Keep going. That’s what customer desire for a hardcore off-road truck has allowed the Power Wagon to do since the 1940s, albeit with a large gap before its reintroduction for the 2005 model year.
It’s also what Dodge enabled G.I.s to do throughout the challenging times of World War II with its ¾-ton military weapons carrier. According to FCA, “After World War II, G.I.s returning home wrote to Dodge and asked, ‘Where can we get a truck like the ones we used in the war?’ Dodge responded by building the Power Wagon. Virtually unchanged from its introduction in 1945, Power Wagons first appeared on the civilian market in 1946 as the model WDX.” It had a pickup bed like other trucks of the time. However, unlike its competitors, the WDX had factory-installed four-wheel drive.
Over the next few decades, the Power Wagon went from flathead-six to V8 power, through a variety of cosmetic and hardware changes, and, eventually, into the automotive history books as a retired nameplate.
Dodge put the name “Power Wagon” back onto trucks and the lips of consumers for the 2005 model year. It started with a Hemi-powered RAM 2500 heavy duty truck, then equipped it with four-wheel drive, gave it a lift, fitted big rubber underneath that, bolted on skid plates to protect vital components from the potential assaults of nature, and installed a winch in the front bumper to give Power Wagon owners a means to extract themselves from situations that proved to be a little too sticky.
Although the Power Wagon had gone missing from the automotive landscape in years past, when RAM became a stand-alone division in 2009, it – and, clearly, its customers – decided to keep going with the titan of trails. The Power Wagon is still here to make molehills out of mountains.
We recently got our hands on a 2016 RAM 2500 Power Wagon, which we found to be a handsome, well-equipped, and capable rig.
2016 RAM Power Wagon Exterior
When someone uses a crosshairs, it means they have something in their sights. RAM designers used a jumbo version of the familiar crosshairs grille on the Power Wagon to make sure you have it in your sights. It’s hard to not have it in your ears as well because it screams “TRUCK!!!”
The chrome front bumper makes its own announcement, one just as loud, but more specific. The 12,000-pound winch within it tells other drivers that it’s attached to more than just any truck. It’s a part of a Power Wagon.
The profile view leaves absolutely no doubt as to which pickup you’re looking at. We thought the side graphics made the Power Wagon look even cooler than it already was. They were like tattoos for the truck – no needle or wincing required.
Two pairs of 17-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in earth-hungry all-terrain tires bookended a Crew Cab passenger compartment and cab-length assist steps. Another “Power Wagon” label ran along the bottom of the tailgate, which capped the end of the 6’4” bed.
2016 RAM Power Wagon Interior
The grey cabin of our Power Wagon tester had a charming simplicity to it. The seats were cloth, the shifter for the six-speed automatic was column-mounted, the transfer case had an old-school lever instead of a shift-on-the-fly dial, and we couldn’t go anywhere without inserting and turning a key. We needed to work with the Power Wagon – and were happy to.
We were also pleased to have access to our Power Wagon’s optional extras. Those included an easy-to-use 8.4-inch touchscreen that allowed us to control the navigation system, crank up the SiriusXM and HD radio setup, and check the feed from the back-up camera. Safely replying to text messages on the go was as easy as tapping the touchscreen, uttering a response, and telling the Uconnect system to send it.
2016 RAM Power Wagon Performance
When it comes to certain vehicles, performance equates to the engine and how fast it enables the machine around it to go. The 2016 RAM Power Wagon certainly has an impressive motor. The 6.4-liter Hemi V8 cranks out 410 hp and 429 lbft of torque. Those numbers added up to the right amount for getting the truck to whichever speed we desired with a satisfying urgency. (The Power Wagon’s heavy duty vehicle status and weight meant it didn’t require an EPA fuel economy rating; we averaged a little over 12 mpg in mixed city/highway/off-road driving.)
As good an engine as the ultimate off-road RAM has, the truest test of the Power Wagon’s performance doesn’t evaluate how quickly it moves. It determines how well it moves slowly. An off-highway vehicle (OHV) park is the perfect place to conduct that test – and that’s exactly where we took our Power Wagon loaner. The park we used has a challenging, elongated staircase formation made of rock and dirt. We ascended it earlier this year, but we’d never gone past its top landing and driven all the way to the ultimate peak beyond it. That changed soon after we faced the ascent from behind the Power Wagon’s wheel. We had front and rear electronic-locking differentials, and more than two inches of lift under us. Once we had muscled the transfer case lever into the 4H position, we slowly crawled our way up the steps. We were sweating because we had the fan speed low, not because we were worried about the Power Wagon’s capabilities or vulnerabilities. We had no doubt it would get us closer to the clouds or that the 14.5 inches of ground clearance would keep the vital hardware under the truck far away from rocks and roots. We were rewarded for our faith with a view out over the majestic green sprawl of the Texas Hill Country.
2016 RAM Power Wagon Safety
That beefy winch up front wasn’t the only thing that gave us peace of mind. The 2016 Power Wagon is equipped with multistage front, side-curtain front and rear, and front seat-mounted side airbags. Hill Descent Control governs its speed during downhill runs…and prevents knuckles from turning white…
2016 RAM Power Wagon Overall
The 2016 RAM Power Wagon has a starting price of $51,160*. Loading one up to be just like our review vehicle results in a truck that costs $56,845. If you want one of these incredible off-roaders for yourself and you’re close to an AutoNation-affiliated RAM dealer, keep going – until you get there.
*MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.