Ram Overland Off-Road Adventure Drive
A year has passed since the last Overland Expo, which means itís time to mount up! Ram invited a handful of journalists again this year to experience its most capable off-road trucks on some demanding and scenic trails south of Flagstaff, Arizona. Ram brought seven 2017 Power Wagons, a pair of V8-powered Rebels, and four Pacificas for the Overland Adventure. I offered my services, but we did not wheel the minivans.
With the expert guidance of local off-road guide Nena Barlow, we began with an ascent of 5,131-foot House Mountain on a dry, rock-strewn trail. It was a purely high-clearance affair Ė the Pacificas would not have made headway. House Mountain is a shield volcano with a gorgeous 360-degree view from the summit. But before starting our 1,000-foot climb, we aired down our Power Wagon to smooth the ride and improve traction. We also disconnected the front sway bar with a dash-mounted button, which I can report did reduce head-toss on the trail. We even put our rigs in 4-hi. For the I have something to prove crowd, we could have traversed the trail without these conveniences, but why not use the tools at hand?
The Power Wagons dissected the moderate trail without drama. Nary a wheel slipped as we crawled up the volcano. The Rebels appeared to have little problem either, though I could not be pried from my Power Wagon perch so I did not experience the Rebel. And the Power Wagons did it all with open front and rear differentials, both of which can be locked with a dash-mounted knob. The 33.6-degree approach angle coupled with aggressive 33-inch Goodyear ATs enabled the rigs to mount steps few stock trucks would attempt. And the 26-degree departure angle coupled with stout Bilsteins ensured that dropping down precipitous ledges did not drag our receiver hitch across the colorful Permian rocks.
We have become accustomed to enjoying not just comfort, but luxury on the trail, and these trucks lived up to our elevated expectations. Of course the air conditioning worked, because these are modern trucks. They also had ventilated seats (thank you, Ram). And these were dusty trails, particularly at speed with up to eight rigs strung out in front of us. Even so, little dust intruded into the serene cabin.
Notably absent in the Power Wagon is the increasingly common terrain management knob. Nope, here you will find a good old shift lever jutting through the driverís side of the transmission hump. And it works much like the lever in your grandpaís CJ, with a heavy mechanical thunk as it forces the Borg Warner 44-47 transfer case into gear. You may shift into 4-hi on the move, but bring your Power Wagon to a stop and put it in neutral if you want 4-lo. Hill descent control is also here. But the 4.23 first gear ratio, 2.64 t-case ratio, and 4.10 AAM 11.5 inch rear end ratio combine to deliver a highly controllable downhill crawl on all but the steepest grades.
Lunch was served at the Goldking Mine Ghost Town above the small town of Jerome. Itís an engaging destination with an eclectic mix of truck and machinery esoterica in a lightly curated indoor-outdoor setting. If you like old mechanical things, Goldking is for you.
Our loop back to Flagstaff took us on Perkinsville Road. This well maintained dirt byway climbs out of a long inactive open pit mine, which is home to Goldking, and onto an old railroad grade. The vistas are expansive, drop-offs sheer, curves blind, and traffic nonexistent. It was a good way to ease back toward Interstate 40 and reflect on our day in these 6.4-liter 410-horsepower rigs that had come to feel all conquering.
Our 11.2 mpg observed fuel economy over 164 miles was somewhat less than hoped for. And yes, there are other stock trucks with impressive capabilities. And yet, there are no other products that provide the no-nonsense workaday charisma of the Power Wagon.
Iíll take mine in white please, with the badge delete.
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