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Powered up with the 2020 Ram PowerWagon

2020 Ram PowerWagon

2020 Ram PowerWagon specs at a glance

SeatingSix
Engine6.4L HEMI V8 with MDS
Horsepower/Torque410/429
GVWR8,565 pounds
GCWR (Max trailer + truck weight)18,000 pounds
Off-road techBilstein shocks, 12,000-pound WARN electronic winch, Tru-Lok front and rear diffs, manual shift-on-the-fly 4×4.
Price as tested (estimated Canadian)$71,000

Stellantis Canada provided a 2020 Ram PowerWagon with a full tank of gas for this review

What does one make of the 2020 Ram PowerWagon? The Ram PowerWagon is a beastly truck that almost seems like too much truck, even for someone who prefers trucks. But that doesn’t mean it’s not capable or ready to destroy whatever stands in its way. The 2020 Ram PowerWagon takes everything good about the Ram 2500, the Ram Rebel, and dials it up. It’s not the truck for people who aren’t getting dirty. It’s probably not the one for heavy towers, either. But it is squarely aimed at a group of truck enthusiasts who will be mighty pleased with what it offers.

A Wayback Throwback

Immediately after stepping into the 2020 Ram PowerWagon, you’ll get struck by an interesting contrast. Things look every bit like a modern Ram truck inside. But, fire up the 6.4L V8 HEMI engine, and suddenly it feels like driving a truck from the late 1990s. It’s hard to describe how that feels, but it appeals to a certain nostalgia. It also fits the motif the 2020 Ram PowerWagon puts on. While fairly loaded on the interior, mechanically, Ram built this truck for the off-roading enthusiast. Ram knows their audience, and from that perspective, they’ve nailed it.

There’s something inexplicable in how the Ram 2020 PowerWagon brings a smile to the face of a truck fan. A lot of it has to do with how it sounds and feels, the way it brings you back to a truck long gone. The old beater Dodge Ram 1500 you and your friend drove to the dump that one time, only a few months after you got your license. The freedom and simplicity of it all. That experience is the essence that the 2020 Ram PowerWagon captures in the way it drives. You watch the hood pull up on one side as you accelerate. The whole truck shakes slightly on idle. These are all elements that speak to the nostalgia of what trucks used to be. And that’s precisely the kind of experience people looking for a truck like the 2020 Ram PowerWagon want.

Still a Truck

I’ve always said that lifting a truck amplifies its weaknesses and diminishes its strengths. But, if you’re looking for a truck with bigger wheels and lifted suspension, an OEM-lifted truck is the best way to do it. The 2020 Ram PowerWagon keeps most of the functionality you get from a ¾-ton pickup truck. While it does have less towing and payload than the standard Ram 2500, it’s rated at just over 10,000 pounds of towing capacity. Hooking a trailer to the back of the Ram PowerWagon, or climbing in and out, isn’t easy. Ram could consider adding box steps of some kind, which would make using the bed more practical.

At the core, a 2020 Ram PowerWagon is a ¾ ton truck, and that core provides a suitable platform for the kind of changes Ram made. There’s only a 6.5-foot box available at this spec, but that’s still bigger than most half-ton pickups out there today. Despite the modifications, the truck still has a decent payload rating. And the elevated height is actually perfect for tossing in construction waste. Strangely, or unsurprisingly, the 2020 Ram PowerWagon looks and feels right at home on both the construction site or garbage dump. The functional essence of a truck isn’t lost to the heavy-duty off-road changes.

2020 Ram PowerWagon

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Power at the core

While the Ram PowerWagon has throwback sights and sounds, the engine and transmission powering this truck are every bit a modern powerplant. Connecting the engine to the wheels is an eight-speed automatic transmission we’ve seen in Ram trucks before. It’s as smooth and fast as ever; shifting up or down gears happens almost without notice. Despite all the weight the 2020 Ram PowerWagon has to carry, the transmission feels completely unbothered by it. The engine, a 6.4-liter HEMI V8, has cylinder deactivation technology. Essentially, whenever the truck doesn’t need full power, it switches to four cylinders instead of eight. However, in real-life driving, the weight and extra effort the lift kit and larger wheels add negate any benefits an MDS system might bring.

And for the reader who loves off-roading and lifted trucks, Ram’s got you covered. The 2020 Ram PowerWagon has Tru-Lok® front and rear differentials. A 12,000-pound WARN® brand electric winch is integrated into the front bumper. 17-inch wheels get wrapped in 285/70R OWL all-terrain tires. Front and rear shocks are performance-tuned and built by Bilstein®. Skid plates have protected the fuel tank and transfer case. You won’t find an electronic 4×4 system in the PowerWagon. Instead, there’s a manual shift-on-the-fly system. Tire pressure monitoring and navigation are extras, and deleting the large PowerWagon branding costs extra.

What’s in a PowerWagon

For me, the 2020 Ram PowerWagon is a rare breed. It’s a truck that was difficult to pin down. But, the hard truth is, the PowerWagon wasn’t built for all buyers. It’s a model in a family of trucks, where each has its place and does its job quite well. The 2020 Ram PowerWagon is the fun-loving outdoorsman people envy for their outdoor knowledge and random weekend bushwacking. It cleans up nice for the city, but it’ll trade dirt roads for asphalt anytime. Ram is clearly going after the enthusiast market with the 2020 Ram PowerWagon. They’ve created a mudder in a box, a pre-built trail machine that opens up a whole new world of adventure for the owner. While that owner won’t likely be me, that’s doesn’t mean it can’t be you.

Dan Croutch
the authorDan Croutch
Dan is a freelance automotive and technology writer. He enjoys all things pickup trucks, classic cars, and minivans (really). The intersection of vehicles and technology fascinate him.

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