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2017 Ram Power Wagon in person: Vintage charm

Off-road in the Power Wagon (by David Zatz)

The Ram Power Wagon is huge, stable, and powerful, and had absolutely no problem handling any part of the Chelsea Proving Grounds off-road trail with aplomb, except for one tight turn.

Ground clearance is quite high, and it took almost no skill to drive the big Ram through any part of the course. It's not necessarily the ideal off-road vehicle for every situation; it's big and wide, so there are places you just won't fit. That's why the Wrangler remains so narrow; it fits between trees or rocks. The Power Wagon takes a different path, unless you take chainsaws and jack-hammers around.


The other problem with the Power Wagon is visibility - you really can't see what's going on over that massive hood. There was one point where the trail goes up a steep hill, then turns sharply to the right; I had absolutely no idea where I was going until I was over the hill. Yes, that's a problem in any vehicle, but in the Power Wagon, it's "more so."

The Power Wagon isn't all about ground clearance and traction; the twin rear cameras are a fine feature in real use, one for showing the bed and one traditional backup camera. (You know what I'd like even more? An off-road camera that showed what was up front, at speeds under 5 mph. If I was really going off-road in a non-trail situation, I'd either have to send someone out to spot, or rig up my own camera, or perhaps add a mirror-based hood ornament). I can see those coming in very handy for real buyers who put these trucks their design-intent uses.


The Power Wagon set some expectations for what was to come. The ride was very firm, which didn't help on some of the obstacles, but it really had absolutely no issue climbing muddy hills, going over logs or railroad-trestle steps, or running through fairly deep water. The truck was obviously designed specifically to handle these obstacles and conditions, and did so with insane ease, like highway passing in a Hellcat. That's what it's engineered to do, even if some buyers get it for the stance and the graphics.

Personal impressions at the auto show (by Patrick Rall)


According to a Ram spokesman, the 2017 Ram Power Wagon didn't get any new mechanical features, but it did get new wheels, new tires, new colors and a new decal setup borrowed from the Power Wagon from the 1980s (except the yellow trim has been replaced by black trim from front to back).


I was a fan of the "splash" graphics on the previous Power Wagon, but the vertical logo on the bedside, which debuted back in the 1980s and widely seen on the TV show Simon and Simon, is far more palatable for those who don't want graphics covering the side of the truck. The truck may not stand out quite as much, but there is no question that this new Power Wagon is gorgeous.

The changes to this pickup are largely aesthetic, with the most prominent features being the graphics on the hood, bedsides, and tailgate. The new Power Wagon also gets the new Ram grille, similar to the one on the Ram Rebel.

While some Dodge fans prefer the traditional crosshair design, I think that this evolution of the Ram face is a step in the right direction. When coupled with the Power Wagon bumper, this truck is easily the most rugged looking heavy duty truck in America and that look is backed up by unbeatable capabilities.


As soon as the 2017 Power Wagon broke cover and images began circulating online, some Ram fans questioned the decision to make this refresh purely aesthetic. I spoke with Ram's Nick Cappa, who explained that the Ram Power Wagon, while being a hard working pickup, is also a halo vehicle. This truck is designed for enthusiasts and for some of those folks, keeping a model fresh is a big deal.

Since there was no need to refresh the mechanical bits, the design team focused on the appearance, swapping in the Rebel grille while adding the new graphics and wheel/tire package. The result is the same unstoppable pickup with a fresh appearance; and, as a long time Dodge Ram owner, I have to say that I love the look of this new Power Wagon.


While critics are likely to continue to complain about the grille or tailgate, the rest of this truck is a smashing success. The new decals, grille and wheels are subtle changes, but they should go a long way in getting Ram lovers into dealerships to buy their next Power Wagon. (And those who prefer a much more subtle look can get the Tradesman version.)

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