Grading the 2017 Ram Power Wagon

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+.

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About Mello Mike 500 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. He currently owns a 2016 Northstar Laredo truck camper hauled on a diesel-powered 2013 Ram 3500 pickup truck. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, worked in project management several years, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side.

7 Comments

  1. Well, I just bought a 2018 Power Wagon and I have a 7700 lbs caravan. I hope everything will be good. Before, I hauled them with a 2016 Rebel and everything was fine. The Rebel could tow around 10000 lbs and the Power Wagon 10030 lbs. Finger crossed.

    • Don’t worry, you are not going to have any problems pulling weight with your new Power Wagon. My last haul receipt at the local disposal facility was Gross: 26,040 lbs., TARE: 9,500 lbs., NET: 16,540 lbs., Tons: 8.27. This truck can tow some serious weight uphill and off road, I love my 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon.

  2. When I was a kid in the 60’s, I remember seeing a couple of really old Power Wagons used at a local boat shop and storage on Bass River on Cape Cod, Ship Shops. They had a marine railroad setup for the really big sailboats and wood cruisers that the PW’s would pull up an impressive incline out of the water.
    I suspect that Chrysler will sell more of the new PW’s because of their name and heritage but not because of the versatility of what was originally a work horse, not a sport off road vehicle. One of the biggest reasons that I like TCA is that reviews like this one are spot on honest, for rv and tc applications. Seems like car, truck, rv manufacturers like to periodically jump on the nostalgia train, for good or bad. Just out of curiosity, does the current PW have a base model, or do you have to get carpets, leather, satellite stuff, photon torpedoes, etc.,or can you get just a rubber mat and crank down windows with no decals? That would be nostalgia and a lot more affordable.

  3. Mike,
    This is an honest and accurate review of the P.W. I agree that the suspension is the ‘weak’ link here, and by design made for wheel travel not camper hauling. Simply put, engineers have chosen long travel, weak springs over load carrying capacity. However, I think there is more to it than just soft springs. Constructing a complete drivetrain and suspension requires engineers to consider whether the coils are progressive or have even resistance to try to keep the wheels on the ground even when the axles are all twisted up. The engineers have chosen that non-progressive, long articulation where you need lots of air between the coil windings both for compression and unloading. This is the opposite of camper hauling springs. I have no idea if they have an adequate anti-recoil system with coils all around, like the Currie “anti-rock sway bar”. This funky little item does wonders for all coil sprung rigs with long travel keeping them straight and true. Then you consider everything gradually moving toward the engine. So, the strength of the spring mounts, both at the axle and the frame; strength and range of motion of the 4 links and shocks; strength of the frame itself and number of cross member to give rigidity (or not). I can see why they went with the lightest weight engine and materials they could concoct. You could put better load carrying springs on there to haul a heavier load, but I suspect it would exceed the design criteria built into the truck (like tire loading; the weak link is in there somewhere) and, all importantly, get the legion of corp. lawyers thinking it’s too close to the line when it comes to liability. The late Don Curley bought a P.W. when they began to make them again and tried to make it work with a camper but finally sold it and bought a truck that could actually handle the loading of a truck camper.
    jefe

  4. The Power Wagon does seem like a nice vehicle but are very expensive and I am not really into that type of off roading.

    I know the payload for the Power Wagon is around 1500 pounds but I am sure I have seen photos of some of the bigger Hallmark truck campers sitting on these vehicles.

  5. Hi Pat,
    It’s actually a good thing that Ram doesn’t offer the Power Wagon with a a diesel. If they did, it would have an even lower payload rating. An 8-foot bed would increase the payload, but it would also lengthen the wheel base, not a good thing for an off-road rig.

  6. Mike
    I would have bought a Power Wagon instead of my 2016 Laramie 2500 HD CC/LB 4×2 IL-6 6.7L CTD, but you can’t get a Cummins or any Diesel in a Power Wagon for that matter or even the 8ft. bed. That is a great review that was written there.

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