We Get To Live With The Best Off-The-Shelf Off-Road Truck For A While
The Dodge Power Wagon is the most capable OE off-road truck sold by anyone today, period. With front and rear E-Lockers, a Warn 12,000-pound winch, LT285x70R17 (33-inch) BFGoodrich All-Terrains on forged aluminum wheels, and an electric sway-bar disconnect, the Power Wagon can take the worst you can throw at it off-road. Its on-road comfort is an added bonus.
The people at Dodge have let us have a Power Wagon for an extended period so we can play with it and report to you how it works over time. The Power Wagon they sent us is a silver Quad Cab shortbed equipped with the 5.7 Hemi that comes in all Power Wagons, five-speed 545RFE automatic transmission, NV271 manual shift-on-the-fly transfer case, and fabric 40-20-40 semibucket seats with power driver-seat adjuster and fold-flat load floor in the back. The Power Wagon comes with rubber floors unless carpeting is ordered as an option. Ours is carpeted, but we think the rubber floors would have been just fine. We also have the base AM/FM/CD with Sirius satellite radio and four speakers. Sirius has become a must-have option, in our opinion.
The 5.7L Hemi Magnum V8 generates 345 hp at 5,400 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. It's electronic throttle control is much more than drive-by-wire. Shifting into Low range changes the throttle program and makes the throttle response much more manageable off-road. The Hemi has aluminum cylinder heads, hemispherical combustion chambers, a high compression ratio, and a design that utilizes two spark plugs per cylinder to burn fuel more efficiently. We'll report more on fuel economy in the next installment after the truck is broken in, but brand-new our Power Wagon is getting about 25-percent less mpg than our almost identical Cummins-equipped Dodge Ram. Even with the larger 33-inch tires though, the Hemi gets up and goes helped by the Power Wagon's 4.56 gears.
The front and rearends are from American Axle. The front diff is open until locked electronically, while the rear is a helical-gear limited-slip until locked electronically. The front and rear lockers are two of the main reasons the Power Wagon is the most capable out-of-the-box off-road truck available today.
The suspension is Dodge's proven coil/link design up front with Power Ram-specific coils and tuned leaf packs in the back. Bilstein high-pressure gas shocks handle damping chores and are worlds better than the stock shocks on other Rams. Off-road, the Power Wagon's ride is controlled but surprisingly supple, considering that it's a 3/4-ton truck. The sway bar can be disconnected electronically for great articulation in the dirt. It will automatically reconnect at higher speeds in case you forget and pull out on the highway without pushing the sway-bar button.
Truck frames have been getting stronger lately and Dodge's hydroformed boxed frame is no exception. Put the front tire on a big rock and get the rear tire in the air - the bed no longer flexes into the cab. This is a great leap forward from trucks of just a few years ago that had flexy frames that almost always had dents in their cabs from their beds hitting them during extreme off-roading. The Power Wagon also has skidplates under it that will afford some protection in the rocks. The 12,000-pound Warn winch behind the front bumper will get us, or our friends, out of trouble.
We're looking forward to spending time with our Power Wagon. We've already taken it off-road and can report that it performs flawlessly. On-road performance is great too. The Power Wagon's comfort and driveability make it a pleasure to drive on-highway. We'll see about the fuel economy and let you know. Watch for our reports on how our long-term Power Wagon performs in upcoming issues of Off-Road.