As I watched my fellow journalists scratch their way up a steep rock face in the 2017 Ram Power Wagon, I was giddy with excitement. As much as I love to go fast, there is something to be said for piloting a 4x4 up over what looks like an impossible challenge and coming out unscathed.
One by one the trucks crawled up and over the obstacle on Logandale Trail near the Valley of Fire in Nevada. When it was my turn I manually shifted into 4-low, disconnected the front sway bar with the push of a button and gingerly applied the throttle.
The Power Wagon's stock 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires easily found purchase on the slick rock face and I was moving up, the bright blue Nevada sky filling my windshield. Keeping a steady throttle, the truck gently crested the hill, like a lithe ballerina in work boots in spite of its 7,000-pound body.
"Well, that certainly was easy," I thought. "I didn't even have to engage the front locker."
"That was easy" was the theme for my day spent in the Ram Power Wagon, a truck that might not be fast in the whoops, but certainly has the capability to get you anywhere you want to go, regardless of terrain.
Based off the Ram 2500, the Power Wagon gets its growl from a 6.4-liter V8 engine with 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. Is it a bummer that the Ram 2500's available 6.7-liter diesel engine isn't offered in the Power Wagon? Sure, because if 429 torques is great, almost twice that in a diesel is super-great, especially when it comes to off-road shenanigans. Still, the power train gets the job done, and few will miss the diesel option.
The Power Wagon has a lot in common with other off-road trucks on the market. It's got the requisite skid plates, a 2-inch lift brings the ground clearance up to 14.3 inches, and it's got some aggressive approach, departure and breakover angles (33.6, 26.2 and 23.5 degrees, respectively). Like much of the competition, the Power Wagon also has a two-speed transfer case and hill-descent control.
Here's what you won't find on any other truck in the market: a solid front axle and an electronic disconnecting sway bar. Why is this important? I'm glad you asked, Dear Reader.
Just like the solid rear axle, the solid front axle can be locked so that power goes equally to all four wheels, regardless of how much traction each tire has. This is essential for off-roading as maximum torque is applied to each wheel, pushing the Power Wagon up and over hairy terrain.
Other trucks like theand even the venerable both have an independent front suspension that makes them not quite as capable when the going gets rough.
Combine that solid front axle with the disconnecting sway bar and you've got 26 inches of wheel travel, which, frankly, is bananas in a stock truck. You can electronically disconnect the sway bar, dubbed the Smart Bar, in both 4-high and 4-low, at speeds below 18 mph.
However, with a solid front axle comes a bit of a trade-off. The Ram Power Wagon is not the fastest thing through any whooped-out sections of desert. It's no slouch, but if you're looking to bomb across Baja at 60 mph, the Power Wagon is not your jam.
But when it comes to scratching up steep and rocky hill climbs, the Power Wagon is unmatched. My second challenge in the truck was a bit steeper and more uneven than the first. With both lockers on and 4-low engaged, the truck scrambled up like it wasn't no thing. Even the journalist in my group who was new to off-roading made short work of the hills.
Even if someone were to run short of talent on the trail, the Ram Power Wagon comes with a standard Warn 12,000-pound winch. With 90 feet of steel cable, there's easily enough line to pull a rig back on all four wheels.
I had the chance to sample the Power Wagon on the pavement as well. It's a comfortable ride with the excellent Uconnect system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both absent, although both will be available in the next generation of Uconnect. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and never has to search for the correct gear, instead selecting them quickly and precisely.
The Power Wagon can tow up to 10,030 pounds and has a maximum payload of 1,510 pounds. Considering those numbers and the off-road capabilities, the Ram Power Wagon would make an excellent chase vehicle for off-road races. It could tow your toys to the dirt and then perform any rescue duties. The payload is a little small for overlanding with an over-the-cab camper, but could easily accommodate a bed cap and a roof top tent. Just add your Maxtrax recovery boards and a high-lift jack and you're ready for any shade Mother Nature can throw.
The 2017 Ram Power Wagon starts at $51,695, but expect to pay upward of $60,000 when adding options, such as leather seating, lockable boxes in the bed, power adjustable pedals or the 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation.