2017 Ram Power Wagon first drive review: Irrational but appealing

Las Vegas – If it were a teenager, it'd do things just “for the lulz.” Fiat Chrysler is starting to take that approach, and it's making this Italian-American brand one of the most absurd automakers on the market. CAFE standards? Start stuffing a supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 into everything. Financial struggles? Pour money into a single-seat, street-legal drag special. And while the market is clamoring for crossovers, FCA is updating the Ram Power Wagon, a truck so ridiculous that no rational person would buy one. But plenty of lunatics will love it.

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Here's a 7,000-pound, 20-foot-long pickup truck that's able to scale rocky, uneven surfaces, but not as well as a Jeep Wrangler. The Power Wagon can handle desert sands at speed, but it’s not as poised as a Ford F-150 Raptor. And the 2500-based truck can tow perfectly well on paper, but it's not as capable as other three-quarter-ton Rams. In other words, spending $53,015 (including a staggering $1,320 destination charge) on a Power Wagon makes no sense. And God, I'm so happy Ram builds it.

Brutish exterior

The Ram Power Wagon is a gleeful bit of automotive nonsense, starting with its brutish exterior. While it's available in a boring and relatively affordable Tradesman trim that adheres strictly to the Power Wagon aesthetic of yesteryear--five-spoke chrome wheels, a brawny cross-hair grille, more than a few ram-head logos, and graphics packages nearly as extreme as the Power Wagon's performance--I recommend selecting the pricier model. Formerly called the Laramie Power Wagon, Ram dropped the Wyoming town from the truck's name, as well as all the aforementioned styling staples, for 2017.

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

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According to Ram, the Power Wagon’s designers wanted to create a visual connection between the 1500-based Rebel and the 2500-based off-roader. Like the smaller truck, black is a dominant trend. Aside from the billet silver Ram badge on the nose, the grille, grille surrounds, bumpers, and wheel arches wear an anodized-black look. It's commanding, especially with one of the truck's lighter shades of paint.

But the designers didn't stop with bumpers and grilles. The headlight bezels are black, while the rear taillights have a smoked look. And of course, prominent black decals on the carryover hood, at the front of the bed, and along the bottom of the doors (all removable at no additional cost) let other drivers know what's up. Finally, those five-spoke wheels? Replaced, in favor of 17-inch alloys with eight spokes, the better to match the standard 2500's eight-lug bolt pattern.

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