Time sure flies. Its been 12 years since Ram re-reintroduced the Power Wagon, the company’s purpose-built, 3/4-ton off-road pickup, to the public. The truck enjoyed an uninterrupted run in popularity from 1946 to 1981, when Dodge unexpectedly decided to no longer sell it. It was a strange move. Fortunately, the company came to its senses in 2005. The Power Wagon of today is incredibly popular and is a steady seller for Ram. What’s more, today’s Power Wagon delivers considerably more power, better looks, and enhanced off-road capability than its predecessors. Sure, the eye-popping $53,000 price will sour those who are looking for an affordable pickup truck to haul a truck camper, but the 2017 Power Wagon comes with an impressive list of off-road enhancements over the standard Ram 2500 that make the extra cost worth it.
What specifically makes the 2017 Power Wagon special? Numerous things. The Power Wagon features a unique Ram “Articulink” front suspension that employs high movement joints, a five-link coil rear suspension, locking differentials on both axles, a 2-inch body lift, a 12,000-pound Warn winch, Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac 33-inch (load range D) tires, Bilstein mono-tube shocks, under-chassis armor, and an electronic disconnecting front sway bar. Even the truck’s 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine—which produces 410 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and a peak torque rating of 429 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm—has been specially calibrated to increase rpm’s for low speed, 4×4 travel. All told, these upgrades total well over $7,000 and give the truck an impressive 14.3-inch ground clearance, 26 inches of wheel travel, and 30 inches of water fording.
Unfortunately, when it comes to hauling a truck camper, this rock-crawling, mud-slinging beast is a 7,000-pound weakling. Even with a gasoline-powered V-8, the Power Wagon’s payload is only 1,510 pounds (one Power Wagon I saw at the 2017 Overland Expo had even lower payload rating of 1,342 pounds). How can a 3/4-ton truck’s payload be this low? The main reason is the truck’s weak coil spring suspension. The Power Wagon is equipped with softer, single-rate coil springs at all four corners that are designed for lift and articulation not for hauling a heavy load like a truck camper. The Wrangler Duratrac load range D tires certainly don’t help with the poor rating, but Ram engineers purposely went with lower capacity tires due to the Power Wagon’s softer suspension. Still, the payload rating of the Power Wagon is high enough to haul a small pop-up truck camper like the Outfitter Caribou Lite 6.5 or the Four Wheel Camper Hawk. If this is what you’re looking to do, the Power Wagon will perform more than admirably.
No doubt, some will say, “just upgrade the Power Wagon’s springs and tires and you’ll be good to go.” Sure, you can do that, but why should you have to invest an additional $2,500 for stiffer springs and better tires when you’ve already forked out over $53,000 for a new truck? It would be better to get these options installed at the factory so you’re not paying extra for them. Too bad a heavy-duty factory option of the Power Wagon isn’t offered by Ram, which offers stiffer springs and higher rated all-terrain tires. How hard would it be to offer that option? I imagine it would be pretty easy if the demand was there. As it stands now, we’re essentially getting a half-ton truck on a 3/4-ton platform.
So what’s the bottom line? Does Truck Camper Adventure give the Ram Power Wagon a passing or failing grade in its ability to haul a truck camper off-road? When it comes to its off-road capabilities, the Power Wagon gets a stellar A+ rating. There simply isn’t another pickup truck that offers all that it does for the price, even Ford’s F-150 Raptor, which has an even lower payload rating, by the way. The overall grade of the Power Wagon, however, takes a big hit for its abysmally low payload rating (for truck camper owners, this is probably the most important metric). Simply put, the Power Wagon’s 1,510 pound payload is substandard for a 3/4-ton truck. It’s too bad that Ram designers decided to go with a softer springs on the Power Wagon rather than the stiffer springs used on the standard Ram 2500. Axle articulation won out over capability. Nevertheless, the Ram Power Wagon is still a winner, but only gets an overall passing grade of a B when it should have gotten an A+.