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2015 Ram Power Wagon Proves Why it’s the Best Pickup for 2015

Beginning our long (off) road with our 2015 Pickup Truck of the Year winner

Christian HazelPhotographer, Writer

It easily won our 2015 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year competition. In fact, it won by such a wide margin that we began our year-long test of the 2015 Ram Power Wagon with very high expectations. So far we’ve found the Power Wagon to be an exercise in excesses. There are no half-measures. Our test model arrived outfitted in exactly the same configuration as the vehicle we had in our testing, which is to say, excessively luxurious. The Lariat package gets you all the bells and whistles from front power seats with integrated heat and A/C to the high-end sound system, leather, bright grille, dual-zone HVAC. Take all that luxury and apply the Power Wagon package and you’re talking excessively potent off-road performance, with a disconnecting front sway bar, front and rear electric lockers, additional ground clearance, Goodyear Duartrac tires, a Warn 12,000-pound winch, and more. And the icing on the cake is Ram’s quad-coil suspension that’s as (you guessed it) excessively smooth, whether on- or off-road, despite the 3/4-ton 2500 chassis and 15,500-pound towing capacity. But it’s also excessively large, excessively thirsty, and excessively excessive. So let’s dive in.

For starters, the 6.4L Hemi puts 410 hp and 429 lb-ft to the six-speed automatic. In the heavy Power Wagon, it feels just about adequate. It’s no rocket ship, but it’s not a slug either. No matter what the grade or load, just put your foot down and the Power Wagon goes. It all comes at a heavy cost, though. Our biggest gripe with this truck is the abysmal fuel economy. With the aero of a brick, it’s hard to get the mighty 6.4L to go into cylinder deactivation mode, especially with the 70-75 mph speeds common of our SoCal roadways. The best we’ve been able to muster is 14.63 mpg on an easy, loping trip down the highway returning from Hollister Hills, California. Conversely, our worst tank was that same trip, jumping from our hotel back to Hollister Hills SVRA and back and piloting the Ram up, down, and all around the off-road park’s trail system during Top Truck Challenge 2015. That tank was a scary 7.92 mpg. We shudder to think what will happen when we put a heavy trailer behind it. But despite that, we always have room inside for all our gear, plenty of power ports (12V DC, USB, or 115V AC) and a staggering 10 cupholders for the front-seat passengers alone. Road trip? Bring it. You’d just better bring your fuel card.

We lost no time in putting our ’15 Ram Power Wagon to work. It’s not the most impressive trailer in the world, but so far our Ram has made as many trips to the dump and builder’s supply place as it has the grocery store. You gotta love having a pickup as a daily driver.

Inside, the cockpit is logically laid out. The navigation system is quite good and the touchscreen interface works nicely with no glitches or problems, although turning the nav off once a route is underway could be a little more intuitive. The Bluetooth, voice controls, music, and phone are all some of the best we’ve used in any vehicle. The Chrysler Uconnect system is pretty dialed, and we’ve always been fans of the intuitive steering-wheel-mounted controls for the cruise, phone, and stereo. And Ram finally did away with the old four-wheel-drive selector button that was right next to (and looked just like) the HVAC knobs. Although in the Power Wagon it’s a moot point because it features a gool ol’ manually operated lever you can yank and feel the T-case going into whatever gear you tell it to. And when you are off-roading, the sway bar disconnect switch and locker selection dial is right there at easy reach when you want it. We’ll get some more off-roading and towing in by our next report.

With the fold-flat seats, a 6-foot, 4-inch bed, and Ram’s excellent RamBox Cargo Management system (which we’re huge fans of) we’ve never had to leave an item behind. Generous door pockets hold maps, magazines, and stickers to hand out; the center console easily swallows a laptop and iPad; rear floor-mounted cubbies hold greasy gloves or spare hitches; and the RamBox storage doors take anything from cargo to tow straps to groceries. Heck, we’ve even filled them with ice and used them as coolers. Why else would Ram put drainplugs in the bottom of them? Just load it up as you see fit, dial in the power leather seats for maximum comfort (an easy proposition, by the way), and let the miles melt away under the somewhat annoyingly loud Goodyear tires. Good thing they claw and grip fiercely off-road.

The controls are oriented nicely and ergonomically. The only thing we’d probably move is the Tow/Haul button. We’ve always felt it’s a better fit on the end of the auto shift lever. We’ll talk more about the integrated trailer brake controller, park-assist feature, and backup camera in another installment.

We plan on plenty of heavy towing, lots of hauling, and some heavy wheeling in the coming months, but for now we’ve been mostly limited to SoCal freeway commuting and around-town driving. The Ram Power Wagon is a big truck, and you sit up high above the masses. You can see a mile, which is a good thing since the brakes feel fairly spongy in a panic stop. We don’t know if it’s the heavy chassis or what, but our truck requires a pretty good run out when we’re trying to haul it down from 70-0 mph. We’ve also found, despite the huge torque of the 6.4L, the transmission will downshift periodically to maintain 70-75 mph on the freeway with a slight grade. We’d think with 4.10s, only 33-inch tires, and 429 lb-ft on tap it’d pull Overdrive without an issue. In all, we’re pretty excited to be in this vehicle for a full year.

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 skid plate shield, hill descent control, manual shift-on-the-fly T-case, monotone paint, tow hooks, T-case skid plate, 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: 1 of 4
Previous Reports: N/A
Base Price: $48,790
Price as Tested: $61,000
Four-wheel-drive system: Part-time, manual-shift, two-speed

Long Term Numbers
Miles to date: 5,273
Miles since last report: N/A
Average mpg (this report): 11.50
Test best tank (mpg): 14.63 (highway between 70-75 mph)
Test worst tank (mpg): 7.92 (in-town and wheeling Hollister Hills SVRA during Top Truck Challenge)

This period: None
Problem areas: None

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Comfortable driver with great interior quality
Not: Spongy brakes and wallowy handling

Logbook quotes
Butt air in the seats! How great!
Wish it had radar-guided cruise control (adaptive cruise)
Climbs great even with the lockers disengaged

Unless your hauling requires every available inch of bed space, the RamBox Cargo Management system is worth its weight in gold. We find the boxes in the sides of the bed invaluable for hauling everything from groceries to cameras, laptops, baseball gear, and everything in between. And as a bonus, the boxes and tailgate lock and open with the passenger doors via the key fob, so you know your gear is secure when you leave it.