AEV Hits Pay Dirt With Ram 2500/3500 Prospector


Show of hands: How many of you remember the Dodge Prospector convenience package pickup, Ramcharger or van? If you do, you have a good memory. It's been about 30 years since the Prospector Package sat on a Dodge pickup but now it's back, thanks to the heavy-duty outfitters from American Expedition Vehicles.

If the name AEV sounds familiar it's because this is the same company that birthed the profitable custom Jeep pickup conversion equipment that turns a relatively stock Jeep Wrangler into a rock-crawling AEV Brute Double Cab pickup. It has an almost limitless number of custom features like different engines, axles and frame strength.

Not content with beefing up Jeep products, AEV expanded into the full-size heavy-duty pickup segment with the Ram Prospector. The end result, depending on the options chosen, is a monstrously capable full-size off-roading adventure vehicle. Despite that, it feels pretty close to a stock Ram pickup when driven on city streets or highways.

Here's a little background: After discovering that the Prospector trademark had been allowed to lapse, the folks at AEV liked the newer Ram HD for their latest project because the 2500s had just gone to rear coil springs, which meant the possibility of a more compliant and comfortable ride. Additionally, because AEV aims to keep the ride and chassis geometry as close to a stock ride feel (the lift kit is a moderate 3-incher in front and 2.5-incher in back), it could rely on original Ram equipment to offer 44 different front coil spring rates and 18 different rear coil spring rates. All that changes depending on cab, engine, gearing, gross vehicle weight, etc., choices.

The basic AEV Prospector comes with the 3-inch suspension lift in front, 2.5 inches in the rear; includes a unique front bumper and badging; and offers 37-inch tires, which are about 4 inches taller than the biggest tire available from the factory. AEV also offers a slightly more complicated front-end lift if you want to run 40-inch tires. That includes wider fender flares and more accommodating outer bumper caps that give the front end better approach angles and moves the front live axle forward about 1 inch, all to better expose and fit the bigger front tires to any rock obstacles on the trail.

The feature we like most about this AEV package is that it works on any Ram 2500 or 3500 4×4, from the top-of-the-line Laramie Longhorn down to the entry-level Tradesman and even the Power Wagon (assuming you wanted an unstoppable tractor of a Ram HD).

We had to chance to take a pair of AEV Prospectors to a local off-road park in Southern California and were impressed with the off-road capabilities of the bigger tires and the solidity of the upgraded suspension. Think Power Wagon on steroids. In fact, we navigated several steep hill climbs and experienced some harrowing off-camber side-hill climbs that had the truck clawing for traction at unnerving angles, but the 4.10:1 axle gears, low range, a front sway-bar disconnect and mud terrain tires (aired down slightly) were incredible. It was amazing how much grab and muscle this Prospector produces — we did not even have to use the Prospector's front and rear locking differentials (a cool Ram feature that no other truckmaker offers).

During our on- and off-road drive we experienced two different Prospector packages: a fully loaded Ram 2500 Power Wagon Prospector (6.4-liter V-8 Hemi, 4.10:1 axle gears and 37-inch BFG Mud Terrain tires) and a Ram 3500 Tradesman stake bed (with the 6.7-liter inline-six-cylinder Cummins, 3.92:1 gears and 40-inch Goodyear Wrangler MTs).

Both pickups had the optional Amp Research automatic side steps, and we were thankful that. Even though the lift is moderate at 3 inches, the larger tires provide at least an additional 6 inches of ride height. That's why AEV also developed its own optional hydraulic assist for the steering pump when choosing the taller and heavier tire option on one-ton pickups (a solution borrowed from the AEV Brute Double Cab). The upgraded package of pumps, ram and high-pressure lines tucks comfortably above the front live axle so nothing is in harm's way when trying to climb over or around gigantic rock obstacles.

As you might expect, the AEV Prospector Ram is not inexpensive. First you select the new 4×4 Ram you want based on how stripped or loaded you want the interior in either 2500 or 3500 single-rear-wheel-drive configuration. Then start checking the AEV boxes that you want: wheel and tire size, bumper setup, winch or no winch, bed configuration, snorkel, etc. The well-equipped base-level package starts at just less than $14,000 on top of the price of a new Ram. That means you can be looking at anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000. Of course, if you already own a late-model Ram 2500 or 3500 4×4, your decision just got easier.

The Prospector pickups can be ordered from any one of 100 participating AEV Fiat Chrysler Automobiles/Ram dealerships across the country. To find out more about this new AEV package, call 248-926-0256 or click here. photos by Mark Williams; AEV photos





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