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Dodge Ram Power Wagon - 2005 Pickup Truck of the Year

Front Passenger Side View
Posted January 1, 2005

The Winner! - Dodge Ram Power Wagon

What's New
This Ram 2500-based machine sports front and rear electric lockers, which are selectable from the cab. The front locker is fitted into a 9.25-inch American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM) axlehousing, which is the same axlehousing found in the Ram 2500. The rear locker rests in a 10.5-inch AAM axlehousing, which also is the same axlehousing as in the Ram 2500, but it has been fitted with larger 38mm-diameter axleshafts sourced from the Cummins-powered Ram 11.5-inch axlehousing.

There's a selectable electronic disconnecting front antiroll bar that Dodge is calling the "Smart Bar." With a simple push of a dash-mounted switch, the antiroll bar is disconnected to allow for more front-axle articulation.

The suspension uses the Ram 2500 suspension architecture (five-link solid front axle with a Hotchkiss rear), but the front and rear springs have been significantly revised to achieve a 1.8-inch improvement in front ride height and a 1.4-inch improvement in rear ride height. The spring rates have also been softened to increase axle articulation. This new suspension offers 10.9 inches of front suspension travel and 10.7 inches of rear suspension travel.

Further, the truck has been fitted with Bilstein high-pressure monotube shock absorbers that are 10mm longer and have 200 psi more pressure than the shocks found on the Ram 2500.The Power Wagon comes shod with 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires that are mounted on special 17x8 Alcoa forged aluminum polished wheels with a special modified bead seat. This seat increases the tire bead surface area and bead retention under low inflation-pressure conditions.

Other Power Wagon goodies include significant underbody protection, new calibration for the engine and transmission electronics, standard Warn-built 12,000-pound capacity electric winch, upgraded electrical system, special body-side moldings, flares, grille and bumper cover.

The Power Wagon comes fitted with the 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine, 5-45RFE five-speed automatic transmission or G56 six-speed manual transmission and the NV271 manual shift two-speed transfer case.

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What We Liked
The Power Wagon cleaned house in the points department for its beefy, electric-locker-injected axles. The lockers always engaged and disengaged immediately and without fail. It also gathered an abundance of points for its compliant, smooth-riding suspension. Many of our testers noted that they were amazed at how comfortable the Power Wagon's ride was, even at speed on rocky, rutted trails.

It's a given that a good 4x4 should have good underbody skidplating and recovery points, yet many don't. The Power Wagon does. Not that we had to rely on them much, because the truck sports an impressive 8.25-inch minimum ground clearance (at the rear differential). We also dug the Power Wagon's impressive 35-degree approach angle and 26.5-degree departure angle. All of these things were the catalyst for testers to comment on how easy the Power Wagon was to drive on the trail. Finally, several weeks after the test, we're still singing and dancing about the lever-operated transfer case. No buttons. No switches. What a concept!

What We Didn't Like
The Power Wagon took a beating points-wise in the power department, which is ironic, considering its name begins with Power. We love the new engine calibration because it makes for smooth throttle inputs both on and off-highway, but the 345ci Hemi engine just doesn't have the suds to strongly pull the 6,081-pound Quad Cab when the sand gets deep, the altitude gets high or the grade gets steep. If we could improve on the design of the Power Wagon, we'd definitely give it more horsepower. Clearly, the obvious mouth-watering choice would be to fit it with the Cummins diesel.

Bottom Line
If you've ever wished that a manufacturer would pony up a hard-working fullsize truck that's honestly designed for the rigors of four-wheeling, your wish has been granted. There are so many things to like about this truck, including the fact that all its features are covered under the factory warranty. On top of its standout capability, the Power Wagon Quad Cab offers a very impressive ride as well as room for six adults. Oh, and it can work like a dog.

It's because of these things that the '05 Dodge Power Wagon has emerged from our six-truck field victorious and is Four Wheeler's Pickup Truck of the Year for 2005.

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