Reader Review: Driving a 2018 Ram Power Wagon on a 10-Day Road Trip

2018 ram power wagon road trip
(photo: Paulo)

Editor’s note: TFLtruck’s viewer & reader, Paulo, recently submitted the story you see below.

I’m Paulo, and I am currently based in Lubbock TX. I’ve owned Ram 2500s since I bought my first one in summer of 2016. It was a 2500 Tradesman 4×4 6.4 HEMI until I traded it for a 2017 Power Wagon, then to a 2018 Power Wagon. (Why? That’s another story). I have always loved vehicles, but moving to Texas has greatly influenced my purchasing and financing decisions as owning a pickup truck let alone a 4×4 3/4-ton gives you freedom to do things the way you want them.

2018 Ram Power Wagon

My current truck is a 2018 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Power Wagon that has seen over 8,000 miles of highway travel on East and West coasts. It has been slightly modified and runs on Toyo Open Country M/T 35×12.50r17 tires while retaining its stock wheels. I also upgraded it’s intake system to S&B Cold Air Intake, and installed a Ranch Hand grill guard among other things. It may look fancy from the outside, but I specifically asked my dealer to look for something with Luxury Package only, no front sensors, no sunroof (which I greatly don’t like), equipped with the latest UConnect 4C 8.4 Nav system, Decal Delete Package which is a zero cost option, and no side steps (for a 5’8″ guy it’s not really necessary to have).

Road Trip

We set out on a 10-day loop trip hitting the best spots in that timeframe starting from West Covina/ Los Angeles CA area and Griffith Observatory/ Hollywood area. On our way to California we crossed New Mexico’s Continental Divide in the dead of midnight and onto Tonto National Forest in Arizona. The Power Wagon has been averaging 14.5 MPG. Take note, it has taller tires – so pretty good so far. The truck has been an absolute vehicle to take onto a road trip and the beautiful canyons of Arizona where we also spotted a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 prototype testing at high elevation (at over 5,000 feet). In the mountains, the Power Wagon never showed any signs of stopping other than slowing down as we passed elk territory somewhere in New Mexico. The cold air intake I installed came in handy. It just kept sucking that cold air and feeding the big 6.4 HEMI, which has proven its worth being in this big beast.

The second leg of our road trip took us from Los Angeles to San Francisco via the scenic CA 1 (or Pacific Coast Highway). We took a slight detour to the Cascades and back to the PCH. The truck at this point has been averaging 15-16 MPG and hasn’t seen a reset to its MPG meter since we left Lubbock. We’ve been crossing mountain passes and cliffs on this part of the road trip and the truck has been an excellent performer given it’s insatiable appetite for fuel. We stopped for gas whenever I saw the gauge hit half tank mark. As a sightseeing vehicle, it’s a heck of a truck to behold the magnificent Pacific coast and the tall mountains on our other side. You would think its gonna hit single digits on the range when our lowest number for this part was about 14 MPG. Being a crew cab it came in handy for our baggage and the 6’4″ bed was more than adequate for our backup fuel and other stuff we hauled on this trip.

(photo: Paulo)

After hitting San Francisco and driving past Golden Gate Bridge, it was time to hit the Sierra Nevadas with Lake Tahoe as our first stop.  The long tiring trip paid off as we hit Stanislaus National Forest and onto Ebbett’s Pass which is about 8,700 ft of single lane highway with narrow and sharp turns which proved nothing for this big thirsty beast. The truck rode comfortably all the way and scaled it with ease, I was prepared to use the 4×4 system after we passed a sign that read “snow not removed at this point” but didn’t need it after all. The 2WD mode was more than enough to propel this monster in those tight and sharp turns.

After the pass, it was all cake for this pickup driving the winding roads and through the mountain roads that eventually lead to the El Portal entry of Yosemite National Park. The truck has been more of magic carpet ride, while providing music from its thundering V-8.

What about the navigation? My truck has the new 4C UConnect with Apple CarPlay and Google Maps compatibility. Between the smartphone apps and the built-in nav the latter proved more reliable especially when signal dropped. UConnect has a very strong signal.

Once we hit US 395 to Lone Pine/ Las Vegas it was rock and roll again as the truck happily cruised along the big open road. This trip was never about hurrying, it was a vacation so we have so much fun sightseeing the great Sierra Nevadas and the vast Inyo County/ Inyo National Forest.

As we hit Lone Pine I knew I could finally use the Power Wagon’s 4×4 hardware much to my delight. Alabama Hills have been a Hollywood favorite for old Western Movies and even Iron Man, so while we were driving the trails Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has set. Our eyes feasted on the majestic Mount Whitney which can be seen from a far and provided a beautiful backdrop for me trying to recreate the commercials Ram made for the 2010 and 2017 versions of this truck which I believe were all shot in this place that’s jagged with rock formations.

What can I say about the 4×4 system? While the preset trails might be cake for this truck it was all fun seeing it drive through corrugations and the tightest trails I can find there. The Power Wagon was in it’s natural habitat when I had fun messing with it’s sway bar disconnect and the lockers. While it may sound overkill for some, keep in mind that this trip was about unwinding and just me being a kid playing with an oversized Tonka truck in the form of this Power Wagon.

The truck’s final MPG going to California was 16.5 MPG, which translates to just shy of 520 miles range. On the way back, it returned 15.5 MPG also driving 75 MPH top speed on Texas highways and 65 MPH in New Mexico.

I have always loved this truck since seeing it in a 2005 Dodge Full-Line brochure so when my older 27-year self got a chance to grab one – I just knew I gotta have this truck. I’m aware that a new one is just on the horizon. I’ve seen it’s 2020 4500/5500 big brother testing near Nellis AFB in prototype form, but I will be keeping this baby until I can’t drive it no more. Why did I swapped from a 2017 PW to a 2018 PW? The 2017 was missing some features I wanted in a truck. The 2018 model is a darker hue which Ram calls Maximum Steel, which almost looks like Navy SEALs color when I was building on Ram’s build website.

It may be a decal delete but I put 2012 – 2016 Laramie Power Wagon style tailgate badge to signify that I drive a Power Wagon. Owning it has been an absolute blast and brings joy to me every time I fire up the 6.4 HEMI V8.

I have no complaints with this truck other than the seats could really use more cushion. Perhaps, it’s because I have been driving 3,801 miles? I could use rock rails. Why didn’t Ram Trucks put these as an option or standard feature for this truck.

The Power Wagon, with all the hardware it carries straight from the factory, is more than enough to make me a happy owner.