Test: 2005 Dodge Ram Power Wagon
Off-road packages are no longer just options on pickup trucks; they’re popular enough that manufacturers are offering them as stand-alone models. Monikers such as FX4, Z71 and TRD are as well-known now as any of the classic performance icons from the ‘60s musclecar era: Z/28, CJ, T/A. The off-road packages usually consist of suspension changes, gearing, wheels and tires, body armor and a few cosmetic upgrades. Within the 4-wheel-drive market, these packages have made significant penetration in sales numbers and command top-of-the-line prices. Some truck makers have even adapted them to lower-priced 2-wheel-drive models to mimic the high-stance, desert pre-runner look popular in Sun Belt states. Through word of mouth, consistent marketing and constant exposure to the large badging on the rear quarter panels, off-road packages have developed a loyal following and almost a cult-like attraction. No one wants a standard 4x4 anymore.
Dodge has been relatively silent in this truck toy arena, focusing its attention on diesel workhorses (Cummins HO) or speed (Ram SRT-10 and Dakota R/T). But with the resurrection of the legendary Power Wagon name on a heavily modified Ram 2500 4x4, Dodge has built the most competent off-road pickup in town, hands down. It will tread where others fear, conquer obstacles that others fail and recover from situations where others will simply lay down and whimper until the tow truck arrives. The Power Wagon is so superior on extreme mountain trails that any other pickup claiming to have an off-road package could be charged with false advertising.
Dodge took a kid-in-the-off-road-store-with-daddy’s-credit-card approach to building the Power Wagon. Engineers adapted nearly every desirable option and aftermarket treat available, then developed a few tricks of their own. But this package isn’t just a weekend bolt-on party in someone’s driveway. All of the upgrades are well integrated not only to the main truck but to each other. Here are the highlights:
Dodge officials estimate there’s about $10,000 worth up off-road-worthy upgrades to the Power Wagon, yet the truck will cost a little more than $6,000 over a Ram 2500 SLT. The Power Wagon is available in two configurations: regular cab longbed and Quad Cab shortbed, so both sit on an identical 140.5-inch wheelbase. Current models come with a 5-speed automatic transmission but a 6-speed manual with a 6.29:1 granny gear will be available soon. Starting price for a regular cab manual is $36,660 and $37,830 for the automatic. The Quad Cab starts at $39,125 for the manual and $40,295 for the automatic. Popular options such as under-bedrail bedliner, towing mirrors, power adjustable pedals, sun roof (Quad Cab only), leather seating, side air bags, DVD-based navigation system, 240-watt, 11-speaker Infinity premium sound system and 6-CD in-dash changer are also available. A fully loaded Power Wagon could set you back more than $45,000. That’s why no wimpy decal identifies this truck. There’s a bold badge stretched across the tailgate in gleaming chrome block letters with supporting badges on the doors. The Power Wagon is also identified by the matte finish on the wheel flares, roof-mounted running lights and unique chrome bumper that supports the winch and massive tow hooks.