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Long-Term Report - 2012 Ram Power Wagon, Part 1

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on January 1, 2013 Comment (0)
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Not only did the ’12 Ram Power Wagon take home the coveted 2012 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year award, it also won over the hearts of our drivers. Of the three competing pickups, five out of the seven testers claimed the Power Wagon was the truck they would want to take home with them. So of course we were more than happy to have the Power Wagon join our long-term fleet. The big changes for 2012 included the addition of a six-speed transmission, RamBox bed storage, tie-down bed rails, and a spray-in bedliner, among other things.

The Power Wagon features a ton of off-road-friendly content such as front and rear selectable lockers (the rear differential is a limited slip when unlocked), an electronic disconnecting sway bar, a true mechanically actuated transfer case shift lever, Bilstein monotube shocks, meaty 285/70R17 (33-inch) BFG All-Terrain tires on polished forged aluminum 17x8 wheels, 4.56 axle gears, skidplates, and an honest-to-goodness Warn 12,000-pound winch tucked behind the factory bumper on a slick hidden mount. Don’t forget it’s a ¾-ton truck that can haul a 1,880-pound payload and tow a 10,250-pound trailer. You really do get a lot of truck for the entry-level price of $45,565.

When ordering our long-termer we tried to keep it as close to the same as our tester. However, overall we added a few niceties to our base Power Wagon. These included the Power Premium Cloth 40/20/40 Bench Seat ($900), Customer Preferred Package 26P Luxury Group ($595), Technology Group ($495), Security Alarm ($150), Media Center 730N ($1,600), ParkView Back Up Camera ($200), Power Adjustable Pedals ($125), Remote Start System ($185), RamBox Cargo Management System ($1,295), and a Spray in Bedliner ($475), bringing our as-tested price to $52,810 (including $995 destination charge).

Our ’12 Ram Power Wagon almost has more storage areas than we know what to do with. These bins on the rear passenger floor area are handy for hiding or storing just about anything. They even have a removable plastic liner. Just add ice and you have a hidden mini cooler.

Immediately after we took possession of our long-term Ram Power Wagon we hit the desert two-track for a camping trip. We only had a week to put enough break-in miles on our Ram before the long tow to Moab, Utah, for Easter Jeep Safari. With the RamBox, door storage, and rear floor compartments there is always more than enough space for our equipment in the Power Wagon. We often forget that we have less-used items with us because they are out of sight—and more importantly, out of the way.

The bed divider/tailgate extension is kind of hit or miss for us. Sometimes it’s a great asset if you have smaller things like a cooler to keep in place, but quite often it’s a hassle to remove and store when moving larger items. When not in use we typically position it at the front of the bed, although we sacrifice a few inches of bed space to do this. Overall, it’s a stout piece that had no problem keeping even heavy railroad ties from falling out the back of the truck. The factory spray-in bedliner is a nice touch, but really hard to clean if you spill oil on it.

We love the four rigid steel anchor points at each corner of the bed. The aluminum bedrail system with adjustable plastic tie-down loops seems like it has potential, although the loops are little bit time-consuming to use. We’d like to see some sort of push-button lock system on the adjustable loops instead of the thumb screws they have now. Overall the whole assembly seems like it could be easily bent or broken by a shifting heavy load. Plus it has edges that could damage larger more delicate items like refrigerators, if you choose to haul that sort of stuff.

The fast stuff is fun in the Power Wagon. It’ll blast over most graded roads and washes at high speeds with ease. But when the whoops and bumps get big, it gives a violent reaction. It handles and rides awesome for a ¾-ton truck, but air-time is not the Power Wagon’s strong point.

Just about everyone we bump into loves the RamBox, and ironically, their first comment is typically about the bed space lost to the compartments. Having used the truck for a while, we can honestly say that we don’t miss that part of the bed. The RamBox option is far more useful than the limited space around the wheeltubs in a typical pickup.

With the truck good and broken in, we hitched up our trailer and hit the road. We were initially shocked by the single digit fuel economy, but we realize that it comes with the territory when running a high-horse V-8 and 4.56 gears at 70 mph through mountain grades while towing 10,000 pounds. If frequent, high-speed, heavy hauls are in your future, you may want to consider a different truck.

Another common complaint we hear about the Power Wagon is the lack of a diesel option. In the real world where this truck is designed to work well, a diesel as we know it would be a hindrance. The 6.7L Cummins is nearly twice as heavy as the 5.7L Hemi currently found in the Power Wagon. The added weight would simply ruin the off-road performance at any kind of speed. You would have to dump the 4.56 gears to keep the low-revving diesel happy. Plus the addition of a diesel engine would require an intercooler. Unfortunately the intercooler wants to sit in the same place as the winch and possibly the electronic disconnecting sway bar. So at the end of the day a diesel Power Wagon would have less off-road content. You’d probably only have a tire and wheel package, skidplates, shocks, front and rear lockers, a few stickers, and an estimated base price close to the $60,000 mark. No thanks! We’ll take the Hemi Power Wagon.

Anyway, we anticipated that the new six-speed transmission would help improve fuel economy over our ’10 Ram Power Wagon, also a Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year winner. However, this new truck has seen far more towing and off-road miles than our last one. It’s not quite a fair comparison yet. The six speed is definitely a sporty transmission, though. When accelerating up freeway onramps, the new six-speed grabs gears like a sports car—it’s very well-tuned for the street. As we get further along in the test, we suspect that the mpg numbers will shake out in favor of the six-speed.

The Power Wagon’s do-all capability make it the perfect fullsize truck to tow, take adventuring through the desert, or drive on long road trips. There isn’t much it can’t do well...that is, except sip fuel at a miserly rate. fw

REPORT: 1 OF 4
Previous reports: None
Base price: $45,795
Price as tested: $52,810
Four-wheel-drive system: Part-time, two-speed, manual shift lever

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 3,309
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 10.1
Test best tank (mpg): 12.8
Test worst tank (mpg): 6.1 (towing 10,000 pounds up steep grades)

Maintenance
This period: None
Problem areas: Intermittent creak in driver seat

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Do-all capability, great storage, strong styling
Not: Creak in driver seat, chews through fuel, bedrail system is kinda wonky

Logbook Quotes
“I like that the exhaust is quiet, but a more throaty tone would suit the truck better.”
“Really annoying creak in the driver seat; readjusting it makes the creak go away temporarily.”
“Absolutely chews through fuel while towing on mountain grades.
“Can maintain 70-75 mph while towing 10,000 pounds on most mountain grades.”
“Pulls a 10,000-pound trailer like a freight train at 3,000-4,000 rpm.”

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