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First Look: 2017 Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package, Power Wagon, and Rebel

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on July 10, 2016
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Photographers: Courtesy Of Ram

When it comes to new vehicle offerings, there isn’t much that makes us happier than factory 4x4 packages that increase off-road capability. For 2017, Ram Truck has added yet another vehicle to its off-road lineup that already includes the 2500-based Power Wagon and 1500-based Rebel. The new Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package includes a list of must-have upgrades for the occasional off-roader. It has large functional open-loop front tow points and the same heavy-duty transfer case skidplate as the Power Wagon. Other features include a standard rear limited-slip differential, Bilstein monotube shock absorbers that have been tuned for the weight of the 2500, more aggressive all-terrain tires in 275/70R18 or 285/60R20 flavor, larger fender flares in black or body color, 4x4 Off Road bed decals and the same electronic hill-descent control system found on the Power Wagon. The Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package is available as a crew cab or Mega Cab with a gas or diesel powertrain and in short- and long-wheelbase models. It is available on all Ram trim levels, including Tradesman, SLT, Big Horn/Lone Star, Outdoorsman, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, and Limited. The ’17 Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package will be on dealer lots in the third quarter of 2016.

The ’17 Ram Power Wagon will receive several aesthetic updates. Most notable is the grille and the new graphics, the latter of which is certainly a nod to the ’77-’80 Dodge Macho styling, popularized in the Simon & Simon TV series that ran in the ’80s and ’90s. The new grille is similar to what you’ll find on the current-model Rebel. Inside the ’17 Power Wagon you’ll find seats with Sedoso fabric inserts embossed with the Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tire tread pattern, which matches the Power Wagon’s actual tire print.

A premium trim option steps up to leather seats with Power Wagon and Ram logos embroidered on the bolsters and on the sides of the headrests. Among other details, a new black headliner and matching upper pillars finish out the alterations of the Power Wagon interior. The ’17 Ram Power Wagon will be available in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The 2016 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year–winning Ram Rebel model returns for 2017 with no significant changes.

We weren’t allowed to get behind the wheel of the ’17 Ram trucks, but after carefully ogling every detail of each new rig, we took the ’16 Power Wagon and Rebel up the back side of Crown King Trail near Flagstaff, Arizona. The trail is a great day-trip that has many features and optional offshoots that can be a challenge for stock and mildly modified 4x4s. The Ram duo performed well all day, and we never had to pull a winch cable, run a tow line, or change a tire. However, we did poke and prod the Ram guys for some more info about off-road equipment and asked why some components remain elusive to the brand. Check out the “Five Quick Questions” sidebar for more info on that.

The grille and paint are the most significant changes being made for the ’17 Power Wagon. We appreciate the Macho-themed paint scheme much more than the splash graphics that have been overused by truck manufacturers over the last few years.

The all-terrain tires and the bed stickers are the major identifiers of the ’17 Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package. However, there are many other off-road features included in the package that make the truck a good choice for the occasional off-roader. Our biggest complaint is that we would like to see an optional selectable locker available in the rear axle, rather than the standard limited-slip differential.

Underneath the ’17 Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package you’ll find the standard 3/4-ton 4x4 radius arms (no Power Wagon Articulink), Bilstein monotube shocks, and a heavy-duty transfer case skidplate.

The increased ride height and large wheelwells of the ’17 Power Wagon should allow the truck to accept slightly larger tires with little to no modifications. We think a 315/70R17 would fit cleanly in the wheelwells on the factory wheels.

The ’17 Ram Power Wagon seats feature embossed material similar to what you find in the current Ram Rebel. The tread pattern in the seats of the Power Wagon matches the tire tread on the truck. The optional premium leather seats are not imprinted with the tread design.

The Crown King Trail is accessed on the east side of Lake Pleasant via North Castle Hot Springs Road off of Highway 74. The trail begins as a well-maintained meandering graded dirt road through the foothills.

There are many optional, more-difficult offshoots as you gain elevation toward the mountain town of Crown King. None of them take you far from the main road. Most of these offshoots feature staggered holes and loose rock that can be a challenge for 4x4s with open differentials.

You’ll find several abandoned houses, houses that are occupied, and operational mines along the route. Staying on the main path ensures that you’ll avoid wandering onto private property and the business end of a shotgun.

The middle portion of the trail is the least maintained. There are only a few obstacles without bypasses that require exceptional ground clearance. Once you get past the large grey water tank shot full of holes on the hillside to the left, you should be in the clear all the way up to Crown King. Unless, of course, it’s winter and there is lots of snow on the ground or unexpected washouts.

Crown King is at an elevation of nearly 5,800 feet. It was originally founded in 1875 as a gold mining town. It currently has fewer than 200 residents. The Crown King Saloon (crownkingsaloon.com) and The Mill (crownkingmill.com) offer food and beverages to keep you happy after your long trail day.

Five Quick Questions

Even though it’s said that up to 35 percent of pickup owners operate their vehicle in off-road environments for work and/or play, only a very small portion of them use their trucks on more extreme off-road trails. Regardless, if you’re at all like us, then you probably want to know why some off-road–friendly accessories aren’t made available on the current Ram trucks. So we asked Ram Truck some rather pointed questions regarding options we’d like to see on future Ram truck models.

1. FW: Everyone always asks—and you've probably answered this question a million times—but apparently we need to cover it a few hundred more times. Why can't we order a Power Wagon with the Cummins engine?
Ram Truck: When building a truck to meet Ram’s durability standards, there’s a lot more involved than just an engine swap.
Packaging: The winch takes the place of the low-slung CAC (charge air cooler) required for the Cummins engine. A new bumper design would be necessary, which means additional impact studies and development costs. The engine would require more cooling capacity, and finding real estate on the front of the truck is not an easy task.
Weight: The added weight of the Cummins engine would not improve off-road capability, especially since most of the weight would be on the front tires.
Powertrain strength: The Cummins engine has significantly more torque, which would require a heavier transmission, larger axles, lockers, driveshafts, and other powertrain components that would add more weight and increase development costs.
Axle clearance: The Cummins engine is very tall with a deep oil pan. The axle will not be able to clear for max articulation, especially since you would need a larger front axle to handle the torque.
Cost: Although the idea of a Cummins Power Wagon is attractive, the cost of the truck would be much higher.

2. FW: Why is the selectable rear locker found in the Power Wagon not been made available as an option on gas-powered Ram 2500 trucks?
Ram Truck: As a truck manufacturer, we do a lot of research on customer needs and wants. Our research shows the take rate on such an option is extremely low. Therefore, we focus on more important attributes in the HD segment: best-in-class towing, payload, ride comfort, and fuel efficiency. The investment is better spent in those areas to reach more customers.

3. FW: What is the reason for the lack of a diesel engine option for the Rebel?
Ram Truck: The EcoDiesel engine is between 15 and 20 percent of our Ram 1500 build. That’s already higher than expected and with a fuel economy rating of up to 29 mpg, it’s understandable why the powertrain is in demand. The Rebel is flying off the shelves as well, and we would consider an EcoDiesel Rebel, but not at this time.

4. FW: How come we can't get a Ram 1500 off-road package with a rear locker and a winch?
Ram Truck: Again, as a truck manufacturer, we do a lot of research on customer needs and wants. Our research shows the take rate on such options is extremely low. Therefore we focus on more important attributes in the 1/2-ton segment: best-in-class ride/handling, comfort features, and fuel efficiency. The investment is better spent in those areas to reach more customers. A good question to ask: Would air suspension, a small diesel, eight-speed transmission, link-coil suspension, or RamBox be alternative trade-offs for such options?

5. FW: What would be the challenges in offering a Ram 4x4 with the 707hp 6.2L Hellcat V-8 engine?
Ram Truck: First and foremost, we would need to research the desire for such a combination. Once it is confirmed the take rate is justified, we need to find engine supply. Only a select number are allocated for build. It is not a high-volume powertrain like the 5.7L Hemi V-8. If that could be achieved, we need to consider a long list of other factors, such as pricing, other products in the pipeline, and opportunity cost.

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