Wagon Master: Dodge revives Power Wagon moniker for heavy-duty off-road package MAC MORRISON Posted Date: 10/15/04 From the Ram 1500’s Hemi revi*val to the Viper V10-powered SRT-10’s world-record-breaking speed (AW, Feb. 9), Dodge’s latest truck lineup has made a lot of noise over the past year. The chorus of enthusiast approval will grow louder when Dodge reintroduces for ’05 another name from its past: Power Wagon. Based on the Ram 2500 and available in regular and quad-cab configurations, the Power Wagon provides off-road enthusiasts a factory-backed alternative to popular aftermarket packages. Standard equipment includes electronic-locking front and rear differentials, disconnecting front antiroll bar (to allow more wheel travel at speeds below 18 mph) and 12,000-pound-capable Warn winch. For better control in four-wheel-drive low mode and when tackling steep grades, engineers modified the standard 5.7-liter Hemi V8’s software to reduce throttle response and increase idle speed by 100 rpm. Dodge also installed a larger rear axle, and both front and rear axles feature a Power Wagon-exclusive 4.56 ratio appro*priate for the truck’s larger 235/70R-17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires and rough terrain intentions. To cope with serious off-road challenges, the Power Wagon’s suspension features longer shock travel and softer springs. Combined with the larger tires, the Power Wagon sits 2.5 inches higher than its four-wheel-drive Ram 2500 brethren; approach, departure and breakover angles increase significantly. We spent an afternoon driving the Power Wagon over Moab, Utah’s notoriously tough Poison Spider Mesa trail, and the Ram never put a wheel wrong. From dirt and rock-formed inclines to deep crevices, the latest Ram’s capability is impressive. Lock the front or rear diff (or both) via a dash-mounted switch and the Power Wagon easily copes with severe vertical obstacles that would send standard Ram 4x4s sliding backward into oblivion. You can do so with peace of mind, too, as underbody skidplates protect the transfer case, fuel tank and steering damper. Fore-aft bars between the fuel tank and transfer-case plates provide further protection. We managed to bang the various pieces of underbody armor off jagged rocks without incurring any damage to vital mechanical parts; if the standard protection isn’t enough for your preferred mountain pass, three-inch tubular steel Mopar rock rails are available, as are a winch kit and bedliner. Dodge estimates a similarly comprehensive aftermarket off-road kit to cost approximately $10,000, making the Power Wagon’s $6,335 premium over a Ram 2500 SLT 4x4 a bargain. The cheapest version, the $36,660, six-speed manual-equipped Power Wagon, goes on sale in early 2005. If you can’t wait until then, Power Wagons with Dodge’s five-speed automatic hit dealer showrooms late this year, at a starting price of $37,660.