The top three selling vehicles in the American marketplace are pickup trucks. Ford’s venerable F-series still leads the pack over Chevrolet’s Silverado, with FCA/Chrysler’s Ram series a very close third. Not a single car model is even close, as crossover models fill the number four and five slots on the top-10 sales charts — the Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V — while Toyota’s RAV4 and Ford’s Escape round out a sales picture clearly dominated by trucks and trucklike cars. Hybrid cars, electric cars and hybrid vehicles have become mere rounding errors on the sales reports as consumers vote with their wallets — not what the bureaucrats and pundits tell them.
Why is this important? Consumers generally prefer choices that reflect their needs, wants, tastes and popular style. While early adopters create lots of noise about Tesla and electric cars in general, how many consumers can afford an $80,000 electric sedan that only travels 230 miles before it’s dead?
Conversely, how many consumers really need a three-ton 4X4 marauder that requires a step stool to enter, gulps fuel like a Saturn Rocket and looks like a SEMA-show design exercise taken to the extreme?
Well, the bean-counters in the industry will tell you that the Ram Power Wagon is a far better business plan right now, as fat margins, high volume sales and growing market share all reward shareholders and employees with the income that helps the economy and keeps American production rolling. The Tesla might, might, be a huge success someday. But right now, Chrysler sells 10 Ram trucks like this Power Wagon for every Tesla sold, and Tesla has yet to make a single penny of profit — a scenario that can’t possibly go on forever. Yes, I know, Chrysler is far from the template for financial benchmarking, but when the consumer wants big trucks, you build and sell what the consumer wants.
This particular Power Wagon may look familiar, as it appeared in this space during the past winter. With more break-in miles, plus warmer weather, it was good to see that fuel economy jumped 1.5 miles per gallon as the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 effortlessly cruised without any load-bearing weight, while the oversized Goodyear Wrangler tires occasionally balked at the more aggressive on-road driving pace that snow-free roads afforded during June.
The Power Wagon, a ¾-ton model only, is designed to work harder, tow more and look good while executing both. It succeeds on all counts while drawing admiring stares from many drivers, as well as the scorn of a few drivers annoyed by the bright headlamps affixed to this high-riding chassis. If you drove instead of yakked on your phone while in the passing lane, perhaps those headlamps wouldn’t be such a nuisance.
Interfaces and interior design pieces are all good here. Ram and FCA have combined conventional knobs and tuning controls with its excellent U-Connect screen to provide gobs of information and easy-to-access entertainment. The locking axles, front and rear, plus a stout floor-mounted four-wheel-drive shifter reward the he-man nature of this truck, while an electric front-sway bar disconnect control helps off-road articulation when the going gets really tough. Skid plates abound, tow hooks too, plus an electric winch to extract yourself when better judgment failed you.
Likes include the power-sliding rear window, cooled front seats, convenient steering wheel controls, roomy rear seating, plus the side-mounted cargo boxes (with interior LED lights) as well as the handy cargo-bed camera, which ensures that you still have in the bed what you want to keep in the bed.
There are opportunities for more likes. This truck is begging for some kind of side-step or running boards — it’s a long stretch up and in. There is no rear step to help bed access like GM and Ford offer, and the subdued exhaust note and mundane styling of the single pipe are just not befitting a truck equipped with the “big” Hemi engine. A low grumble, a high-pitched snarl, anything Ram can do to make this truck sound like it looks.
Starting at $53,000, the Power Wagon lacks the electric on-road driving aids seen throughout the industry today, while favoring the off-road acumen that separates this Ram from any other Ram. But throw in leather seating, lots of comfort pieces and luxury items, and the price zooms to $63,000 too fast.
Note what you are meeting for traffic, and you can’t help but recognize that there are a lot more Ram pickups in our daily driving fleet. Nice interiors, robust stance and a wealth of sought-after features are making Ram pickups a real contender.