It has become a bit of an annual tradition that we show up in Moab for Easter Jeep Safari, and we get a special invite from the folks at Chrysler to flog some of their Mopar image vehicles and design studies. Any of these vehicles could easily be on the turntable under the lights of a convention center- instead, they are built to be functional runners with many of the parts readily available from the Mopar parts catalog. Chrysler has so much faith in these one-off rigs that they turn us loose in them for about half a day to experience their handiwork, play around, and grin from ear to ear. Some of those grins are because we're allowed to really flog these rigs and see what they are made of. Each year the vehicles are better than the last, and we're afraid that Mopar design team leader and Jeep Chief Designer Mark Allen and Mopar Jeep and Ram Off-Road Engineering Manager Keith Montone are going to run out of ideas. As you will see, they put together some awesome rigs for this year's event. But be concerned, as we are, that they'll have a hard time topping this particular group of vehicles next year. The clock is ticking, Mark Allen and Keith Montone!
Mopar Ram Runner
While comparisons to Ford's Raptor are unavoidable, what the Ram Runner really does is remind us of our own Project RangeRunner. This long-travel 4x4 is inspired by desert racing, but is competent enough to be driven on the highway as if it had just come off of the showroom floor. Short of hardcore rockcrawling, it can handle just about any terrain you can throw at it, making it perfect for desert exploration at high speeds. It features a new Mopar suspension system that was developed by KORE. Steel fenders and bedsides have been replaced by fiberglass to make room for the 35-inch General Graber tires and 14 inches of suspension travel without interference. A low center of gravity and wide stance make it superbly stable and Fox 3.0 internal bypass shocks save the truck from terrain. After countless jumps, some of them eight feet off the ground, the Ram Runner just kept soaking it up...run after run.
Our Take: Airing out trucks is unmatched for fun and the link-coil rear suspension really shines in this application.
One of our few disappointments with the 2010 Ram Power Wagon is that the only available body style is the crew cab, which means you can no longer order a Power Wagon with the shorter 140-inch wheelbase. But what if Ram did offer other body styles? How about a regular cab on a 120-inch wheelbase? Would that be the best jumping-off point for an ultimate Power Wagon? This PowerWagon explores that idea by creating a regular cab version of the truck. However, the design team did not stop there.
Instead of retaining the rear Power Wagon leaf springs, they lopped off the back of the HD donor truck and grafted on the rear frame section of a 1500 to utilize the link-coil rear suspension of the 1/2-ton. To give it even more visual impact, they used a Ram Box inner fitted with dually outer box sides for the stepside look. A 4-inch Mopar suspension lift, utilizing Bilstein shocks, makes room for 40-inch BFGoodrich KM2 tires, while the Power Wagon axles, sway bar disconnect and winch are all still present. The paint scheme is a throwback to Power Wagons of the 70s.
Our Take: Ultimate Power Wagon achieved-and then some.