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2014 Ram Power Wagon

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on August 29, 2014 Comment (0)
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The first Power Wagon rolled off the assembly line after the end of World War II to satisfy enthusiasts looking for a truck for heavy-duty civilian use. It was the first mass-produced civilian 4x4 pickup and has lived a long history as a workhorse rig. Bodies and engines changed over the decades, until the Power Wagon went out of production in 1980 with the introduction of the Dodge Ram. However, the name was revived in 2005 and continues to live on today as Ram engineers strive to deliver us the pickup with the best off-road capability.

For the latest incarnation, Ram engineers set out to offer abundant power, occupant comfort, highway handling, and, of course, off-road prowess. It’s a serious truck and one designed for those that need a heavy-duty truck for working in the dirt or dedicated backcountry weekenders that demand more than a light-duty 4x4 pickup can provide. Think of it as a ¾-ton 2500 truck on off-road steroids.

Under the hood sits a 6.4L Hemi V-8 engine that grunts out 410 hp at 5,600 rpm with a peak torque rating of 429 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. From there, power spins through a 66RFE six-speed automatic and a Borg Warner BW 44-47 T-case. We found the part-time shifter operated smoothly and appreciated the positive feel of a manual lever poking through the floor.

The 2014 Power Wagon comes equipped with a 6.4L Hemi V-8 offering 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque that carries a five-year/100,000-mile warranty. The combination of the 6.4L and 4.10 gearing delivers slightly better fuel economy than the old Power Wagon’s 5.7L Hemi pushing 4.56s, which means more driving miles for your dollar. Additional attention was paid to the 6.4L in the areas of cooling. A high-volume oil cooler is used along with oil jets for piston cooling based on computational fluid dynamics employed to optimize cooling in the block, heads, and water pump.

The engine uses variable valve timing for increased efficiency and utilizes Chrysler’s Fuel Save cylinder-deactivation technology to turn off four cylinders under conditions such as highway cruising. The Hemi in the Power Wagon also gets a unique engine tune with a softened throttle response in low range, and the idle speed is bumped up 100 rpm to 750 rpm for added control when ascending and descending off-road.

With strong V-8 power on tap and a competent linked suspension from the factory, it’s an impressive performer.”

As to the question of why no Cummins engine in the Power Wagon, Ram offered that the majority of truck purchases of heavy-duty class trucks still fall on the gas side of the line, rather than the diesel side. Additionally, the large added weight of the diesel engine at the front of the truck would ultimately compromise off-road handling, not to mention the turbodiesel’s intercooler is smack where the Warn winch mounts in the Power Wagon. Remember, we told you this was an off-road performance truck.

Interior controls were comfortable and within easy reach. Steering wheel controls are abundant, and the entertainment/navigation screen was easy to read. We prefer the traditional column shifter in the Power Wagon over the dash-mounted dial shifter used in the 1500-series Ram.

The front suspension is a three-link design to offer stable roll resistance, and the rear is a five-link coil design in place of a traditional leaf-spring system. The linked suspension offers better axlewrap control over leaf springs and provides improved articulation and ride smoothness, while maintaining a 1,490-pound payload rating.

The Power Wagon is fit with 33-inch Goodyear Duratracs to provide a bit more ground clearance than a Ram 2500 Heavy Duty, and it boasts a 30-inch water fording capability. A driver-actuated “Smart Bar” allows the disconnect of the front sway bar at low speeds to further increase articulation, adding to the off-road capability of the Power Wagon without hurting its highway stability.

Comfort and feature packages include the entry Tradesman trim with monotone paint, the SLT trim with two-tone paint and bold graphics, and the Laramie with a more subtle exterior but more highly appointed interior with leather seating. Pricing starts at $44,495 for the Tradesman version on up to $55,020 for the Laramie edition.

The Power Wagon gets a hefty 11.5-inch AAM rear axle with 1.5-inch (38mm) shafts. Axle gearing on the Power Wagon is 4.10. The rear disc rotors are 14.09 inches in diameter and are stopped with dual-piston calipers.

We recently had the opportunity to spend time in a new Power Wagon on the road and off the highway near Sedona, Arizona. We traveled surface streets and highways, finding this version of the Ram line to be both quiet and comfortable in every way. The four-corner coil-spring ride was well behaved over potholes and chatter bumps. It was still evident we were driving a large, heavy truck, but the linked suspension helped with cornering and overall handling. We could drive this truck all day on pavement with ease, enjoying the stereo and the navigation features.

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the front three-link suspension and drivetrain design. The 9.25-inch American Axle Manufacturing (AAM) straight axle sits under a pair of coil springs. A panhard bar provides lateral location of the axle and steering input comes from a traditional powered recirculating ball steering box. Exclusive to this segment of trucks is a front-axle disconnect system used to reduce parasitic loss and improve fuel efficiency up to 1 mpg. Front disc rotors are 14.17 inches in diameter and work with dual-piston calipers.

But what we really came to see was the off-road capability of the Power Wagon. Again, the truck did not disappoint. The linked suspensions offer a smooth, compliant action over rough terrain. The added articulation allowed us to travel further than expected without engaging the front or rear lockers. However, when we did push the limits of the truck, climbing loose, rocky hills and over a few medium-sized boulders, the lockers were a positive feature.

If you’re looking for a ¾-ton truck to use for hard work where you need to travel off-road or you want a heavy-duty off-road capable truck for backcountry travel or hauling in your dirt toys, you’d do yourself a favor to check out the Ram Power Wagon. With strong V-8 power on tap and a competent linked suspension from the factory, it’s an impressive performer.

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Steep, loose hills were not a problem. The weight of the heavy-duty truck, combined with the coil springs and links, kept the truck tracking true and controlled wheelhop effectively, whether at crawling or more aggressive speeds.
View Slideshow

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