2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon First Drive
King of the Hill: Ram Power Wagon Loads Up for the Long Climb to the Top
Nowadays, heritage rarely means much more than something really old. But being first does not necessarily make something the best.
The 2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon arrives all-new but also has heritage stretching back to 1946, when the first 4x4 Power Wagon arrived as a Dodge. Through the years, Dodge was replaced with Ram but the Power Wagon remained as an off-roading tour de force with its only hang-up being its long wheelbase, which can lead to, well, hangups on big rocks. (The name was discontinued in the '80s, as lots of trucks offered four-wheel drive, but it was brought back in 2005.)
Its ability to park on a rock with just its skidplate might have discouraged some from considering the Power Wagon over a Jeep for pure off-road experiences, but there's no denying that the Power Wagon remains a great all-around truck ready for work or play in just about any location. It's just as comfortable cruising the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu as it is charging through Hell's Revenge in Moab, Utah.
For the 2014 model year, the Power Wagon arrives with a long list of improvements that should help it continue its reign as king of the hill among pickups. That includes a new V-8, an enhanced suspension, and a Warn winch capable of pulling two Toyota Tundras out of a ditch at the same time.
During a recent Power Wagon test on the sharp rocks of Sedona, Arizona, the pickup never stumbled traversing some seriously steep climbs, It bounded over boulders with relative ease. Lifted more than two inches higher than regular trucks, the Power Wagon offers 14.5 inches of clearance, an approach angle of 34 degrees, a departure angle of 23.5 degrees, and a breakover angle of 25.5 degrees. It can ford 30 inches of water, though every stream we happened across in Sedona only offered dust.
Additionally, Ram adds new 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires that offer excellent grip off-road and relatively little road noise on the highway. In fact, I found its highway ride especially smooth and quiet in the 100-mile trek from Phoenix to Sedona. Perhaps the most difficult adjustment you have to make is learning the best way to enter and exit the vehicle because of the lack of running boards. Your first thought is to grab the steering wheel to help lift yourself into the vehicle, but it's probably wiser to use the grab handle on the A pillar instead.
Power to the peopleThe heart of the Power Wagon is a 6.4L Hemi V-8 that produces 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. It's the biggest gas engine Ram offers and seems to be a solid match for the Power Wagon.
This Hemi includes cylinder deactivation when less power is needed – it then operates on only four -- though don't expect great gas mileage with this brute. Tipping the scales at 6700 pounds, the Power Wagon does not sip fuel, and if the electronic fuel consumption meter is any judge, I managed 8 mpg during my rock crawling adventure, which included a lot of idle time.
Ram considered including the eight-speed automatic transmission to the Power Wagon but it was not robust enough to handle all of the power, so instead it has the stronger six-speed automatic that is well-calibrated for both on- and off-road driving.
Name that tuningEngineers use different suspension formulas to create a good on-road machine versus an off-road one. Off-roading requires a looser suspension to allow better wheel articulation, whereas hard-road driving needs a stiffer suspension to control the body better at higher speeds.
Those differences have always meant that one area would have to sacrifice performance in order for the other to thrive. Ram engineers think they might have found a solution to this problem by creating a new three-link front suspension system that includes high movement joints at the control-arm-to-axle mounts. This means the wheels can articulate more when needed and the joint can remain stiff when needed. Ram also includes an anti-roll bar disconnect that can be activated in four-wheel drive as long as speeds stay below 18 mph.
The five-link coil rear suspension includes slightly looser springs to help with off-roading. This does mean that towing is limited to 10,810 pounds, though other factors such as wheel type also play a role in lowering the Power Wagon's towing ability.
You can easily switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive or four-wheel drive low by pulling of a floor lever. You can also electronically lock the front and rear differentials for maximum four-wheel capability. In many cases, when I would try to clear an obstacle, four-wheel high was more than enough. But if I switched to four-wheel low I could use a steady throttle to easily cross every boulder in front of me.
Ram also includes a front-axle disconnect when in two-wheel drive that eliminates any spinning of the front parts and reduces parasitic loses. Ram estimates that this can increase gas mileage by 1 mpg.
Looking the partThere's something special in the way the Power Wagon looks. It's beefy and rugged and -- once you're inside -- surprisingly luxurious.
The exterior is based on three different model types: the Tradesman, the SLT, and the high-end Laramie. All of them include a front bumper slit that shows the hook and steel cable to the Warn electric winch that can pull 12,000 pounds. Just once, I would like to see the Power Wagon strap the winch to a steel girder and then lift itself into the air.
The base model, the Tradesman, arrives with a monotone paint with black trim. The SLT incorporates a different crosshair grille and two-tone paint schemes. There's also a graphic added to the side, though I think that provides too much detail. I'd delete that option. The Laramie uses the bright chrome grille and a Power Wagon chrome badge across the tailgate of the pickup. This looks serves the truck best and includes bi-functional halogen headlamps.
Inside the Power Wagon, my biggest gripe is the lack of a handle on the roof for the passenger. The reason Ram engineers used the A pillar instead of the roof was because the side curtain airbags mounted in the roof made it too difficult to add the handle. The A-pillar handle is nice for entering into the Ram but not useful to hold onto when your body starts to rock side to side while traversing big bumps.
All of the other luxury features that come in regular Rams can be found in these powerful wagons. From the 8.4-inch display screen to the cooled seats in the Laramie, there are lots of high-tech and welcome features. The screen also shows the view from the backup camera as well as the bed camera. The smaller display screen in the middle of the instrument cluster is very useful and has many different screen options to monitor everything from tire pressure and radio station to fuel economy and navigation commands.
Through and through, the Ram Power Wagon remains a fun pickup that will find its way into fleets that need off-roading abilities (think Border Patrol) to regular folk who just want to have a truck that can do just about anything. (Think annoying neighbor who likes to rev stuff in his garage all day.)
Through the years, the Power Wagon has proven its worth day in and day out. It's not so much about heritage as it is outright toughness. This pickup is one of the toughest around.
|2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5 or 6-pass, 4-door truck|
|ENGINE||6.4L/410-hp/429-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||6700 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||237.3 x 79.1 x 81.0 in|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||June 2014|