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2012 Ram Power Wagon - Long Term Report Part 3

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on May 1, 2013
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During the last two quarters our 2012 Pickup Truck of the Year winner has spent nearly a third of its time hauling trailers of all different shapes and sizes. This quarter we took the 2012 Ram Power Wagon on several trailer-less road trips and even a few rockcrawling adventures.

On the highway we have found that keeping the speeds below 70 mph will result in slightly better fuel economy. We can muster 13 mpg if we watch the speed and travel on mostly level ground. Slowing down would likely improve the mpg even more. The 4.56:1 axle gears are the main culprit here, but the overall weight, rolling resistance, and wind resistance aren't helping. Be prepared to hit the fuel station often if you plan to make long, high-speed, highway road trips.

We used our Power Wagon to prerun much of the on- and off-road route for the 2013 Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year. This included graded dirt roads, unmaintained trails, washouts, sand dunes, silt, mud, and more. The Power Wagon has plenty of skidplating and awesome ground clearance. Combine these features with the BFG All-Terrain tires, selectable lockers front and rear, and the disconnecting sway bar and you have a nearly unstoppable truck. However, as you might imagine, the sheer size of the Crew Cab Power Wagon becomes the limiting factor. It turns amazingly sharp for a big truck, but there are some tight twisty trails that will be difficult if not impossible to navigate. One recently washed-out trail corner we encountered had several precariously placed boulders in difficult-to-avoid locations. We found ourselves hung up on the rear axle, unable to move forward or back. With the lockers engaged we had all four tires digging to China. In a scenario such as this you need to be extremely cautious of the aluminum rear driveshaft. It's totally sturdy enough to haul the Power Wagon's max GCWR of 17,000 pounds, but it's not designed for heavy rock impacts. Since a recent wildfire had burned anything large enough to connect the Power Wagon's 12,000-pound Warn winch to, we resorted to some jack work (using the factory tire jack) and rock stacking, which quickly had us out of the predicament and back on the trail again. A factory tire jack that is still functional off-road is a really nice feature that we certainly appreciated on this particular trip.

Next, we spent several days on trails littered with loose sharp rocks. With the ESP off and in high-range 4x4 we were able to pitch the Power Wagon around most corners without issue. After nearly 100 miles of spinning and sliding we noticed that the BFG All-Terrain tires were chunking. Few tires can survive this kind of abuse. There really isn't much you can do to keep this from happening in loose sharp granite except to slow down. Our tires are missing small bits from the tread area, but they have held together far better than some of the other OE tires we have used in the past. Drive sanely and the Power Wagon's BFG All-Terrains should last a long time. Despite the abuse on- and off-road, we have better than 60 percent of the tread left.

A heavy truck, sharp loose granite rocks, and aggressive driving turn pretty much any tire into a chunky mess. Our Power Wagon’s BFG All-Terrains still have plenty of life left in them, but they aren’t pretty.

One problem we ran into was with the fuel filler. It started kind of randomly with only a few fuel nozzles shutting off prematurely. Then it became progressively worse. It got to the point that we had to hold the fuel filler nozzle at an angle and fill the tank very slowly. The dealer we took the truck to for the oil change said they had seen the problem before and that it stems from a kink in the vent hose. Once the local dealer fixed it (under warranty) the problem was gone.

Next quarter we'll load up the camping gear and take the '12 Power Wagon on a multi-day desert adventure and hitch it up to a few more trailers before we say goodbye to our year-long tester.

Report: 3 OF 4
Previous reports: January '13, February '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: 11,022
Miles since last report: 3,939
Average mpg (this report): 11.2
Test best tank (mpg): 14.2 (highway less than 70 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 6.1 (towing 10,000 pounds up mountain grades)

This period: Oil change and tire rotation $75.84
Problem areas: Kink in fuel filler vent hose (warranty repair)

What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Great ground clearance, can put more traction to the ground than most people will ever need, turns surprisingly sharp for a big truck
Not: Tires chunking, dusty roads cause brakes to squeak, difficult to get better than 12 mpg on a tank

Logbook Quotes
"Amazing handling for a ¾-ton truck on graded dirt roads"
"Fuel filler cutting off too soon on pretty much every pump now, what a pain"
"I wish the Power Wagon came with a Hi-Lift Jack, but the stock one actually worked to get me unstuck"
"The factory Bilstein shocks got so hot that spit sizzles on them, yet they still work"

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