Although it may seem like the Ram (formerly Dodge) truck division of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Corporation has been serious about competing against the likes of Chevy and Ford pickups in recent years, the brand’s off-roading heritage goes back to the waning days of WWII and a purpose-built ¾-ton military truck known as Power Wagon.
Fast forward to model year 2015, and Ram brings Power Wagon to the masses once again delivering a surprisingly smooth and quiet rig that offers so much capability. Just one look at the modern day warrior and it is easy to see Ram delivers a truck worthy of the lineage and one that can do its ancestors proud.
True to its heritage, Power Wagon is still based on the ¾-ton platform from Ram (known these days as 2500 Heavy Duty) and this beast is truly ready for duty. Sitting still or rolling across paved and unpaved terra firma, Power Wagon is sturdy, stout, powerful and rolls with such a commanding presence (thanks in part to its eye-catching graphics package) most can not help but just sit and stare.
The base powertrain for the new truck is Ram’s beefy 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 that, in this application, delivers 410hp and 429 lb. ft. of torque, down quite a bit from automotive applications of this same engine. Ram explains the drop in power to unique engine calibration in the Power Wagon package for enhanced off-road maneuverability and finesse, especially at lower engine speeds and in 4WD Low. Additional features unique to the Power Wagon 6.4-liter HEMI are high-volume oil cooler, oil jets for piston cooling and aircraft grade gaskets and fasteners for improved durability at high temperatures.
The big V-8 is mated to a heavy-duty six-speed automatic transmission connected to a part-time, manual-engagement Borg Warner transfer case. Power is then sent to the 33-inch tire/wheel combination via front and rear American Axle Manufacturing heavy-duty axles that feature electronic locking differentials and the front axle includes a segment-exclusive disconnect system for improved overall efficiency in on-road conditions.
My first time behind the wheel of the new Power Wagon I could not believe just how smooth and quiet this truck was. I could carry on a conversation with passengers inside the truck at highway speeds without shouting over any wind, road or tire noise. This is all due to a new suspension system from Ram designed specifically for the Power Wagon and includes new Bilstein shocks, control arms, spring rates and more than two inches of lift and the new advanced three-link front suspension was designed to ensure greater roll stiffness for improved control.
For all 2014 model 2500 Heavy Duty pickups, Ram took a chapter from the Ram 1500 and changed out the rear suspension designs from traditional leaf spring in favor of a new five-link coil suspension for improved ride and handling, and what a difference it has made.
Power Wagon is offered on three trim levels: Tradesman, SLT and Laramie. Our recent tester was the SLT version and to be perfectly honest this is exactly how I would have configured the vehicle were I purchasing it myself. For a truck that is so capable the cloth interior package has to be the preferred choice as occupants will be tracking who-knows-what in and out of the vehicle during the course of a single adventure, let alone its entire career.
The Power Wagon is a serious off-roader and that point is made right up front with the inclusion of a factory electric winch in the front bumper along with a host of skid plates to protect key vehicle components and my spouse really enjoyed those big tube step rails in her new boots.
Ram does not miss a trick in the new Power Wagon as it loads the truck to the gills with all of the latest infotainment and driver convenience features it can muster including automatic locking/unlocking tailgate and RamBox doors with the keyfob, heated steering wheel, remote start system, ParkSense rear park assist system and ParkView rear back up camera and the Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen display with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, GPS navigation, media hub and rocking premium audio system.
Pricing for the 2015 Ram 2500 Power Wagon SLT begins at $49,445 with this tester arriving with a final sticker of $56,280. Being a heavy-duty vehicle, the EPA still does not require fuel economy ratings (shame on you EPA), but expect mileage estimates to be in the “not very good” range.
When Johnny came marching home some 70 years ago, Dodge answered their request for a truck as capable as the ones they drove in combat and the civilian Power Wagon heritage was born. The 2015 truck is capable, quiet, comfortable and a blast to drive without being overbearing or cumbersome. Ram gets it right with the new Power Wagon, no doubt about it.