Have you ever heard the saying, “if you’re going to go – go big?” Apparently, the gang at Dodge have. Once they saw how successful the Jeep Rubicons have become, a group of engineers on the Dodge side of the family went to work on a special project of their own. Four-wheelers themselves, they set out to build the most capable off-road pickup on the market. Once they got it past the head brass and the bean-counters, they also revived the well-known name, Power Wagon.
Now we’ve all seen the special edition premium trucks of recent years put out by the competition, such as the Ford King Ranch and Harley Davidson, the Nissan Texas Titan and the Lincoln – well – never mind that one. Then there are the special “off-road” versions, such as the Chevy/GMC Z-71, Ford FX4, Nissan NISMO Frontier and the Toyota TRD Tacoma and Tundra. The fact remains that you can throw different shocks and springs, some cheap rocker bars and some decals at a truck but we all know that those don’t make them any more capable in the real world. The new Dodge Power Wagon will not only change your thinking about this but is going to raise the bar for all the other brands in one very quick shot.
Let's go back in time just a bit and recall the roots of the Power Wagon. When old truck fans think of Power Wagons, we think of the giant 1 ton trucks of old, with their large headlights sitting high atop the fenders. Virtually unchanged from their 1946 civilian debut (dubbed "WDX") through their final year in 1968, the original Power Wagons were all about big. Their large grille slats, 126" wheelbase and closed cab were similar to the Dodge T234 3/4 tons built for the Chinese Army (aka "Burma Road" truck). Various configurations were available throughout the years, including busses and woodies.
Originally featuring a 230 cubic-inch flathead six, the original version had a maximum GVW rating of 8,700 lbs. with a 3,000 lb. payload capacity. Later, this engine was upgraded to a 251 cubic-inch. Power Wagons had a two-speed transfer case and a four-speed transmission with a power take-off (PTO) opening. Later models were available with V-8 engines.
Between 1945 and 1968, 95,145 WDX-WM300 Power Wagons were sold and exports actually continued through 1971with sales up until 1978. Production ended in 1968 because the cab design no longer complied with US Federal light-duty truck regulations.
But that wasn't really the end of the Power Wagon. Dodge actually continued to use the name on their pickup trucks through 1980, though these trucks in no way resembled the earlier versions. Remember the Power Wagon in "Simon & Simon?" Good trucks compared to their contemporaries, but they weren't POWER WAGONS. You didn't see little kids wanting these to play with in the sand box.
So now, in 2005 we are about to see the revitalization of the Power Wagon name. Why? Because Dodge thinks that this new Ram can stand up tall and wear the badge proudly. They were so confident, in fact, that they flew us out to Moab to give them a test-drive. But this wasn't your everyday care dealer-style drive. Oh no, our test drive was a balls-out drive-em-like-you-stole-em test drive. But before we talk about that, let's go over the 2005 Dodge Power Wagon's nitty gritty details.
The Power Wagon will be available in only two configurations - Regular Cab long box and Quad Cab short box. Based on the 2500 series, the Power Wagons will both share the same 140" wheelbase platform. Running height is 14.5", compared to 12 inches on the standard Ram 2500. Riding on high-pressure Bilstein monotube gas shocks and softer springs (coils in front, leafs in rear), that extra 2.5" of lift allows for fitment of 285/70R17 (about 33") BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A tires mounted on 17x8 inch polished forged aluminum ALCOA wheels. The truck stands at 80.6" tall.
The only engine available is the 5.7L V-8 HEMI, who's 9.6:1 compression ratio pumps out 345 bhp@5400 rpm and 375 lb.-ft. of torque at 4200 rpm. The 343 cu. in. engine is mated up to a 5-45RFE automatic five-speed transmission with a 3:1 first gear ratio. A manual six-speed G56 tranny will be available later in the year featuring an awesome 6.29:1 first gear. We can't wait to drive that one!
The New Venture NV271 transfer case handles part-time 4WD duties. It features 2WD, 4WD high, Neutral and 4WD low modes and is electronically switched. Sorry, no shifter here. Low range is 2.72:1.
Solid axles are used front and rear (hurray!). These American Axle TrackRite axles are packed with 4.56 gears and feature front and rear electrically-actuated lockers. Lockers are switched by a knob on the dash and can be used in rear-only or front and rear combined modes. The front cannot be actuated without the rear. Brakes are 13.9" disks with ABS at both ends.
No off-roader would be complete without additional under-body protection. The Power Wagon has increased protection, including the following : fuel tank skid, transfer case skid and tubing, including exhaust catalyst, heavy duty cross members under carriage, fore/aft rails connecting the cross member for additional support and protection against getting caught on rocks, and steering damper skid. 3" Rock Rails are an option, which we thought was strange. We felt they should be standard. Extended fender flares have also been added to protect sheet metal and clear the larger tires.
Probably the neatest new feature of the Power Wagon is the electronic disconnecting stabilizer/sway bar system. No longer do you need to get out and manually disconnect your swaybar for more front axle travel. The beauty of this system is that you control the disconnect from a switch on the dash. The switch has two settings - On-Road and Off-Road. If you put it in Off-Road, it disconnects the front swaybar. Re-engaging the bar can be done in three ways: switching back to On-Road mode, driving over 18 mph, or switching to 2WD or 4HI.
Finally, no off-roader is complete without a winch and the Power Wagon features a custom-built 12,000 Warn winch. To back it up, the truck also features a heavy-duty battery, heavy-duty cooling fan and a 160 amp alternator.
LET's DRIVE! --->>>