Ram Power Wagon: Conquers off-road via beefy frame

Staff reports
Farm Forum

The Ram Power Wagon maintains the spirit of its military-inspired origins, which entered the civilian market shortly after the end of World War II. Like the original, the 2015 model possesses a tough frame and suspension, top-notch off-road capability, and macho design.

Ram’s Power Wagon is based on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty 4×4 Crew Cab with 6-foot-4-inch cargo box, and is available in three trim levels. We drove the Power Wagon in the mid-line SLT trim, with a starting price of $49,445. An entry-level Power Wagon Tradesman and uplevel Power Wagon Laramie are also available, base priced at $44,995 and $55,770, respectively. All models have a $1,195 destination charge.

Keeping with the Power Wagon tradition of being a rugged, go-anywhere truck, this pickup features a beefed-up frame and improved suspension system. The high-strength steel frame is reinforced with eight cross-members, hydroformed main rails and fully boxed rear rails. Noise, vibration, and harshness levels have been reduced, and ride and handling is improved over standard Ram 2500 models.

Teaming with the upgraded frame is a more-capable suspension system, with Bilstein shocks, robust coil spring rates, and control arms that are tailored to the Power Wagon. Roll stiffness is increased with a three-link front suspension, and ride and handling get a boost with a five-link coil rear suspension that promises better articulation over obstacles than a conventional leaf-spring system. Axle articulation is enhanced with Ram Articulink, which features high-movement joints at the control-arm-to-axle mount.

The suspension gets more than 2 inches of lift, which combines with 33-inch tires to give the Power Wagon a 14.5-inch ground clearance. Step-up height to the cabin is about 27 inches, making running boards a wise option. Under-body protection is provided by fuel-tank and transfer-case skid plates.

Adding suspension flexibility in demanding off-road situations is a Smart Bar — an electronic sway bar that can be disconnected via a touch of a dash-mounted button. The Smart Bar can be disengaged in four-wheel-drive High or Low, enabling the front axle to move more independently of the truck’s frame. It automatically re-engages at speeds above 18 mph.

Typical of early Power Wagons, 2015 models are fitted with a Warn 12,000-pound electric winch mounted behind the front bumper.

Providing the grunt to help the Power Wagon through challenging off-road and work conditions is a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine. It propels the truck with 410 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 429 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, our test vehicle swaggers with a towing capacity of 10,810 pounds and a payload max of 1,490 pounds.

Calibration of the Power Wagon’s engine is set to optimize control in off-road conditions. Driving in four-wheel-drive Low prompts idle speed to increase by 100 rpm and throttle response to soften. New for 2015, the Power Wagon benefits from hill-descent control, which allows a more-controlled downhill ride in rugged terrain without using the brake pedal.

Fitting for a truck capable of conquering rugged off-road trails, the Power Wagon looks the part. All Rams feature dropped fenders, tall hoods, and enormous cross-hair-design grilles inspired by the original Power Wagon, though the new Power Wagon ups the ante with extra doses of style and macho. The front and rear bumpers are chrome, with the winch-cable hook — secured to one of two tow hooks — exposed in the front-bumper center slot.

Standard on all models are forged polished-aluminum wheels with five wide spokes, exposed lug nuts, and a center cap stamped with the Ram logo. Wrapping the wheels are LT285/70R-17 Goodyear Wrangler tires.

SLT-trimmed models boast the boldest design cues. Except for those with black exteriors, bodies are painted with a two-tone scheme featuring a black lower band complemented by black wheel flares, door handles, and mirrors. The test truck wears optional $180 trailer-tow mirrors with puddle and signal lamps. It’s also fitted with a $1,295 RamBox Cargo Management System with dual lockable bed-side storage compartments.

Graphics are in-your-face bold with a tri-color carbide-blade design splashed across the bed sides and a portion of the rear doors. Huge “POWER WAGON” decals run across the lower portion of each door and the tailgate. (For those who appreciate a more subtle appearance, graphics can be deleted at no cost.) Power Wagons of certain colors also feature cool-looking red billets in each of the grille’s four quadrants.

The six-passenger Crew cab features generous headroom and legroom for those sitting both up front and in the rear. The front seat is a 40/20/40-split bench with a 10-way-power-adjustable driver seat. The rear seat is a 60/40-split folding bench with in-floor storage bins. An extra helping of luxury comes with the tester’s $395 Comfort Group package, which includes heated front seats, and leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel with audio controls.

A UConnect media hub with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, and 5-inch touchscreen is standard, and our test truck boasts a $1,005 upgrade featuring an optional UConnect system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, navigation, UConnect Access, and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link.

Ram’s Power Wagon fits the demands of weekend-warrior consumers — performing double duty as a comfortable, civilized passenger hauler and a hardcore off-road machine.