Auto Review: The ultimate work truck

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., Jun. 23, 2011
- Contributed Photo

We’ve seen the popularity of “retro” cars such as the Ford Mustang and Thunderbird, the Chevy Camaro and HHR, and the Dodge Challenger. While most of these haven’t exactly lit the market on fire (and some have disappeared from the line-ups), they have certainly struck a positive styling note, especially with auto enthusiasts. This week we have a very impressive vehicle that I think is a true retro machine, even though it’s not really meant to be one. True, the name “Power Wagon” goes back to WWII, but this is not a vehicle that uses nostalgic styling to recall an earlier era.

The Ram 2500 Power Wagon Crew Cab 4X4, while being very contemporary in engineering execution, is a blast from the past in my view because this is a solid, function-over–form no-nonsense truck designed for the hardest work in the toughest environments. It also mixes the latest electronics with lots of tried-and-true traditional engineering to bring you the best of both worlds, and ultimately the ability to tackle severe challenges on the job.

“No off-road truck on the market can touch the Ram Power Wagon,” boasts Chrysler’s Ram Division President Fred Diaz. “It dominates the competition.” I agree that it’s certainly unique, with only the stoutest components, such as a solid front drive axle, a 12,000-pound Warn winch attached to the front frame, rugged off-road suspension components (including Bilstein shocks) and a front sway bar that disconnects at the touch of a switch for better articulation over rocks and boulders. Skid plates protect the underbody components (even though they are located high above the terrain), and 32-inch all-terrain tires help deliver 14.5 inches of ground clearance. 

Power comes from a torque-rich 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 383 horsepower, and comes matched with a five-speed automatic transmission. The 4WD transfer case has the usual low range, but there are also front and rear electronic locking differentials, so you will really, really have to work hard to immobilize this vehicle in the boondocks. The ride is retro in that it’s big-truck stiff, but you can haul 1,470 pounds and tow up to 9950 pounds to the job site no matter where it might happen to be. This is one of the most massive, solid work trucks I’ve seen in years, and recalls to me a time when work capacity came before comfort.

That said, this is 2011, and we can have the work ethic of the past while also enjoying contemporary creature comforts. The Crew Cab is roomy even if you have a sizable crew of workers, with plenty of rear seat room (and easy access with full-sized doors), and cloth upholstery that is unusually durable and yet still comfortable. The optional Technology Package includes a navigation system (with a back-up camera) and 506-watt Alpine sound system. As this is an H-D truck, it’s in a weight class that is not gas mileage classified by the EPA, so there are no estimates (but expect around 13 MPG in mixed driving). With options, our 2011 Ram Power Wagon Crew Cab 4X4 was priced at $50,535.

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