First Look Review: 2021 Ram Power Wagon 75th Anniversary Edition
Since 1946, when the Chrysler Corporation first offered commercial consumers a 4×4 pickup straight from the factory, the Power Wagon name has been synonymous with big, competent off-roaders. For 2021, Ram’s latest Power Wagon celebrates three quarters of a century as an off-road icon by offering a 75th Anniversary Edition that crams all sorts of creature comforts and unique badging into a single check of the option box.
Ram hosted a media a drive of its half-ton halo model, the 702-hp TRX, just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, and brought a Power Wagon along as well. We took them up on an invite to tag along behind the wheel of the new special edition, wondering if it would be a better trail champ than the flashier muscle truck.
The 75th Anniversary Edition package ($11,715) includes a 17-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, forward-facing camera, Mountain Brown leather upholstery, remote start, rear-seat storage bins, and rock rails among a litany of other options including unique badging inside and out. Our Power Wagon was also equipped with the Rambox ($845), Bed Utility Group with spray-in bedliner, bed step, and LED lighting ($845), folding tonneau ($695), and Anvil paint ($450) that added up to an MSRP, including destination, of $71,060.
The recipe for Ram’s current Power Wagon isn’t terribly complicated. It incorporates the same smattering of parts that an enthusiast would want for an off-road dream truck, but Ram delivers it all from the production line and working together seamlessly. Each Power Wagon starts with a 4×4 Ram 2500 HD chassis that uses solid axles and coil spring suspension front and rear. Electronic locking differentials, also front and rear, add surefooted traction. A 12,000-pound Warn Zeon-12 winch with synthetic rope is tucked into the front bumper to add an extra measure of confidence without adding too much weight. The winch’s placement means there’s no room for the massive charge cooler used on the Cummins, so the only engine available is the 6.4-liter Hemi. Add a slightly lifted suspension and 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires on 17-inch beadlock-ready wheels and you’ve got a trial-ready rig that can also tow and haul with the best trucks out there.
The leather-wrapped interior that comes with the 75th Anniversary Edition offers contrasting gloss black center console and instrument panel inserts with a brushed aluminum infotainment surround. Like the Ram 1500, it’s upscale comfortable and the mildly-bolstered eight-way power seats are easy to set for long-distance travel. The Power Wagon is offered only as a crew cab, so rear seat passengers are guaranteed plenty of legroom no matter how far the front seats are moved rearward.
The 6.4-liter V-8 produces 410 horsepower and 429 lb.-ft. of torque, and is paired with ZF’s stalwart eight-speed automatic transmission that provides seamless shifts. Unladen, the Power Wagon can get out of its own way and then some; the Hemi’s broad powerband hustles the bulky truck around on the highway without hesitation or stress. We found that out firsthand on a 20-mile highway trip to a trailhead northeast of Flagstaff. Compared to Ram’s cushy half-ton pickup we’d driven previously, the heavy-duty suspension of the 2500 was decidedly stiffer and translated each pothole into the cabin with a slight jolt. That didn’t come as a surprise, but how quiet the cabin remained, despite the off-road tires, was seriously impressive. Only a faint hum of road noise makes it through to the interior, with virtually zero wind noise.
We didn’t spend too much time reveling in the Hemi’s passing power, however, as we were soon at the trailhead and airing down the tires from the recommended on-road pressure of 65 psi to the low-speed trail pressure of 30 psi. The change in pressure instantly transformed the Power Wagon and smoothed the ride. We hustled the big brute through sandy washes and over volcanic gravel, shifting the transfer case into low range for some of the rockier climbs. The Power Wagon took it all in stride.
We even kept up with the beefy TRXs … sort of. The Power Wagon was happy to do 35 mph over gravel and scampered easily up rocky hill climbs, but at that speed, the solid front axle and stiff springs don’t deliver the kind of ride you get from a half-ton. Then again, that’s the inherent trade-off of going with the beefier-boned Power Wagon; the truck will no doubt take just about any kind of bumpy trail you throw at it, but even with the tires aired down to soften things up, the suspension will transmit those shocks to the passengers.
Like the Ram 1500, the Heavy Duty Ram models use the fantastic Uconnect 4C infotainment interface and highly configurable, tablet-like 12-inch screen. Volume and tuning knobs remain, thankfully, and there are redundant buttons on the back of the steering wheel. Most of the HVAC controls are also buttons, located on either side of the display. Other functions can be accessed quickly without having to swipe or tap into endless sub-menus. The bottom of the display has room for seven configurable icons so that the most frequently used functions can be placed on the home screen. When using Apple CarPlay, the lower part of the screen can be customized as well, with the top displaying the standard CarPlay interface and the bottom showing audio controls. It’s a clever solution and well-executed to boot.
We found that the 75h Anniversary Edition offers just about everything that a heavy-duty pickup buyer could ask for—other than a diesel powertrain. However, for the kind of tough driving we put it through, we were glad to not have a few hundred pounds of extra iron on the nose. If you’re considering a fully-loaded heavy-duty, and a diesel isn’t a must-have, consider the 75 Anniversary Edition Power Wagon as a shortcut to the Ram’s top-of-the-line gasser. If, however, you’re simply looking for off-road utility you can easily skip the special edition and get yourself a basic Power Wagon while shaving around $10,000 off the bottom line.
Due to its off-road credentials, the only direct competitor the Power Wagon faces is Ford’s Tremor package that’s available on the Super Duty. Given that this segment doesn’t account for a big portion of Ram’s heavy-duty portfolio, the Power Wagon is a bit of a rare sight, but it still keeps with the tradition of bringing tough off-road capability to those that seek it. Expect to see these brutes on trails where other full-size trucks fear to tread.
2021 Ram Power Wagon 75th Anniversary
Base Price/As-Tested: $56,735/$71,185
Highs: Powerful gas engine, excellent off-road hardware, fantastically outfitted interior.
Lows: Not available with the Cummins. Still rides like the HD truck it is.
Summary: The perfect work truck, the Power Wagon can also serve as a rugged toy to take your family (and a ton of gear) way off the beaten path.