It’s an off-road—oriented vehicle. We’ve been keeping that in mind at every all-too-frequent trip to the fuel station. With front and rear lockers, electronic sway bar disconnect, 4.10 axle gears, and chunky 285/70R17 tires, the ’15 Ram Power Wagon isn’t designed to be a mileage master. Its 6.4L Hemi is thirsty, and the Goodyear DuraTrac tires are starting to howl a bit on the street as they wear, but it’s also got built-in features that help it survive long, sustained high-rpm slogs under heavy use. Things like piston oil squirters like a diesel, sodium-filled valves, specially designed exhaust manifolds, a torque-oriented camshaft grind, and other features that set it apart from just another 5.7L Hemi with more displacement. The 6.4L is a workhorse that just happens to make 410 hp and 429 lb-ft. But something pretty nice happened somewhere around the 13,000-mile mark on the odometer. It felt as though somebody pulled a cork out of the engine’s exhaust pipe. Houston, the engine has broken in … and it’s marvelous.
That’s right. In our previous installments we’ve reported satisfaction with the Power Wagon’s overall power and hustle out of the gate, but all of a sudden out of nowhere it’s like somebody flipped the light switch and added several dozen more horsepower. In reality that didn’t happen, but it sure feels like it from behind the wheel. We’ve experienced the same thing with Cummins-powered Ram trucks after the rings loosen up and the engine break-in nears completion. Our only guess is that the same phenomenon holds true for the 6.4L Hemi. Unfortunately, while the Cummins usually sees a corresponding bump in fuel economy, our gasoline-powered Hemi still sucked down fuel like a sailor at an open bar. Oh well. Power and performance don’t come cheap.
As for gripes and groans, other than the aforementioned trouble areas like the peeling exterior door vinyl between the side windows, somewhat soft paint, and (just to sound like a broken record) horrendous fuel mileage, the Power Wagon was steady as a rock for the duration of this review installment. We did notice the leather on the driver seat starting to develop some deep creases and wrinkles that if left untreated might develop into ugly cracking, but otherwise, the fit, finish, and function of the interior switches, HVAC system, and infotainment system were flawless.
Unfortunately, thanks to a last-minute project vehicle snafu, we didn’t get to haul a heavy trailer/4x4 combo from SoCal to Moab for the 2016 Easter Jeep Safari, but we did plunk our trusty 3,300-pound YJ Wrangler behind the rear bumper and flat-towed it to the event. Interestingly, other than one portion of the trip along I-70 where we encountered a steady 40 mph headwind that resulted in a worst-tank economy of 9.09 mpg, the fuel economy with the somewhat-lightweight Jeep in tow didn’t differ from our numbers running completely empty. Credit that to the 429 lb-ft of torque and burly six-speed auto that really holds a gear when the Tow/Haul button is engaged and doesn’t hunt and peck for gears on grades. With the cruise control set, the engine just hunkers in and makes loads of gooey torque to keep the train a-rollin’.
Once in Moab, we shelved the YJ for a day so we could hit the trail in the Power Wagon. With the T-case in low range, front sway bar disconnected, and the lockers engaged, the only limits to this vehicle off-road is the preservation of its copious amount of sheetmetal. The quad-coil suspension just hooks and flexes way more than you think possible from something that still maintains a 3/4-ton capacity. And although the flex is cool, the lockers are show-stoppers, and the fact it has a Warn winch under the front bumper to bail you out if you get into trouble is neat to talk about, the real star of the show—whether you’re on- or off-road—is the perfectly tuned suspension. You really have to drive a Power Wagon with a basis for comparison to other 3/4-ton trucks. Heck, it’s better than many 1/2-ton trucks. The Bilstein shocks are a marvel, allowing virtually no head toss, chassis roll, or harshness. It’s just a pillowy, controlled experience whether carving up a paved mountain road or hammering down a bumpy wash. And coming down off small obstacles and negotiating rocky sections of trail are equally fatigue-free. To us, the ride alone is enough to warrant considering the $61,000 sticker price.
Options As Tested
Power Wagon Laramie Package 22J includes 17-inch steel spare wheel, 17x8 aluminum wheels, 180-amp alternator, LT285/70R17D Goodyear DuraTrac tires, 4.10 axle ratio, front disconnecting stabilizer bar, front electric winch, fuel tank skidplate shield, hill descent control, manual shift-on-the-fly T-case, monotone paint, tow hooks, T-case skidplate, Tru-Lok front and rear axles ($7,450); 220-amp Alternator ($100); Power Sunroof ($995); Uconnect 8.4AN AM/FM/SXM/HB/BT/NAV ($500); Remote Start System ($200); RamBox Cargo Management System ($1,295); Spray-In-Bedliner ($475)
Report: 3 of 4
Previous Reports: Nov. ’15, May ’16
Base Price: $48,790
Price as Tested: $61,000
Four-wheel-drive system: Part-time, manual-shift, two-spd
Miles to date: 18,927
Miles since last report: 5,242
Average mpg (this report): 11.18
Test best tank (mpg): 13.0 (all highway between 60-65 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 9.05 (flat-tow 3,300-pound YJ at 65 mph)
This period: N/A
Problem areas: Leather on driver seat showing wear
What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Power aplenty and velvety ride
Not: Tires starting to howl
“I wish this had rubber floor mats instead of carpet.”
“There’s like 10 cupholders up front. Seriously—10!”
“The chrome center console latch reflects sun right into your eyes.”