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Long-Term Report - 2012 Ram Power Wagon, Part 2

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on February 1, 2013
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Last quarter we broke in our 2012 Pickup Truck of the Year winner with a wheeling trip over desert two-track, then hitched up a 10,000-pound trailer and hit the road for the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. This quarter our Power Wagon continued to impress us with its towing capability and off-road prowess.

Nearly one third of the miles on our ’12 Ram have been with a trailer in tow. These trailers have ranged from small empty car haulers (1,500 pounds) to a loaded-down 10,000-pounder. At this point we have come to expect that the combination of the Power Wagon’s 4.56 axle gears and Hemi V-8 chew through fuel. This is even more pronounced when towing a load over 4,000 pounds at 75 mph or greater, which typically results in single-digit mpg numbers. On the plus side, we never really yearn for more power, even on the steepest grades. The Ram pulls hard regardless of what you put in front of it or hitch up behind it. The factory built-in adjustable electric trailer brake control works well and allows plenty of range for any trailer and weight. The only bummer is that the controller is located in a somewhat hard to see location on the lower left side of the dash. In some aspects it’s a plus because the large green-lit numbers might be annoyingly distracting if they were within eyesight.

Even though we’re typically not the techie type, we’ve become addicted to the 730N Media Center, the top-of-the-line Ram head unit. It has way more attributes than our slag brains can grasp, yet it’s still very simple to use. We love the programmable Favorite Artists feature of the satellite radio. The head unit informs you with an on-screen message whenever your favorite saved artist or song is playing on any of the satellite channels. The navigation system of the 730N is also much loved by us, especially in Los Angeles traffic. Before we get a chance to rot at a stop in the fast lane, the 730N has been able to reroute us around traffic. Of course, it adds a few miles to your trip, but for us the time saved has been extremely significant.

We continue to find all sorts of ways to utilize the RamBox option and in-floor storage boxes. If you have lots of stuff to stow it’s hard to beat our Power Wagon. We generally keep dirty items like tow straps, tire plug kits, and other recovery gear in the RamBox. We’ve even put a complete 48-inch Hi-Lift Jack in our RamBox. The ability to lock the lids provides more security and peace of mind than simply tossing the items in the bed of the truck. However, the owner’s manual recommends strapping down and padding heavy and sharp items (like our Hi-Lift) to eliminate the possibility of damaging the plastic structures. We’ve found that for general on-road use the Hi-Lift stays put without doing any damage.

If you put heavy and somewhat sharp items in the RamBox compartments (like a Hi-Lift Jack), you should pad them to avoid damage to the plastic structure. Things like tow straps, tire plug kits, and other smaller items fit perfectly back here. A 12-volt light at each end of the box makes finding what you need a lot easier at night.

Off-road the Power Wagon performs impressively for a ¾-ton truck. Of course there is quite a bit of head toss when the slow-speed bumps get big or abrupt but the Ram makes short work of small bumps and graded roads. Disconnecting the electronic sway bar (in 4-Hi or 4-Lo only) smoothes the slow speed off-road ride considerably. Unfortunately, the sway bar wants to automatically reconnect at speeds over 18 mph.

As the speed increases on graded off-road surfaces the Power Wagon drives less like a big truck. It can be tossed around loose corners aggressively. But if you hit a whoop section at speed you’ll quickly be reminded it’s still a ¾-ton and not a desert prerunner. Assertive drivers will notice that the electronic throttle is slow to react and the transmission is slow to downshift when exiting a hard-braked corner. You can use the manual shift buttons to combat this, but they are awkwardly placed on the shifter stalk causing some fumbling when juggling the wheel off-road. Another annoyance is that regardless of the gear you manually select, the transmission will upshift when you get to redline. With all this going on, successfully pitching the Ram sideways in a high-speed dirt corner can be quite a feat to accomplish. Ultimately, with plenty of ground clearance, BFG All-Terrain tires, two locking differentials, an electronic disconnecting sway bar, and a real Warn 12,000-pound winch, the Ram is far more capable than any fullsize truck at slower off-road speeds.

Next quarter we’ll take the ’12 Power Wagon on a road trip and do some more serious wheeling.

Report: 2 OF 4
Previous reports: Jan. ’13
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: 7,083
Miles since last report: 3,774
Average mpg (this report): 11.4
Test best tank (mpg): 13.4
Test worst tank (mpg): 6.1 (towing 10,000 pounds up mountain grades)

This period: $45.50
Problem areas: Intermittent creak in driver seat

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Quickly chews through small bumps off-road, easy to clean vinyl floor, tows and goes off-road
Not: Big off-road bumps cause a lot of head toss, tranny is a little slow to shift off-road, manual shift buttons are in an awkward location

Logbook Quotes
“Didn’t think I would like the plastic flooring as much as I do”
“It chews through small bumps at speed off-road but the big whoops eat the truck up”
“Manual shift buttons are awkward”
“Hard to beat the Power Wagon’s ¾-ton truck and off-road capability”

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