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Published: 06/26/2014 - by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Quick Summary: The 2014 Ram Power Wagon is best described as the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon of full-size heavy-duty pickups. It's an off-road-oriented truck optimized for low-speed work; it's no wannabe desert racer. It features a brand new 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that makes 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque.
But the advance that really moves the needle is the Power Wagon's new coil spring rear suspension, which gives this mountain goat more suspension articulation than ever before. It also helps the big Ram ride more smoothly than any other heavy-duty pickup you're likely to encounter.
What Is It?
The Ram Power Wagon has been around a long time, and the basic recipe hasn't varied much over the years. Take a heavy-duty Ram pickup, lift the suspension, give it knobby off-road tires and add a front winch. The end result is an off-road truck that can do real work in places others fear to tread.
As before, the Power Wagon rides on Bilstein monotube shocks for greater control and fade resistance. The front suspension incorporates 1.5 inches of suspension lift and the rear end gets a 1-inch hike. On top of that, each end gets an additional 1-inch boost from the larger diameter of the standard LT285/70R17 (aka 33-inch) tires.
The Power Wagon package includes off-road upgrades that are found on most of the Jeeps you'll see in places like Moab. Its front and rear differentials can be electronically locked from inside the cabin. The front stabilizer bar has been essentially sawn in half so that a motorized mechanism can disconnect and reconnect it at the driver's whim.
The cable and hook of a 12,000-pound Warn winch peeks discreetly out of a slot in the chrome front bumper and there's a nearby socket for the remote control unit.
This is essentially the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon formula in heavy-duty Ram 2500 pickup form, with a winch added for good measure.
What Has Changed?
Last year's 5.7-liter Hemi V8 has been replaced by a more powerful 6.4-liter Hemi that cranks out 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, a nice bump up from the 383 hp and 400 lb-ft available last year. It's a stout motor, and it plays well with the standard six-speed automatic transmission that carries over unchanged.
You have to squint to see the extra power in our test results, though. Our 2014 Power Wagon roared down the quarter-mile in 16.3 seconds and topped out at 85.6 mph, passing through 60 mph in 8.5 seconds along the way. The last 5.7-liter Power Wagon we tested (a 2010 model that still had the five-speed gearbox) made it to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds before sagging to 16.2 seconds at 82.9 mph at the line.
Why was the old Power Wagon a few tenths quicker to 60 mph? Put it down to a 4.56:1 axle ratio. The new 2014 edition leverages the 6.4-liter engine's extra power and torque to get by with taller 4.10:1 gearing for improved fuel economy. And the new Hemi V8 doubles down on the economy front with a V4 cylinder deactivation mode that kicks in seamlessly when cruising the straight and level.
Suspension-wise, the basic concept of an approximate 2-inch lift, Bilstein shocks and 33-inch off-road tires on 17-inch wheels carries over intact. But the 2014 Power Wagon suspension itself is all-new.
All Ram 2500 trucks switched over to a five-link coil spring rear suspension for 2014, and the Power Wagon is no exception. Rear axle articulation potential is better with this setup, and the Power Wagon takes full advantage by using linear-rate springs instead of the progressive-rate ones found on other 2500 models. In so doing, the Power Wagon trades away some payload and GVWR in the name of off-road potential, though.
Similarly, all 2014 heavy-duty Ram trucks switched to a three-link front suspension in order to gain the extra roll stiffness necessary to support the new sky-high 30,000-pound tow ratings on certain 3500 series variants. But ultra-high roll stiffness isn't favorable to good off-road articulation, so the Power Wagon uses unique control arms with an added "articulink" to put the flexibility back in.
It all rolls on the same-size LT285/70R17 rubber as last year, but this new 2014 Power Wagon uses Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires instead of BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/As. The knobby new shoes and their outward-facing white letters certainly look the part.
How Many Trim Levels Are There?
This year the 2014 Power Wagon is available in three trim levels, all of them restricted to the Crew Cab 4x4 body style with a standard-length bed. After that, the Ram's option strategy gets somewhat confusing.
First up, there's a version that's simply called the 2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon. This is basically just like our test truck, graphics and all. It's the volume-selling SLT-level truck with the Power Wagon package built in as standard equipment.
The other two paths to a Power Wagon begin with either the basic Tradesman work truck or the high-zoot Laramie. From there you opt for the Power Wagon package that adds $7,950 to the price of a Tradesman or $7,450 to the Laramie. In either case you'll get all of the Power Wagon mechanical bits but none of the exterior graphics.
The end result is a base price of $45,690 for a Tradesman Power Wagon, $50,340 for an SLT Power Wagon and $56,015 for a Laramie Power Wagon.
How Does It Drive?
The Power Wagon feels much more refined behind the wheel than its bulk would suggest, thanks to the healthy output of its standard 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine. There's plenty of acceleration on tap, and the transmission shifts smoothly as it steps up through the gears.
Hydraulically boosted recirculating-ball steering seems like a throwback, but it's a rugged choice for a big machine such as this. There's enough boost to help turn the 33-inch Goodyears, but never so much that the driver loses sight of which way they're pointed.
The big Ram's reflexes are admirably reassuring, and it tracks true through corners. The disconnecting front stabilizer bar may help on the pavement in an unexpected way: They would have had to compromise and fit a smaller one if it couldn't be disconnected off-road. As it stands, the tall Power Wagon never feels like it's heeling over in corners much.
In the end the truck's altitude and weight define the limits to which the Goodyear all-terrain rubber can be pushed. They generate a modest 0.68g on the skid pad and require 142 feet to stop from 60 mph.
What About Ride Comfort?
We can't recall a 2500-series truck that rides as agreeably as the 2014 Ram Power Wagon. That's not to say it floats on a cushion of air. It doesn't. There's still an underlying heavy-duty firmness to its unladen ride. But it comes across as capable rather than unyielding. The Power Wagon's suspension does a good job of smothering road artifacts that can set others skittering about.
The five-link coil-spring rear suspension looms large here, but the 2014 Power Wagon rides even better than a Ram 2500 Outdoorsman we drove the week before. There are two reasons for this: the Power Wagon's previously mentioned linear-rate rear springs and its lower rear tire pressure of 65 psi (typical Ram 2500 4x4 rear tires are set at 80 psi).
The exhaust note is powerful, but never in a way that feels like it's trying too hard. It's there when we stand on it, but fades into the background when cruising. Likewise the Goodyear tires hum a bit, but in a far-off way that's entirely in keeping with the truck's attitude and purpose. It'd be weird if we heard nothing from down below.
How About Off Road?
Extra body clearance from the suspension and tire mods (2.5 inches up front, 2 inches in back) is the most basic and obvious upgrade. All of the usual clearance dimensions are vastly improved. For instance: The Power Wagon's approach angle is a full 33.6 degrees, up from 21.8 in a regular 2500 4x4. Underbody ground clearance is 14.3 inches instead of 12.0 inches.
The Power Wagon's suspension flexes readily once the front stabilizer bar is disconnected. We measured the difference back at the shop. The Ramp Travel Index was 518 points in disconnect mode versus 412 points in connect mode: a massive difference.
Tire lift is rare on our chosen trail, and we find little cause to engage the locking differentials. When we do, we have our choice of rear only or front and rear together. All it takes is a twist of the knob and a moment's pause.
Throughout the day we find it ridiculously easy to nuance the torque output of the Power Wagon's big Hemi in low range because that mode includes a softer throttle pedal calibration that's easy to feather as we ease up and over obstacles.
Closer to home, we don't need any of these devices to make decent time on our local well-traveled forest access roads, but we find the front stabilizer disconnect works well to combat head toss on the stony dirt surface, as long as we stay below its activation threshold of 19 mph.
The 60 psi front/65 psi rear street pressure of the 2500-series tires is a bit much, though. They need to be aired down out here. The Power Wagon's high-speed dirt road ride isn't as forgiving as the 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro we ran through here a few weeks ago.
The Ram 2500 Power Wagon has all the right stuff to be highly capable off-road. The only thing that keeps it from going anywhere a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon can go is its sheer size: width, wheelbase and turning circle.
What Is the Interior Like?
It's an admittedly big step up into the towering cab of the 2014 Ram Power Wagon, but once you're there you'll find the same well-designed cab that graces all other current Ram pickups. It's our favorite truck interior, hands down.
Like any other 2500 SLT, our Power Wagon has six-passenger cloth seating. Here the optional Premium Bench Seat ($900) comprises two outboard front buckets that flank a third jump seat that folds down to make a center console armrest. The Crew Cab's rear seat is comfortable and spacious for the long haul, and the 60/40 seat bottoms flip up to reveal small fold-out trestles that support a flat load floor.
We really appreciate the handsome styling of the dash and instrument panel, and the information screen between the dials can be configured to display more data than we have paragraphs to describe. Transmission temperature? Yup. Trailer brake controller gain? Of course. And lots more.
The optional and easy-to-use 8.4-inch touchscreen audio and navigation system ($1,005) is a can't-miss option that outperforms competing systems that cost more money. Besides the expected iPod, USB and Bluetooth streaming audio connectivity, the system supports Pandora, iHeartradio and Slacker app-based services through a paired smartphone. And for an extra subscription fee you can turn the truck into a mobile 3G Wi-Fi hotspot.
Want leather and a higher grade of interior trim? Simply go for the Laramie version of the Power Wagon.
What About Cargo and Towing?
The single-minded off-road specialization of the Power Wagon's suspension takes a bite out of its load-carrying capacity, a bite that's sizable enough to make it haul more like a 1500 series truck.
A regular Ram 2500 SLT that isn't a Power Wagon has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds and a payload of 3,170 pounds. The Power Wagon's GVWR is 8,510 pounds and its rated maximum payload is 1,430 pounds. Similarly, a regular 2500 SLT with 4.10 gears can tow a maximum of 15,500 pounds, but the corresponding Power Wagon is limited to 10,750 pounds.
While these numbers are close to those of the 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro we recently tested, the Power Wagon enjoys the benefits of the heavy-duty 2500-series running gear that's slung beneath it. And the off-road payoff is real in terms of superior clearance and suspension flexibility in the rockiest terrain. It's the beefier machine.
As with other Ram 2500-series trucks, the hitch, wiring and trailer brake controller come standard. The Power Wagon is truly a plug-and-play tow vehicle. And if you like the idea of cargo box compartments, Ram's popular RamBox cargo management system ($1,295) is available on any Power Wagon.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
Heavy duty 2500-series trucks are still exempt from EPA fuel economy testing and labeling if their curb weight or GVWR exceed certain limits. Weighing in at a full 7,077 pounds, the Power Wagon is heavy enough to qualify for "N/A" status on the window sticker. So we're all left guessing.
Our Ram test truck earned 13.2 mpg around our 115-mile test loop and averaged 11.8 mpg over the 1,510 miles we spent with it, a total that included several hundred miles of highway driving and about 100 miles off-road.
At this point you may be wondering why the Power Wagon isn't available with the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel. Mike Cairns, director of Ram Truck Engineering told us it's a simple matter of weight. The diesel engine adds more than 800 pounds to the mix, and the front springs would have to be heavier to the point where off-road articulation would suffer appreciably. As for the newly introduced 3.0-liter EcoDiesel in the Ram 1500, the displacement says it all. It's nowhere near stout enough for a heavier 2500-series truck. It'd cost more and put out less than the new 6.4-liter gas engine.
If that weren't enough, there's no room for the turbodiesel's current intercooler because that space is taken up by the Power Wagon's signature 12,000-pound Warn winch. And the diesel's rear axle is not compatible with a locking differential because of the Cummins' monstrous torque output.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
No other truckmakers are building off-road packages based on their heavy-duty truck chassis, so you could say the 2014 Ram Power Wagon is the only game in town. That's especially true if you're looking for a large pickup that can follow in the steps of a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon — provided, of course, the trail is wide enough.
The 2014 Ford Raptor is a Baja-inspired truck that's built for speed. It has gobs of suspension travel and is exceedingly wide. It's more of an open-desert, open-throttle sort of off-road truck.
As with the Power Wagon, its single-minded off-road modifications take a similar toll on towing and hauling. But since it was only an F-150 to start with, its towing and hauling capability lags behind that of the Ram.
A Raptor Super Crew starts at $48,800, but most will want a slew of must-have options that come bundled in a $4,760 package. Most Raptors cost upwards of $53,560.
The 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro won't be out until late fall of 2014. It's also more of a desert-focused truck that is built for speed and comfort on rough surfaces. It has good articulation, but its lack of a stabilizer bar disconnect keeps it adrift of the Power Wagon. As for locking differentials, it has none.
Significantly, the TRD Pro option has been tuned to maintain the towing and hauling capacity of the SR5 4x4 on which it is based. It actually has 100 pounds more payload than the Power Wagon, and its 9,800-pound tow rating may, in fact, outmatch the off-road Ram's 10,750-pound rating because Toyota uses the new SAE tow rating procedure and Ram does not.
The Tundra TRD Pro is also cheaper to buy, with an expected price in the $45,000-$46,000 range. And it'll be the least thirsty, with the same 15 mpg combined (13 city/17 highway) fuel economy rating as the current Tundra 5.7-liter V8 4x4 truck.
Why Should You Consider This Truck
The 2014 Ram Power Wagon is more of a hunting and fishing sort of off-road vehicle. It's an explorer's truck, the kind of 4x4 that will get you there no matter where "there" is or how ill-defined the trail may be. Except for the silly graphics, it's a no-nonsense off-road machine in the classic sense of the word. It really is the Wrangler Rubicon of heavy-duty pickups.
In Tradesman guise it's also an off-road work truck, something that could be of use if your company maintains remote communications equipment, power lines or if you're an Alaska State Trooper.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Truck
Fans of the high-speed open desert style of off-roading will be better served by the Ford Raptor or the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.
Of course, a regular Ram 2500 is the better choice for those who don't need or want maximum off-road prowess, for those who would rather not give up the towing and hauling that's lost in the Power Wagon transformation.
And to the chagrin of many, the Power Wagon is simply not an option if you're determined to buy Ram's 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engine for its superior torque, fuel economy or cruising range.
Maybe they ought to come out with a Torque Wagon.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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