Making Tracks: 2017 Ram Power Wagon

posted on July 18, 2017

Ram calls its 2017 4WD Crew Cab Power Wagon “the most capable off-road pickup” on the market. While you may think this is hyperbole, it’s not. Whether it’s a hunting cabin, campsite or land completely off the grid, the Power Wagon will likely get you there. Rocks, ruts, brush, limbs or streams—it doesn’t matter as the truck sports 14.3 inches of ground clearance. It can even ford 30 inches of water.

What makes this all-terrain three-quarter ton pickup—which earned fame from 1945-1980—so sure-footed? Several suspension enhancements, burly tires and a proven, manually engaged 4WD system with traditional 2H, 4H and 4L gearing.

For starters, Ram engineers gave the suspension a 2-inch lift over the standard 2500 Ram HD pickup from which it is derived. Then they equipped it with an articulating three-link front and five-link rear live axle suspension that includes high-performance Bilstein mono-tube shocks. More importantly, an electronically disconnecting front stabilizer sway bar was added. It can be disconnected at speeds up to 18 mph at the touch of a button; this allows the wheels to move up and down independently from one another and allows the axle to more freely articulate when traversing rocks, ruts and other off-road obstacles. When the driver-engaged electronic system disconnects the left side of the sway bar from the right, it enables up to 26 inches of front wheel articulation.

Then comes the other major off-road feature: By turning a rotary dial on the dash, the front and rear differentials can be locked for the moments when serious rock crawling or trekking in deep snow and sticky mud is needed. Combine this with the sway bar disconnect, and the Power Wagon is one agile and nimble pickup.

Along with these two features, Power Wagon has an approach angle of 33.6 degrees, a departure angle of 26.2 degrees and a break-over angle of 23.5 degrees. This enables slipping over a 70 percent slope (the reason the truck doesn’t come with side steps or step bars). Power Wagon’s high 28-inch step-in to the cabin requires riders to make use of the assist handles over all four doors. If you should get stuck, Power Wagon comes with a 12,000 pound Warn winch that is spooled with 90 feet of cable. The setup is embedded within the front bumper, and comes with a cable/controller for remote operation.

To move this 6,996-pound truck, Power Wagon is powered by a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 generating 410 hp and 429 lb.-ft. of torque. (Other engine options include a 5.7-liter Hemi gas V8 with variable valve timing that produces 383 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, and a 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel I6 with 370 hp and 800 lb.-ft. of torque.) It routs this grunt to the wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed manual is available only with the diesel engine). Even with cylinder deactivation, fuel economy is far from good. And since it’s a three-quarter ton truck, mpg ratings are not posted or required. So endowed, Power Wagon has a payload capacity of 1,510 pounds and a tow capacity of 10,030 (the normal Ram 2500 is rated at 16,350 pounds). If you are going to tow, the truck comes with Tow/Haul mode, which locks out overdrive on the trans, disables cylinder deactivation and changes the shift pattern that holds the trans gears longer. You will, however, need a goose-neck trailer hitch to compensate for the truck’s high stance.

Highway ride quality with huge Goodyear Wrangler 33-inch tires and the coil spring rear suspension is truck-like, but softens when carrying a heavy load. With the deep-lugged, all-terrain tires, there is noticeable tire hum. But the ride is tempered by heavily cushioned seats fore and aft. Front bucket seats form a bench seat of sorts when flipping the large center console upward. A third person could sit there, but there’s virtually no leg room.

The back seats split 60/40 and fold up against the bulkhead. Underneath them are a pair of sturdy fold-out, carpet-clad steel trays that form a flat load floor for gear or a hunting dog. The cab floor is devoid of carpeting, but uses heavy-duty, easy-to-clean rubber-type matting.

Power Wagon’s cockpit is sedan-like with a 7-inch driver information display and 8.4-inch touchscreen displaying navigation, audio, rearview camera view, optional cargo box camera view, satellite radio, UConnect infotainment system, wi-fi hotspot connect and much more.

Back in the 6-foot 4-inch cargo bed, optional and lockable Rambox storage boxes come in handy to stow guns and gear. Included is a lightweight cargo bed divider/extender that uses pressure on the side walls to hold it in place. With the truck’s tall stance, load height is a 39.5-inch lift.

Starting at a base price of $51,695, the bottom line after a long list of options (see sidebar) escalated to $62,905 with delivery. To its credit, Power Wagon received a four-star (out of five) overall vehicle score in government safety tests. Plus, four stars each were awarded for driver/passenger frontal crash; five stars for front/rear seat side crash; and three stars for rollover.

This Ram is not for every sportsman. But if you need off-road prowess, there is as yet no other full-size pickup as capable on the market.

Technical Specifications:

Drivetrain: 6.4-liter Hemi gasoline V8 w/ 410 hp, 429 lb.-ft. torque; 6-speed automatic transmission; 4WD w/manual shifter; 4:10 rear axle ratio; front, rear locking differentials
Suspension: articulating three-link front, five-link rear live axle w/Bilstein mono-tube shocks; electronically disconnecting front stabilizer sway bar
Brakes: 4-wheel anti-lock disc
Dimensions/Capacities: overall length 237.3"; wheelbase 148.9"; width 79.1"; height 81"; curb weight 6,996 lbs.; payload 1,510 lbs.; tow cap. 10,030 lbs.; GVWR 8,510 lbs.; GCWR 17,500 lbs.; ground clearance 14.3”; fuel cap. 34 gals.
Price as Tested: $62,905


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