The Power Wagon is back. Maybe not with all the glorious and heroic fanfare it deserves, but the name is back nonetheless. Continuing the ever-expanding line of Ram variations, the newest member is a rough-and-tumble, hard-core 4x4 vehicle, now called the Power Wagon. Offered only in a 140.5-inch wheelbase length that includes Quad Cab (shortbed) and Regular Cab (longbed) configurations, this new truck is based on a 3/4-ton platform. To date, the only engine for the Power Wagon is the Hemi, mated to DaimlerChrysler's popular five-speed automatic transmission. Dodge's stout six-speed manual trans will be available in January 2005, previously only offered as the standard transmission for the Cummins turbodiesel.

From a parts-and-pieces standpoint, it's an understatement to call this particular factory setup simply "heavy duty." They could've just as easily called it the Christmas Edition Ram: It has just about everything a truck guy could put on his wish list. To begin, the differentials run 4.56:1 gears--an exclusive ratio offered only for the Power Wagon--excellent for strong pulling power as well as for creeping at slower speeds, and the axle shafts have been beefed up as well. Inside, front and rear heavy-duty axles are electronically controlled, manually selectable locking differentials. Operated from a switch on the dash, the rear diff lock can act like a limited-slip when not engaged (for everyday driving/towing), while the front diff lock remains completely open when not in use. The suspension system remains similar to previous 4x4 models; however, unique springs give the Power Wagon two inches of lift and a more supple on- and off-road ride due to softer spring rates. Longer, larger, and more sophisticated high-pressure Bilstein monotube shocks are a solid upgrade over the general-purpose twin-tube shocks they replace. At the wheels, all Power Wagon Rams use 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires. In addition, Dodge has included a specially designed integrated brace mount behind the front bumper (and tied to both framerails) to support a Warn 12,000-pound-rated winch.

However, our favorite piece of technology in this package acts as a coupler between a divided front anti-roll bar. The "Smart Bar" is an electronically controlled (by a switch next to the locking differential toggle on the dash) decoupler that allows the front stabilizer bar, designed to restrict axle travel, to completely relax when engaged. When engaged, the high-tech stabilizer bar will "relax" at speeds below 15 mph in either 4WD high-range or 4WD low-range and will automatically re-engage (tighten up) when speeds exceed 20 mph. During our excursion through the slick-rock trails around Moab, Utah, we found this particular piece of technology to be stunning. Not only does it allow the front end to be exceptionally forgiving and flexible in extreme terrain, but it invisibly reconnects the anti-roll bar when speeds pick up on flatter ground. And depending on how long you keep up the higher speeds, the system will automatically disengage again when you slow down to maneuver the rig up an off-camber, twist-and-flex slope where every inch of tread grip is necessary. The more flex the suspension can give, the more able it will be to keep its tires on a tractive surface--and not get stuck.

Although we're impressed with our host's wilderness demonstrations, to call the Power Wagon merely an off-road package would be an injustice. This model does have extra underbody skidplate protection and plenty of ground clearance, but it also has a higher-output alternator, extra-capacity cooling for the transmission, a brand-new, extremely heavy-duty forged trailer hitch, a modified clutch fan for moving more air through the engine compartment, and a larger-capacity battery. Clearly, this is more than a nice option package for truck buyers looking for the ultimate full-size rock-crawler.

It's our guess this Power Wagon package may be just what many towing aficionados have been waiting for, whether they're hauling their boat to a lake with a boat ramp that's in bad shape or if getting out of the backcountry during a thunderstorm is a concern. As we mentioned earlier, because the spring rates have been softened, payload and towing numbers are down slightly when compared with standard 2500 4x4 Rams, but not by much. That's a small tradeoff, given the improved ride and handling (not to mention the overall look and prowess) of this multipurpose pickup.

Sure, it's nothing like the Power Wagons of 40 or 50 years ago, or even the Power Wagon Concept shown just a few years ago, but we still think there's plenty here for those who want a strong, serious full-size pickup. Expect pricing to carry a solid premium, probably starting in the low- to mid-$30,000 range. And expect more Power Wagon variations to come.

Dodge Ram Rumble Bee
by Mark Williams
Photo by Thomas Voehringer

As if to prove the Power Wagon won't be the last Dodge Ram to borrow heavily from history, the Rumble Bee Ram package is available now, on sale across the U.S. Using a 5.7-liter Hemi Magnum motor, the lowered two-wheel-drive sport truck has good power and strong road-hugging agility, but none of the monstrous power of the SRT-10. Accents inside and out are well done, and it won't hurt that the package is about $15,000 cheaper than the SRT version. Offered in either Jet Black or Solar Yellow, the Rumble Bee is basically a dressed-down Ram SRT-10 (no V-10) with some nostalgic "Scat Pack" era badges and decals. We like the look with 20-inch wheels, but would probably be quick to do a tire swap. Dodge is trying to keep exclusivity high by limiting production to between 2500 and 5000 units, depending on its popularity.

2005 Dodge Ram Power Wagon
General
Location of final assembly Saltillo, Mexico and St. Louis, Missouri
Body styles Regular Cab and Quad Cab
EPA size class Standard pickup
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4WDv
AirbagsFront
Powertrain
Engine type90o V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.92 x 3.58
Displacement, ci/L 343/5.7
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl
Fuel induction Sequential, MPFI
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 345 @ 5400
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 375 @ 4200
Transmission type 5-45RFE 5-speed automatic (G56 6-speed manual Jan. 2005)
1st 3.00:1
2nd 1.67:1/1.50:1
3rd 1.00:1
4th0.75:1
5th0.67:1
Reverse3.00:1
Axle ratio 4.56:1
Final drive ratio3.06:1
Rpm @ 60 mph2150
Transfer-case modelNVG 271
Low-range ratio2.72:1
Crawl ratio (1st gear x axle gears x low range)37.2:1
Recommended fuelMidgrade unleaded
Dimensions/Capacities Quad Cab
Wheelbase, in 140.5
Length, in 227.7
Width, in 79.8
Height, in 80.6
Track, f/r, in 69.5 / 68.5
Headroom, f/r, in 40.8 / 40.0
Legroom, f/r, in 41.0 / 36.7
Shoulder room, f/r, in 67.0 / 66.7
Total interior volume, cu ft 121.6
Back-row volume, cu ft56.7
Ground clearance, f/r, in 8.4 / 8.3
Approach/departure angle, deg 35/27
Load lift height, in 36.3
Quad Cab bed size LxWxD, in 76.3x70.2x20.2
Regular Cab bed size LxWxD, in 98.3x66.4x20.2
Base curb weight, lb 6280
Max payload capacity, lb 2620
GVWR, lb8510
GCWR, lb17,000
Max towing capacity, lb11,000
Fuel capacity, gal34.0
Chassis
Suspension, f/rLive axle, Quadra Link, coilsprings, Smart Bar/Live axle, leaf springs
Steering type Rack and pinion, power assist
Ratio 13.4:1
Turns, lock to lock 2.75
Turning circle, ft 48.9
Brakes, f/r 13.9-in vented discs/13.9-in vented discs; 4WABS
Wheels 17x8.0-in forged aluminum
Tires 285/75R17 BFG All-Terrain T/A
Fuel economy, city/hwy 15/19
Price
Base price$35,000 (est)
Future Mopar options Rock rails, bedliner, winch kit (snatch, clevis,straps, gloves, chain)
Price as tested$37,500 (est)
  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • View Full Article