it and attempt to haul yourself up into its high-riding cabin. The suspension has been lifted 2 inches higher than a normal 2500, and 33-inch tires have been added to give it a ground clearance of 14.3 inches. There are no rocker step rails, so hope you're tall or have a decent reach to haul yourself up into this rig.

RAM PW 11

Once in place the view is commanding, and the cabin is quite comfortable with big seats and a thick steering wheel. For 2017, you can get the Power Wagon option on several different 2500 trims, including the base Tradesman, which will forgo all of the cosmetic frippery and simply add the off-road mechanical goodies to your work truck. Or you can get fancy with a new grille, a retro-style sticker package and a new interior that mimics the popular Ram 1500 Rebel trim level, which brings tire-tread patterns and Power Wagon logos to the seats.

RAM PW 12

Those off-road mechanicals are formidable as well, with standard front and rear electronic-locking differentials, additional skid plates, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, an electronic sway-bar disconnect and retuned software for the standard 410-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine that tailors its throttle response for low-speed off-road scenarios. Hill descent control also is offered, but with the Power Wagon's manual Borg Warner transfer case and a 2.64:1 four-wheel-drive low-range setting, it's not often needed.

A question often asked: Why no Cummins diesel in the Power Wagon? And the answer: The standard 12,000-pound Warn winch that resides in the bumper prevents it due to the Cummins' cooling system needs. Gasoline is what you get.

RAM PW 8

On the road, the Power Wagon feels massive but stable, like a freight train barreling down the highway. The ride height puts you almost at eye level with 18-wheelers, but the excellent visibility in all directions is helpful. But it's off-road where the Power Wagon truly shines, with surprising performance and tenacious grip that belies its beefy proportions. The shock tuning and five-link coil spring rear suspension provide for an astonishingly smooth and serene ride over washboard surfaces, rocky dry riverbeds and just about anything else you point it at. Disconnect the front sway bar for better articulation at speeds below 18 mph and it also helps loosen up the steering, creating less jarring impact feedback over rocky roads.

The Power Wagon has 30 inches of water-fording ability, but this was not a factor on our run up the Crown King Trail, with the deepest water we encountered running about 3 inches. Obstacles that might be rated a 3 to 5 for you Jeep Jamboree fans weren't uncommon, with steep inclines up rocky surfaces that required the use of front-and-rear lockers and 4-Low. The Power Wagon crawled up all of it with astonishing ease, never once betraying its bulk or 6,700-pound curb weight, or upsetting passenger comfort in the slightest. The only issue is that the hood of the massive truck can often obscure the path ahead when breaking over an obstacle or cresting a hill, leading to more than a couple leaps of faith as to where exactly the trail continues.

RAM PW 9

Ram likes to call the Power Wagon the most off-road-capable factory pickup you can buy, and while many people would point to the Ford Raptor as a valid challenger to that title, the Raptor, in many ways, is a very different animal. The Ford is capable of going cross-country at high speeds, trophy truck-style, while the Power Wagon is meant more as a lower-speed harsh-terrain workhorse that can be both entertaining in its go-anywhere abilities and useful for people who need that kind of access for work. It's the only pickup you can buy with factory-installed front and rear electronic-locking differentials. And for 2017, the cosmetic changes meant to bring a family resemblance to the smaller, more comfortable, but still formidable and fast-selling light-duty Rebel make it look even more distinctive. However, it doesn't come cheap: The Power Wagon I drove stickered at just north of $56,000, but that's not an unreasonable price for the combination of capability, comfort and utility the Power Wagon provides.

Cars.com photos by Aaron D. Bragman; manufacturer images

 

RAM PW 1

RAM PW 10

RAM PW 4

 

Comments

Now that's a real truck and how every truck should come from the factory, with the stupid crazy high price tag now days.

@PUTC great photography!

Some of those shots of the PW getting its suspension all out of shape are really well done. Looks like this truck would be a total riot for work/play.

Now, about that price...

PUTC,

Would you please post smaller pictures in future articles? Thank you.

Love the new Power Wagon! My cousin had the previous generation in Denver: It too was awesome.

Now, how well would the new Honda Ridgeline do on this very same route? (* ahem *).

The Power Wagon is a comprehensive vehicle that can do many things well, an unusual combination. The Ford Raptor (which I also like) is really meant for high-speed desert running and dune blasting, but has a much smoother ride on the highway. The Raptor is also less expensive and gets better fuel mileage (I'm told).

Still, if money were no object, I'd have two Power Wagons in what passes for my driveway: One for going to church on Sunday; and one for everything else....(^_^)...

Too bad it doesn't have a decent manual transmission, though. And with the next generation, they may have to redo the chassis to fit that 6.7lier Cummins Diesel. Want. Pant.
(Are you listening, Ram?)

==========================

If I had a good excuse to buy a full size truck this would be the one I would get. I had a 1974 Power Wagon, put 35 inch Denman Ground Hawgs on it with out a lift kit. After a couple years pulled the 360 and dropped in a 440..

Needs an 8 speed automatic.

When I think about heading off-road and hitting the trails, I think of the Ram Power Wagon. LORD BYRON said it best...

Ram Power Wagon walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er Ram Power Wagon grill;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

@George C

You have a 4WD with hi/low gear; and a locker front/rear.

why the 8 speed?

Ram needs to do a "Hard Rock" version of this truck like they do for the Wranglers. This could benefit from some offroad styled bumpers and rock sliders.

If you are buying an offroad truck and you ACTUALLY wheel it, this is a much better buy for those in the midwest. I haven't found a place yet that would allow you to use the full potential of a Raptor or TRD Pro Tundra for the high speed they are designed for.

Sadly this thing is pretty heavy would be sink like the titanic in the mud here, guess that's why Ram says you need the winch and can't offer the Cummins.

A 1500 version of this should have been the Ram 1500 Rebel. F/R lockers and the straight axle at ~5,900 pounds.

I have always been a fan of trucks off-roading and never liked Jeeps because they lack payload and cargo capacity and are a danger on the pavement to drive!

Kudos to Ram for building a solid off-roader on the lines with the Raptor and any TRD off-road Toyota!

I am old school and still prefer to buy a base 4x4 pickup like my 2010 SR5 or my new SR 4x4 and build them up myself! Much cheaper on the budget and you get to add stuff you think is vital and your own character and image!

Mileage, performance.
The 6 speed auto only has 5.2:1 ratio spread [3.23, 1.84, 1.41, 1, 0.816, 0.625, Reverse 4.44]
The 2nd generation ZF 8hp75 wide gearset is [5, 3.2, 2.143, 1.72, 1.313, 1, 0.823, 0.64, Reverse 3.478]
Chrysler could use the 5.7 & 8 speed auto; or
keep the 6.4, and move to a taller axle ratio taller. They have a 3.42/3.73 in inventory.

oh, and upgrading to 285/65 18 wouldn't hurt either.

The Power Wagon is the grand dad to all 4x4 trucks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcFIPEjbZCw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3WP_jM1m7M

Their is only one Power Wagon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGUooVCHpyc&list=PLjXptazwnuepR6EF-0lQ8aB4ADc_TePfq&index=4

Jeeps don't have a v8.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xamO_u21phY

Diesel weighs more 500 more. Diesel has less RPM. Fuel separates in cold weather.

Ike gauntlet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT5qIpjID5Y

I absolutely love my new Prospector. It tows my 10,000lbs trailer off road in the soft dune sand perfectly. If it couldn't tow up the dune with my trailer I could hook my winch up to my old Ram and pull it up. I camp in the dunes not on the windy beach. No one but me nice and quite. Truck rides better than my 1/2 ton. Corners way better. Doesn't sag either. Transfer case splits 50 50. My 1/2 ton was 60 40. Truck goes any where I point it. Hill decent is awesome with no slip no matter what your driving down. Soft dune sand or slick ice. Truck is a beast. AEV told me for the ultimate off road get the gas engine.

Guys this is a serious truck...no I mean really serious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSqohN7o238

Good work RAM!

Ford orgullosa de ser mexicana - - -

Thanks. That's a great paraphrase of Lord Byron...
But then I'm a sucker for good prose...(^_^)...

=======================

I've heard the 1100 lb Cummins I-6 is too heavy for the off-road suspension. Plus the turbo lag and torque management in the Cummins wouldn't be good at slow speeds.

While the substance is good. It's still a Fiat. Too big, too slow, crappy mpg. 2 passenger back seat. Made in Mexico. Buy American, Buy GM.

"Love the new Power Wagon! My cousin had the previous generation in Denver: It too was awesome.
Now, how well would the new Honda Ridgeline do on this very same route? (* ahem *)."
-- Posted by: NMGOM | May 29, 2016 8:20:27 AM

A Ridgeline owner wouldn't even bother to try. Someone buying a Ridgeline would very probably have no interest in trying to drive it to Crown King.

The point is that not everyone wants a giant honkin' truck that can go out to the middle of nowhere. Not everyone wants a giant, honkin' truck that can carry 5000# or tow 30,000#. They're perfectly happy with letting the people who need those things for whatever reason do whatever they want to them. But they don't want to be told that they NEED a Road Whale™ truck when all they're going to carry is trash, yard waste and DIY materials.

There are different sizes of cars and crossovers because not everybody needs or wants the same thing. Why can't truck people get that into their heads?

WOW ! you'll never see a picture of a Ford going to rough and extreme trails like that!
Those pictures really impressed me

"...happy with letting the people who need those things for whatever reason do whatever they want to them."

@Roadwhale

You should consider a re-write to your previous comment. That's the whole issue with you greens and your worship of so-called "sustainability." It's your way or the highway.

My favorite example is a retired politician, former US Vice President Al Gore. Gore gets paid very handsomely to lecture people about the more "responsible" way that we should be living, but he travels the world on a huge private jet and travels everywhere in a fleet of big SUVs. All the while he's posing for pictures with some schmuck driving a Prius.

Every major university today has some high-paid Czar on the payroll lecturing the rest of us about recycling and taking public transportation and eating tofu.

Please, there is nothing about these people that speaks to compromise at all. My way or the highway.

"...happy with letting the people who need those things for whatever reason do whatever they want to them."

@Roadwhale

You should consider a re-write to your previous comment. That's the whole issue with you greens and your worship of so-called "sustainability." It's your way or the highway.

My favorite example is a retired politician, former US Vice President Al Gore. Gore gets paid very handsomely to lecture people about the more "responsible" way that we should be living, but he travels the world on a huge private jet and travels everywhere in a fleet of big SUVs. All the while he's posing for pictures with some schmuck driving a Prius.

Every major university today has some high-paid Czar on the payroll lecturing the rest of us about recycling and taking public transportation and eating tofu.

Please, there is nothing about these people that speaks to compromise at all. My way or the highway.

Funny, the writer says light duty f150 raptor, which is probably heavier duty than his watered down jeep wrangler. Is the frame twisted in that last pic? Look at the position of the bumper on the right vs the left.

frames twist get over it

Nice but like Chevy trucks, have my concerns about reliability;

http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/research-guides/american-cars-that-really-arent-american/ss-BBtnTW7?ocid=spartandhp#image=14

papa jim
In some way I agree with you about price, but for me I need to own a truck that also makes me look good.
I am a handsome, good looking man with a perfect body, I got ahead in life based on my good looks and charm, I stand out cause I don't look and act like a hillbilly like most men in my area. I dress up in designer clothes, I admit I even use makeup sometimes.
It would ruin my image being seen driving around in an old pickup.

This hooptie tin can can't hold a candle to the MILITARY GRADE RAPTOR. there will always be immitaiters but only one MILITARY GRADE !!! MILITARY GRADE !!! woooooooooh!!!!!!


WOW ! you'll never see a picture of a Ford going to rough and extreme trails like that!
Those pictures really impressed me

Posted by: Lou_DC | May 30, 2016 5:39:13 AM

Sure you can heres a craptor with the half shafts busting off. lol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIm3JFLflsU

The Fiat Power Wagon is a credible off road performer and probably the most capable offroad package available on a truck still capable of doing serious truck work.

While the Raptor is the better/higher off road performance performer it gives up a lot of payload capacity to do it. Making it more toy than serious truck.

While both have proven there is ample market for both to exist in obviously the offoad high performance crowd prefers the toy over the multi role tool as has been demonstrated by sales.

oxi tell me more about Jeeps "are a danger on the pavement to drive"...what an idiot.

That 5.0 Cummins would work fine for this. I think they missed out on that for HD trucks that don't need to pull heavy trailers.

The 8 speed would help, the crawl ratio would be about like my old NP435 4 speed granny low that GM, Ford, and Dodge used.

The 8 speed might even give it mpg raise, I'm sure it would be a lot better transmissions to use if you're going to tow something too.

Why not make a 6 speed manual, or 7 speed manual an option?

Aaron,just a few points you can get factory MOPAR running boards,both in flat black,and chrome,also you can run flat out across the desert with a Powerwagon,serve-duty and go any were do anything is this trucks motto.If one want's a part's shelve awaits this truck at AEV,and also selected RAM dealerships across the United States sell AEV parts as well.AEV have parts that well frankly put the Raptor in a much more smaller class.Aaron also this truck in a Tradesmen version can be had for less than 40,000.Concidering the axles,lockers,winch,axle disconnect you have yourself quite a base truck to begin with.The constant rap about no having a diesel well if this is the only fault,I find this quite and old story line.I have seen this truck operate in the most remote parts of MOAB,us in a highly modified Jeep,and each night when we camped the discussion seem to be around this owners 2015 highly modified 2015 RAM Power Wagon. Myself the only thing that competes with this truck is a modified Jeep.

I agree with TRX-Tom. The 5.0 Cummins would be a better choice than the 6.7 ISV.
The excuse of the winch interfering with the intercooler is just a lame excuse by Ram. The HD Cummins Ram has an entirely different drivetrain than that of this truck.

The terrain pictured is perfect for the Power Wagon. You have dry relatively hard ground to drive upon. HD pickups used on soft muddy ground or soft sand need extremely large tires to minimize the PSI they exert.

Love all the know it alls who think they know what the best 4x4 power plant is.

Diesel fuel separates in cold weather gas does not.

Diesel engines have less power and more weight.

Diesel has low rpm. Gas has high rpm to power through mud and snow.

My 6.4 Hemi will smoke your 5.0 Diesel on and off the road.

Dodge has never built a diesel power wagon.

Build your own diesel 4x4 stop crying about how Dodge should build theirs. They have only been doing it for almost a hundred years. I think they know something. DUH!

Last of its kind, 1958 walnut creek FIRE! Power Wagon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_1VraHY96A

We'd be really interested in a diesel 3500HD PowerWagon. Gasoline 2500HD, not so much...



The comments to this entry are closed.