Unless you're new to wheeling or brain-dead, the name Power Wagon evokes images of big, tough, Dodge pickups in the worst off-road environments. As an outgrowth of the military Dodges used in WWII, the civilian Power Wagon became famous for its durability, stoutness, reliability, and off-road prowess. The name held until the early '80s when the moniker was dropped, as well as the aura of the beast.
Enter the Dragon 2005: The Dodge Power Wagon is back, and in fighting form no less. Available only in a 3/4-ton version with a Hemi V-8, the new Power Wagon is far removed from the antiquated and slow, cumbersome version of yesteryear, but still retains the legendary off-road ability, and then some. Developed off of the standard Dodge Ram platform, the new beast offers a host of features wanted by true off-roaders. In fact, we feel that this mag and its readers helped forge the direction the engineers at DaimlerChrysler took, and those engineers get lots of the credit for pushing this vehicle past the lawyers and PR people who just don't get what the buying public really wants. This is a pickup that we would go and buy with our own cash, if we had any.
Starting with a standard or Quad Cab 3/4-ton 4x4, the Dodge Boys softened the suspension and added Bilstein shocks, while still retaining a respectable towing capacity. The massive AAM axles were internally beefed and fitted with 4.56 gears and electric lockers on both ends, not just the rear. Special 17x8 forged Alcoa rims with a wider bead seat are fitted to 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/As, which articulate massively due to a new electronically controlled disconnect front sway bar.
Had enough yet? How about a 345-horse/375 lb-ft torque Hemi V-8 coupled to the five-speed auto or the G56 six-speed manual? Oh yeah, the transfer case is an NV271 part time unit with a respectable 2.72 low range and a real lever to engage it. And for icing on the cake, this pickup has a factory installed, designed, and tested 12,000-pound Warn winch residing behind the front bumper, just like a real Power Wagon. The Beast is back.
And driveability? We took it out for an extended testdrive in Moab, and after climbing incredible stuff and jumping it on fire roads, we're convinced that the Dodge boys did their homework. The softer suspension gives the animal a smooth and controlled ride, without lulling us into that luxury SUV driving coma. The interior is pretty standard stuff we like anyway, ergonomically designed, comfortable, and convenient. The out-of-body experience is also a pleasure: Just a little tongue of a winch hook sticks out to subtly proclaim its prowess, while the tasteful side logos and prominent tailgate treatment inform the ignorant of the term Power Wagon.
Just like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon before it, the Power Wagon harkens back to a real-world performance ethic, which will not go unnoticed. A solid-axle pickup with lockers, 4.56 gears, 33-inch tires, and a winch are now available to the public that demands such a rig. It may take the other manufacturers a while to figure out that this combo is what sells in our market, but Dodge seems to have the deck stacked in its favor. We'll give the truck a thorough thrashing on our 4x4 of the Year test coming in the February issue, and give you the lowdown on what we feel is a true contender.
2005 Dodge Ram Power Wagon Specifications
Type: OHV Hemi Magnum V-8
Displacement (liters/ci): 5.7/345
Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
SAE Horsepower: 345 @ 5,400 rpm
SAE Torque (lb-ft): 375 @ 4,200 rpm
Type: Five-speed automatic overdrive
Second 1.67:1 (upshift), 1.50 (kick-down);
Overall Top Gear 3.06 with 4.56 axle ratio
Six-speed manual overdrive
Low-Range Ratio: 2.72:1
DIMENSIONS (in) AND CAPACITIES
Track: (front/rear) 69.5/68.5
Overall Length: 227.7
Overall Width: 79.8
Overall Height: 80.6
Fuel Tank (gallons): 34
Axle (front/rear, inches): 8.4/8.3
Approach Angle: 35
Ramp Breakover Angle: 25.5
Departure Angle: 26.5
Front: Live axle, Quadra Link leading arms, track bar, coil springs, electric disconnecting stabilizer bar, gas-charged Bilstein monotube shock absorbers
Rear: Live axle, longitudinal leaf springs, gas-charged Bilstein monotube shock absorbers
Overall Ratio: 13.4:1
Turns Lock-to-lock: 2.75
Turning Diameter (feet) 48.9