2017 Ram Power Wagon: Self-Assured Top-Dog

By Sue Mead, February 25th, 2017

In a dog's world, you'd say the Ram Power Wagon has the height and stature of a mastiff, the talents and intelligence of a border collie, and the self-assured nature and stance of a bulldog. No matter what you call it, it's a "top dog" in the 4WD truck world.

Ram's iconic Power Wagon started life in the battlefields of World War II as America's first 4x4 pickup, and has evolved into one of the world's most capable production trucks with a lofty ride-height, extreme off-road capability, and confident carriage.

The 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Crew Cab sits on the Ram 2500 heavy-duty 4x4 platform, and incorporates the best of Ram trucks' toughness and competence, along with an impressive collection of convenience and comfort features -- and then adds an extra dose of extreme off-road capability that enables the Power Wagon to make short work of a wide variety of off-road challenges and still run the highway like a premium SUV.

Its inimitable design, well-engineered powertrain, and robust mechanicals blend to make the factory-built heavy-duty truck a stand-out in its class, while its unique styling cues and graphics give it a bold, distinctive appearance.

Under the hood, Power Wagon's powerful 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 kicks out 410 horsepower at 5,600 rpm with peak torque of 429 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm. Ram's "Fuel Saver" cylinder deactivation system improves fuel economy while unique engine tuning enhances off-road performance by adjusting the throttle; in 4LOW off-road gearing, for instance, increased rpms bring additional power and control for hill descent and/or crawl modes.

A six-speed automatic transmission is integrated with a part-time, manual engagement Borg-Warner 44-47 transfer case. Power is transferred through hefty axles (9.25 inches front and 11.5 inches rear) with 4.10:1 ring and pinion ratio.

Rear axle shafts are upgraded to 38mm and both axles have Tru-Lok electronic locking differentials. Of note, the truck has a segment-exclusive front axle disconnect system that automatically decouples the front drivetrain components when appropriate, such as for highway travel, to improve fuel efficiency.

We drove the 2017 Power Wagon on the East Coast roadways in New England and then again out West in Nevada to an off-road region where we tested its backcountry capability. It scored high marks in all of our evaluations. Its hydroformed steel frame brings stiffness on pavement and dirt. Its front suspension ensures good ride height and a smooth ride, with Bilstein shocks, modified control arms, and an additional 2 inches of lift for good articulation over rocks and uneven terrain.

The class-exclusive electronic disconnecting sway bar allows the front axle to move more independently of the truck's frame; this "Smart Bar" is driver actuated in either 4HIGH or 4LOW below 18 mph for added flex and automatically re-engages at speeds above.

In back, an all-new segment-exclusive five-link coil rear suspension system with Bilstein monotube shocks and a Bilstein dampener improves frame articulation and axle control over obstacles.

New for 2017 is an all-new larger blacked-out grille with a prominent billet silver "RAM" badge. Flanking the grille are black bezel bi-functional projector headlamps, with LED marker lights. A vent-stamped bulging hood features a gloss black graphic, while the blacked-out theme continues around the truck, incorporated into its bumpers, lower body panels, wheel-arch moldings, mirrors, and badging.

A new body graphic located behind the cab takes its cue from 1979-80 "Macho Power Wagon," with a thick vertical stripe that enunciates "Power Wagon" in a large, rotated font. The rear is distinguished by a distinctive original "RAM" stamped tailgate in blacked-out lettering, with a black "Power Wagon" decal across the bottom of the tailgate.

The pickup runs on newly designed 17-inch forged, multi-surface aluminum wheels with silver outer and matte black inner highlighting; they feature exposed lug nuts and a small center cap. Standard are 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratec LT285/70R17D OWL all-terrain tires -- designed to optimize performance off-road and on the highway. A full-size spare tire is standard.

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon 4x4 Crew Cab MSRP is $51,695 plus $1,320 destination charge. An available Leather and Luxury Package ($4,495) adds a leather-appointed interior, Uconnect 8.4 and nine Alpine Speakers with sub-woofer, dual-zone temperature control, high-back heated and ventilated front seating, ParkSense front and rear parking system, and ParkView rear backup camera.

--Fast Facts:

The Ram Power Wagon can haul up to 1,500 pounds in the bed and can tow 10,030 pounds; it benefits from an approach angle of 33.6 degrees, 26.2 degrees departure, and 23.5 degrees of breakover; it boasts 14.3 inches of ground clearance and 30 inches of water-fording depth; it wears skid plates under the engine, transfer case, and fuel tank; and features standard tow hooks and a segment-exclusive WARN 12,000-pound power winch integrated into the front bumper.

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