Every once in a while the offices of Truckin' magazine receive a phone call from a manufacturer so excited about an upcoming product they invite us out to test it and provide our input months before the vehicle is even announced to the public. This is one such occasion. Dodge had been biting its tongue the last few times we met and finally decided to invite a small group of editors from leading truck and off-road-related magazines to come see its newest creation. Last May, we were lucky enough to be one of the four magazines hand-selected by Dodge to spend a few days in beautiful Moab, Utah - a haven of the off-road community - to experience the rebirth of the mighty Dodge Power Wagon.
When the idea to revive the Power Wagon first came up, an important decision was made not to water down the new version, keeping intact the heritage of the legendary truck, which was offered in America between 1947 and 1968. The new Power Wagon had to be every bit as rugged and capable as the original, and to achieve that goal, Dodge put together one of the most comprehensive factory off-road packages to come out of Detroit in many years. Ford's Ranger FX4 Level 2 and Toyota's Tundra and Tacoma TRD packages, while comprehensive in their own right, are geared toward the moderate off-roaders, while the new Dodge Power Wagon can easily hold its own with sister company's Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and the General's Hummer H2. There is much more room for cargo and passengers in the Dodge than either the Rubicon or H2.
The new Power Wagon is based off the popular Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 and can be had with either a Quad Cab shortbed or regular cab longbed configurations, each with the same 140-inch wheelbase. A 2-inch-taller stance was achieved by adding a 1-inch suspension lift, using coils up front and one-stage leaves at the rear, along with taller LT285/70R17 BFGoodrich A/T KO tires wrapped around special 17-inch Alcoa polished forged-aluminum wheels. Helping the wheels get rolling is a 5.7L Hemi V-8 connected through either a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual delivering power through lower front and rear 4.56 helical differential gears that incorporate locking differentials. The rear differential has the advantage of being a limited slip when it is unlocked, while the front remains open. The Power Wagon also has a couple of aces up its sleeve in the form of an electronic disconnecting front sway bar and hidden Warn 12,000-pound rated winch, which is crash-test certified and included in the Power Wagon's factory warranty.
Once the introduction of the truck and trail briefings were out of the way, we set out to conquer the trails of Moab with trail guru Dan Mick in the lead and us following closely in one of six unmarked pre-production Power Wagons. Jeepers stopped dead in their tracks to watch in amazement as the caravan of six nearly 3-ton, 19-foot-long vehicles tackled infamous Moab runs such as Gemini Bridges Road, Golden Spike, and Poison Spider, shrugging them off as if they were unspectacular fire roads. Sacrificial metal on the bottoms of the diff housings, reinforced forged trailer hitches, and extensive underbody skidplating mounted to stronger tubular crossmembers make the Power Wagon impervious to suspect rocks awaiting their moment to jump up and cause underbody and drivetrain damage. Increased approach and departure angles make this extra protection rarely necessary. The Power Wagon can even ford water as much as 30 inches deep.