2017 Ram Power Wagon first drive review: Irrational but appealing Page 2


The cabin looks lovely, but I encountered a major functional problem. The lack of a telescopic steering wheel ruins the seating position for longer-legged drivers. I'm 6-foot-one with most of my height in my legs. Because the wheel doesn't telescope, I had to sit so close that my legs were curled up beneath the steering column. The optional power-adjustable pedals could solve the problem, but my tester didn't have them. Without the adjustments, the hard brake pedal's high resting point kept my right ankle supinating for an uncomfortably long time. It hurt to the point that I selected neutral and locked in the parking brake whenever possible, just to give my sore foot a rest. Taller folks: Do yourself a favor, and spend the $145 on the optional power-adjustable pedals.

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

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Complaints aside, the Power Wagon's seats are comfortable and supportive, so at least I didn't have to deal with back pain. Space in the back of the Crew Cab body is more than adequate for adults on long trips.

Robust mechanicals

Ram applied a good bit of excess to the Power Wagon's mechanicals. Fitting for its off-road role, engineers tweaked the standard three-link front suspension and christened it “Articulink,” which sounds like the name of a Pokemon. The addition of some unique pieces, notably Bilstein shocks and an electronic sway-bar disconnect feature, gives the front suspension up to 26 inches of travel, providing some truly ridiculous levels of articulation. The five-link, coil spring rear suspension, meanwhile, also benefits from Bilsteins.

To further bolster off-road performance, Ram pairs a standard 6-speed automatic transmission that's nothing to write home about with a 2-speed Borg Warner transfer case. And unlike the namby-pamby push-button systems common on modern off-roaders, the Power Wagon uses a separate mechanical shift lever that serves up an old-fashioned mechanical clunk with the selection of low range (and encourages a few hairs to sprout on the driver's chest).

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Above the transfer-case shifter is the dial control for the electronically locking front and rear differentials--full left to unlock, middle to lock the rear, and full right to lock up both axles--while a simple pair of buttons disconnects the sway bars. I salute Ram's layout, because getting set for off-road fun was so simple. A straight line can be drawn from the column-mounted shifter to the differential/sway-bar disconnect controls to the floor-mounted transfer-case lever. All the actions feet natural and logical. That's more than can be said for some of today's off-road systems, which often rely on knobs and myriad anonymous buttons.

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

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2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Enlarge Photo
2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Enlarge Photo

With all this brawn, it’s only fitting that Ram selected the biggest Hemi V-8 in the Ram stable, the 6.4-liter producing 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. Even with 3.5 tons of off-roader to move, the performance feels perfectly adequate. It is able to keep the truck rolling on the trails, serves up enough pace on the freeway to execute passes and merge with traffic on the freeway, and delivers the grunt to tow 10,030 pounds. It sounds lovely too, with just a hint of the Hemi engine's muscle-car heritage higher in the rev range. Despite the awkward seating position, it's easy to maintain steady, consistent pressure on the gas pedal to prod the truck along confidently on tricky trails.

Trail boss

Getting to the Logandale Trails System outside Las Vegas, where I took the Power Wagon into the dirt, required a boring interstate grind, followed by a relaxing run through Lake Mead National Recreational Area. Despite its size--remember, 20 feet long and more than 6.5 feet wide--my Bright Silver Metallic and Brilliant Black tester handled the pavement well. I could easily tell where the Power Wagon's corners were, and the commanding ride height, sizable side-view mirrors, and low beltline meant visibility was good enough that the lack of blind-spot monitoring (or active safety systems of any kind, for that matter) was only a small annoyance.


 
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