Review: 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 & Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Nov. 09, 2010 By Jim Brightly
Metaphorically speaking, talk about having two pocket aces! Driving these two Dodge Ram trucks was like being dealt two aces at a Texas Hold ‘Em table. Sitting behind the wheel of either Ram, whistling down the freeway behind that sweet 5.7L Hemi V-8, gives a driver the same feeling of well-being that aces can give you in a high stakes game.

1.	While not as capable off the macadam, the Ram 1500 is a more comfortable family vehicle. However, its acceleration, due in part to its taller gears, is not as head-snapping as the Power Wagon.

Dodge Ram 1500 4X4
Did you know that Motor Trend magazine picked the 2010 Ram 1500 as the Truck of the Year for 2010? I think that one of the main reasons for that choice could be the 1500’s RamBox cargo storage system.

6.	Very large compartments are revealed with the Ram Box lid open. Currently, the RamBox is not available in the long-bed Ram. The Ram Box can be locked when closed and runs almost the full length of the bed.

Before I go any further, I want say that I love the RamBox side storage boxes in the bed rails! (Or as I call them, the saddlebags.) What a perfect place to bring home the bacon so the groceries don’t slide all over the bed or fill up the backseat. In fact, in my opinion, all the groceries—except those in the ice chest—for a family’s weekend camping trip would fit in them. Cookies wouldn’t get broken up, bread wouldn’t get smashed, and everything would be very convenient for use. If you’re a hunter or fisherman, the Ram’s saddlebags can also hold guns, gear, and sinkers. There are only two complaints that I can think about in relation to the RamBoxes; they are only available on the short bed, and a bed cap (or shell) would render them useless.

3.	TRX is Dodge’s off-road package badge and package, which includes heavy-duty shocks, fender flares, tow hooks, and other accessories.

I recently had the fortunate opportunity to road test these two 4WD Rams; a 1500 and a 2500 Power Wagon that was well equipped with a myriad of Mopar products. Even though I received the Power Wagon and then the 1500, I’m going to talk to you about the 1500 first because it was the more stock of the two Rams. And to be honest, while driving the Power Wagon to the switchover spot to trade keys on the Rams, I was thinking that trading in the 2500 Power Wagon for the 1500 would be like trading in a First Class ticket for a private drawing room on the Bombay/New Deli train for a Third Class wooden bench in the public car. Nothing could be further from the truth! The 1500’s interior was equally comfortable, the ride less stiff and much more comfortable—and the fuel mileage improved.

7.	A molded and movable barricade was included in the Ram 1500’s package, which kept camping items and groceries from sliding too far forward.

Available in five trim levels—beginning with the ST and moving through SLT, TRX, Sport, and the top-line Laramie—the Dodge Ram 1500 I tested was a TRX Crew Cab 4x4 short bed (base price: $34,240/as tested: $42,725). Three cab designs and three bed lengths are also offered, and either a two-wheel or four-wheel-drive setup. The Crew Cab provides almost 40 inches of rear legroom. Three engines are available: a 3.7-liter V6 (210 horsepower), a 4.7-liter V8 (310 hp) and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 (390 hp). Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 10,250 pounds (which means that it could conceivably tow a flatbed trailer with two Jeeps on it).

8.	Equipped with an electronic transfer case control, the Ram 1500’s transmission shifter was mounted in the center console. While in drive, a tap on the handle to the left dropped the tranny a gear and a tap to the right shifted the tranny upward. The console’s upper compartment provides a good working surface

The interior of the Ram 1500 is roomy and well-appointed. The test truck was equipped with cloth seats (buckets in front—with powered lumbar assist and 10-way powered driver’s seat—and three-across rear seat with fold-down armrest). Backseat video and an Alpine nine-speaker surround-sound audio system are optional—no video on ours but the Alpine sound system sounded wonderful—as are Bluetooth, navigation and a rear backup camera (test truck was equipped with the backup camera along with Ram’s ParkSense rear parking assist—more about this later). This Ram 1500 was ordered with lined wells below the rear floor mats (sized for a six-pack and ice), two under-seat storage compartments, as well as the RamBox, which are the cargo bed storage compartments that I mentioned earlier.

9.	The 1500’s two-part armrest/console offered a large lower compartment that cuddled laptops carefully, while the top section (not shown) offers a great working surface.

Driving the Ram 1500 was pure fun for pickup-loving driver. The mpg friendly 5.7-liter Hemi V-8—390 hp @ 5,800 rpm/407 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm—delivered better freeway merging acceleration than many of its competitors. (I now know, after driving both Rams, why so many Jeepers are replacing the Wranglers’ V-6 engines with the 5.7L Hemi—it’s one hell of an engine!) The Hemi also sports the best combination of horsepower and fuel economy in its class, according to Dodge, and its Multi-Displacement System (MDS) seamlessly deactivates half of the engine’s cylinders in fuel saver mode when less power is needed. And its Variable Valve Timing (VVT) is said to deliver increased torque and efficiency. Stronger hemispherical cylinder heads produce more power, while a short runner valve active intake manifold increases fuel efficiency. Another item I’d like to mention is the adoption of a new coil-spring rear suspension, which significantly enhances the truck’s ride quality over broken pavement. By the way, EPA figures for the Ram 1500’s miles-per-gallon are 13 mpg in the city/18 mpg on the highway, which hits right smack in the middle of our mpg figures—14.1 mpg over a combination of freeway, highway, and short off-road excursions.

Speaking of off-road excursions, the Ram 1500’s electronic 4WD transfer case has a low range for slogging through meadow mud just so your Jeep’s toy box can be positioned just right. It’s also equipped with a neutral for recreational towing if you decide to tow your Ram behind your motorhome rather than your Jeep. The Ram’s 5-speed automatic transmission and 3.92:1 axle ratio enhance its towing capability as well, as does the limited slip rear differential.

12.	Both Rams enjoyed the same 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine with 390 pounding ponies performing powerfully.

It took me some time to discern how the transmission’s shifter worked on the Ram. I finally discovered it when we were shooting the off-road scenes in the sand. Tap the gearshift to the left and it drops down a gear for each tap; just reverse the procedure and tap to the right to go up a gear.

As comfortable as the Ram’s ride was, the form-fitting bucket seats made its ride even more comfortable, cradling the front passengers in cushions of comfort. Hours on the freeway seemed to just fly by in minutes. The Ram’s front power windows have automatic up and down modes, just an extra push down or pull up activates the automatic system. The Ram also was equipped with a power rear window.

2.	The Power Wagon performs extremely well off-road, but could use some weight in its bed for a smoother ride and better traction.

Dodge Ram 2500 Power Wagon
Four Wheeler magazine calls the 2010 Ram Power Wagon a man’s man’s truck. “A corn fed, blue-collar party, work-ethic kind of truck. It is the kind of truck you climb up into, one you want to drive when you have 1,940 pounds in the bed, five close friends, and a boulder-strewn route between points A and B.”

11.	Ram 1500’s off-road capability is somewhat limited due in part to its non-aggressive street-type Goodyear Wrangler LT275/70R17 load range C tires. 13.	The 33-inch BFGoodrich LT285/70R17 load range D tires on the Power Wagon’s alloy wheels provided plenty of punch off-road for the Dodge Power Wagon.

Cool words for a cool truck. When I first saw that big blue beauty sitting and waiting for me to test it, I could hardly wait to drive off the lot and into the dirt! Visually, the Power Wagon (base price: $38,480/total price: $48,940) is extremely impressive. It seemed to be a Ram of all trades—while it may be master of none—a Jeep JK is better on a trail; a one-ton Ram can haul more. While a Ram 1500 4X4 (see above) may ride softer, the Power Wagon does everything damn well. In other words, a Jeep can’t haul a large travel trailer or fifth wheel and you wouldn’t want to beat up your kidneys on a rocky trail with a one-ton truck.

15.	If there’s no regard for the passenger’s legs, securing the armrest in an upward position provides a third front seat.

As in the extremely effective Jeep Wrangler I tested earlier in the year, the folks at Mopar searched their extensive menu of parts for all the items that would improve the Power Wagon’s performance above and beyond its already impressive abilities. At the heart of the Power Wagon are front and rear selectable lockers stuffed into massive solid axles along with 4.55:1 gear ratios, and 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain TA tires mounted on 17-inch forged wheels. Just like a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the Power Wagon is equipped with a front electronic disconnecting sway bar, which unlike the Jeep is used in conjunction with front coil springs, which in turn are controlled by Bilstein monotube shock absorbers (its ride is firm but not harsh). In other words, it can pull your trailer, bass boat, or your Jeep with ease—or be your solo trail rig. Add a PullRite Super Glide sliding fifth-wheel hitch and it’ll pull a fifth-wheel toy box big enough to sleep a large family and haul all its toys (including a jacked-up JK Unlimited).

16.	Lifting the seat cushion reveals another compartment where a laptop or files could be stored safely.

And the Power Wagon is already equipped with integrated adjustable trailer brakes and dual trailer plugs (see the photos), which means it’s fully equipped to tow just about anything right off the showroom floor except a fifth wheel or gooseneck trailer (for that you’ll need the proper hitches).

18.	An integrated trailer brake helps make the Power Wagon an ideal towing partner for your Jeep and its flatbed trailer.

Inside the Power Wagon’s crew cab you’ll find a smart ignition key and a smart steering wheel. The smart wheel is tied to the information panel in the center of the dash (you’ll have to check the owner’s manual to learn all of the notifications in the info panel—there are too many to list here). The smart wheel has controls for several different appliances such as the sound system’s volume and station selection, and the cruise control paddle. Power Wagon’s front seat allows a third person to sit and belt up in the center “jump seat” but a center console with the transfer case shifter and storage trays interfere greatly with that person’s legs, and it can also be used as an armrest and storage console. The front door power windows have automatic up and down modes, and the powered rear window allows for some varied ventilation setups. The Power Wagon has a full gauge set-up; however, there are no numbers on the gauge faces.

19.	Both trucks are equipped with the same smart wheel and dashboard, although the 1500 gear shift is in the center console and the 2500 gear shifter is on the steering column, which allows the manual transfer case shifter to be in the center console.

There seems to be two of everything in this truck: two glove boxes, two cup holders for each front passenger, two center consoles (one with a 12VDC power outlet and separators), two storage compartments in the rear floorboards, and two under-seat storage compartments beneath the backseat—albeit with one filled to capacity with a large Alpine bass speaker in this particular Power Wagon.

20.	Both trucks are also equipped with two rear floorboard storage compartments, said to be just right for ice and a six pack.

A touch screen controls on the Alpine audio system, and it can be used as the backup monitor as well. Power Wagon’s optional backup sensor system, which notifies the driver when backing in too close to an obstacle, will begin beeping and turn off the sound system. It is also very annoying when backing up to a trailer because the system consistently thinks the trailer is an obstacle. Perhaps there’s some way to turn it off to avoid the annoyance while backing up a trailer.

22.	On the dashboard of both trucks, I found multiple power outlets, including this integrated inverter 120VAC/150W three-prong outlet.

While the Power Wagon’s on-highway ride is firm but not harsh, and its performance is outstanding, the Power Wagon really begins to shine when it’s getting down and dirty off-road. Alright, let’s face it, you’ll need to add an air compressor to the Power Wagon’s toolkit (probably should just leave it in one of the rear floorboard storage bins) because you’re really going to want to drop air pressure in the BFGoodrich All Terrains when you hit the rocky road to soften the ride and strengthen the traction—front and rear lockers notwithstanding. And just in case you find yourself just a bit too far on the road less traveled, the standard factory installed 12,000-pound Warn winch is a great backup for the lockers. Just be careful, though—the power wagon is so darn capable—you might want to have to hide the keys from the neighbors and other family members. Driving the 6,800-pound Power Wagon with the 5.7L Hemi engine has given me a new perspective on why so many JKs are opting for the 5.7—it must really come alive in a relatively light JK because it’s happy as hell in the Power Wagon. Even though its 4.55:1 gear ratio makes this truck a thirsty Ram—12.6 mpg—especially at the 75 mph interstate speed limits in Arizona, I really hated to return the Power Wagon to the Chrysler press fleet. I guess it was because of all macho Mopar equipment on the truck, and also just how much sheer fun it was to drive regardless of whether it was on- or off-road. By the way, no EPA estimated mileage figures are given for the 2500 Ram.

24.	Ready to tow, the Power Wagon could be the ideal Jeep towing rig or an outstanding off-roader in its own right.

Now that some time has passed since I tested the two Rams, and I’ve had time to think about the trucks (I keep remembering those Disney films on the nature channel, where the two big horn rams are giving each other migraines, deciding which one gets the girls), I realize there’s really no competition between these two Dodge Rams. In my opinion, they complement each other. Plus they are obviously designed for different roles, and each does its job extremely well. Newsletter
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