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2017 Ram Tradesman Power Wagon: the frugal way to get a top-notch off-road pickup

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2017 Ram Tradesman Power Wagon:
the frugal way to get a top-notch off-road pickup

by Patrick Rall
in October 2017 (5)

The 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon is, quite likely, the best factory-built off-road pickup in America right now, especially among ¾-ton trucks, but the vast majority of Power Wagon owners aren't buying the trucks to go off-roading. They are buying them for a daily driver or a work vehicle or a weekend tow truck, which can also handle pretty much any off-road situation better than any stock truck in America. With that in mind, we aren't going to look at off-roading abilities in this review, instead focusing on the things that most Ram Power Wagon owners are going to do the most often.

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There are two different ways to get a new Ram 2500 Power Wagon. You can buy the actual Ram 2500 Power Wagon, which starts at $51,695, or you can buy a Ram 2500 Tradesman with the Power Wagon package, which is a few thousand dollars less. The Ram 2500 Tradesman with the Power Wagon Package comes with the key functional bits of the Power Wagon, such as the front and rear locking differentials, the disconnecting front sway bar, a Warn winch, tow hooks, a skid plate under the gas tank, the same suspension setup, wheel flares, 17 inch wheels, and the off-road rated tires. The main difference is the Power Wagon's long list of premium interior features, fancier wheels, and exterior badging.

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My test truck was a Ram 2500 Tradesman with the Power Wagon Package, allowing me to enjoy the features of that off-road ready package at a far lower price point. Even with the 6.4L Hemi, the Popular Equipment Group, trailer tow mirrors, UConnect 3.0, rear park sensors, backup camera, spray-in bedliner, and destination charges, the price as tested comes to $50,435.

Since most Ram 2500 owners will spend less time offroading and more time driving to and from work or driving while at work, I wanted to put my Tradesman Power Wagon test truck to one of the toughest tests I know of - the weekend horse show. This test includes hooking up our 2-horse trailer, which weighs around 5,500 pounds, loading up both the cab and the bed, and driving for hours on everything from paved highways to rough dirt roads.

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The horse show weekend begins by loading the bed full of hay, bedding, a muck bucket, grain and all of the other hard or messy items which we need for a weekend-long show with two horses. My Power Wagon test had the 6'4" bed, which the smaller of the two options, but I had no problems fitting everything that we needed out back.

Next, we hooked up the horse trailer to the Tradesman Power Wagon, which was made easier via the backup camera screen built into the rearview mirror. The Tradesman does not come with the big 8.4 inch screen normally used by the backup camera, instead having a small screen on the left side of the rearview mirror. The high angle view of the camera made hooking up the trailer much simpler.

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Really, my 5,500 pound horse trailer is nothing for the Tradesman Power Wagon, which has a towing capacity north of 15,000 pounds, but this is the same horse trailer (and same relative load) which I use for all of my truck and SUV towing. That allows me to gauge how well trucks pull this particular load and in the case of this Ram 2500, my little trailer was a breeze. The 6.4L Hemi had no issues accelerating from a stop or building speed in the mid-range, such as when merging into fast-moving highway traffic. It is very cliché to say that it was effortless for the Ram 2500 to pull my test trailer, but that was the case in every situation, even when climbing steep hills on the highway.

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Even with the extra thousand pounds of equipment in the cab or bed, the Ram 2500 Tradesman Power Wagon pulled the load to the horse show without breaking a sweat. More importantly, even without using the electric trailer brakes of my trailer, the big Ram had no problems slowing down with the extra weight out back and at speeds, the Tradesman Power Wagon handled every turn smoothly and comfortably. In some cases, this test trailer will push trucks around when turning or braking, but the big, heavy duty Power Wagon was in full control of the load at all times.

The 90 minutes of the drive to the horse show venue was on paved roads, with some curvy rural roads and plenty of highway driving, but the last 15 minute of the drive is on rough dirt roads. As you might expect, the Power Wagon cruised across the rough road and while the heavy duty suspension does transfer the roughness of the road into the cabin - the Power Wagon continued to maintain sound control of the horse trailer on the battered dirt roads.

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Once we got to the horse show grounds, we unloaded the truck, dropped the trailer, and did all sorts of tiring tasks before heading home for the day sans the trailer (the horses stay overnight). This gave me a chance to push the Power Wagon a little harder without the worry of jostling our prize show horses - and this Hemi-powered HD pickup didn't disappoint. With 410 horsepower and 429lb-ft of torque, the 6.4L, 392 cubic inch Hemi makes this big ¾-ton Ram surprisingly quick from a stop while also being able to offer solid speeds when cruising down the highway. It is hard to call the Tradesman Power Wagon fast in the grand scheme of things, but in the world of heavy duty pickups, the Power Wagon is a speed machine.

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This trailer-free time with the 2017 Ram 2500 Tradesman Power Wagon also allowed me to let it stretch its legs on the local dirt roads a bit, and once again, the Power Wagon did not disappoint. The Bilstein suspension setup allows the Power Wagon to rip across the ruts with ease and in the event that a puddle - or just a whole lot of mud - pops up, the stock tires will allow you to stop and blast out of the slop with ease.

As you might imagine, the Power Wagon's off-road suspension is stiff on paved roads, but one of the greatest advantages of the Bilstein dampers is the ability to combine comfort with capabilities. The Power Wagon handles well for a ¾-ton pickup around town and while the ride may see rough to the average sedan driver, most truck drivers will love the ride of this specially equipped Ram 2500 Tradesman.

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In other words, while the Ram 2500 Tradesman Power Wagon is built to be the best off-road truck on the market today, it is still comfortable enough to use for the daily drive on both paved and unpaved roads. This Ram offers all of the same capabilities as the other modern 2500 trucks with the 6.4L Hemi, so it easily serves as a great daily driver or an excellent weekend tow vehicle while also offering the best off-roading capabilities in the segment, if not the entire half-ton truck group.

You can spend a few grand more and get the Ram 2500 Power Wagon with the dressed up exterior and the premium interior, but for those who are concerned with function before form, the Tradesman model with the Power Wagon Package brings the capabilities of Power Wagon at a lower price point.

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