2018 Ram Power Wagon Review: It's a Tool

Discussion in 'General' started by cliff leppke, Mar 6, 2019.

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    018 Ram 2500 Power Wagon: It’s a Tool

    By Cliff Leppke


    Ram’s beefy Mexican-made 2500 Power Wagon is an extroverted tool. It’s not subtle. Power Wagon labels, for example, decorate its sides, rear gate, power-dome hood and chairs. Black stripes embellish the bed’s flanks, which have Ram boxes—two lockable bins. Ram installed an electric winch in the front chrome bumper. Amber lamps atop the cab—just like the big rigs—proclaim its extra-wide berth.

    There’s truth in this machine’s labeling; it pulls heavy trailers (up to about 10,000 lbs) and navigates unpaved routes (has locking differentials). In this sense, it’s trailer-trash covetable. My octogenarian folks tote their fifth-wheel rolling home from concrete slab to concrete slab with an older diesel 2500. They dig this rig. There’s a caveat. The Power Wagon’s higher rear bumper means my parents would need a drop-down hitch in order to get hitched.

    The 2018 version impressed them while trekking to Milwaukee’s Tandem restaurant. Mom thought it rode better. Indeed, its body wiggles less than theirs. According to FCA, strategically configured body mounts tame its demeanor. That’s unexpected; the test vehicle’s four-door crew cab stretches even farther from stem to stern than my parent’s vintage shorter-wheelbase quad cab.


    Everything is relative. This truck tackles Milwaukee’s winter-wrecked streets like a several-ton pogo stick. It hops and shudders. It’s ungainly, when it’s not pointed straight. Due to its high-mass suspension with heavy front and rear axles under coil springs, the Power Wagon is a bouncer. Bilstein high-pressure gas shocks ensure a stiff ride. There’s a shock absorber atop the rear differential, too. Bumps cause the steering wheel to shudder. Slow steering and spongy brakes don’t inspire confidence. Yet, the binders performed well. Driver assistance such as forward collision abatement and lane deviation warning should be standard.

    High Country

    You ride high in the Ram’s well stuffed saddles. Its lofty altitude means loading its high-mesa rear bed is a chore. You need a step ladder or a gymnastic coach. It takes Herculean force to engage 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low via a floor-mounted lever. Selecting drive or reverse, however, is easy. Nonetheless, you can inadvertently trip the column-mounted shifter’s side-mounted manumatic toggle switch. The column lever’s location means there’s space for a mid-front seat/console. Ram claims six-seat capacity, but neither the front nor the rear middle positions are very habitable. In the rear, a mid-rider’s head slams against an overhead lamp. Right front passenger toe space is limited due to a floor bulge for the driveline. Nonetheless, the area under the glovebox is nicely finished and carpeted.

    Obvious screw heads and interior panel gaps are gauche. On the exterior, uneven hood, fender and pillar gaps are unsightly. A flat-plastic parking-brake release paddle feels flimsy. These affectations are difficult to accept when the asking price is $63,725. Better design and material finesse please.

    In contrast, the multi-purpose Ram boxes are nifty stowage spots. You can stash loot in the cabin, too. The rear compartment seat bottoms rise theater style providing access to a fold-out plastic floor. On one hand, this platform isn’t sturdy. On the other, night-time loading is theatrical. LEDs (under the seats cushions) guide you like an usher’s flashlight.

    A 6.4-liter V-8 engine attached to a six-speed automatic transmission supplies motivation. Despite its trailer towing axle, engine speed at 60 mph is surprisingly calm—1500 rpm. It must downshift to climb expressway overpasses, though. And this mill gets gritty at 55 mph. Ram claims a cylinder-on-demand feature improves fuel economy. I observed a paltry 11.4 mpg. That figure drops if you use the truck’s tow-haul mode. The EPA doesn’t supply fuel use or emissions data because this heavy-duty Ram is exempted.


    The intuitive 8.4-inch U-Connect infotainment screen requires extra taps to see a map after picking navigation. Annoying wind-alert advisories popped up blocking maps requiring one to top “ok.” While weather info is helpful, its presentation is a diversion. That’s a problem for a vehicle that easily strays from its lane. And due to the center stack’s flat plane, you must crane your neck in order to operate seat heat, chill and other amenities located on the infotainment screen.

    Using the wide side-view mirrors, in contrast, aids towing. Plus, there’s a park sense system front and rear. Those heading off road can disconnect the front swaybar from the driver’s seat. This increases front suspension articulation providing Jeep-like off-road prowess. While the hulky Power Wagon isn’t a good passenger car and its bed is an alpinist’s special, this tool’s towing capacity and rugged underpinnings make it one tough gas-guzzling cookie.
    EdwinTheMagnificent likes this.

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