Does the Ram Power Wagon Work As a Family Car?


By Aaron Bragman

Lots of people use pickup trucks as daily transportation — family vehicles that can haul the brood to school and then haul the lumber to a job site. Some folks don't have a job for their truck, they just enjoy the truck for its own sake — its space and power appeal to them.

But what about specialty pickups, ones that have a specific purpose? Trucks such as the 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon, with its clear and obvious off-road intentions and abilities, its stratospheric ride height, big front winch, vinyl floors and heavy-duty suspension? Can you take the kids to soccer practice in such a monster, or is it really better suited to riding the trails and only riding the trails?

With this question in mind and no actual nuclear family of my own to test it with, I headed to Texas with my better half to visit my sister-in-law, her two kids and my mother-in-law in suburban San Antonio for several days of sampling family life with a monster truck.

Waiting for me at the airport was a 2017 Ram Power Wagon in Bright Silver Metallic, blending in nicely with the South Texas landscape as if it was born to be there. Nearly 20 feet worth of heavy-duty Ram 2500 pickup in special off-road form, featuring the world's only factory-installed front and rear electronic locking differentials, sway-bar disconnects and a 12,000-pound winch in the front bumper. Its numbers are impressive: It weighs more than 7,000 pounds; its 6.4-liter V-8 pumps out 410 horsepower and 429 pounds-feet of torque; it sports 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires; and the whole thing sits 14.3 inches off the ground.

Pulling up to my sister-in-law's house was an event. The Power Wagon is loud, rumbly and rolls down the street with authority and bluster thanks to its chunky off-road tires. It turns heads, even in truck-jaded Texas, thanks to its size, its sound and its equipment. Dropping the distance from the cab to the steeply sloped driveway, however, reveals the first issue with Power Wagon: Unless you're physically fit and have some upper body strength, getting in and out of it is difficult.


The Power Wagon does not have running boards because they would defeat the purpose of having a tall truck. They'd eat into the ground clearance or get hung up on obstacles, neither of which you want in a true off-road rig. That means you plant a foot on the vinyl floor of the cab, reach up and grab the handle, and haul yourself up into it.

While that may work for younger folks (my teenage niece had no problem at all), older folks may have an issue — such as my 72-year-old mother-in-law. For her, we purchased a portable stepstool to aid in getting in and out. Otherwise, she simply could not get into the cab without significant help.

Using the Power Wagon as a family hauler is difficult. There's plenty of passenger space, but taking five people to the supermarket can be tricky. The RamBox storage bins in the bed fenders are great for stuffing groceries into, but once those are full, the rest of the groceries either need to go in the cab where people are sitting or in the covered bed, where they're likely to roll around and get damaged. So while the Power Wagon is fine for hauling the brood to soccer practice, running errands in the beast is more of a challenge.

What's not challenging is driving the Power Wagon down the straight, fast Texas highways. Smooth, stable and powerful, the Power Wagon ate up the miles on a jaunt up from San Antonio to Dallas. While the truck is big, Texas is bigger, and is built around accommodating vehicles like this. There aren't many places that the Power Wagon didn't fit, but parking garages were one of them. At almost 7 feet tall, you must be careful where you park this hoss.

Sadly, my long weekend with the Power Wagon didn't involve any off-roading, but that's OK. I've driven one from Scottsdale to Flagstaff, Ariz., up the Crown King Trail, and can report that the Power Wagon is absolutely brilliant in the rough. It's less brilliant in the suburbs, but still can do most of what's asked of it. It's no Chrysler Pacifica in terms of its utility and family-friendliness, but then, a Pacifica can't winch itself out of a ravine. photos by Aaron Bragman









works great if your wife and kids have long legs.

Actually a crew cab pickup makes a great family car for any family that only can afford one vehicle.

A very versatile ride.

It really needs the ZF-8HP90, otherwise it's a nice truck.

If only it was electric. I think a major issue with FCA is dedicating the resources to bring an electric pickup to market. FCA is barely holding on and needs to build up its financial resources. FCA should have put more of their resources into Ram and Jeep and less into Fiat and Alfa Romeo. I understand that Fiat and Alfa Romeo are for the Global markets but it is questionable especially with Alfa if it can compete against Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and Jaguar in the Global market. I am hopeful that they can because FCA has already spent the funds on Alfa but FCA needs to put more resources into electric pickups and Ram.

FCA does indeed need to be more competitive in North America.

I don't think that it is really fair to single out this truck for groceries getting lost in the bed when that is a universal problem and should be well understood by anyone that owns a pickup.

On the other hand, fuel economy/range would be relevant issue for this truck and is not even mentioned.

@papajim--You work for the UAW.

Pickups can make a good family vehicle but not the Power Wagon.

Unless you are physically fit and can bench press 135 lb you cannot even get into one on your own.

If you cannot get into the Power Wagon then how good can it be?

The best pickup and family vehicle is the Honda Ridgeline.

My wife has had 2 non-Hondas since she had her 87 Accord for over 17 years. We liked non-Hondas and had reliable service from them but since buying a new CRV in 2013 we have a preference for Hondas.

I also like my Honda Harmony lawn mower. The new Ridgeline is a much better and more usable truck.


Sorry, I forgot to take my medication again.

We have a 3/4 ton suv for our family vehicle and my wife loves it. She is small, and loads lots of kids but she doesn't have to worry about snow, mud or having enough room. If we had less kids she would drive a pickup as getting to our house without ground clearance and 4wd is not always feasible.

Welp, looks like 72-year-old granny has proven my point; trucks have simply grown too large to be an effective family vehicle, much less an even reasonable private vehicle. When you need a step-stool just to climb in (or a running board) then the vehicle is too tall for daily driving. Yes, I do include some very popular vehicles in that, including one I used to own myself. But then, I consider that ownership a lesson in overkill because I traded that particular vehicle in on one of its smaller kin that meets the same needs as that big one but gets 50% better fuel economy AND doesn't require a step stool or running board to climb in.

However, the electric motor in the driver's seat gets a workout since it's 'her' car but she always wants me to drive when we're together. Maybe once a similarly-sized pickup truck comes available it can really be 'her' car vs 'my' truck.

This is a Ford advertisement.

Raptor is a better individual​ vehicle, family vehicle and off-road vehicle.

I think all trucks are getting to large. Even the half ton is getting to the point where there uncomfortable getting in and out of. I'll stick to a car for family use and the mighty truck for work, loike it was meant .


Ram 2500 vs F-250 | Garage Challenge

Not only did the Ram 2500 beat the Ford F-250 head-to-head in a number of real-world demonstrations of maneuverability, including the turning radius challenge, the trailer tow challenge, the obstacle challenge and the parking challenge, but the Ram 2500 also fits in a standard 20' garage and the F-250 does not. The Ram 2500 is the Most Maneuverable Heavy-Duty Pickup, from the lineup of America's Longest Lasting Pickups.


Ram 2500 vs F-250 | Parking Challenge

The Ram 2500 beat the Ford F-250 head-to-head in a number of real-world demonstrations of maneuverability, including the turning radius challenge, the trailer tow challenge, the obstacle challenge and the parking challenge. The Ram 2500 is the Most Maneuverable Heavy-Duty Pickup, from the lineup of America's Longest Lasting Pickups.

I think this is common sense. I don't think anybody who is looking for a family car to get groceries and take the kids to soccer practice is going to buy a Power Wagon for that sole purpose. Now if you need or even want an offroad truck for hauling and offroading , the power wagon can handle family duties just fine.

It really needs the ZF-8HP90, otherwise it's a nice truck.

Posted by: Alex | May 20, 2017 11:49:27 AM

Say's someone who don't own one. lol
The 6 speed is a Heavy Duty transmisson.

I use mine to go to Cosco. Load the water in the bed and the rest inside the cab on the load flat floor that started in the Ram truck. Works great. Also have Mopar side steps. 3 inch lift and 37's. No problem.

I use mine to go to Cosco. Load the water in the bed and the rest inside the cab on the load flat floor that started in the Ram truck.

Posted by: HEMI V8 | May 20, 2017 6:10:21 PM

And with that water and groceries your junk is overloaded. At least there will be food for the dealership crew when your junk gets towed in because it doesn't run.

Say's someone who don't own one. lol
The 6 speed is a Heavy Duty transmisson.

Posted by: HEMI V8 | May 20, 2017 6:06:59 PM

Well, at least as heavy duty for a ram truck. Still no match for a GM transmission.

Any of these big trucks work well...but lotsa money isn't necessary...I drive a 1994 Dodge V10 that isn't worth more than $6500 but it will pull a house, has been bullet proof, and has earned its keep many times over...Best truck I have ever owned. Family car is GMC Yukon Denali..another super-safe brute...

I agree with Jeff the Honda Ridgeline would be the better truck for the family hauling duties like mention. It can haul 5 normal size people in comfort. The driving and handling dynamics on-road might be the best of all pickups. It is unit body with independent suspension has torque vectoring AWD system.
This girly pickup truck as many bashers call it has a water tight lockable in-bed trunk for groceries or other stuff. You can still put grocery bags or items underneath 60/40 rear seat on flat floor even if seat is in down position. So if your not towing the heavier boat or camper the Ridgeline should do. It's not a off-road demon by any means. But most of the other can't match it's on road capabilities. Easy getting it into parking garages elderly should have easy time getting in out.

There is nothing GM that is a better answer. Unless we are talking boat anchors.
That is all.
Enjoy the veal.
I will be here all week.

I owned a 2012 250 Super Duty. And I drove Fords for 36 years. I dumped the 250 and got a 16 Power Wagon SLT. Far better Truck than any Ford. Groceries, no problem on the fold flat floor in the rear. And certainly better than any garbage GM is putting out. Comparing gasoline engine to gasoline engine. And comparing a Raptor to a Wagon is moot. Different trucks for different uses. If you want. Great Truck, have the money and don't mind 14 mpg around town get one they are awesome.

This truck is my main transportation with 3 kids. 1 in a car seat and 2 in booster seats. Groceries can be tricky, but I also try to avoid the grocery store with 3 kids. That leaves me more room in the back. I am short so our truck was a little difficult to get in to pregnant, but we installed rock rollers, which work great and also look good. It sucks on gas mileage bumming around town, but we didn't buy it for the gas mileage. This is by far the best truck we have ever owned. I wouldn't trade it for a mom vehicle ever. We also take it to the mountains and have taken it to Moab a couple of times and that's when we use it for what this truck was made for.

I owned an original 1967 Power Wagon WM300. One thing I could do with that truck that you can't do with a modern truck, was exit the cab walk on the running board and front fender to get to the winch. That kept my feet dry on a few occasions.

There are much better choices for family "car". I've owned a lot of work trucks, and I like driving the new ones, but they have disadvantages.

The big hassle with a full size+ crew cab truck is watching out for small kids running around the parking lot during the pickup/dropoff chaos. I park a block away just to avoid it all.

Full size trucks while able to do family tasks are poor choices for such tasks as they tend to deliver a lot of unused/wasted capability at a cost premium to both buy and operate in such a capacity. If you aren't WORKING your truck youre wasting your money and if that's what you want to do its your money and you are free to waste it however you want. Just don't ever think youre making a smart/wise choice because you simply aren't. There are many much better options for family vehicle but the truth is you can PRESS anything into the role that has enough seats and seatbelts no matter how silly/wasteful/cool the vehicle selected may be.

Stupid idea for a story.

The usual role for a truck like this is as a recreational vehicle or work vehicle that gets used as a secondary family vehicle when needed.

I'd asked Travis to find a nice ¾-ton truck to pull the Neon, preferably a RAM because it would keep to the Mopar theme. I'd been envisioning a Cummins-powered quad cab with a longbed. Something that would just shrug off the two-ton combined weight of our car and trailer, and with a nice long wheelbase to handle the drama of the U-Haul brake system. Just in case you've never had to pull a U-Haul car carrier, let me explain how it works. When you slow the truck down, the trailer keeps going.

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