Is the 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon King of the Mountain?

2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road

Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman

By Aaron Bragman

We spent the day with the 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon at Indiana's Badlands Off Road Park in Attica to throw the new Power Wagon up some cliffs and down some trails to see if there's anything out there that can successfully stand in its way. Off-road trucks are a lot of fun, but let's be honest, most of these beasts are meant to be used as entertainment. You've got the mountain-goat crawling abilities of the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon and Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, or maybe you favor the gazelle-like ability of the Ford F-150 Raptor that glides across scrubland at freeway speeds.

Related: 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Boasts Subtle Significant Upgrades

But maybe you don't need an off-road toy, maybe you're one of those people who goes off-road for work. You don't need a goat or a gazelle — what you really need is a mule, something stable and stalwart but able to haul a ton of stuff and get you where you need to go. Maybe you need something like a new 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon.

The Gears to Go Anywhere

Based on the redesigned 2019 Ram 2500 heavy-duty pickup, the Power Wagon received upgrades for 2019 designed to make it an even more effective off-road machine — and they work quite well. It starts with the new transmission, an eight-speed automatic instead of the six-speed that the Power Wagon featured in 2018. When equipped with the 4.10:1 rear axle, it allows a much more aggressive crawl ratio in first gear: 51:1 instead of 35:1 for the old model. What's that mean for you? The ability at lower speeds to put a lot more of the truck's torque down in usable fashion. It lets you crawl up serious grades and steep inclines with so little drama that it doesn't require much thought. Point the truck at the obstacle you want to climb, ease into the throttle and up it goes.

2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road

The suspension definitely helps out as well. No air suspension here, the Power Wagon gets a lifted, modified steel suspension made for off-roading but with a few additional features to help it roll over moonscape-like terrain with minimum fuss. It has electronic locking front and rear differentials to maximize the truck's traction delivery, and electronic sway bar disconnects to maximize wheel articulation. It might look cool to have a wheel in the air when you're going over an obstacle, but that's just one more tire that isn't doing anything toward pulling you over that mound. Improving the wheel articulation helps keep all the tires on the ground, which means more traction and an easier time getting up and over.

Combined with the new transmission and crawl ratio, the Power Wagon will do anything you need it to. And while it's meant more for rock crawling and hill climbing, it'll still romp through the sand like a Raptor. Low range is good for up to 50 mph, so go nuts, y'all. Just be careful of the bumps — this is not a Raptor-style showroom-stock Baja racing truck, so high-speed impacts can still blow out a shock. Faster speeds are best done in softer sand and pea gravel.

He's a Big Boy, Though

That doesn't mean that crawling over rough terrain isn't still a challenge — the issue is that this is a big truck. On trails meant for Jeeps and side-by-side all-terrain vehicles, the Power Wagon feels a little cramped. It has plenty of underbody protection, but the trees may feel uncomfortably close in certain conditions. Seeing over the hood when cresting a hill can be an issue as well, one that's mitigated by the Power Wagon's new optional front-facing trail camera, which our early production truck sadly did not feature.

2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road

No Diesel: Deal With It

Under the hood of the Power Wagon is Ram's 6.4-liter Hemi V-8. Sorry folks, no Cummins turbo-diesel in this rig, but you won't miss it. The V-8 is strong and torquey, pumping out 410 horsepower and 429 pounds-feet of torque.

Why no diesel? There are more than a few reasons why diesel is not right for this rig. First, the Power Wagon features a standard 12,000-pound Warn winch nestled in the front bumper, right where the diesel's intercooler would go. The standard winch is part of what makes the Power Wagon so unique — if you should by some miracle get yourself stuck, dismount, wrap it around a tree or another fixed object, and pull yourself out via the bumper. This year, the winch cable is synthetic instead of steel cable, saving 28 pounds over the front bumper for better handling.

According to Ram, the diesel also doesn't package well in the engine bay if you want to also maintain the maximum wheel articulation that's so critical to the Power Wagon's mission. The Cummins turbo-diesel engine is also really heavy. The new 2019 Power Wagon is lighter than the outgoing one, thanks to a new frame and strategic weight reductions throughout the truck; adding the Cummins over the front wheels wouldn't help that mission. No, you're getting a gas engine. Be happy; it's a great powertrain.

Cabin Upgrades

On the inside, the new Power Wagon receives all the upgrades that the Ram 2500 and 3500 have for 2019. It's the nicest cabin in the full-size pickup class by far, and like the smaller Ram 1500 Rebel half ton, the Power Wagon gets unique trim bits as well. The base truck gets fun tire-tread-patterned cloth chairs (leather is optional), red trim, unique badging and special floormats. The 12-inch vertical multimedia system is available, too, in case you want to pretend you're in a tall-riding, strangely loud Tesla.

2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road

I'm sure there's some steep mountain or deep lake that the new 2019 Power Wagon can't overcome, but we didn't find it during this excursion. And it wasn't for lack of trying — the Power Wagon's extraordinary off-road capability make it feel like the one vehicle you'd want to steal from the local dealership if the apocalypse should hit tomorrow, because it will get you through anything. It has to be the most capable off-road truck you can buy straight out of the showroom. If you plan on buying one instead of stealing one, however, know that the starting price is just shy of $55,000. But I'll let you in on a secret: If you want all the Power Wagon's off-road goodies without the fancy trimmings, you can get them on the 2500 Tradesman crew-cab 4x4 with the Power Wagon Content Package containing all the off-road equipment for several thousand dollars less.

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2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road
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2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road
2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road
2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road
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2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road
2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road
2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road
2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Off-Road

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