By Derek Price
After the Ram 1500 was redesigned to be far-and-away the most refined pickup for sale today, its big brother — the new Ram Heavy Duty — took a different approach.
It’s trying to be the most serious truck.
Yes, it’s redesigned to have a quieter, smoother, downright sumptuous highway ride, but that’s not the point. It is, at its core, a serious truck designed to do serious work.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Power Wagon, a truck built to go straight from the factory to the mountains and trails, complete with a 12,000-pound Warn winch up front.
The Power Wagon has long been known as the only heavy-duty truck that comes fully outfitted for tough off-roading, with the kind of kit that owners typically purchase and install from aftermarket vendors — if it’s available at all.
It has a unique suspension design that’s lifted for high ground clearance, locking differentials in the front and rear and a disconnecting sway bar. Best of all, you can control all of its electronic suspension bits by pressing buttons in the cabin, not having to climb out and tromp around in the muck.
How much does all this cost? The starting price for a Power Wagon is $53,350, roughly $20,000 more than the $33,645 base truck.
For that price, you get a heavy-duty pickup that not only performs spectacularly off road, but also looks the part with interior and exterior design cues with its bold Power Wagon branding.
You also get the peace of mind from a full factory warranty and legitimate automotive engineering, not guesswork of unknown origin from a random suspension shop. That’s worth something.
If you want to save money, you can get a Power Wagon content package on the basic, stripped-down Tradesman trim level. It has all the Power Wagon’s off-road goodies without the luxury features and fancy badging, perfect for people who need a serious truck but don’t care for the bling. It shaves about $5,000 off the price.
Power comes from Ram’s heavy-duty, 6.4-liter gasoline V8 engine that makes 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque. While fuel economy in heavy trucks is not rated by the federal government, Ram says its efficiency is helped by the Multi-Displacement System (MDS) that doesn’t fire all the cylinders unless they’re needed.
Off the pavement, the Power Wagon feels undeniably capable but also oddly long and wide. Off-road enthusiasts would find the Jeep Wrangler much easier to handle in tight spots and easier to climb boulders with its short wheelbase.
The Power Wagon’s advantage is being able to deliver heavy-duty truck utility to the middle of nowhere. For farmers, ranchers and oilfield workers, a truck like this is more of a tool than a toy, helping bring equipment and supplies wherever they’re needed, whether there’s asphalt or not.
My week in the Power Wagon was spent almost entirely on the road, including some long highway stints that showed off just how livable it is in everyday driving. It was not only spacious, but reasonably quiet and smooth for a weekend trip to Arkansas.
That’s what amazes me most about the Ram Heavy Duty — and all heavy-duty trucks for sale these days, for that matter. They deliver more towing and payload capability than ever before, yet they don’t burst your eardrums and wreck your spine in the ways their noisy, bumpy ancestors did.
This new Ram 2500 delivers big-truck capability while coming remarkably close to small-truck refinement and comfort. It’s a brilliant combination.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon Crew Cab 4×4 ($53,150). Options: Premium paint ($200), towing technology group ($1,095), safety group ($1,195), bed utility group ($695), Power Wagon Level 2 equipment group ($5,595), power sunroof ($1,095), black tubular side steps ($445), 12-inch Connect display ($1,995), RamBox cargo management system ($995). Price as tested (including $1,695 destination charge): $68,155
Wheelbase: 149.3 in.
Length: 238.8 in.
Width: 83.4 in.
Height: 80.9 in.
Engine: 6.4-liter heavy duty V8 (410 hp, 429 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: Not evaluated
Why buy it?
The Power Wagon delivers serious off-road capability without the risks and costs of aftermarket vendors. It’s ready to rumble through the wilderness as soon as it leaves the factory floor.