There’s loads of excitement surrounding the Ram 1500 TRX lately, and with good reason.
Upwards of 700 hp has a way of stirring excitement like that, and few folks outside of a Ford Raptor forum are likely to argue against the sheer awesomeness of the Hellcat-powered pickup. And from what I understand, it’s good. Like, really good.
It’s also not the truck I would buy if I were in the market. Maniacal though it may be, the TRX is built to smash sand dunes and explode eardrums – neither of which seems especially useful to me. Sure, it can tow, too; up to 3,675 kg (8,100 lb), according to the spec sheet. But using a TRX to pull a trailer is a bit like using a firehose to fill a kiddie pool: just because it can handle the job doesn’t mean it’s the one to do it.
No, it’s the 2020 Ram 2500 Power Wagon that’s more my speed, because it’s the right kind of ridiculous. It’s equal parts otherworldly strength and outrageous capability – a combination that makes this the most unstoppable pickup truck on the market by a good margin.
First, a point of contention. Despite seeming ideally suited for diesel power, this version of the Ram 2500 does without it. A Ram Trucks rep once told me it had to do with the Power Wagon’s unique suspension setup – more on that shortly – and getting it all to work with the brand’s big straight-six. Besides, while the low-end grunt of a diesel is great for getting out of jams on the trail, all the extra weight of a compression-ignition engine simply isn’t.
Instead, it comes packing an eight-cylinder gas engine that delivers steady streams of output from the moment it’s fired. Displacing 6.4L, the burly V8 spins up 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. While it lacks the deliciously low torque arrival of a diesel motor, a broad powerband promises it can adequately handle all manner of challenges the Power Wagon might encounter.
Fuel Economy: 5/10
Well, all challenges except where any semblance of fuel efficiency is concerned. In that regard, there’s a lot working against this behemoth. For starters, its sheer size doesn’t do it any favours at the pumps. This is a truck that tips the scales at 3,200 kg (7,055 lb) – not exactly svelte, even by three-quarter-ton standards. On top of that, the meaty tires and the extra drag of the off-road components make this one thirsty rig.
My week-long test saw nearly 600 km added to the odometer. The vast majority of those were racked up on the highway, with very little time spent with four-wheel drive engaged save for a morning tackling one of my favourite trails. Even so, once it was all said and done the final tally stood at 18.6 L/100 km. Oof. Since it’s a heavy-duty vehicle, the government doesn’t require fuel consumption ratings for the Power Wagon or any other truck from this class. For the sake of comparison, though, an off-road-equipped GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 powered by its optional 6.2L gas engine is rated at a combined 14.2 L/100 km, while a Nissan Titan Pro-4X is projected to return 13.3 L/100 km.
Of course, those shopping for a truck like this are probably more concerned with capability than they are fuel consumption. And it’s there that the Power Wagon rewards in ways that seem to defy physics. Because no vehicle this big has any business pulling off the stuff this Ram can.
Forget for just a second that it can tow 4,695 kg (10,350 lb) conventionally – its fifth-wheel rating stands at 2,599 kg (5,730 lb) – or haul a payload of 685 kg (1,510 lb); all that’s important information, but it’s to be expected. Where it exceeds what seems possible is the way in which the larger-than-life Power Wagon makes child’s play of even the most obscene obstacles.
Its 360-mm (14.2-in) ground clearance helps, sure, as do its approach and departure angles of 29 and 26 degrees, respectively. But it’s the mechanical goodies that give this mountain goat of a truck the ability to climb over just about anything that stands in its way. Solid axles front and rear get locking differentials, while the front sway bar features an electronic disconnect for extra suspension articulation. That’s stuff usually reserved for the Rubicon version of the Jeep Wrangler or Gladiator.
Then there’s that suspension. While it features a requisite lift in height compared to the rest of the Ram 2500 lineup, it goes beyond the basics – well beyond. Bilstein shocks and special control arms are just the start, with unique links that allow the suspension to flex in ways most others can’t. And if all that fails to do the job, there’s a 5,443-kg (12,000-lb) winch tucked behind the bumper.
But wait, there’s more. Unlike its trail-conquering compatriots from Jeep, the Power Wagon can be decked out with creature comforts that exceed even those of the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. That means upgrading the standard cloth seats to leather-lined ones that are heated and ventilated up front and heated in the back, or adding an optional 17-speaker stereo and 12-inch touchscreen to give it all the trappings of a luxury vehicle.
Of course, it comes at a cost, transforming the already pricey Power Wagon into a downright expensive one. It starts at $65,295 – not exactly outrageous for the type of truck it is, but it doesn’t take long for that asking price to climb. Take my tester: after all the extras were added, the sticker jumped to $83,150 before tax. Then again, at the time of this writing Ram Trucks Canada was offering $6,000 in incentives on the entire Ram 2500 lineup, dropping the price to a much more reasonable $77,150 before the government’s share gets tacked on.
Part of the extra cost here – $2,100 worth, to be exact – goes towards a package of advanced safety features like adaptive cruise control that can bring the truck to a halt in traffic, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and forward collision warning with emergency braking. I’m usually not one to advocate for adding such systems to a specialized vehicle; especially not one that’s sure to leave the various sensors required vulnerable on the trail. But in this case it’s surely money well spent, turning the massive Power Wagon into a rather civilized machine.
Another upgrade that’s well worth its price of admission is the $425 tech pack that adds a bunch of cameras to the outside of the truck, including ones in the door mirrors and grille to provide a surround-view look at what’s happening nearby. Yes, it’s more vulnerable equipment to worry about on the trail, but crucially, they help to avoid large rocks and other obstacles when a spotter isn’t around.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Those cameras come in handy because the Power Wagon is so damn humongous, and there’s nothing that can be done to hide it. While a traditional trail rig like a Jeep Wrangler is short and stubby, this truck is a big and brooding one. With or without a spotter outside or those cameras watching what’s happening, it can be a stressful affair off the beaten path, with boulders and branches posing serious threats to the painted wheels and body panels. (Pro tip: opting for a silver exterior hue is a great way to hide the tree-branch pinstriping in the clearcoat this truck’s bound to pick up on the trail.)
However, from the driver’s seat this Ram is as surefooted as it is tractable. The hydraulic steering needs plenty of turns of the wheel to get the chunky tires pointed in the right direction, but doing so is as relaxed here as it is in a three-row family crossover. Give it a shot of gas and the hefty Hemi under the hood is quick to deliver earth-moving momentum, allowing the Power Wagon in that precious second to feel far lighter than it actually is. And it’s not much different on the road, proving rather docile for such a big pickup. While all the truck’s weight is felt with a single press of the brake pedal, it’s manoeuvrable in a way that feels not too far from a half-ton truck.
Ride quality, too, is up there with all but those Ram 1500s equipped with air suspension, riding over most surfaces with ease. It’s most and not all, however, with the solid axles betraying the Power Wagon’s road comfort in a major way. Driving it on a concrete slab highway, for instance, is like riding a mechanical bull with the way it bucks the cabin back and forth. Such is life with so much unsprung weight hanging just above the road below, but it’s comically uncontrolled over such surfaces.
Conversely, it doesn’t lean and sway quite as much as one might expect when tackling a highway on-ramp or whipping it into a parking lot entrance. Make no mistake, its size is evident in these scenarios, too, but it’s surprisingly composed. The gulf in ride quality between cars and trucks seems to get smaller with each updated model, and that impressively includes heavy-duty units like this one these days.
The Power Wagon is fairly spacious inside, though headroom is surprisingly lacklustre with the optional sunroof along for the ride. It’s officially offered with seating for six with benches front and back, but being stuck in either middle seat doesn’t strike me as especially appealing. With the centre section in the front bench flipped down to use as an armrest, the leather driver’s seat was an outstanding place to spend the better part of six hours on a day split between secondary roads, major highways, and a moderately difficult trail.
User Friendliness: 9/10
Whether on the tarmac or the trail, nothing is especially difficult to understand or operate inside the Power Wagon. Engaging the four-wheel-drive system is done the old-fashioned way using a mechanical lever jutting from the floor, while clearly labelled buttons beneath the rotary gear selector are employed for the differential locks and sway bar disconnect.
On the steering wheel, there are buttons for cruise control – conventional or, optionally, adaptive – and manual manipulation of the eight-speed automatic transmission (there’s even a gear-hold switch so as not allow the computer to override driver intent when towing, hauling, or crawling). On the other side is a bank of buttons to run through the various driver information displays in the gauge cluster, while rockers on the back work for volume and tune controls.
The dash hosts an assortment of controls, as well as the massive optional 12-inch vertical touchscreen that handles infotainment duties. That touchscreen centralizes virtually every function imaginable, right down to the HVAC system, though graciously, it’s surrounded by physical controls for everything from temperature to fan speed, and even airflow direction. Finally, below all that are switches for the trailer brake controller, traction control, tow/haul mode, and parking sensors.
Given all that’s going on inside the cabin, getting the lay of the land takes no time at all. Any sticking points I had related to the lack of physical controls for the heated steering wheel and climate-controlled seats up front. I’d gladly trade the parking-sensor switches for ones that handled those features, but that’s a gripe that extends through much of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) product portfolio.
With the enormous infotainment display dominating the dash, the Power Wagon doesn’t look much like the rugged off-roader it is from the inside, and the same goes for all the gloss-black plastic that surrounds it. Glance in virtually any other direction, however, and it has Power Wagon written all over it. (Quite literally, my tester had massive logos embroidered on the front seats, as well as badges on the dash and in the gauge cluster.)
That’s true outside, too, with somewhat garish graphics emblazoned on the bedsides, though they can be deleted as a no-charge option. Still, this truck looks every bit the badass it is, with black bumpers, fender flares, and front fascia to go with black badging galore. In short, it makes its presence known, and not just because of its size.
If the Ram TRX is a chiselled bodybuilder, then the 2020 Ram Power Wagon is a powerlifter. It might not look like the Adonis its smaller sibling does, oozing a quiet confidence instead, while remaining ready to move mountains when called upon. It’s the kind of truck that can do absolutely anything – well, everything except pass a gas station or fit in a parking garage.
|Peak Horsepower||410 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||429 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|Cargo Space||1,628 L|
|Model Tested||2020 Ram Power Wagon|
|Price as Tested||$83,150|
$15,860 – Level 2 Equipment Group, $5,095; Safety Group, $2,100; 12-inch Infotainment System w/Navigation, $2,020; Power Sunroof, $1,425; RamBox Cargo Management System w/LED Lighting, $995; Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover, $750; Black Tubular Side Steps, $700; Black Painted Wheels, $600; Spray-in Bedliner, $550; Towing Technology Group, $425; RamBox Utility Group w/Cargo Divider, $400; 17-Speaker Stereo, $400; Dual Alternators, $300; Hydro Blue Pearl Paint, $100