electronic assist for off-roaders is the locking differential on each
axle. Drivers control a 3-position rotary switch on the dash: unlock,
rear lock and front/rear lock. The axles can be locked only in 4LO.
So much for the walk around, let’s go wheelin’! Our first
chance to drive the Power Wagon came over the Poison Spider trail near
Moab, Utah. It’s a rocky ride through hills with plenty of large
stair steps, some deep sand washes and large crevices to traverse. Our
ride was an automatic-equipped Quad Cab Laramie, complete with heated
leather seats, moonroof and nav system.
air down the tires but engaged the rear axle right away. The front axle
wasn’t locked until just before we thought it would be needed. The
Power Wagon already has 49-foot turning diameter, and locking up the front
axles increases that distance a bunch. The key, however, is not to engage
the front axle after you’re in trouble. We had excellent spotters
throughout the ride, but common sense should tell you when to engage.
It takes a few seconds for the axles to lock after turning the switch.
A blinking light lets you know the mechanicals are working and a solid
light lets you know the axles are locked.
With a wide track (69.5 inches front, 68.5 inches rear), the Power Wagon
is ensures confidence on off-camber maneuvers. We challenged some of the
steepest slick rock trails that this magnificent country offers with no
problem, up or down. The automatic transmission doesn’t interfere
with engine braking too much, but light application of the truck’s
impressive 13.9-inch 4-wheel-disc brakes is needed at times. Luckily,
Dodge engineers recalibrated the ABS for 4LO operation so that the pedal
isn’t taken away from the driver in extreme situations when some
lockup is preferred.
went over a few wide crevices that clearly demonstrated the axle articulation,
excellent sidewall grip of the BFG tires and steady crawling momentum
despite the Hemi’s torque curve that peaks at non-crawling 4200
makes mistakes off road but the Power Wagon is very forgiving. The skid
plates are tied together with fore-aft bars, and Dodge also offers a beefy
set of 3-inch rock rails to reduce the risk of additional body damage.
We saw some trucks attempt a stair step that had be at least 22 inches
tall. The sound of metal scraping against rock is painful when Mother
Nature high-centers a $40,000 vehicle. But a quick inspection underneath
revealed only a few light scars. For the ultimate blunder of getting stuck,
the 12,000-pound winch is easily operated with a 12-foot remote control.
Ninety feet of galvanized aircraft wire cable can be stretched out to
pull the Power Wagon out of most any predicament.
The Power Wagon isn’t meant to go where only mountain goats can
walk. It’s not a fully modified Jeep Wrangler. And the truly ultimate
off-road package would have an on-board air compressor or even better,
central tire inflation. But the Power Wagon is more capable off road than
other pickup. It will fit the needs of hunters, forest officials, ranchers
and other professions who require cargo capacity, decent towing and livable
cab in addition to superior off-road capability. No other truck meets
all of these demands with such authority.
an original 1946 Power Wagon
on hand during the demonstration for journalists at Moab. Many of us old-timers
would like to have taken this classic truck on the trail for a nostalgic
comparison, but it was too valuable as a historic monument to the men
who drove similar vehicles in WWII, then used them as civilians to build
an American dream for themselves. The new Power Wagon won’t have
such romantic history to recount 50 years from now, but it like the original,
it can boast that it’s the best for its time.