2017 Ram Power Wagon first drive review: Irrational but appealing Page 3


While Rams boast among the most comfortable rides on the pickup market, the Power Wagon's tall off-road suspension isn’t as nice as that of the super-cushy Ford F-150 Raptor. The Ram is bouncier and responds more suddenly to imperfections. And unlike the Raptor, which does a fine job of hiding its body-on-frame construction, the Power Wagon's architecture is far more apparent, with road jolts sending shocks clearly through the truck's muscular body.

Unfortunately, nearly every truck that our group took to Logandale's dusty, shrub-lined trails finished the day with long scratches down that brutish body. While I'll acknowledge that some of these wounds were the fault of ham-fisted auto writers--perhaps even yours truly--the reality is that placing the big, wide Power Wagon on a narrow path is much more difficult than navigating the I-15 out of Las Vegas.

While the width was obviously an issue, the Power Wagon's length regularly interfered, preventing my codriver and me from negotiating even modest turns without hitting desert shrubs, on the higher-speed, sandy washes that occupied the first half of my day off-road. The problem was relatively easy to solve: just modify the line through the bend and cut speed. But the reality is that I wouldn't even need to think about the best way to negotiate these turns in a smaller off-roader.

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Aside from the large turning radius, the Ram handled the sandy sections without drama. But it was on the rockier sections of trail where this big truck came into its own. See, while the Power Wagon might look for all intents and purposes like a competitor for the Ford F-150 Raptor, these two trucks are at completely opposite ends of the performance truck spectrum. The half-ton Raptor is essentially a road-going Baja race truck, with the high-performance, twin-turbocharged engine and super-soft suspension to match. It's best to think of the Power Wagon as a three-quarter-ton Jeep Wrangler with a big bed, roomy cabin, a Warn winch that can pull 12,000 pounds of whatever, and the ability to conquer the rockiest surfaces around.

Engage low range, lock the front and rear differentials, and disconnect the sway bars, and the Power Wagon's size is essentially the only obstacle it can't overcome. One section of trail forced my Power Wagon to climb a steep set of rocky steps before making an extremely tight left turn, climb more rocks, and then cross a ridge onto the next obstacle. It handled the steps well, but the overall length made the turns difficult to manage even with professional spotters. I would never even had had to bother with a three-point turn in a Wrangler.

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

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The final challenge of the day was a zig-zagging climb up a rocky hill that brought all the Power Wagon's elements together while letting me ignore the truck's size. The flexy front suspension's 26 inches of articulation and 14.3 inches of ground clearance let it bound along the rocks like, um, a ram, while the 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires shined, offering sure-footed performance on the dusty path. Off-road and free from claustrophobic situations, the Power Wagon does nothing but inspire confidence.

Irrational but appealing

At the same time, it inspires doubt. Doubt about why this truck even exists. Everything I did in the Ram, I could have done more easily, more confidently, and, possibly, more enjoyably in a Wrangler. Likewise, if you want a truck that looks as brutishly badass as this, Ram sells one in the cheaper, more manageable package of the 1500 Rebel. And while I didn't spend time towing, it's hard to look at the Power Wagon's 10,030-pound tow rating when similarly priced 2500s can pull thousands of pounds more.

This truck is not a rational purchase. It doesn't make sense, because it's not supposed to. It's just supposed to be excessive, and lately, that seems to be what FCA deals in. In many ways, then, the Power Wagon is like the Hellcat line. It's a delightful bit of automotive lunacy that doesn't impinge on your everyday life. It's a 7,000-pound, Hemi-powered escape pod. If you can acknowledge that, then the unnecessary Ram Power Wagon might be all the truck you need.

Ram provided travel and lodging to Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.


 
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