A few months back, my travels took me to New Orleans, where I drove a white Ram 2500 Power Wagon. If you're considering this particular vehicle, I might recommend a different color. Not because it looks bad, but because it creates an awkward situation when you're checking into a hotel. The guy at the desk goes, "Color and model of your vehicle?" and you say, "It's a white...uh...a white Power Wagon."
Leaving said hotel, I have ambitions to take the Ram off-road, but first I have a more prosaic mission: driving to a golf course with my brother-in-law, Rick. The Power Wagon is like the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor of low-speed trail work, with locking front and rear differentials, a detachable antiroll bar, and even a beefy winch attached to the front bumper. Golf runs, I know, are beneath it.
At the course, Rick suggests that we test the Power Wagon within the confines of our circumstances. "Let's winch our golf clubs over to the truck," he suggests. This is obviously a great idea, but it seems the controller for the winch is absent from the truck. It's almost as if the good people at Chrysler intentionally neglected to include the controller, on the grounds that journalists and winches are a bad combination. Well played, Chrysler. You are absolutely correct that I should not have access to a winch.
But I'm still determined to test the Ram's axle-articulating abilities. Adjacent to the course, I spy a construction site that includes a giant mulch pile. Before I can consider trespassing-related implications, I engage low-range four-wheel drive, lock both axles, and disconnect the sway bar. The mammoth Ram tiptoes up the incline, sinking in but clawing its way inexorably forward until we're parked atop the soft pile of mulch.
I'm searching for new obstacles when trouble arrives: a Ford F-250 diesel towing a trailer. This would be the contractor whose job site we are defiling. I feel the need to explain myself, so I drive down off the mulch pile and pull up to chat. I'm expecting a reprimand, but what I get instead is a challenge. The contractor's name is Matt, and he contends that if I really want to test the Ram's mettle, we'll have to stage a truck pull. "Let's hook 'em up," he declares.
At first I try to make the excuse that we lack a suitable tug-of-war attachment point, since the Power Wagon has a receiver but no hitch. No worry, Matt says, he has a spare hitch in his truck. In the South, you've got to be prepared at all times to facilitate a truck pull.
A few minutes later, the Power Wagon is tethered to the F-250 (a 2009 Power Stroke with aggressive aftermarket tires) with a thick steel cable, which Matt also happens to have handy. We climb into our trucks and I set the Ram for what I assume is optimal truck-pull mode -- low range, axles locked. On the count of three, we both hit the accelerator.
I have no idea how this will play out. I've got more horsepower with my gasoline Hemi, but he's got more torque. I've got lockers, but he's got knobby tires. I'm a truck-pull neophyte, and I'm beginning to suspect that Matt might be a ringer, a guy for whom every day is Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
I mash the Power Wagon's gas pedal, the Hemi roars, and...I go nowhere. The Ram digs four holes in the turf while its nemesis on the other side of the cable does likewise. It's a draw. "Let's find some better traction," Matt says, and we untether the trucks and move to a new spot. We pull the cable taught and commence another countdown.
On three, I drop the hammer and the Power Wagon's speedometer surges. But again, neither of us can muster an advantage. In my rearview mirror, I see the Ford's tires throw sod as Matt cuts the steering wheel back and forth, so I try the same technique. But neither truck budges. After a few more seconds, we call a truce.
Matt walks over and we shake hands. "I've gotta say, I'm impressed with that thing," he says, gesturing to the Ram. "But I think if I could've got it dancing, I would've had you." I have no idea what that means, but I nod knowingly. I'm a truck-pull expert now, and we of the Order of the Sledge must never show weakness.
It turns out that a Power Wagon and a Power Stroke are peers in the unforgiving crucible of the truck-pull arena. I've got an idea of how I could win, though, the next time around. But first, I'm gonna need that winch controller.