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Making Tracks: 2014-15 Ram Power Wagon 4WD Crew Cab

Making Tracks: 2014-15 Ram Power Wagon 4WD Crew Cab

Just the Power Wagon name should tell you this truck has some impressive heritage—if you're old enough to remember.

The 3/4-ton Power Wagon WC was introduced in 1945 for the military during World War II as an armament carrier, troop carrier and medical truck. When GIs returned home from the war, they wrote Dodge and asked where they could buy a truck like the ones used in the war, knowing how tough they were. Dodge responded by offering a civilian version in 1946 as the model WDX.

Initially, the Power Wagon nameplate was produced from 1945 through 1980, and then reintroduced in 2005. The original military version featured a 230-cubic-inch flathead six engine, a two-speed transfer case and a four-speed manual transmission with a power takeoff. It carried an 8,700-pound GVW rating and a 3,000-pound maximum payload. Now, 68 years later, the 2014-15 Power Wagon offers considerably more.

According to Dave Elshoff, head of Ram Brand, there is no other pickup on the market that matches the Power Wagon in off-road capability.

And here's why. The new Power Wagon comes standard with a 6.4L Hemi V-8 engine producing 410 hp and 429 lb.-ft. of torque married to a six-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case featuring a 2.64:1 low range. A unique "Ram Articulink" front suspension with electronically detachable front anti-roll bars (swaybars) produces better maneuverability. Solid axles are used front and rear. Front and rear electronic locking differentials offer true 4WD and maximum traction. A new five-link coil rear suspension (which replaces semi-elliptical leaf springs) produces a best-in-class ride and superior axle control. A dual-alternator system (first of its kind for 3/4- and 1-ton pickups) combines 220- and 160-amp units for a best-in-class 380-amp output. A standard 12,000-pound electric Warn winch is mounted on the front bumper. The truck is available with up to a 10,810-pound tow capacity and 1,490-pound payload capacity. The Power Wagon also is lifted 2 inches compared to traditional 2500 HD trucks, and at 6,700 pounds curb weight, it's about 300 pounds heavier, which is due in part to the standard fuel-tank and transfer-case skid plates protecting undercarriage vitals.

In case you're not familiar with disconnecting swaybars, Elshoff explains that it's an off-roading trick to give the front end better articulation for navigating boulders and other mountainous terrain. It allows the front axle to move more independently of the truck's frame. An electric switch on the dash makes it easy to disconnect them. Disengagement is allowed in 4WD-High and -Low gearing at speeds below 18 mph; the system automatically re-engages as a safety feature at speeds above 18 mph.

As for the Hemi engine, its calibration is unique to the Power Wagon in that it enhances off-road control when driving in 4WD-Low mode. According to Ram, the throttle response softens and idle speed increases by 100 rpm to provide added control when ascending and descending obstacles at slow speeds. The engine also has cylinder deactivation that shuts down four cylinders to conserve fuel during highway cruise speeds.

With 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires and the suspension lift, the Power Wagon has a 14.5-inch ground clearance compared to 12 inches on a normal 2500 HD truck. Ram boosted the truck's approach angle to 34 degrees, increased the departure angle to 23.5 degrees and enhanced break-over to 25.5 degrees for negotiating severe inclines and declines. Plus, the Power Wagon has the ability to ford 30 inches of water.

To make this pickup even better for the hunter, add the optional and lockable RamBox with its long-gun holders and room for ammo and other small items, then include a rearview camera to make hitching a trailer easier (a trailer brake controller is standard) and a GPS nav system for finding your way out of the wilderness (part of the UConnect media/audio system). For short-statured hunters like me, a pair of aftermarket aluminum alloy cab steps would make the 29-inch step-in a lot easier.

The Ram also has one of the best cargo bed extenders. It's made of heavy-duty molded plastic and can be positioned at one of 15 indented notches on the bed sides. It conveniently folds and slides together when not used as an extender, then doubles as a multi-positional cargo holder. For stowing gear inside the Crew Cab, the 60/40 rear seats (which easily hold three hunters) fold up against the bulkhead for spacious and protected storage on a flat floor space.

Other amenities such as cushy heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, power folding/heated outside mirrors, a sliding rear window and an 8.4-inch display with Wi-Fi capability make for home-away-from-home driving comfort.

For a 3/4-ton truck with heavy-duty underpinnings, the Power Wagon rides smoothly on highways and even smoother with a payload. The only negative: The large, deep-lugged tires produce a noticeable hum on highways. Of course there's no want for power, and with a 4.10 rear axle, acceleration from a standing stop has been tested at a relatively quick (at least for an HD truck) 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds. Three-quarter-ton and heavier trucks are not mileage-rated; my test truck ran around 11 mpg during mostly in-town driving.

Loaded with a long list of amenities, including power door locks that also lock the tailgate and RamBox, the Power Wagon prices out at $55,455 with delivery after a base of $49,145. The truck earned government safety ratings of four stars for overall vehicle safety, four for frontal crash (driver and passenger), five for side crash (front and rear seat) and three for rollover (obvious demerits due to its high stance). Added to this are a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, 3/36K basic warranty and 5/100K roadside assistance.

The only other item I'd add to this handsomely outfitted truck is a winch in the bed to pull a deer, bear or antelope into the 40-inch-high cargo bed. Otherwise, the Power Wagon is the ultimate hunting companion.

Technical Specifications:

  • Powertrain: 6.4L Hemi V-8 w/410 hp, 429 lb.-ft. torque; 6-speed automatic transmission; 2-speed transfer case w/2.64:1 low range; front/rear electronic locking differentials; solid axles, 4:10 rear
  • Suspension: front Ram Articulink w/electronically detachable anti-roll bars; rear 5-link coil; 2" lift
  • Brakes: 4-wheel anti-lock discs; trailer brake control
  • Dimensions/Capacities: overall length 237.3"; wheelbase 149.3"; width 79.1"; height 81"; ground clearance 14.5"; step-in 29"; GCWR 18,500 lbs.; GVWR 8,510 lbs.; curb weight 6,700 lbs.; payload up to 1,490 lbs.; towing up to 10,810 lbs.
  • Price as Tested: $55,455 (base $49,145; delivery $1,195) 

Optional Packages

  • UConnect: 8.4-inch touch-screen display; SXM satellite radio w/1-year traffic alert and 1-year subscription; premium navigation; media hubs; 1-year trial period ($1,005)
    • ParkSense rear-park assist system ($250)
    • ParkView rear backup camera ($200)
    • RamBox ($1,295) •  Spray-in bedliner ($475)
    • Cloth 40/20/40 front seat, 60/40 back seat ($900)
  • Luxury Group: automatic-dimming exterior passenger mirror; auto-dimming exterior mirrors; 7-inch multi-view cluster; leather-wrapped steering wheel; overhead console w/garage door opener; power folding/heated mirrors; steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; visors w/illuminated mirrors ($595)

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