Traction: Gearing and Lockers
Traction has to do with two things: Gearing and lockers, and tires, which we’ll address in a moment. Both our trucks have four-wheel drive systems that click in and out readily, with good low range gearing.
Dodge’s 2.72:1 low range ratio, combined with 4.56 gears in the axles, give it a decent crawl capability, and with the 545RFE transmission, a crawl ratio of 37.2:1, that's just a little taller than a Jeep Wrangler Sahara.
The Raptor has a 2.64 low range ratio and 4.10 gears in the axles, but with that 4.17:1 first gear in the transmission, the crawl ratio is even better: 45.14:1. The taller tires take away some of that advantage, but it’s clear that as good as the Power Wagon’s gearing is, the Raptor’s is a little better.
When it comes to lockers, the shoe is on the other foot. Ford’s electronic locking rear axle is a tremendous traction adder that works in two-wheel drive at high speeds, like a Baja PreRunner, as well as in 4-High (up to 25 mph) and 4-Low (up to 66 mph). Raptor is the only factory off-roader with this feature.
The Raptor also features Ford's first application of hill descent control. It uses the truck’s antilock braking system to automatically modulate the brakes to slow travel down steep slopes so the driver can focus on steering and it helps make up for the Raptor's 45.14:1 crawl ratio.
But the Power Wagon has two e-lockers lockers, front and rear, plus it has a mechanical, helical-type limited slip in the rear axle adding traction even when the axles are not locked up.
The Bottom Line:
In the end, which is better depends on what you are trying to do. When you’re going slow, there is nothing like a selectable front locker to help claw your way out of some very tough situations. It’s a difference maker. Sometimes you might only need it to move ahead a foot … but that’s enough.
On the other hand, at speed on a dirt road a rear locker acts like a spool, making sure both tires are always driving. With momentum on your side, that’s all you need, and a front locker ties up your steering.
Be that as it may, we have to think that two lockers (plus a limited slip) are better than one when you're out in the wilderness tackling tough trails. Meanwhile, gearing is plenty low enough in both cases. The Raptor may have a better crawl ratio, but that does not make it a crawler, even with hill descent control.
Edge: Power Wagon
Tires: Tall and Taller
Both trucks offer bigger, better tires, and both are equipped with full-size spares.The Raptor runs 315/70R17 BFGoodrich All Terrain TA/KO tires, another specialized piece of the high-performance formula, engineered to match the capabilities of the truck. Nominally 35 inches in height, we tape-measured the 315s at 33.5 inches at standard pressure. Compared to regular BFGs, the tires are made with a softer tread compound for better grip, and a tougher sidewall to reduce the risk of damage from off-road debris. With the special rubber compounding, the tire will almost certainly brake better, especially in the rain.
The Power Wagon also has the tallest tire available in a Ram Heavy Duty pickup, a 285/70R17 in an All-Terrain tread. Also made by BF Goodrich specifically for the Power Wagon, they are “D” rated to maintain weight-bearing capacities consistent with the frame and chassis. Nominally 33 inches, these tires are actually just a tad over 32 inches tall at standard pressures.
A side benefit of the Raptor’s taller tire is more ground clearance. We measured the Raptor’s clearance at the front skid plate at 11.25 inches; and the Power Wagon, at the front differential, at 8.75 inches. Tires are only part of the difference, but the difference is substantial, and tire size is a factor.
It should be pointed out that neither of these tires turned out to be what we would call great in mud. We saw almost 4 inches of rain during the time we were driving these pickups, and as a result, trails that had long been dry had turned to sticky, clay-based mud. Tires on both trucks quickly loaded up and became the weak link in terms of traction.
The Bottom Line:
The Raptor’s tires are biased toward performance. They may wear faster, and they will probably be more expensive to replace, but they are taller and seem to be perfectly matched to the truck. The Power Wagon’s axles could easily tolerate tires of the same size, but the Dodge engineering team chose to go with tires that preserve the PW’s towing/hauling capabilities. We’d like to see a tire that performs better in the mud, in a slightly taller size, to compliment the Power Wagon’s off-road design envelope, but something like that in an equivalent load range would be hard to find.
Underbody Protection: Armor All
Both trucks have enhanced underbody protection. The Power Wagon has really beefy skid plates, heavier than the standard plates on 4×4 Ram 2500 trucks. They also have a slider rail running the length of the underbody, which is kind of like a ladder attached to the crossmembers. The slider rails rest on crossmembers made of high strength steel, we were told, so that “you can belly the truck on the slider rails, on a stump or something, and slide it right across.” The railing is made from round tube, so it doesn’t catch mud or hold water.
The Raptor, too, has extensive skid plates, including an especially large bash plate covering the front axle, plus corregated plates protecting the transfer case and gas tank. The Raptor doesn’t have anything like the Power Wagon’s slider rails, but it has better rocker panel protection with rugged cast aluminum side steps that run the length of the cabin. We’re not sure they’ll support the weight of the truck, but they might help preserve the rocker panels.
The Bottom Line:
Once again, we see protection consistent with the style of the truck. The Raptor has solid protection from high-speed impacts coming from the front, and the Power Wagon has protection from getting high centered on a rock or a stump. Still, the Power Wagon slider bars are the best we’ve seen on a stock pickup; we wish every 4×4 had something like it.
Edge: Power Wagon