A Mountain Is No Match for the AEV Ram Prospector: First Drive
It’s two o’clock in the afternoon here in Santa Clarita, CA. I was heading to a local off-road recreation area that I had never been too. According to my PR friend, “I’d love it.” I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I was definitely pensive about the truck I was heading out to drive, and what this off-road park entailed.
I’ve been to other off-road recreation areas before, including the Team O’Neil Off-Road course, and with that I’ve come to understand that no two are the same. This not only is awesome for enthusiasts, but it represents a challenge to get everything right the first time. Plus, the CEO of American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) would be riding shotgun, and I definitely didn’t want to break his new truck.
When I finally got there, I learned that the journalists before me had got the truck stuck somewhere up the mountain, and that they had to send out the support truck to go help them out. I later found out the support truck was actually a prototype that AEV had just finished. I don’t think AEV was hoping to put the truck through trial-by-fire just yet, but it went up, helped the other journalists out, and came back down like a champ. Now though, it was my turn. The plan was to head up the trail with AEV’s newest off-road masterpiece, the Ram Prospector. Built to handle both the rigors of treacherous trails, yet compliant enough to roll on down the street for milk and eggs, the Ram Prospector represents AEV’s continued push for some of the most rugged vehicles on the planet, and this one definitely meets that criteria.
Don’t Look Down, Don’t Look Down, Don’t Look Down
When it comes to heights, I’m a bit of a chicken. With that, imagine a trail that’s about 10-12 feet wide, with sheer 600-foot drops on either side, and you’re in a two-plus-ton, lifted Dodge Ram. I felt like I was a battleship trying to mount a dingy. Then I looked over to my passenger who just said, “You got this!” I wasn’t as sure as he was, but with a steady foot, I gave the big truck some gas and we headed out into the unknown. The trail we went through climbed around 2,000 feet in a manner of about two miles. It is absolutely crazy how steep these trails became in such a short amount of space. We’re not talking about normal hills, or even hills like the streets of San Francisco either. We’re talking about almost vertical mountains, with ruts, outcroppings, and enough loose gravel and dirt to loosen your bowels for the next three weeks. It was the kind of verticality that makes you feel that the truck or whatever you’re in is going to just tip backwards and slinky down the hill.
Yet somehow, we didn’t die. We just kept going. Just chugging along as the tires and torque did everything for us. All I did was aim, gas, and go. The truck sorted the rest out. AEV’s 3-inch DualSport Suspension System, combined with a set of BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain TA tires meant the Ram Prospector soaked up everything. It just dug in, grabbed some traction, and propelled us up the mountain as if we were on a ski lift. It was frankly astounding. Especially since I was ready to call bull when I first saw the trail we were going to take. We just kept climbing and climbing, as the road became narrower and narrower. We were in constant undulation with the trail. When you’re faced with a drop in the trail, and you’re at the precipice of the rise, the big nose on the Prospector makes it almost impossible to see the road ahead. For this, you’ll have to employ the roll down the window and stick your head out to see trick. Having a spotter in front of you is also the advised method. But other than that, no matter what you come up against, this truck will handle it. With that, going down the mountain is just as impressive as going up in terms of the Prospector’s capabilities. As I mentioned earlier, the trail was almost vertical in some places, and since we took those trails, we had to go back down them. To get a sense of just how steep these trails are, the picture below is from inside the cab of the Prospector looking down. Try not to get vertigo, I dare you.
What’s even more impressive is that AEV doesn’t touch the motor. You’d think that the stock Hemi just wouldn’t be powerful enough, or rugged enough to take the abuse that we were doling out. Even when we got a much faster bit of trail, a spot where I could stretch the motors legs, it didn’t feel slow even with the all-new suspension parts, which now make the truck weigh quite a bit more. And that’s really the product of AEV’s history.
AEV has been building off-road Jeeps for almost 25 years, and it is because of all of that already built-up R&D that they can build the Ram Prospector so well, so easily. The Ram Prospector makes use of everything AEV has ever done, and improves upon it making it one of the most capable off-roaders out there. While the conversion to the Prospector isn’t what you’d call cheap, it does offer you something that just building it yourself doesn’t; Expertise and a warranty. You can definitely build one of these yourself out of parts from JC Whitney or Jegs, but you’d be losing all the sweat and effort AEV has put into building the components for this truck, and all the effort that they’ve put in over the last two decades. So, yes, you could build this truck by yourself in your garage, but when you’re staring down the side of a cliff, do you really want to have the thought, “did I tighten that bolt all the way down last night?”
Photo Credit: Jonathon Klein
Specs: Engine: 6.4L Hemi V8 Horsepower: 410Torque: 429lb-ft Price: Starts at $13,925 for the Prospector Package, not including the donor truck. Positives: You can conquer anything. Literally, this is what Hannibal should have used instead of elephants Vertical capability that would put a H1 to shame Roomy and comfortable Negatives: Nose is huge and makes it hard to see out of the front while going down a slope. Eats gas like it was going out of style