Some of you may be saying, "Now wait a minute ... 4 WHEEL DRIVE & SPORT UTILITY MAGAZINE doesn't do pickups." Well, we certainly cover utility vehicles, and very few call us "Four-Wheel Drive," most shortening the magazine name to "Sport Utility," but if it can go on the trail and is a four-wheel-drive vehicle, it's fair game for us. In fact, the best-selling 4WD&SU cover back in the early 1990s was Dan Ence's black Ford F-150 coming up out of a hole on Poison Spider Mesa in Moab, Utah. Also, many use pickups to tow their trail rig, as well as to do exploring where a fullsize vehicle would fit.
The Dodge Power Wagon is the most capable OE off-road truck sold by anybody today. With front and rear ELockers, a Warn 12,000-pound winch, LT285/70R17 (33-inch) BFGoodrich All-Terrains on forged aluminum wheels, and an electric sway-bar disconnect, the Power Wagon can take on 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 use it and report how it works. The Power Wagon they sent us is a white 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, leather 40-20-40 front seat with power driver- and passenger-seat adjusters, 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. We think the rubber floors would have been just fine. We also have the navigation radio with Sirius satellite radio and seven speakers. Sirius is a must-have option, in our opinion. Ours also came with a rear-seat DVD player, an option that comes in handy when taking kids on a long trip. In other words, our Power Wagon is fully loaded and is a very nice vehicle to use as an everyday driver, as well as to tow our projects and to take on the trail.
The 5.7L Hemi Magnum V8 generates 345 hp at 5,400 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm. Its electronic throttle control is much more than drive-by-wire. Just as in the JK Wrangler, 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 continue to report on fuel economy as the truck gets broken in. 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 Wagon-specific coils and tuned leaf packs in the back. Bilstein high-pressure gas shocks handle damping chores and are 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.
Dodge's hydroformed boxed frame is very strong. 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 and almost always had dents in their cabs from their beds hitting them during off-roading. The Power Wagon also has skidplates under the truck that affords 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 makes it a pleasure to drive on-highway. We took our first trip in the truck to Moab, towing a JK on a flatbed trailer. With only 200 miles on the odometer, the truck returned an average of 12 mpg - not bad considering we were towing and, once in Moab, using the Power Wagon to explore trails. It also had plenty of power towing, enabling to stay at the speed limit over mountain passes. Watch for our reports on how our long-term Power Wagon performs in upcoming issues of 4WD&SU.