Ram Power Wagon - An Exclusive Review

Ram revives an old, well-regarded name for 2017

By Larry Printz | February 11, 2016 @ 12:53 PM

For 2017, the Ram Power Wagon returns as the brand's range-topping off-road pickup. The new model was introduced today at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.

Unique design cues

As you can see, the new pickup is easy to spot, thanks to an aggressive exterior design led by its grille, which mimics the Ram Rebel, but supersizes it to outrageous effect. The grille is accented by projector headlamps with LED marker lights, a vent-accented hood and body graphics inspired by the Dodge Macho Power Wagon of the late 1970s. In addition to powder coated front and rear bumpers, a Warn 12,000-lb. winch sits just behind the bumper, with 125 feet of line and a hook that attaches to one of two massive front tow hooks.

In addition to the expected options such as a tailgate-mounted rear-view camera, there's also a new cargo-view camera, which allows you to monitor bed loads. It's controlled through the Power Wagon's touchscreen, allowing you to cargo change the view from tailgate to truck bed. Finally, a new optional tri-fold tonneau cover, embossed with the Ram logo, is also available.

Inside, you get an upgraded interior, with a black instrument panel, gray trim on the doors and center console, and seat fabric inserts embossed with the truck's Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tire tread. They're available with optional seat heaters and light gray accent stitching.

Yes, it has a Hemi in it

But this truck is more than a fancy trim package.

A 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine is standard and provides 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. In effort to maximize fuel efficiency, cylinder-deactivation is standard. This feature shuts off four cylinders under modest engine loads, such as highway cruising. But the engine also differs in that its calibration is unique to Power Wagon. So, for example, when driving in four-wheel-drive in low gear, throttle response softens and idle speed increases from 650 to 750 rpm to provide added control on extreme slopes.

The engine is mated to six-speed automatic transmission and connects to a part-time, manually engaged Borg Warner transfer case.

Ram rates the Power Wagon for a payload of up to 1,510 pounds and a towing capacity of up to 10,030 pounds. A Class 5 receiver hitch with four- and seven-pin connectors is mounted on the bumper.

But the mods go beyond the engine and transmission. The 2017 Ram Power Wagon's specially designed suspension incorporates Bilstein shocks, modified control arms, spring rates and more than two inches of lift.

Off-road ready

Uniquely, the Ram Power Wagon has an electronic disconnecting sway bar that allows the front axle greater articulation. It disengages in four-wheel-drive high or low below 18 mph. The bar automatically re-engages above 18 mph, increasing roll stiffness, which helps mitigate any chance of rollovers.

Ground clearance is rated at 14.3-inches, compared to 12 inches on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty, and the Power Wagon has 30 inches of water-fording capability. The truck's approach angle is 33.6 degrees, the departure angle is 26.2 degrees and the breakover angle is 23.5 degrees. Best of all, the underbody is clad with armor and skid plates to prevent damage to driveline components.

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A couple more options worth considering

Finally, the new Ram offer the options you'd expect on any pickup, including power folding mirrors, power rear-sliding window with defrost, power locks that secure the RamBox cargo boxes and tailgate locks, spray-in bedliner, LED bedlighting, front and rear park-assist, leather seats with seat heaters, power-adjustable pedals and remote start.

When is it available?

Look for the new Power wagon to go on sale in the fall. Pricing has not been announced. It is backed with a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain limited warranty.

A brief history of the Power Wagon

The Power Wagon is one of FCA's oldest nameplates, dating to 1946.

During World War II, Dodge built one-ton 4x4 trucks for military use after the automaker had landed the Army contract in 1940. Dubbed the T202. They looked like a civilian truck, and used many of Dodge's commercial half-ton truck components, including a 116-inch wheelbase, and 79-horsepower 3.3-liter L-head six-cylinder engine borrowed from Dodge's civilian half-ton trucks. Dodge upgraded the truck and by war's end, the company had produced the T207, T211 and T215. Engine size increased to 3.8 liters and power rose to 92 horsepower.

When hostilities ended, Dodge adopted the truck for civilian use as the Power Wagon, which isn't surprising since the truck used so many civilian truck components. While the Willys Jeep gets all of the glory, the Power Wagon was only other factory-built 4x4 available to consumers in 1946. In fact, the sales brochure stated that the Power Wagon was "the Army truck the boys wrote home about ... now redesigned for peacetime use."

The truck debuted as the model WDX, and was similar to the 3⁄4-ton military weapons carrier, with a 126-inch wheelbase and a closed cab. Buyers could choose a pickup, a chassis cab, chassis with windshield cowl, and chassis with flat-face cowl. The cargo box measured 96 inches long and 54 inches wide.

The original Power Wagon featured the military vehicle' 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine, two-speed transfer case, and four-speed manual transmission. Maximum payload was 3,000 pounds.

To make the truck more desirable to civilians, the WDX featured electric wipers, a driver's-side sun visor and armrest, a dome light, heater and a 10,000-pound winch.

As the years progressed, the model's name changed, but it was offered only as a one-ton truck through 1968. While the looks carried over mostly unchanged, the Power Wagon did receive a new, larger engine, power steering, power brakes, and a synchronized manual transmission.

From 1968 through 1978, the vehicle was exported through the Military Defense Assistance Program, a U.S. government plan that assisted friendly foreign governments.

There was also a second, altogether different, series of Power Wagons.

In 1957, Dodge introduced a different line of four-wheel-drive trucks under the Power Wagons banner. Models were known as the W100, W200, W300 and W500. These conventionally designed light-duty trucks survived through 1980, with changes limited to body styling and engine upgrades.

With the introduction of the 1981 Dodge Ram, four-wheel-drive models were designated Power Rams; that name survived through 1993. The Power Wagon nameplate was reintroduced in 2005; Ram became a stand-alone division in 2009.

Larry Printz is Editor-In-Chief, Automotive at Dealer.com. He can be reached at larry.printz@dealer.com. Learn more about Larry at LarryPrintz.com

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