Part III Living With Our Long-Term Ram
Getting to drive the most capable out-of-the-box off-road truck offered by anybody has been great. We've used the Power Wagon as a daily driver as well as an off-road mule. This test has also shown us how the Power Wagon really works as an everyday truck. Our usual short road tests don't tell us much about how the vehicle will perform in the long-term.
Our Power Wagon has continued to amaze us that an off-the-showroom-floor truck with no modifications except tires can work so amazingly well. The locking differentials front and rear, the 12,000-pound winch, the 4.56 gears, and the electronic sway-bar disconnect all work together to make this truck work as well as everyone else's heavily-modified rig off-road.
Dodge loaned us a fairly basic Power Wagon with fabric seats and the base stereo. The company wanted us to try one that was fully loaded with options such as leather, heated seats, navigation radio, power adjustable pedals, sunroof, etc. Our base truck was from Michigan. The new truck is a California-spec model. The published horsepower and torque numbers are the same for federal and California trucks. We'll tell you what we found a little later.
First, for those of you who don't know what a Power Wagon is, it's a 2500 Ram pickup with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8, 4.56 gears, 33-inch tires on forged 17x8 alloy wheels, front and rear electronically locking differentials, an electronic front sway-bar disconnect, underbody protection, and a 12,000-pound Warn winch. The Power Wagon also has model-specific coils up front and rear leaf packs with Bilstein shocks that contribute to the truck's on- and off-road ability.
The leather interior is very comfortable. Living where it gets cold, we appreciate the heated seats too. REAL off-roaders are scoffing right now as they read this as what real, tough off-roader wants heated seats? Who cares? If you have them, use them, and the heated seats work well when it's 10 below zero outside. The Power Wagon also splits the HVAC controls between driver and passenger so both front seat occupants can be comfortable. The mini floor console/cup holder on the center hump has rendered the 40-20-40 split front bench useless as a three-passenger seat. Dodge needs to get rid of that feature. The rear seat folds up and a fold-flat load floor makes carrying items in the cab easy.
The Hemi in our first truck really delivered. Even after installing the LT35x12.50R17 E Nitto Mud Grapplers, the Ram would still spin the tires from a stop on the pavement. Our new, California-spec truck won't. It's certainly no slug and has plenty of power; it just doesn't feel as strong as our first truck. We also have to report that while the Power Wagon may be the best all-around truck ever built for the off-roader and casual hauler, it gets pretty poor fuel economy. Since the Power Wagon's a 3/4-ton pickup, Dodge didn't put the Multiple-Displacement System (MDS) on the Hemi, meaning that all eight cylinders are always working. We get between 7 mpg (hard off-road use) to 14 mpg (freeway cruising), averaging about 9 to 10 mpg during everyday use. We're glad the Ram comes with a 34-gallon fuel tank.
The Nitto Mud Grapplers are holding up very well, showing little sign of wear. They perform very well on the street or in the dirt. In our last installment, we reported they hum a bit on the highway. We need to amend that to say that they're noisy on the pavement. Since they perform so well on- and off-road and look so gnarly, we think that the noise won't bother most. We have to mention again that the Nittos took very little weight to balance and continue to run true and smooth. It's quite a tire.
We've continued to have no other problems with our Dodge Power Wagon. Nothing has come loose, there's no wind noise or rattles, and the truck feels tight after heavy use. Except for the fuel economy, could we call it the perfect truck? Maybe.