Exploring the deserts of Nevada in Ram’s baddest truck

The Ram Power Wagon has been a modern fixture in the heavy duty truck segment since its rebirth in 2005. Like the Jeep Wrangler, the Power Wagon owes its beginnings to the fight against the Axis powers in WWII. See, the U.S. Government needed an all-terrain weapons carrier that was large enough to carry heavy supplies, yet small enough to traverse tight jungle trails and the winding roads of Europe. Today, the Power Wagon’s legacy lives on, though only in the civilian sector. It’s based on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty and comes backed with loads of hard-core hardware for pounding terrain into submission. Now for the 2017 Model year, Ram has given the Power Wagon a fresh look and some welcomed interior enhancements.

These changes reflect the times. Vehicles with outlandish graphics, black wheels, and sinister faces are popular with the car-buying public, so automakers are responding accordingly. Ram has seen impressive sales with its Rebel – an off-road appearance package that brings the Ram 1500 into the spotlight for extroverts who like a loud vehicle. Well, Ram has taken the Rebel’s features to the 2017 Power Wagon. The nostril-style grille, the powered-coated bumpers, black wheels, smoked headlights, and ostentatious badging are all present. Even the front seats are similar to the Ram 1500 Rebels. The cloth inserts feature a tire tread pattern that matches the OEM rubber. In the Power Wagon’s case, it’s Goodyear’s Wrangler DuraTrac tire.

Ram decided these changes were reason enough to hold a press launch event near Las Vegas, Nevada and was kind enough to fly me out. The bright lights of The Strip quickly fade into desolate desert not far from town, with sheer cliffs, slick rock ledges, and millions of acres of sand and sagebrush. The Valley of Fire State Park and its hidden trails outside Logandale, Nevada proved the perfect spot for testing the Power Wagon’s chops.

Continue for the full driven review of Ram’s 2017 Power Wagon.

  • 2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V8
  • Transmission:
    Six-speed Automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    410 @ 5600
  • Torque @ RPM:
    429 @ 4000
  • Displacement:
    6.4 L
  • 0-60 time:
    8.4 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    100 mph (Est.)
  • Layout:
    Front Engine, 4WD
  • Price:
    46995
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.2/10

Exterior

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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It’s here on the outside where most of the changes for 2017 are visible. Ram’s Rebel-like theme is clearly the biggest change, giving the Power Wagon a far more playful attitude. Playful, yet menacing might be the best description. The grille’s black mass and billet-style R-A-M lettering sets a new tone for the truck, giving it a stronger footing in the consumer market. Trucks with overt and loud styling have done well in recent years, with big graphics, block lettering instead of badges, and an eye for the unbeaten trail. Case in point: the Ford Raptor, Toyota Tundra and Tacoma TRD Pro models, and the Ram 1500 Rebel. Ram now has the Power Wagon shamelessly chasing that pack.

Beyond the grille, the Power Wagon mirrors the Rebel with black bumpers, smoked headlights, and black accents around the body. Here, the front and rear bumpers are powder coated for extra protection against rocks and brush. Even more, the opening around the tow hooks and winch is coated in spray-on bed liner. This helps prevent scaring from with winch cable or other recovery gear. And though the Power Wagon has an air dam, its very small and only helps visually hide the undercarriage. Good aerodynamics isn’t the Power Wagon’s main objective, after all. Only a couple of trucks had rocks kiss the air dam during a daylong spree in the desert. No damage was done.

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Rebel-like theme is clearly the biggest change, giving the Power Wagon a far more playful attitude. Playful, yet menacing might be the best description.

Modest fender flairs help protect the paint finish along the wheel well openings. The plastic flairs also help visually widen the truck, strengthening its macho appearance. The Power Wagon’s available two-tone paint scheme introduces even more contrast, looking especially good when paired with red or white.

Around back, people following the Power Wagon will have no question as to its name or maker. The large R-A-M block lettering rises tall off the tailgate, with the Power Wagon name brazened in a sticker down below.

And though it’s a truck, Ram designers didn’t forego the details. The hood features faux heat extractor slits, just like on the standard Ram Heavy Duty. The graphics package adds a matte black hood stripe with the Power Wagon name cut in relief. Smoked roof marker lights keep the truck’s heavy duty vibe going strong, as do the eight shiny lug nuts contrasted against the gloss black wheels. Optionally, the Ram can be had with towing mirrors that tilt 90 degrees from a horizontal orientation to a vertical one.

Speaking of towing, the Power Wagon can still pull its weight around, and then some. A Class Five hitch receiver is standard, as are the four- and seven-pin wiring connectors. A backup camera with guidance lines makes hooking up a trailer an easy one-man job, while an optional backup camera resides in the center high-mount stop light. That CHMSL camera offers an unobstructed view of the cargo bed and the area around the rear of the truck. Not only does it work well for hooking up a fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer, it makes keeping an eye on loads less straining on the neck.

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Speaking of towing, the Power Wagon can still pull its weight around, and then some.

Other optional equipment includes the handy RamBox system. The RamBoxes have made their way into the preverbal pickup hall of fame thanks to their dry, lockable storage space. The boxes have built-in divider slots for making partitions, drain plugs at the bottom, an integrated light for nighttime use, and an electronic latch that locks and unlocks with the doors. What’s more, the RamBoxes can be paired with a tonneau cover. A sacrifice in space within the six-foot, four-inch cargo bed is the main drawback.

Now, while the changes for 2017 come standard with the mainstream Power Wagon, those wanting something less flashy (and less costly) can opt for the Tradesman trim. The Tradesman comes with the regular Ram Crosshair grille finished in black plastic, chrome bumpers, black side mirrors and door handles, and five-spoke, chrome wheels. The graphics and Rebel-like grille are skipped over in favor of a decidedly more traditional appearance.

The Competition

Besides the Ram Power Wagon, what is the most talked-about off-road pickup on the market? Yep, the Ford F-150 Raptor. Do they directly compete with one another? No. Will people still compare the two? Absolutely. While the Power Wagon is a heavy-duty truck meant for hauling while still having outstanding abilities off-road, the Raptor is a more dedicated off-roader designed for high-speed desert running. One isn’t inherently better than the other – both do their respective jobs very well, but they aren’t meant to cross career fields.

That said, the Raptor has set the stage for bold design in an off-road pickup. It has the large, black grille with the block Ford logo rather than the traditional Blue Oval; it has an optional graphics package that make it feel more youthful and spunky; and it has a unique interior not found on other F-150 models.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Wallpaper quality
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2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
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While the Power Wagon is a heavy-duty truck meant for hauling while still having outstanding abilities off-road, the Raptor is a more dedicated off-roader designed for high-speed desert running.

As for the details, the Raptor has an impressive degree of approach and departure angle, as well as solid skid plating and beefy tow hooks. It also has steel side steps that help protect the bodywork from trail damage. Its wider fenders covers its widened track, which helps gives it stability a high speeds. BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires give it a firm grip in almost all terrain, including snow and ice.

One aspect the Raptor has over the Power Wagon is its choice in cab sizes. The Raptor comes in both SuperCab and SuperCrew cab sizes, allowing customers to choose what’s best for them. The Power Wagon is only available with the Crew Cab and six-foot, four-inch bed.

Exterior Dimensions

Ram Power Wagon Ford F-150 Raptor
Wheelbase (Inches) 149.3 133.0
Overall Length (Inches) 237.3 TBA
Overall Width (Inches) 79.1 86.3
Overall Height (Inches) 81.0 78.5
Track Width – Front/Rear (Inches) 68.6/68.0 TBA
Approach Angle (degrees) 33.6 TBA
Departure Angle 26.2 TBA
Turning Circle (feet) 47.7 TBA

Interior

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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The 2017 updates to the Ram Power Wagon bring a new, more youthful flair to the cabin. Like the Ram 1500 Rebel, the interior features anodized aluminum accents scattered around the dashboard and tire tracks in the cloth seats. Yep, the Power Wagon’s Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac’s tread pattern is imprinted onto the cloth inserts the four main seats. The side bolsters on the front seats also sport the Power Wagon name embroidered into the cloth. The look helps add character and a sense of continuity throughout the truck’s off-road theme. Power Wagon logos reside inside the gauge cluster and on the upper glove box. Otherwise, the interior is standard Ram Heavy Duty.

The Power Wagon technically does not have trim levels, however, there are some technicalities. First, the base-model Tradesman trim level can be had with the Power Wagon Equipment group, giving it all the mechanical upgrades. The interior, however, still features the bare-bones cloth seats, vinyl floor covering, and basic 5.0-inch Uconnect system.

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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The 2017 updates to the Ram Power Wagon bring a new, more youthful flair to the cabin.

The “mid-grade” Power Wagon is the one most folks will see rolling down wooded trails. It comes with those Goodyear-treaded cloth seats and the 8.4-inch Uconnect system. Vinyl floors are still standard, matching the purpose of the truck. Carpet and all-weather floor mats can be had.

For those seeking the “range-topping” trim, the Power Wagon can be had with the Leather and Luxury Group package for $4,995. It brings leather seats (still with the Power Wagon logo on the bolster); an Alpine sound system; auto-dimming mirrors; deluxe door trim panels; outside mirrors with turn signals, courtesy lamps, and memory functions; a heated steering wheel, LED interior lighting; power-operated front seats; more USB ports, an under-hood light; a universal garage door opener; and the ParkSense front and rear sensors.

The tester I pummeled the Nevada’s desert with included this Leather and Luxury Group, which meant I enjoyed the heated and vented front seats, dual zone climate controls, power-adjustable pedals, and impressive 8.4-inch Uconnect with navigation. Ram might have one of the older interiors in the full-size pickup segment, but the design has sure held up over time. There’s even a surprising number of USB and power ports, including a 110-volt outlet on the passenger side of the dash.

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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The Power Wagon only comes in the Crew Cab, Short Bed configuration with the 40/20/40 split front bench seat.

The Power Wagon only comes in the Crew Cab, Short Bed configuration with the 40/20/40 split front bench seat. While I’ve never been a big fan of split bench-style front seats for their perceived lack of storage space, I found the Ram’s front seat accommodations to have more than adequate space for stuff. Three main cup holders reside on the folding armrest, while three more reside on the floor near the transfer case shifter. Large door pockets have even more space for drinks and loose items. And that’s not even mentioning the storage underneath the armrest large enough to fit my Canon DSLR camera.

The back seats offer an equally impressive amount of storage space, as well as room for people. Legroom might be down a bit from the Ford F-Series, but even taller folks should have no complaints about comfort. When it comes to hauling stuff, the bench seat folds upward, revealing a fold-out load floor perfect for boxes, tool chests, or a sleeping bag. Smaller storage bins reside inside the floor. These deep containers have removable sleeves for easy cleaning and dumping of water. They aren’t technically insulated, but the boxes are insulated enough to hold ice and cold drinks for several hours.

As for the driver’s accommodations, the optional 10-way power seat in my tester proved to be plenty comfortable and the power-adjusting pedals meant my short(ish) legs could easily reach the throttle and brake. A good-ole-fashioned column shifter provides a satisfying sense of picking the right gear, while the large TFT display in the gauge cluster showed the PRND cogs. The rocker switch on the shifter allows for choosing any one of the six forward gears. That TFT display also shows plenty of vehicle and driving information, including a digital speedometer. Analog gauges are on the smallish side, but are easy enough to read.

The Competition

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
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The Raptor shares much of its interior with the standard Ford F-150. Unsurprisingly, the Raptor has a number of add-ons and trim-specific design elements.

As for design, the Raptor has unique seating with heavily bolstered front buckets. A combination leather and cloth comes standard, but full leather seating can be had. Regardless of material, the Raptor logo is embroidered vertically on the outboard side bolster. The steering wheel is also Raptor specific, with it wrapped in suede and leather, stitched with contrasting thread that matches the seats. A center marker at the 12 O’clock position helps the driver keep the truck pointed in the right direction.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Interior
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The Raptor shares much of its interior with the standard Ford F-150. Unsurprisingly, the Raptor has a number of add-ons and trim-specific design elements.

As mentioned before, the F-150 Raptor is available in both SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations. The smaller SuperCab offers less rear seat legroom, but still has seating for three across. The larger SuperCrew has the segment’s largest legroom measurement, giving rear passengers plenty of room to stretch out. Both configurations allow the rear bench seat to fold upwards, creating a space for storing items. A flat load floor further makes storage easy.

As for electronics, the Raptor comes with Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system. It offers all the modern bells and whistles, including navigation, SiriusXM and HD Radio, Bluetooth, and USB charging. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included. The Raptor’s gauge cluster is shared with the standard F-150, but gets several new pages in its TFT display center. These pages show detailed off-roading information and other vital stats.

Interior Dimensions

Ram Power Wagon Ford F-150 Raptor
Headroom front/rear (Inches) 41.0/39.9 40.8/40.3
Legroom front/rear (Inches) 41.0/40.3 43.9/33.5
Shoulder Room front/rear (Inches) 66.0/65.7 66.7/65.8
Hip Room front/rear (Inches) 63.2/63.2 62.5/64.7
SAE volume, cu. ft. 57.5 52.8

Drivetrain

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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Motivating the Power Wagon is Ram’s largest gasoline V-8. In fact, it’s the largest gasoline V-8 offered in the heavy-duty pickup segment. It’s the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 and it uses a combination of old-school and new-age tech to generate power and long-term dependability.

The 90-degree cast-iron block features oil jet coolers aimed at the bottom of the pistons for both cooling and lubrication, while a high-volume oil cooler keeps oil temperatures in check. Stainless steel gaskets and fasteners hold the engine together, including its aluminum cylinder heads.

Like the General Motor’s V-8s, the 6.4-liter Hemi uses a cam-in-block design with pushrods operating the 16 overhead valves with variable valve timing. Individual coils are mounted on each spark plug for a strong spark and clean burn. The engine still relies on port fuel injection, but does features cylinder deactivation technology. That means the V-8 can run on four cylinders when not under a heavy load, say when cruising down the highway at moderate speeds or coasting down a hill.

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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Motivating the Power Wagon is Ram’s largest gasoline V-8. In fact, it’s the largest gasoline V-8 offered in the heavy-duty pickup segment.

But efficiency is not this engine’s strong suit or purpose – it’s power – and the 6.4-liter Hemi has plenty of it. Its horsepower is rated at 410 at 5,600 rpm and torque comes in at 429 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm. The Power Wagon’s stout 4.10 rear axle ratio assists the V-8 is making the most of its torque output, which gives the Power Wagon is recognizable surge of acceleration under heavy throttle from low speeds.

That 4.10 ratio spells doom for highway fuel economy, however. I averaged around 13 mpg during my on-road time with the truck. And since the Power Wagon is a three-quarter ton truck, it is not required to undergo EPA fuel economy ratings. Nevertheless, the Power Wagon’s thirst for regular-grade gasoline shouldn’t be a problem for those in a position to afford the Power Wagon’s steep asking price. (More on that later)

Mated to the Hemi is Ram’s 66RFE six-speed automatic transmission. The electronically controlled gearbox offers surprisingly smooth shifts throughout the engine’s rev range, while its manual mode provide the driver with more control over gearing. This is especially handy when towing or going off-road. The only major downfall with the transmission is its slow response to manual inputs for gear changes.

Mated further back is the manually operated, Borg Warner BW 44-47 transfer case. It makes up the heart of the Power Wagon’s part-time 4WD system. A floor-mounted shift level lets the driver shift between 2WD, 4WD High, Neutral, and 4WD Low. The transfer case allows for shift-on-the-fly for 4WD High, transforming the truck from a rear-wheel-drive to a four-wheel-drive in roughly a second. There are no manual wheel hubs to lock or stopping required.

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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When it comes to deep sand, mud, rocks, or recovering a stuck vehicle on the trail, 4WD Low range is the proper choice and offers a 35:1 crawl ratio for multiplying torque.

When it comes to deep sand, mud, rocks, or recovering a stuck vehicle on the trail, 4WD Low range is the proper choice and offers a 35:1 crawl ratio for multiplying torque. Engaging 4WD Low does require the truck be stopped and the transmission be placed into neutral, after which, the transfer case shift lever can be slid completely forward. Lights on the dashboard and a slight clunking sound as gears mesh let the driver know 4WD Low has engaged. And there’s just something special about sliding that transfer case into gear that warms the soul.

Hold the truck’s weight and sending power to the ground are twin solid axles built by American Axle Manufacturing. The front axle boasts a 9.25-inch ring gear, while the rear has a stout 11.5-inch ring gear. Accordingly the front axle shaft measures 35 mm and the rear shafts are 38 mm thick. The axle housings look like tree trunks, yet still manage to have plenty of ground clearance.

The Competition

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Exterior
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One of the biggest upgrades Ford did with the second-generation Raptor is its powertrain. Gone is the 6.2-liter V-8, replaced by a high-output version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. This all-aluminum engine features direct fuel injection and variable valve timing on its dual overhead cams matched with two turbochargers giving enough boost to produce 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque.

The engine is mated to Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission and its high-tech, part time 4WD system. Power is sent to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions. The transfer case can be placed into Auto mode, allowing the computer to control its distribution of power between the front and rear axles. The system also provides a dedicated locked position for 4WD High and 4WD Low range.

What’s more, the Raptor now comes with driver selectable drive modes. These modes not only change parameters like throttle response, ABS actuation, and traction control, but also is seamlessly integrated into the 4WD system. This allows the drive modes to automatically select the proper 4WD setting for each mode. Rock mode and Mud and Ruts mode use 4WD Low, while Baja and Snow mode use 4WD High – though with differences in other parameters tailored for each condition.

Drivetrain Specifications

Ram Power Wagon Ford F-150 Raptor
Engine 6.4-LITER HEMI® V-8 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6
Horsepower 410 HP @ 5,600 RPM 450 HP
Torque 429 LB-FT @ 4,000 RPM 510 LB-FT
Transmission six-speed automatic 10-speed automatic
Curb Weight 6,996 Lbs TBA

Suspension

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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Part of the Power Wagon’s appeal is its suspension system. Not only does it have solid axles like a traditional off-roader, it has unique parts that allow it to traverse terrain not meant for a heavy-duty pickup. Up front, the solid axle is held in place with a multi-link setup with independent coil springs and Bilstein monotube shock absorbers soaking up bumps. The most unique part, however, is the Articulink joint that connects the lower front controls arms to the axle housing. The Articulink system acts like a double jointed elbow and allows for more wheel travel when off-road without sacrificing on-road stability or everyday drivability.

Out back, the rear suspension uses a similar system to Ram’s conventional 2500-series trucks. It’s a five-link coil spring system with the upgraded Bilstein shock absorbers. A top-mounted shock spanning between the differential housing and a frame crossmember helps quell any axle hop and twist on loose surfaces, too.

Yet another unique part to the Power Wagon’s part lists is the disconnecting front sway bar. During normal driving, the sway bar helps keep body roll to a minimum, just like in nearly every other road-going vehicle. Once off-road though, the sway bar limits wheel travel, inhibiting a vehicle from hitting its true suspension flex. Old-school off-roaders unbolt their front sway bar when on the trail, but the Power Wagon has a clever go-around. It uses a magnetic coupler that holds the sway bar’s two ends together during normal driving. When off-road, the driver simply presses a button and the sway bar disconnects, allowing for a full 26 inches of wheel articulation. The Power Wagon even boasts a Ramp Travel Index, or RTI of 510. That’s impressive. This same disconnecting sway bar technology is found on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

And despite the Power Wagon being oriented for off-road travel, it still can carry 1,510 pounds of payload in its bed or 10,030 pounds worth of trailer on its hitch. For reference, a similar Ram 2500 Crew Cab, short box with the 6.4-liter Hemi, 4.10 gears, and 4WD can haul 3,022 pounds and tow up to 15,450 pounds. Still, the Power Wagon is the best choice for heavy hauling and going off-road.

The Competition

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor Exterior
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The Raptor is a different beast than the Power Wagon. Ford built this F-150 for high-speed desert running. Its suspension is subsequently built to handle high-speed bumps and hard landing from jumps. Up front, the control arms are beefed up and widened over the stock F-150 suspension parts. Coil over Fox Racing shocks measuring three inches in diameter and feature an external bypass to help keep temperatures in check. In back, the left springs are specifically calibrated for Raptor duty, while Fox Shocks keep rebound motions under control.

All told, the 2017 Raptor has an amazing 13 inches of suspension travel up front and 13.9 inches of suspension travel out back.

Ram Power Wagon Ford F-150 Raptor
Front Suspension Three-link (Articulink) with track bar, coil springs, electronic-disconnecting stabilizer bar, solid axle Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Five-link with track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar, solid axle Leaf
Front brakes Size and Type Rotors 14.17-in. x 1.54-in. disc with twin-piston pin-slider caliper and anti-lock braking system (ABS) Rotors 13.8
Rear brakes Size and Type Rotors 14.09 x 1.34-in. disc with twin-piston pin-slider caliper and ABS Rotors 13.7

Behind the Wheel

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Interior
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The Ram Power Wagon is a big truck – there’s no getting around that. Being based on the Ram 2500HD, the truck rides on a fully boxed steel frame with twin solid axles under each end, meaty 33-inch off-road tires, a heavy winch and iron-block V-8 over the front tires, and a full-size spare under the cargo bed. Ram says the Power Wagon weights roughly 7,000 pounds. That’s heavy. Not surprisingly, the truck drives accordingly.

The steering is a bit dead on-center and suffers from play on either side. Loaded up in a corner, the steering improves with some feedback from the Goodyears, but it hardly drives like mid-size or even half-ton full-size truck. Some of that can surely be attributed to the tall sidewalls and tread blocks of the tires. Still, the Ram tracks true and straight at 70 mph on the interstate. Visibility is also impressive. Even with the standard side mirrors that lack the convex portion found on the optional tow mirrors, it’s easy to see around the truck. The view over the hood is commanding and inspires confidence. Rearward, shorter cars have a tendency to become hidden under the tailgate should they be following too closely. Otherwise, the truck is easy to drive around town. I made it down the Vegas strip with no trouble. Parking sensors and the backup camera definitely help when backing up, too.

The steering is a bit dead on-center and suffers from play on either side. Loaded up in a corner, the steering improves with some feedback from the Goodyears, but it hardly drives like mid-size or even half-ton full-size truck.

But on-road driving isn’t what the Power Wagon is built for – it’s the hard-core desert trail or rain-soaked mountain pass up a logging road that allows the truck to shine. Slipping the transfer case in to 4WD High generates a satisfying feeling, just as all four wheels start churning up the earth. The grippy tires work surprisingly well, which results in very little wheel spin on most surfaces despite the truck’s curb weight.

The 6.4-liter Hemi provides a mountain of torque down low, allowing the truck to crawl without threat of over-torquing the tires and inducing unwanted wheel spin. In 4WD Low, the throttle map is made softer, allowing for better control of the engine. It also helps minimize goosing the throttle when bounding over bumps. And when it comes to stopping, the four-wheel disc brakes do an amazing job at pulling the truck down from speed.

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Power Wagon is willing to traverse anything you’ve got the guts to try.

Descending hills in the Power Wagon is made easy by its hill-decent control. A simple button on the dash activates the system and the +/- manual gear selector on the column shifter allows for speed control. Our convoy of trucks proceeded down a rather hairy incline that had to have been round 45 degrees. My truck experienced no wheel spin, no sliding, and no annoying buzzing of the ABS system – just a quiet trip down the side of a mountain with my body pressed against the seatbelt and my eyes fixed on the ground ahead. It was definitely a surreal experience, especially without a foot on the brake.

When it comes to dancing in the sand, the Power Wagon proved to be a willing partner. The Hemi V-8 loves its mid-range, so with 4WD Low selected and the differentials left open, the truck finds its groove in second gear and pummels through deep sand like its skiing behind a speed boat. It somehow loses a few thousand pounds and feels surprisingly nimble. And there’s nothing more satisfying that hearing that Hemi bellow its low V-8 rumble. I’d love to hear this truck with a proper aftermarket exhaust.

All told, the Power Wagon is willing to traverse anything you’ve got the guts to try. And if worse comes to worse, there’s always the 12,000-pound Warn winch behind the bumper.

Pricing

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The 2017 Power Wagon carries a starting price of $46,995, but that’s for the base Crew Cab Tradesman with the Power Wagon Package. The standard Power Wagon, which is based on a mid-level trim, has a starting price of $51,695. That includes all the mechanical goodies included in the Power Wagon Package, plus the tire-tread cloth seats, R-A-M grille, and graphics package. For those wanting a more upscale ride, the Leather and Luxury Group provides a slew of features worth the $4,995 price.

Other options include things like the rear window defroster, power-folding trailer tow mirrors, a sunroof, a spray-in bed liner, the RamBox system, side steps, and a tonneau cover.

2017 Ram Power Wagon $51,695
2017 Ram Crew Cab Tradesman with the Power Wagon Package $46,995
Leather & Luxury option package $4,495

The Competition

The 2017 Raptor carries a base price of $48,860 for the SuperCab variant. Those choosing the SuperCrew version will have to pay $51,845 for entry. Of course, options and add-ons start escalating the cost. Optional items include paint color, three different Equipment Group packages that bundle many features together, the exterior graphics package, carbon fiber interior package, Adaptive Cruise Control, several cargo bed attachments, and the 4.10-geared Torsen front differential. Check every option box, and you’re looking at an MSRP of roughly $73,000.

Other Competitors

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro High Resolution Exterior
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The Ram Power Wagon clearly does not directly compete with any pickup from the mid-size truck category, but it’s hard to argue against the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro not being included in this comparison. The Tacoma TRD Pro is Toyota premier off-road pickup and includes 2.5-inch Fox Racing shocks, heavy-duty skid plates, a part-time 4WD system with a locking rear differential, and Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select and Craw Control systems.

The Tacoma TRD Pro uses the same 3.5-liter V-6 that’s found in the standard Tacoma. It produces 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. Though its far surpassed in power by both the Raptor and Power Wagon, the lighter Tacoma feels plenty peppy, especially when put into Extra Power mode. A six-speed manual transmission actually comes standard, though more people will likely choose the six-speed automatic transmission. An electronically controlled, two-speed transfer case directs power to the front wheels.

Pricing for the Tacoma TRD Pro starts at $40,960 for the manual transmission version and $42,960 for the automatic. Toyota offers far fewer options than Ford, so pricing doesn’t grow much further north.

Read more about the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro here.

Chevrolet Colorado ZR2

Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension High Resolution Exterior
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Chevy Colorado ZR2 Takes L.A. By Storm with Supercar Suspension High Resolution Exterior
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Chevy is finally reentering the mid-size off-road pickup segment after having been absent for more than a decade. The new Colorado ZR2 continues the legacy started by the Chevy S-10 ZR2, but ups the ante by offering more power, more capability, and a more aggressive package.

The ZR2 uses supercar technology in its shock absorbers. They’re from MultiMatic, which makes shocks known in the industry as Spool Valve dampers. In short, these shocks provide variable damping based on the speed at which the shaft is propelled upward by a bump. Beyond the shocks, the ZR2 comes powered by the conventional 3.6-liter V-6 with 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque. Diesel fans rejoice as Chevy optionally offers the 2.8-liter four-cylinder Duramax turbodiesel. With 181 horsepower (and more importantly) 369 pound-feet of torque, the Duramax will be the engine of choice. Both engines come backed by an eight-speed automatic.

Prices for the 2018 Colorado ZR2 start at $40,995 for the Extended Cab model with the gasoline V-6. Prices will grow for Crew Cab models and those with the Duramax.

Read more about the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 here.

Conclusion

2017 Ram Power Wagon – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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It’s important to remember what the Power Wagon is. It’s not a high-speed desert runner like the Raptor or Colorado ZR2. It’s not a tight-trail rig like the ZR2 and Tacoma TRD Pro. The Power Wagon is a truck work heavy hauling that is completely capable of going off the beaten path. I see it as the rancher’s truck, for those times when hauling a trailer full of cattle requires a trip down a muddy pasture field. The Power Wagon Tradesman has already made a name for itself with Border Patrol agents and power companies for its go-anywhere, carry-anything mantra.

The Power Wagon is a truck work heavy hauling that is completely capable of going off the beaten path.

While Ram has tried making the Power Wagon more playful for 2017 with its bold grille and graphics, what lies underneath is a hard-working truck too serious for the casual buyer wanting to impress his bros. Not that the Power Wagon can’t do that, (it leaves a lasting impression quite well, in fact) but this truck might be too brawny for everyday life in Suburban Town, U.S.A. Then again, there are plenty of truck buyers installing massive lift kits and insanely wide tires for pure aesthetics. In my book, the Power Wagon outshines them all.

So, what do you think? Do you like the Power Wagon, or would you opt for its competition. Let me know in the comments below.

  • Leave it
    • * Thirsty
    • * On-center play in steering
    • * Expensive with options
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