Testing such a vehicle, then, required leaving Southern California in the rearview mirror and trekking north to the muddy forest service roads of the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains separating California from Nevada. The persistent question on the 1,300-mile roundtrip: Can a truck that'll take you to Reno the hard way also get you there with relative ease?

The key word here is "relative." The Power Wagon is a trucker's truck. No coil springs or unibody niceties here; this is a purpose-built vehicle. Still, the Hemi V-8 is plenty eager, the brakes have no trouble with the heft, and the ride is rarely punishing, save for the worst of surfaces. Yes, it takes up the whole lane on the freeway, and parking anywhere near civilization can be an adventure, but for all its off-road prowess, it's no less livable day-to-day than a standard Ram Heavy Duty.

But the question you really want answered is whether or not that $6,350 Power Wagon package is worth the coin, and the answer is yes. Simple math demonstrates you'd be hard-pressed to upgrade a standard Ram Heavy Duty with all the parts in this package for the price, and they won't come with a five-year/100,000-mile warranty.

The package's worthiness is borne out on the trail, where the Power Wagon happily crawled its way over any rut or rock we found and handled mud and snow with ease. For better or for worse, we were never left in a situation where we had to test the winch, but venture far off the fire roads and you may find yourself in such a position. Attempting to balance fuel economy and on-road manners with off-road capability, Ram worked out a middle ground with the 32-in. tires that don't roar on the pavement but don't offer absolute grip off-road, either. Test their limits, and you'll find the rears will be the first to let go, but it isn't hard to push the fronts around on the soft stuff, either.

Don't think that less-aggressive tires are going to make trips to the gas pump much less painful, though. Over the entire trip, the Power Wagon returned a respectable 13.5 mpg, reaching a high of nearly 15 mpg on the highway. Even off-road, economy only dropped just below 12 mpg and we didn't spend much time running to the pump thanks to the massive 34-gallon tank.