The 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

“The Ram Power Wagon is an off-road, all-access pass, removing the limitations, instilling confidence and allowing owners to reach areas of recreation and lifestyle not attainable with any other pickup,” said Mike Manley, head of Jeep Brand and Ram brand, FCA, “…(for) those who travel into extreme terrain, while providing the towing and payload capability required in a heavy-duty truck.”

Overview

Ram hit it out of the park last year, with the remake of its stable of 1500 full-sized pickups and filled its Detroit trophy case with dozens of awards, including the 2019 North American Truck of the Year. Among the favored models was the über-capable 2019 Ram 1500 Power Wagon. The truck maker is back now with the update of its heavy-duty lineup of 2500 and 3500 offerings, and the 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon adds star power to the roster; it’s not just another home run but benefits from the synergies and lessons learned from the newest 1500 model. This toughened pickup has an iconic heritage that dates back to 1945 when “Ram” was “Dodge,” and hard work with trucks and overland travel wasn’t a past-time—it was a necessity and lives depended on it. It can still be the case today.

Ram says its 3/4-ton lineup was redesigned to set benchmarks in ride, handling, materials, and innovations. There are 35 all-new and 21 class-exclusive features in the lineup, with more than 100 safety and security features, including class-exclusive active safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking (AEB), and AEB with trailer brakes.

Superior hauling and towing capability are the basic go-tos in this segment of the market. There are also several skill-enhancing aids: auto-leveling the rear air suspension for ease of loading cargo, trailer hookup, and leveling for towing; a surround view camera with reverse guidance for productively and safely working in tight spaces; a cargo bay camera to monitor load or aid in aligning 5th wheel/gooseneck trailer hookups; a cargo bay 115V/400W power outlet and LED lighting; and added backup sensors covering the added width of dual rear wheels. The side mirror mounted auxiliary LED reverse lamps light the side of the truck to the rear for backing up at night, and the mirrors can be swung out to shine the light away from the truck, making good illumination for working at night as well.

The Dirt on Power Wagon

A group of truck testers joined the Ram team for a ride and drive of its HD models in the unlikely starting location of the streets of Las Vegas. The idea was to illuminate the handling of the trucks in around-town settings and on highways. Soon, however, we shed the bright lights for the two-lanes and dirt roads that lead to the nearby stunning backcountry where the Eldorado Canyon Mine is perched above the Colorado River. While we motored in a number of different models, I did a deep dive into the newest Power Wagon that comes as a 2500 4WD crew cab model only. It’s been crafted to work and play aggressively with a collection of hard-core, off-road features, and at the same time, it’s also laden with technology, connectivity, and premium touches. If you’re bullish on backcountry camping or true overlanding, it’s worth a closer look. Here are some of the features I loved the most, as discerned from my on-road drive and a single-track course off the beaten path: its quietness, ergonomics and comfortable seats, toughness and nimbleness, top technologies, and useful, practical features.

Despite its tall ride height that enables this “wagon” to motor over uneven surfaces with worthy ground clearance and water-fording depth, even short drivers can get situated satisfactorily in the cab with respectable outside visibility and access to controls. I also appreciated the interior roominess, and upscale fit and finish. Climbing in is a big step up, however, for height-challenged drivers and riders.

Nick Cappa, Ram’s Power Wagon aficionado, selected a course that illuminated the truck’s slow-speed prowess, high-speed comfort, maneuverability, and muscle; unique engine calibration modulates the throttle response for each. In 4WD Low, the response softens and the idle speed increases by 100 rpm (from 650 to 750 rpm) for greater control when ascending and descending off-road obstacles at slow speeds.

The pickup shines off pavement—a tough, solid demeanor is married to a feeling of lightness and maneuverability. Engineers calculated its high-strength steel frame for hardiness, while the aluminum hood sheds weight and helps it respond quickly and efficiently to steering and braking inputs. The well-weighted steering comes from Ram’s hydraulic steering system with a recirculating ball gear that has been engineered for precise tracking to accommodate everyday driving as well as for towing heavy loads.

In addition to power under the hood, the truck’s heartbeat is its well-designed suspension system that brings shocks with variable spring rates and dampening in addition to a disconnecting sway bar; this provided a greater ability to finesse tight corners and climb over large rocks while also keeping the truck “flat” when climbing up and descending steep inclines. Power Wagon’s unique suspension (in the HD lineup) has more than 2 inches of lift added to the Articulink suspension setup in the front that incorporates high movement joints and the sway-bar disconnect system to bring more flexibility and axle articulation. The rear gets a five-link coil system with Bilstein shocks and modified control arms. Under the belly is 15 inches of ground clearance, with skid plate and protection components for the transfer case and fuel tank.

Also of note are the front and rear electronic locking differentials. There is a part-time, manual-engagement Borg Warner BW 44-47 transfer case, and tall, aggressive rubber for excellent grip and grab, along with standard hill-descent control that adds peace of mind for steep and slick terrain.

Powered by Ram’s best-in-class 410 horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine, it gets a notable 429 pound-feet of torque and runs through its gears with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. A portion of the drive allowed me to drive at a somewhat high rate of speed over undulating and serpentine terrain. In its 4WD high setting, there was wholesome horsepower and torque on tap with laudable handling.

Looks weren’t an afterthought: the newest model carries forward cues from its forebearers and also borrows some looks from the Ram 1500 Rebel. It’s been crafted with an all-new, larger, blacked-out grille sporting a prominent billet silver Ram letter badge that is bookended by black bezel bi-functional projector headlamps with LED marker lights. A black gloss graphic sits on the vented hood and Ram and Power Wagon tattoos leave no wonder of its marque.

Outside, two-tone black paint and graphics can be optioned in different colors, depending on paint selection. It rides on 17-inch forged aluminum wheels shod with 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires with an aggressive tread pattern to enhance off-road traction.

Inspiration for the colors, lighting, wheels, grilles and legacy graphics takes cues from the 1979-80 Macho Power Wagon. The cabin sports new colors and materials, with leather or Diesel Gray and Black seats and tire tread-matching pattern, with heat if desired. An optional Uconnect 12-inch screen allows configuration, and, when using cameras, alternates the view from the front to tailgate to truck bed. The 7-inch center cluster uses Power Wagon startup graphics featuring an off-road theme, as does the 12-inch screen. Deep dish rubber floor mats help catch mud and debris.

The Power Wagon Guru

Cappa brought the press kit to life as a devotee of the Power Wagon’s cache of hardware. “The biggest selling point for the Power Wagon is that you can take it to the middle of nowhere and be running solo and have the reliability to get back home, ” adding, “and, when it comes to the off-road equipment on board, you have all you could ever wish for in its stock package—power, an incredible suspension, lockers, lift, and toughened tires and wheels—all backed by Ram’s factory warranty. If you buy a truck today and equip it with all of that on your own, you’re not only going to spend more money but, most importantly, you’re going to run into warranty issues,” explained the Power Wagon guru.

“The engineers have tested it and put it through the paces of durability testing and long-term use to make sure that all of the components work together. For example, take the winch: you need to make sure that the wiring is done right and all of the components work together. If you use an aftermarket product, and something such as a switch gets damaged and shorts out something else and you have set it up, you could be in trouble with a warranty. Or, take the 4.10 gear set: you need aggressive tires that are manageable at highway speeds and to make sure there are no issues because of inappropriate integration. It’s also important to know the right tire size for the lift and that you can lose payload and towing capability with a high center of gravity.”

The 2019 Ram 2500 Power Wagon starts at $52,900 (destination and delivery add $1,695).  It can be added as a package to the 2019 Ram 2500 Crew Cab 4WD Tradesman that adds lockers, winch, lift, tires, shocks, underbody cladding, and the sway bar, but not the black bumpers, interior amenities, and exterior paint/ graphics. This equipment package starts at $39, 850 and carries appeal to park rangers, border patrol agents, and oil-field workers.

Other Highlights

It complies with SAE’s J207 standards for decreasing radius turns and rapid lane changes.

The one-touch, central locking includes the RamBox cargo management system and tailgate power locks.

Options include an available spray-in bedliner, LED bed-lighting, front and rear park-assist system, power-adjustable pedals and remote start.

There is a new 360-degree camera with forward view gridlines that guide in wheel placement and avoid obstacles. The side views aids in navigating narrow spaces and staying centered on the trail.

Additional axle data:

FRONT   REAR
9.25 AAM 11.5 AAM
Front pinion: 98.3 millimetersRear pinion:  121.3 millimeters
Front ring gear: 235 millimeters (9.25 inches)Rear ring gear:  292 millimeters (11.5 inches)
Front axle shaft diameter: 35 millimetersRear axle shaft diameter:  38 millimeters


Crawl ratio – 3.23 (1st gear ratio) * 2.64 (transfer case ratio) * 4.10 (axle ratio) = 35:1

The Power Wagon name dates back to 1945 through 1980. Early trucks were based on the Weapons Carrier (WC) series of Dodge 3/4-ton military-use trucks built during World War II. The Power Wagon went on to become a well-known civilian vehicle. The iconic truck was reintroduced in 2005 and now exists as an independent model in the Ram Truck lineup.

Sue Mead’s career as an auto journalist began as a freelance evaluator for Four Wheeler Magazine in 1988, on the first team that included women. Today, she travels the globe test-driving cars and trucks, and writing for dozens of publications around the world, including Automobile, Truck Trend and CNNfn. Mead has also authored four books on 4WD sports. Her career has taken her through 69 countries; she was the first American female Driver of Record in the Dakar Rally (2011, where she took 1st Place in the Open Production Class) and is an inductee to the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.