By on June 22, 2017

2017 Ram Power Wagon

Impassioned calls for Ram to drop the Cummins 6.7-liter inline-six diesel into the Power Wagon are not new, nor is Ram’s response. I recently spoke with Jeff Johnson, Ram’s brand manager for heavy duty trucks, who unequivocally stated, “Ram has no plans to offer the Power Wagon with a diesel.”

Johnson pointed to the increased weight of the 6.7-liter Cummins versus the 6.4-liter Hemi V8 presently under Power Wagon hoods, as well as the difficulty of engineering the front end to accommodate both the diesel’s cooling requirements and the truck’s standard 12,000-pound winch.

We accept the reality of these challenges. But could Ram overcome them?

Absolutely, though Ram’s engineers have determined the cost outweighs the benefits. Even setting my enthusiast hat aside, I am not confident that bypassing this opportunity altogether is the best choice for Ram.

2017 Ram Power Wagon Front Axle


According to Cummins, the B-series 6.7-liter turbodiesel weighs 1,100 pounds. The 6.4-liter Hemi currently found in the Power Wagon weighs in around 500 pounds. Ensuring this three-quarter-ton pickup maintains its off-pavement agility with a 500-lb weight penalty over the front axle is no small matter. And Ram already had to compensate for the 130-lb Warn winch tucked into the front bumper. The Power Wagon is undeniably mass-challenged.

There are, however, untapped weight-reducing measures available to Ram that do not involve structural changes or exotic materials. For example, the steel hood and front fenders could be made of aluminum. This change would not only shed mass but provide the opportunity for additional visual distinction versus the standard Ram 2500 (see Raptor). There is also weight to shed in some of the suspension components, radiator, and wheels. And the winch could be specified with synthetic line versus the wire rope presently wrapped around its drum. Taken together, a modest light-weighting effort could shave more than 150 pounds.

Let’s remember that the Power Wagon is not a desert pre-runner. It is, according to Mike Manley, head of the Jeep and Ram brands, “an off-road, all-access pass.” And a 300-400 pound weight penalty, though unwelcome, is not going to materially alter the capabilities of this 7,000 pound truck. Power Wagon is not the lithe ultimate fighter of the off-road world; it’s the heavyweight boxer.


Full-size truck engine bays are no longer something you can step into. Just try adding a dual-battery setup to any 2017 truck. It’s no longer a simple bolt-in project. The same can be said of the space between the radiator fan and bumper, particularly when adding an intercooler. Ram is correct when they say there is no space to accommodate the fan, radiator, intercooler, and winch in a current diesel-powered 2500 truck.

2017 Ram 2500 Diesel

Heat is one of the biggest threats to diesel engine performance and longevity, making Ram’s caution well placed. Nonetheless, the stock intercooler is prime for replacement with a unit combining larger end tanks, a denser core, and higher quality materials. Air flow could also be more actively managed through a reconfigured bumper. And much like the proposed changes to the bodywork, a new front bumper would give Ram a chance to further visually distinguish the Power Wagon from its HD stablemates.

Ram could even afford to push the bumper out an inch or two. Its current 33.6-degree approach angle is already the envy of the pickup market (Raptor’s is 30 degrees; an F-250 4×4, 20 degrees). The current stealth-look front bumper could also be re-contoured to accommodate an improved approach angle to counteract a modest increase in depth. As with the light-weighting measures and revised intercooler, model-specific engineering would come at a cost to consumers. Nonetheless, truck buyers have signaled their willingness to spend more. According to Kelly Blue Book, the trim escalation war continues with full-size pickup average transaction prices climbing over $46,000 last year.

2017 Power Wagon


Checking the Cummins diesel box on your Ram 2500 order costs $9,200. As eye-watering as that number is, more than 80 percent of Ram HD buyers opt in. A recent visit to my local dealer showed 15 Ram 2500s on the lot, every single one a diesel. For Ram, the strong take rate on diesels equates to a massive uptick in revenue versus gas-powered rigs. If every HD buyer had opted for a 5.7 or 6.4-liter gas engine in 2016, Ram would have foregone $1.3 billion in revenue. That’s 1 percent of the Italian-American automaker’s annual global revenue. And then there are the consumers who purchase a Ram HD based largely on the availability of its Cummins engine. It’s difficult to estimate how many fewer pickups Ram would sell were it not for the 800 lb-ft monster lurking under its hood. To call the Cummins engine a big deal for Ram is an understatement.

What would the sales prospects be for a Cummins Power Wagon? If a diesel Power Wagon were available, it would cannibalize sales of some other Ram 2500 trucks, though at a higher transaction price. And despite the legendary loyalty of truck owners, a diesel Power Wagon would attract some buyers who would otherwise select a Ford, GM, Toyota, or Nissan product. All in, a diesel Power Wagon would attract more buyers, but remain a niche truck. So while the diesel Power Wagon would generate more revenue for Ram ($100 million-plus annually at an 80-percent take rate), the financial benefits alone may be insufficient to justify its development. But there are other reasons truck makers greenlight projects like this.

2017 Ram Power Wagon

Ford is the overall leader in full-size pickups but, despite offering dozens of grilles and engines, it does not own every niche. For example, Nissan put the Cummins 5.0-liter V8 in the Titan XD to target the white space between the Ram 3.0-liter EcoDiesel and the big 6.6 and 6.7-liter diesels. And while Ford is busy racing through the desert at 100 mph, Ram has an opportunity to extend its leadership in the HD off-road space. The wider the lead Ram builds, the longer it can keep the HD Off-Road niche to itself.

The biggest, the most, the best — this is how full-size trucks have been advertised for decades. Consumers absorb the message, then visit a dealer. They may not drive out with the only dedicated heavy duty off-road truck with diesel power capable of towing 18,000 pounds. But it does not matter what they take home, as long as the message resonates and they visit a Ram dealer. An improved Power Wagon would wear a stronger halo.

What to Expect

Changing a major system such as an engine in a highly engineered product like an automobile, which contains more than 30,000 individual parts, is a complex undertaking. One change cascades into another, and then another. Going diesel means switching from the 68RFE automatic transmission to the 66RFE, which in turn may necessitate revised skid plates, driveline, and other adjustments. Nonetheless, the auto industry has overcome these complexities, and produces thousands of configurations and component combinations on the same production line every day. Neither the engineering nor the production constraints are sufficient justification to prevent a diesel Power Wagon from becoming a reality.

2017 Ram Power Wagon

An all-new heavy duty Ram is due out in 2018/2019. Declining to make the modest investment necessary to put a Cummins in the current generation Power Wagon is probably a sound business decision. And all the changes required to incorporate the Cummins into the Power Wagon with minimal compromise will come at a cost that will be easier for consumers to swallow if it arrives as an all-new model. Not only that, but denying the possibility of a diesel Power Wagon is marketing 101.

If consumers were aware that Cummins motivation was on the way, sales of current model Power Wagons would suffer. So, don’t hold your breath for any announcements soon, but know that Cummins power is a realistic possibility in the next-generation Power Wagon.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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33 Comments on “Making the Case for a Diesel Ram Power Wagon...”

  • avatar

    Now do putting V8s in Cadillac cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Cadillac is simply following the German “I4 = luxury” formula. It’d be nice if they would lead for a change and offer true luxury powertrains but it just ain’t in ’em.

  • avatar

    I love the Power Wagon, and I have pretended to buy one several times, using the manufacturer’s online “build your own” tools. However, the new Raptor has a fantastic suspension and 4 wheel drive system that has me tempted to pretend buy one of those instead.

  • avatar

    Also, my biggest fear with a diesel Power Wagon would be all that expensive emissions equipment hanging off the underside.

    Yea, I guess they could do some serious armoring, but that’s going to hurt serviceability (which you’ll be doing lots of on a diesel), and even with how well does that stuff hold up to water fording?

    I think that instead of a diesel PW, RAM needs to design a new transmission for the HD gassers that let it put all the power to the ground. The Ford 6.2L weighs slightly more and dynos the same but is considerably swifter and more fuel efficient due to the better trans.

  • avatar

    A) I’m sure FCA has detailed cost roll-ups for all the changes that need to be made for a diesel Power Wagon

    B) I’m sure FCA has determined that the money is better spent elsewhere

    FCA is in a good position market-wise and has some good product coming along, but don’t forget that they simply don’t have the cash that the other Big 2 have. They have to be much more selective in where they invest, so even if this would be a money-maker for them it may not be worth the opportunity cost.

  • avatar

    The failure of the Titan diesel to sell well is a harbinger of the failure of a diesel Power Ram. Even the smartest guys at Dodge understand that it would be a disaster in today’s market.

    • 0 avatar

      wintermutt – – –

      Good point. But Nissan has much higher sales targets for the Titan XD than Ram does for the Power Wagon. I suspect that Nissan thought the 5-liter V-8 smaller Cummins* was going to be a big hit, and, as you point out, it hasn’t been. Even the “tweener” idea for the XD is kind of a “neither-fish-nor-fowl” situation.

      * All the maintenance disadvantages of a diesel (which is a reality), but few advantages over a decent gas-powered V-8. Even the increased power and torque (310/555) of that smaller diesel is not exactly a “home run”.


  • avatar

    This is certainly a bean counting decision, not a technical one.

  • avatar

    Seth – – –

    Good article and good research.

    I just bought a Ram 2500 Crew Cab Diesel (6.7-liter Cummins) and absolutely love it: manual trans no less.

    There is no question that the Ram folks could do the redesign and re-engineering to get that Cummins into a Power Wagon. It certainly would be a natural extension of the Power Wagon’s “gestalt” and intent. They know that. And I think they should work toward that goal.

    But I realize that from a business-case point-of-view, and considering their other Ram priorities right now, that project may have to be on the back burner in the short term.

    What might really push this along is if an outside tuner company (like AEV) actually did this as a custom effort, and demonstrated to Ram that the market exists for such an enhanced Power Wagon. Let’s put it this way: If there were a Power Wagon with Cummins diesel and 6-speed G56 Daimler manual transmission, I’d buy it faster than scoot!

    BTW: The Ford Raptor was never meant to be a competitor for the venerable, 70-year old PW, despite various automotive media trying to treat them that way. Two different functions and two different target markets. The Raptor is a high-speed desert runner; the PW is an all-purpose off-road machine, as it was in the US Army in 1945. I should note that after WWII, many farmers even bought them cheaply to use as farmer tractors, and with the PTO, that worked great.


  • avatar

    This is probably both blasphemy *and* heresy (a twofer!), but why doesn’t Cummins work on a larger diesel V8, and something that could be lighter? Sure, the buyers love the inline six, but its length is a packaging issue here, not to mention its weight. It just sounds like a diesel V8 would be the answer here.

    • 0 avatar

      dukeisduke – – –

      They did that.
      It’s in the Nissan Titan XD: 5-liter Cummins Diesel V-8.


    • 0 avatar

      “why doesn’t Cummins work on a larger diesel V8”

      Because Cummins is in the business of making vocational diesel engines designed for work, not light duty V8’s designed for passenger vehicles. The 5.9 (now 6.7) was never designed with the intention of being mass produced for a truck. It was and is a true medium duty engine that found its way into a light duty which is why it survives so much better than any other engine Ford or GM has ever shoehorned into their truck.

  • avatar

    Has nobody at Dodge looked at what we do with the Cummins trucks? It’s definitely not hard to put a winch on a diesel truck and lift it a few inches for off-road use. In fact, there’s got to be at least 100 shops within 50 miles of me that do exactly that.

    • 0 avatar

      Plus they already offer 85% of the powerwagon in the 4×4 Off Road package that is 100% available of diesels.

      I don’t think people realize how much that extra 600lbs sitting over the front axle can mess things up until they drive the thing in mud.

  • avatar

    Synthetic winch rope (dyneema/spectra) is great stuff. It’s lightweight, it floats, and it is safer to use. It does not store energy like a wire rope so, in the event of a break, it does not snap back like a rubber band.
    However, it would probably not be a good choice in the PowerWagon. It is heat sensitive. It is not recommended for use in temperatures over 170 F for long periods of time. You don’t want to use it in a winch with a brake inside the drum. I would worry about the heat in it’s current PowerWagon location in front of the motor and under the radiator.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    FCA has the perfect engine.

    The 3 litre VM V6 diesel.

    A twin turbo setup on the engine, some airbox and intercooler work should get you 240hp and 550ftlb.

    Another possibility worth exploring is the 3.8 litre ISF Cummins 4. The 2.8 ISF is good for 185hp and 365ftlb.

    I don’t see why 230-240hp and 480ftlb is not possible.

    The above 2 options will have sufficient torque to move the PowerWagoon off road.

    • 0 avatar

      “The above 2 options will have sufficient torque to move the PowerWagoon off road.”

      But not enough torque to move them off of the lots.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        My estimates are very conservative.

        If FCA put some work into the VM those hp and ftlb numbers would increase significantly.

        BMW have a 3 litre diesel good for 287kw and over 700Nm. I’m not suggesting those numbers. But their is plenty of scope to extract more from the VM. Banks are getting over 600 reliable hp from the VM.

        The PowerWagon could easily get away with the same or slightly more than the Titan Cummins.

        A 300hp diesel is far more than enough, especially a PowerWagon. Its not a high speed off roader. Just a very competent HD 4×4.

        The only people to complain would be the hairdresser 4×4 set.

        This vehicle should be made first for the off roader.

    • 0 avatar

      “FCA has the perfect engine.

      The 3 litre VM V6 diesel.”

      If you ignore that pesky emissions recall.

      I had thought that the VM 3.0 might be okay but if one considers “western” preferences, the 5.0 Cummins would be a much better match for the Power Wagon.

      The Cummins 5.0 “weighs 804 lbs dry (engine only), 899 lbs fully dressed (with after-treatment system)”

      The 6.7 ISV Cummins in the Power Wagon would mean axle upgrades as well as transmission and suspension.

      “The only people to complain would be the hairdresser 4×4 set.”
      That fixation with hairdressers rises again. Tonsurephobia is treatable, being a dip sh!t not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        The pesky emissions recall is not an issue. As a significant power upgrade, an additional turbo, etc would render it useless, even if it sufficed in its current configuration.

        So, that comment is of no bearing.

        Again, we come back to the 3 litre VM, with the current front end still usable.

        The ISD is pointless.

      • 0 avatar

        “The only people to complain would be the hairdresser 4×4 set.”

        Coincidentally, in the town just south of the town where I live, their biggest most jacked up 4×4 happens to be owned by a hairdresser.

        Here’s a google street view of the truck:

  • avatar

    The Cummins sits much further forward than the V8. Hence more than just the weight difference added to the front. And, the flexible offroad suspension, negates the tow rating gains to be had from the Cummins to begin with. The current Powerwagon rating, is lower than the V8 rating in other 2500s, despite the gearing being much shorter. Ergo, the chassis limits what you can tow to around 10,000lbs. Why drag around a Cummins for that???

    Like Big Al, (who hails from a land where diesels in offroaders make sense due to range requirements, sand, heat and the sheer weight of all the beer an Aussie requires for an outing in the Outback) says, a smaller diesel, preferably a V6 or a 4, though less macho sounding, makes infinitely more sense for those wishing to use the Powerwagon as an expedition vehicle. You can get big tanks, long range, and still have a pretty darned capable offroader.

    For the more technical offroad and woods use most (non Starbucksed) Powerwagons see, a V8 gasser is just much preferrable, though. It may not have the range to get anywhere, but at least the power delivery is tuned to utter perfection on that engine, for technical offroad use. I’ve never been in any other vehicle, where low range driving is so effortless, whether forward or reverse. No laggy, flyywheelie turbodiesel will ever come close to that.

    Rather than mucking around trying to fit a container ship sized two stroke diesel under the hood of what is really a Jeep, I wish Ram would offer a reg cab Power Wagon. With the 4500’s wide track front axle, with it’s massively improved wheelcut. And a factory single rear wheel conversion on the rear. You’d have a full sized truck with a Miata like turning circle…. Now THAT, would be a boon to actual offroading in a pickup…. Then just get another, suspension-optimized-for-towing Cummins Ram, if you have requirements that really need the big diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I do believe Ram HD’s could of profited with an entry level diesel by using the 3.8 ISF.

      It would be priced similar to the big Hemi.

      With a little tweaking the ISF would be good for 250hp and 500ftlb of torque. And deliver great FE.

      Business and fleet operators would buy it.

      But, the Hemi is the current best option for what would be mainly a weekend toy.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      Half of the guys I work with have Diesel-powered trucks. Some are chipped; some are brand new. None are Fords. They argue between themselves over the merits and detriments of the Cummins I6 and the Chevy V8. Not one of them will ever take their beloved truck anywhere near a potentially-scratchy branch. They all – to a man – drive these trucks all year round because they have huge fifth-wheel trailers.

      As I understand it, when you go camping for two weeks you drag your huge trailer a few hundred miles away then park it for the duration. You then drag it back when camping is done. These guys justify year-round commuting in a vehicle that is capable of towing a supine apartment block over the Rocky Mountains simply because it can do so – then bitch about fuel prices.

      My idea of buying a Miata or a Corolla falls on nearly all deaf ears but for one guy. He’s warming to the idea of an actual commuter car that can be driven all year for pennies on the mile. Of course, he has an inherent bias: he had a Toyota Celica GT4 as a younger man.

    • 0 avatar

      The added weight of the Cummins might be noticeable relative to a gasser 6.4 or 5.7 Hemi, but at the end of the day we’re talking about a 3/4 ton truck. If a 6.7l diesel Ram 2500 can’t make it through an area because of weight, chances are neither can a gasoline-equipped version.

      Within the realm of 4×4 and general truck applications, a diesel has many advantages over a gasoline engine: low-end torque; fuel economy; towing capabilities. I think FCA owes it to its fans and to its Power Wagon pedigree to invest some time and effort into developing a diesel Power Wagon; the consumer base for such a truck is there.

  • avatar

    “Just make the front end sheet metal out of aluminum!”

    Lost some credibility in armchair engineering at that suggestion… for an extremely production special edition no less. That’s a massive undertaking that would save an order of magnitude less weight than you’re adding with the Cummins.

  • avatar

    whatever… I considered a Power Wagon when I was shopping last year, but just couldn’t stomach the price point… and I knew I wouldn’t utilize a majority of its capability. I bought a ’16 Ram 2500 ccsb 4×4 with the 6.4L hemi. It stickered for $45.8k… I paid $35.2k. I didn’t really NEED a 3/4 ton, but at the time, I could get a better deal on the 3/4 than the 1/2 tons. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with my choice… or the deal. The 6.4L & 4.10s in the rear is a great combo. The transmission programming could be better, but it’s ok. On a recent camping trip, I averaged a hair over 18 mpg with a two of us, a 100 lb dog, and a bed loaded to the brim with camping gear. And that was in 110 degree heat with the A/C cranked most of the time.

  • avatar

    I agree with a lot of what the author has to say. Financially, it might be tough a proposition to engineer and sell a diesel Power Wagon, though with the offroading/overlanding market the way it is, I’m sure they would sell just fine. But certainly in terms of market presence and reputation, FCA has a lot of reasons to build a diesel version. Ram’s pickup sales lag behind those of Ford and GM’s. I’d argue the decision for Chrysler to merge with Fiat has something to do with that, but I’d also argue that Ford and GM have done a much better job of fostering and developing their reputation with consumers. A lot of people buy Ford F-150’s not because they necessarily need the capability or understand how the vehicle is built, but because they are diehard “Ford guys” (loyalists if you will). Dodge, now Ram (under FCA’s management), used to have the same reputation back in the day, largely because they were one of the first companies to put a reliable diesel in a North American pickup. I think FCA’s current management of certain brands (Jeep and even Ram) has dissuaded a lot of traditional buyers and newcomers.

    The fact that Ram still uses the reputable and reliable Cummins inline 6 diesel is one of the main reasons that its HD pickups sell so well. The trucks themselves have had questionable build quality at times (I think it has improved in recent years), but the venerable 5.9L Cummins, and the 6.7L that followed it, is what kept Ram viable in the truck market. They should put a Cummins diesel (whether it be a 6.7L inline 6 or 5.0l V8) in the Power Wagon to cement their reputation and dominance in the HD offroad segment. I get the argument for the gasoline engine option: lighter weight, better packaging, ect. But aftermarket companies, like AEV, Carli and Thuren, have demonstrated that with the right suspension setup, the big, heavy diesels can handle themselves just fine offroad. Those companies, which have a fraction of the budget that FCA has, have been able to make the 3/4 ton diesel work offroad…FCA should be well capable of doing the same.

    As for comments on here claiming that modern gasoline engines make a diesel Power Wagon irrelevant offroad or for general 4×4 use, I’d say you’re out of the loop. The rest of the world has recognized the greater utility (namely better torque and fuel economy) that diesel offers in truck usage. For the longest time, diesels in North America were relegated mostly to towing and highway use. With the GM Colorado/Canyon, Ram 1500 ecodiesel, and future arrival of diesel variants for the new Ranger, F-150 and Jeep, diesels are starting to become more prevalent in all segments of the truck/SUV market. Their emissions, while problematic in the past, have seen significant improvements over the last few years, as have their fuel economy and overall reliability. I’ve no doubt the manufacturers will continue to improve upon these designs.

    The simple reality is that any work a gasoline truck is going to do will be done more easily and more efficiently by a diesel variant. Modern emission systems, as complicated as they are, haven’t changed that.

  • avatar

    Detroit Diesel could build a better Diesel than Cummings with more HP and Torque

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