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2005 Dodge Power Wagon Review - Long-Term Report

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on October 1, 2005
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Photographers: Four Wheeler Staff

In our January '05 issue, we crowned the new-for-'05 Dodge Power Wagon winner of our coveted Pickup Truck of the Year award. It's no wonder, since the Power Wagon is equipped from the factory with the strong 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine, five-speed automatic transmission, solid axles, taller suspension, 4.56:1 gears, front and rear lockers (with rear limited-slip), an electronically disconnecting front sway bar, Bilstein socks, 33-inch BFG All-Terrain T/A tires, forged Alcoa wheels, rock rails, full skidplating, Warn winch, and a real-life transfer-case lever. Try saying that in one breath. The Dodge Power Wagon is the epitome of the American fullsize truck, and we wouldn't change a thing about this truck, short of throwing a set of 35s on it.

Thanks to the compliant suspension and lockers, we completed Hell's Gate with street tire pressure.

But even with 33s, our Wagon has proved nearly unstoppable, recording its only stuck when its amazing four-wheeling prowess caused one of our editors to forget about the 140-inch wheelbase and high-center it on an obstacle at the Tierra del Sol event in Truckhaven Hills, California. Fortunately, there was another Dodge nearby to quickly recover us. Lesson learned, and neither our guy's ego nor the Power Wagon was worse for the wear.

We love this truck so much, a certain editor on staff absconded with the keys for the first three months it was in the fleet and came up with all sorts of excuses not to give it up. Even when reminded that he is a so-called "Ford guy," and he needed to share, this editor openly confessed he would spend his own money to buy a Power Wagon and it would take more than an army of Four Wheeler editors to talk him in to turning himself and the Power Wagon in. Once his grip on the keys was loosened, other people on staff also agreed that they would also spend their own money on this truck. Which is great praise coming from a bunch of jaded magazine editors who get to regularly 'wheel just about every truck out there.

The factory rock rails can hold the weight of the truck without deforming.

Shortly after breaking in our red wagon in the California desert, we headed out to the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, and flexed the Power Wagon's muscles out on the slickrock trails. Thanks to the excellent rock rails and suspension travel, we survived the Flat Iron Mesa trail and rugged areas of the private Area BFE off-road park with only minor alterations to the bumpers, which we explained to the boss as Badges of Honor. Adding to its resume, our stock Power Wagon also humiliated Hell's Revenge and made the complete loop of Hell's Gate look like child's play-all on street tire pressure. Needless to say, we were wearing smug grins when the crowd of spectators cheered the Power Wagon as it crested the top of Hell's Gate, and we were barraged with questions about what it was and when it was available.

Our Wagon has even played the role of highway recovery vehicle when yours truly was caught in a blizzard on Interstate 70 on the way home from Moab. With visibility down to feet rather than miles, and almost a foot of fresh powder obscuring the hig0hway, the Power Wagon's Warn winch was employed to pull out stranded motorists who had veered off the interstate and were hopelessly stuck in the median.

Caught in a blizzard, we used the Power Wagon to pull out stranded motorists on I-70.

The Power Wagon has impressed everyone with one of the best 3/4-ton rides on the market (significantly better than our long-term Ram 600) and a quiet, comfortable interior. The Hemi has some great top-end power, and has all of the sound of the Nissan Titan without any of the in-cab resonance. The only problem to date has been a wiring harness for the cab-mounted clearance lights, which shorted out. For this warranty work and our first service, we dropped the big Dodge off at Huntington Beach Dodge in Huntington Beach, California, where our service advisor Paul Ullom took great care of us and had us back out on the trails in no time.

When all is said and done, there isn't a fullsize pickup out there that can do what the Power Wagon is capable of out of the box. Spending quality time driving and wheeling the Power Wagon has only reinforced our decision to make it the PTOTY winner, and we have no regrets. In fact, we are already plotting ways to convince Dodge to let us keep the big red wagon as a project once the Long Term test is complete-then we can finally get those 35s under it.

Previous reports: None
Base price: $39,970
Price as tested: $43,540
Four-wheel-drive system: Manual part-time, two-speed

Miles to date: 4,916
Miles since last report: None
Average mpg (this report): 11.23
Test best tank mpg: 12.72
Test worst tank mpg: 8.11 (four-wheeling)

3,000-mile service Cost: $26.49
6,000-mile service, rotate tires Cost: $62.19
Wiring Harness Cost: Under warranty
Problem areas: Clearance lights

Hot: Hot is the powerful Hemi and five-speed transmission, which work well together. We have gotten through some of the toughest obstacles for a fullsize truck without body damage, thanks to the long-travel suspension, lockers, and rock rails. The factory Warn winch is a great tool, and we love the GPS navigation system.
Not: There is not a lot of "not" to talk about. We would love to test a 2006 model with a multi-displacement system on it and see if the mileage improves over our 12 mpg best. Other than that, the Ram is a solid truck and we enjoy having it in the fleet.

* "Cruises all day at 80 mph, and still spins under 3,000 rpm."
* "Rock rails are actually functional."
* "Can't believe after all this wheeling there are no squeaks or rattles!"
* "Rescued a helpless 2WD Expedition in the snow, this truck rocks."

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