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2015-2017 Ram Power Wagon: Off-Road Pickup Trucks Return

by David Zatz

The 2015 (Dodge) Ram Power Wagon was a major improvement over the prior version. When the Ram 2500 was redesigned to have a Jeep-like multi-link rear suspension for a much smoother ride and better traction, Ram made major changes to increase the Power Wagon’s off-road chops — including an “Articulink” system that brings a stunning 26 inches of vertical wheel movement.

2017 Ram Powr Wagon

For 2017, the most off-road ready Ram pickup gained a new look inside and out, along with a companion off-road package for the normal Ram 2500.

A Laramie version appears to be in the works, providing more luxury for the tough off-road pickup.

2017 Ram Power Wagon Laramie

The Ram Power Wagon is based on the 2500 4x4 Crew Cab with a six-foot, four-inch bed and, starting in 2015, a 410-horsepower Hemi V8 engine as the sole powerplant. The Power Wagon includes two more inches of lift, locking differentials, heavier-duty running gear, and a 12,000-lb. winch.

For 2017, the Power Wagon adopted a Ram Rebel-style grille, with a large billet-silver Ram badge, blacked-out grille, projector headlamps, LED marker lights, and glossy black graphics on the hood.

Suspension, body, and off-road goodness

In 1946, Dodge’s first Power Wagon was launched. Based on the military Weapons Carrier trucks, it stayed in production with few outward changes until 1978 (after 1968, for export only). The name was also used in the 1970s and 1980 by a modern 4x4; it faded out until 2005. Read on...

The big Hemi engine is hooked up to a part-time, manual-engagement Borg Warner BW 44-47 transfer case. Hill Descent Control lets drivers limit the Power Wagon’s speed down steep grades with buttons on the column shifter.

All Ram 2500s have an advanced three-link front suspension with high roll stiffness, to cut body roll (or lean); the Power Wagon continues with its unique “Ram Articulink™” setup, putting high movement joints at the control-arm-to-axle mount, for additional flexibility and axle articulation. Bilstein monotube shocks replace the standard units. The Power Wagon has unique spring rates and over two inches more lift than the normal Ram 2500; the

articulink

The class-exclusive electrically disconnecting sway bar lets the front axle move more independently of the truck’s frame; the newly renamed “Smart Bar” can be disengaged in four wheel drive below 18 mph (high or low gear). It re-engages at speeds above 18 mph. With the Smart Bar engaged, the Ram Power Wagon reaches a Ramp Travel Index (RTI - a measurement of a vehicle's suspension articulation) of 510 (26 inches of travel).

smart bar diagram

smartbar

All Ram 2500 Heavy Duty trucks, including the Power Wagon, use a Jeep-like multi-link coil rear suspension system for best-in-class ride and handling. Advantages over leaf springs include better articulation over obstacles, added lateral support, and built-in prevention of unwanted axle rotation, which prevents shuddering over rough surfaces. In addition, driveshaft U-joints have less vibration, there is less unsprung mass (by 40 lb), and there is none of the leaf-springs’ stick-slip friction. An added Bilstein dampener links the top of the rear axle to the frame, providing additional control.

Ground Clearance and Protection

The 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires have a beefy tread pattern for traction through sand, mud, and snow. Ground clearance is down by 0.2 inches from last year, to 14.3 inches, still 2.3” better than the standard Ram 2500. Approach, departure, and breakover angles are all greater than standard Rams; and there is thirty inches of water crossing capability.

front axle

Underneath, fore-aft bars bring together the transfer case and fuel tank skid plates, to minimize underside damage and prevent rock wedging. A 12,000 pound winch is standard.

Axles have locking differentials; the front axle has a disconnect system, resulting in an increase of up to 1 mpg. [Axle details in the specs page]

The hydroformed frame is shared with standard Ram 2500s.

rear axle

rear axle diagram

Graphics packages

The base Tradesman Crew Cab 4x4 version of the Power Wagon has monotone paint, no graphics, and Tradesman grille surround and inserts. Offroad equipment is the same.

tradesman

On other Power Wagons, the 1970s-inspired graphics vary based on color, and the optional two-tone, lower black paint scheme has returned. White, Flame Red, Silver, Blue Streak, and Granite Crystal use glossy black graphics, while black models have silver graphics.

The front and rear bumpers are powder coated for a durable finish; the front bumper hides a Warn 12,000-lb. winch, roller fairlead, and 125 feet of line, only given away by a dozer hook that attaches to one of the two front tow hooks. New and unique to Power Wagon are 17-inch forged, multi-surface aluminum wheels with silver outers and matte black inners. Numerous trim parts are blacked out.

tailgate

On the back is a 324 point RAM-stamped tailgate with blacked-out lettering; gloss black graphics meld with the black powder-coated rear bumper. A black “Power Wagon” decal crosses the bottom of the tailgate.

Powertrain

The only engine is the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 with 410 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and peak torque of 429 lb.-ft. (582 Nm) at 4,000 rpm. When driving in 4x4 Low, the throttle response softens and the idle speed increases from 650 to 750 rpm for extra control. (The transmission is a 66RFE six-speed automatic.)

engine

Efficiency is addressed not only through the head design, but through cooled exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) for reduced pumping losses, variable valve timing (VVT), cylinder deactivation technology, an active dual-runner-length intake manifold (to increase low-end torque without sacrificing high-end power), and a new positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system integrated in the intake manifold.

cutaway image

To increase durability, the Hemi has a high-volume oil cooler, oil jets for piston cooling, stainless steel gaskets, and durable gaskets and fasteners. Cooling was optimized with computational fluid dynamics; and valve seats were upgraded.

Four-wheel disc brakes have four-channel electronic stability control (ESC) (see the specs for details on the brakes and steering).

The American Axle Manufacturing (AAM) axles’s ring gear was 9.25 inches in the front and 11.5 inches in the rear (increased from 10.5 inches), with a 4.10:1 ring and pinion ratio. Rear axle shafts were upgraded to 38 mm (the front stayed at 35 mm); 33 inch tires were used.

Body and electrical

The Powernet system has both high and low-speed data networks with up to 40 modules; each module (e.g., electronic stability control) processes its data and transmits commands to activate other systems (e.g. anti-lock brake system and cruise control) as needed. Most commercial truck customers need to tie into the electrical system, and some need access to vehicle information, especially ambulance upfitters and some utility companies. An exclusive interface module (VSIM) can safely communicate between aftermarket and factory control modules; it has 53 circuits, including lighting, door position, and throttle and transmission position.

2017 Ram Power Wagon headlights

The new Power Wagon offers a dual-alternator system – the first of its kind for 3/4- and 1-ton pickup trucks with gas powertrains – combining 220- and 160-amp units for 380-amps of total best-in-class output. The intelligent battery sensor measures the flow of current in and out of the battery, systematically shutting off select electrical systems when the battery is running low.

Hydro-mounts at the C-pillar positions cut noise, and vibration.

A standard Class 5 receiver hitch has four- and seven-pin connectors on the bumper. Options include a backup camera in the tailgate and one for viewing cargo; drivers can monitor bed loads without turning around. A touch screen toggles the choice on the 8.4 inch screen.

Interior options and features

There are two interiors, both having major upgrades to touch points and wrapped and stitched surfaces. Unique “technical grain” seats are done in light gray and black, with tire-tred-embossed Sedoso fabric inserts. Heated front seats have light slate gray accent stitching and Ram embroidery on the headrests, with a black-and-light-gray Power Wagon nameplate on the upper seat bolsters

seats with imprints.

The premium trim has leather seats wtih Power Wagon and Ram emboridery on the bolsters and sides of the headrests, with matching Slate Gray stitching. Ambient lighting brightens the roof, door panels, and foot wells. The instrument panel, door armrests, and 20% seat console armrest cover, are all done in black. The center stack and doors have metallic iron-gray paint. The steering wheel is covered with semi-perforated black leather (heated wheels are optional).

dashboard

A 7-inch center cluster and 8.4 inch stereo screen are standard.

On the floor, “deep dish” rubber mats contain dirt, snow, and debris.

gauges

Options include a new tonneau cover, power folding mirrors, power rear-sliding window with defrost, one-touch central locking (including the RamBox cargo management system), factory spray-in bedliner, LED bedlighting, power-adjustable pedals, and remote start.

loading floor

See comparisons, specifications, the warranty, and more. • Ram 2500 4x4 Off-Road Package • Test drive (offroad)


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