Test Drive: 2014 Ram Power Wagon
2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Laramie Crew Cab
Miles Driven: 302
Fuel Used: 28.9 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 10.4 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city,40% highway
Base price: $47,370 (not including $1195 destination charge)
Options on test car: Customer Preferred Package 22J ($7450), heavy-duty alternator ($100), power sunroof ($995), Uconnect media interface ($500), RamBox cargo-management system ($1295), spray-in bed liner ($475)
Price as tested: $59,580
The great: Serious off-road capability
The good: Roomy, comfortable cabin, plenty of small-item storage
The not so good: Low fuel economy, extreme step-in height
My sincerest apologies to the Ram Division of Chrysler Group LLC.
For 3 days, I drove one of its 2500 heavy-duty 4-wheel-drive pickups with the Power Wagon option package. At no time while I had possession of the keys did I need to build a railroad through an otherwise trackless wilderness, search for lost hikers along the bed of a mountain stream, or pull a mired light airplane clear of a runway so that other planes running low on fuel could land.
Those and so many other possible adventures did not fit into my schedule in the middle of a normal Consumer Guide® work week. Instead, all that I asked this high-riding, Hemi-motivated, heavy-duty to do was project my middle-aged butt, a computer bag, and a lunch up and down the stretch of Interstate 94 that runs through Chicago. I know: Pathetic.
None of that required the services of the Power Wagon’s LT285/70R17D all-terrain tires, 4.10:1 axle ratio, disconnecting front stabilizer bar (for added off-road suspension articulation), built-in electric winch, tow hooks, manual shift-on-the-fly transfer case, fuel-tank and transfer-case skid plates, or locking front and rear axles. Urban commuting did not even begin to scratch the surface of what this truck might do. Heck, it barely risked scratching the paint. I felt like I was keeping the Power Wagon from fulfilling its true destiny. Sorry about that, Ram.
The $7450 Power Wagon package in CG’s understressed inaction hero was applied to a Laramie-trim crew cab with a 6-foot bed. (It’s also possible to get a Power Wagon in low-line Tradesman trappings or as an SLT that’s a step up from entry level.) Power comes from the new 410-horsepower 6.4-liter Hemi V8 that’s optional in other Ram 2500 trucks. This torquey and sweet-sounding engine is hooked to a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive ratios in the top 2 gears. While operating on streets and highways, this powerteam delivered impressively smooth and rapid power with prompt passing kickdown. Shifts up or down were practically jolt-free.
The one sour note sounds at the gas pump. Even with cylinder deactivation in low-load situations and drag-reducing front-axle driveline disconnection at highway speeds, the Power Wagon is a big eater. After 163 miles, 57 percent under city driving conditions, I averaged just 11.21 mpg in the test truck—at least that’s regular gas.
The 2014 Ram 2500’s suspension is something of a hybrid. For the rear, it has adopted a beefier version of the light-duty Ram 1500’s highly praised coil-spring set-up, in which the axle is located to the frame with five links designed to control both axle twist under acceleration and lateral forces. In front, it picks up the 3500 series’ three-link geometry designed for improved control of body roll. The rear coils have given Ram pickups a good reputation for ride quality, and our test Power Wagon wasn’t bad in that department, either. Its biggest alteration is the tall-sidewall Goodyear off-road rubber with its knobby tread. Reputed to be great on the trail, these monster skins make the ride on pavement feel a little twitchy.
At 14.2 inches of ground clearance, the Power Wagon bests other Ram 4X4s in that department by 2 inches. That makes it particularly challenging to enter and exit. Serious off-roaders usually eschew side steps or running boards—just one more thing to get in the way of a big rock—so don’t expect to see them on this vehicle, no matter how much they might help. Perhaps the Power Wagon ought to be the official vehicle of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team because when getting out, you’ll need to stick the landing.
Once you do hoist yourself aboard, you’ll find voluminous room in front—and no shortage of cup holders. In our test truck, they were attached to the floor and molded into the broad pull-down storage arm rest in the middle of the 40/20/40 bench seat. Rear-seat occupants have a choice of two floor-mounted cup holders or two built into the center arm rest. Three adults can fit in the back with sufficient leg room and a headliner shaped to maximize head room. The driveline tunnel is low and flat, giving a middle passenger a place to comfortably rest his feet. There’s also plenty of cabin storage space, too. Big windows afford good visibility, but in a truck that rides so high, it’s even better to have the Power Wagon’s standard back-up camera and rear parking-assist system. Once under way, the Power Wagon is surprisingly quiet.
The Laramie interior features leather upholstery. Front seats are heated and ventilated, and have power adjusters (10-way with memory for the driver; 6-way for the passenger). Other standards in CG’s sample truck included dual-zone automatic climate control; Bluetooth connectivity with voice activation; a 7-inch vehicle-information display between the round analog tachometer and speedometer dials; SD card, USB, and auxiliary media ports; second-row in-floor storage bins; and a heated steering wheel with audio-control buttons. Aside from the Power Wagon group, our tester tacked on the optional navigation system and satellite traffic capability that operates through the standard Uconnect infotainment module. Other options included a 220-amp alternator, power sunroof, remote start, spray-in bedliner, and the lockable RamBox cargo bins built into each side of the pickup box.
With delivery, our test Power Wagon topped out at $59,580. Sure, that’s a lot of money, but this is a lot truck. Nobody has to apologize for that.
Having had the opportunity a few years ago to put a Power Wagon to the test on a seriously challenging off-road course, I can attest to this mighty rig’s genuine potential. It can go places few other “off-the-shelf” vehicles can. What’s impressive is that this same machine is so livable as a commuting environment.
Don’t get me wrong: I in no way advocate driving a Power Wagon on-street on a daily basis, but it’s impressive that this rig isn’t more of a beast.
Sure, the step-up is dramatic, so much so that one potential passenger actually gave up trying, and fuel economy is abysmal, but that’s to be expected.
The good news is that the new 6.4-liter V8 does a much better job of moving the Power Wagon along than the old 5.7-liter mill did. Off road, in low gear, the smaller engine worked just fine, but getting this big Ram up to highway speed proved a little too much for the 5.7.
I was impressed by the Power Wagon’s general on-road refinement. The cabin is quiet at speed, the ride is far better than you’d expect, and steering and handling are little different than you might figure from a more conventional half-ton pickup.
Two quirks, and I blame both on the enormous off-road tires. The Power Wagon tends to plow when braking, likely an effect exacerbated by the generous tire sidewalls. Additionally, gentle braking is often accompanied by what amounts to a gentle surge, an effect similar to pulling a large, half-filled tank of water and feeling it slosh as you slow.
While the Power Wagon is not a good commuter, it is an excellent off-roader that surprises with it’s on-road competence. Folks who want or need this vehicle’s impressive go-anywhere abilities will find it works just fine for the occasional trip into town as well.
2014 Ram 2500 and 3500: Big Rigs Ride Better, Get Bigger Gas Engine