Lots of people use pickup trucks as daily transportation — family vehicles that can haul the brood to school and then haul the lumber to a job site. Some folks don't have a job for their truck, they just enjoy the truck for its own sake — its space and power appeal to them.
But what about specialty pickups, ones that have a specific purpose? Trucks such as the 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon, with its clear and obvious off-road intentions and abilities, its stratospheric ride height, big front winch, vinyl floors and heavy-duty suspension? Can you take the kids to soccer practice in such a monster, or is it really better suited to riding the trails and only riding the trails?
With this question in mind and no actual nuclear family of my own to test it with, I headed to Texas with my better half to visit my sister-in-law, her two kids and my mother-in-law in suburban San Antonio for several days of sampling family life with a monster truck.
Waiting for me at the airport was a 2017 Ram Power Wagon in Bright Silver Metallic, blending in nicely with the South Texas landscape as if it was born to be there. Nearly 20 feet worth of heavy-duty Ram 2500 pickup in special off-road form, featuring the world's only factory-installed front and rear electronic locking differentials, sway-bar disconnects and a 12,000-pound winch in the front bumper. Its numbers are impressive: It weighs more than 7,000 pounds; its 6.4-liter V-8 pumps out 410 horsepower and 429 pounds-feet of torque; it sports 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires; and the whole thing sits 14.3 inches off the ground.
Pulling up to my sister-in-law's house was an event. The Power Wagon is loud, rumbly and rolls down the street with authority and bluster thanks to its chunky off-road tires. It turns heads, even in truck-jaded Texas, thanks to its size, its sound and its equipment. Dropping the distance from the cab to the steeply sloped driveway, however, reveals the first issue with Power Wagon: Unless you're physically fit and have some upper body strength, getting in and out of it is difficult.
The Power Wagon does not have running boards because they would defeat the purpose of having a tall truck. They'd eat into the ground clearance or get hung up on obstacles, neither of which you want in a true off-road rig. That means you plant a foot on the vinyl floor of the cab, reach up and grab the handle, and haul yourself up into it.
While that may work for younger folks (my teenage niece had no problem at all), older folks may have an issue — such as my 72-year-old mother-in-law. For her, we purchased a portable stepstool to aid in getting in and out. Otherwise, she simply could not get into the cab without significant help.
Using the Power Wagon as a family hauler is difficult. There's plenty of passenger space, but taking five people to the supermarket can be tricky. The RamBox storage bins in the bed fenders are great for stuffing groceries into, but once those are full, the rest of the groceries either need to go in the cab where people are sitting or in the covered bed, where they're likely to roll around and get damaged. So while the Power Wagon is fine for hauling the brood to soccer practice, running errands in the beast is more of a challenge.
What's not challenging is driving the Power Wagon down the straight, fast Texas highways. Smooth, stable and powerful, the Power Wagon ate up the miles on a jaunt up from San Antonio to Dallas. While the truck is big, Texas is bigger, and is built around accommodating vehicles like this. There aren't many places that the Power Wagon didn't fit, but parking garages were one of them. At almost 7 feet tall, you must be careful where you park this hoss.
Sadly, my long weekend with the Power Wagon didn't involve any off-roading, but that's OK. I've driven one from Scottsdale to Flagstaff, Ariz., up the Crown King Trail, and can report that the Power Wagon is absolutely brilliant in the rough. It's less brilliant in the suburbs, but still can do most of what's asked of it. It's no Chrysler Pacifica in terms of its utility and family-friendliness, but then, a Pacifica can't winch itself out of a ravine.
Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman