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2012 Ram Power Wagon - Long Term Report, Part 4

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on July 4, 2013
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Over the last year we have used our 2012 Pickup Truck of The Year winner, the Ram Power Wagon, like the fullsized Swiss Army knife that it is. It’s been on long road trips, hauled 10,000-pound trailers over steep mountain passes, blasted along desert two-tracks at 80 mph with a bed load of firewood and camp gear, crawled over large boulders, pushed through snowdrifts, waded in mud, and powered its way through towering sand dunes. Our Power Wagon has been perhaps the most versatile truck we have ever had in the fleet (since the last Power Wagon). Its ability to do work and still play make it an extremely desirable truck for someone that can only afford to have one vehicle.

On-road, the 2012 Ram Power Wagon drives and rides like most ¾-ton trucks. It can be a little rough at times, especially over poorly maintained roads. In most street situations the engine and transmission work well together and we appreciate the crisp shifts of the six-speed when rolling into the throttle on a freeway on-ramp or from a dead stop. More erratic and aggressive drivers will likely be at least a little irritated with the 5.7L engine and 66RFE six-speed transmission combination. The response time between mashing the throttle and the engine room reacting is slightly longer than you might think it should be. We understand that at its heart, the Power Wagon is a ¾-ton truck with a lot of cargo and towing capacity and the performance is likely moderated for the long-term preservation of the drivetrain. However, for more spirited (and unloaded) driving, it would be great if there was an off-road or sport mode switch to loosen the reins on the electronically controlled transmission and engine.

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Our Power Wagon has spent over a third of its 20,000 miles with a heavy trailer behind it. Interestingly enough, one of the most common questions we get about our truck is, “How does it tow?” Thanks to the 383hp and 400 lb-ft 5.7L V-8 engine, six-speed transmission, and 4.56 gears it tows like a freight train, but at a cost. Fuel economy dips deep into the single digits, especially with loads anywhere near the 10,250-pound max trailer weight. If you need the off-road capability of the Power Wagon then there is no substitute. But, if you don’t really need the capability and you tow heavy loads fairly regularly, you will more than likely be better off with a diesel Ram ¾- or 1-ton. The diesel will provide significantly better fuel economy, enough to pay for the oil-burner option in a relatively short period of time.

It’s the best fullsize trail truck on the market that can still perform heavy-duty work truck tasks.

Off-road, we absolutely love the ground clearance of the Power Wagon. It takes a pretty rough trail to even make contact with the fortified skidplates underneath. The 33-inch BFG All-Terrain tires, dual locking differentials, disconnecting sway bar, and Warn 12,000-pound winch are able to take the Power Wagon further up the trail than you will want to go.

Overall, our year-long experience with the 2012 Ram Power Wagon has been awesome. We’ve used the truck harder than most buyers would, and it easily handled all of our trailering, work, camping, and trail duties. Plus, it shines up nice and stands apart from the crowd for a night out on the town. In our opinion, it’s the best fullsize trail truck on the market that can still perform heavy-duty work truck tasks.

Report: 4 OF 4
Previous reports: Jan. ’13, Feb. ’13, May ’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: 20,800
Miles since last report: 9,778
Average mpg (this report): 9.15
Test best tank (mpg): 14.31 (highway less than 70 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 5.21 (towing 7,500 pounds up mountain grades at 65 to 70 mph)

This period: Two oil changes and a tire rotation $113.98
Problem areas: Starter occasionally sticks (sometimes won’t start on the first try), but it’s totally random

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Great storage, fantastic ground clearance, super versatile truck
Not: Wish the transmission had a sport mode for spirited driving and off-roading, softer rear suspension would be nice if it could maintain load capacity, dismal towing fuel economy

Logbook Quotes
“The Power Wagon’s navigation system traffic reroute feature works better than what is found in some high-end vehicles that are twice the cost.”
“Nice to not have to worry about overloading the truck with gear when camping, you can bring everything including the kitchen sink.”
“The BFG All-Terrain tires work well nearly everywhere except in clay, sliding sideways.”

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