Take one Hellcat engine and combine it with an award winning pickup truck. The end result is one of the latest “Supertrucks” that you can buy from a factory. The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX has more power than most supercars and yet it can carry more people, more cargo, and even tow stuff. It’s a jack of all trades.
Engine – Producing 702 hp and 650 lb-ft (523 kW & 881 Nm) of torque is a 6.2L supercharged V8 engine that used to call the Dodge Challenger home. But it has now found its way into the engine bay of the Ram 1500. In the Ram TRX, it produces a bit less power than the 717 hp (535kW) that it does in the 2020 Challenger but at over 700 hp, 15 hp doesn’t make that much of a difference. Ram claims a 0-60 mph (96 km/h) time of 4.5 seconds however, other publications like Car and Driver & MotorTrend have tested the Ram TRX 0-60 time of just 3.7 seconds. That’s lightning fast for a pickup truck that tips the scales at almost 3 tonnes. To achieve this impressive time, the Ram TRX comes equipped with launch control like you would find in a sports car. Better yet, you can adjust at what rpms the engine should hold before setting off.
From behind the steering wheel, the acceleration from a stop pushes you hard into the seat. But you don’t get the same sensation of speed as you do in a sports car. You sit much higher in the Ram so when you think that you’re just going along at 60 km/h, in reality you’re closer to 80 km/h.
However, there’s a big price to pay for this power and I’m not referring to the price of the truck. Although that is high too. Fuel economy is the worst I’ve ever seen out of any truck or sports car I’ve tested. The 2021 Ram TRX is officially rated at 16.5 L/100km (14.2 MPG) on a highway and 22.4 L/100km (10.5 MPG) in a city. During my time with the TRX, I averaged closer to 28 L/100km (8.4 MPG). Maybe if you’re careful with the throttle pedal, you can get close to those official fuel economy figures but I imagine it would be very difficult with the intoxicating speed & noises that the engine makes. Worse still, it requires premium fuel.
Transmission – The big V8 is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. When behaving like a civilized individual, the shifts are smooth. But at the stab of the throttle pedal, the transmission can quickly downshift into the appropriate gear and go through them almost as quickly as a dual-clutch. You can take over shifting duties via the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. However, I’m not a fan of the design of these because the middle portion is cut out to allow for access to the volume & radio tune button controls that are also mounted behind the steering wheel. So you have to change your hand position on the steering wheel to use the paddle shifters otherwise you’re changing the radio volume.
Braking – With this much power, you’d expect the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX to have massive brakes. And you’re right, it does. 15-inch front rotors. Stopping 2,880 kg (6,349 lbs) of weight is no easy task but the brakes are up for it. I never experienced any brake fade after repeated uses. However, I would have preferred if the front brakes were of a fixed 4 or 6 piston caliper design rather than a floating caliper. A fixed caliper would have provided better and firmer feeling brake pedal than the floating front calipers. But overall they work at stopping the big Rex. Automatic emergency braking is a standard feature on the Ram TRX.
Handling – The TRX is a big truck with a wider stance than the regular Ram 1500 models. On paved roads, there is of course some body roll but the big truck will go around corners with a surprising amount of agility. It’s not going to win in a race against a sports car around a twisty race track – unless the TRX cuts a few corners, which it can do – but for what it is, it feels enjoyable to chuck it on a twisty mountain road.
However, this truck was meant to go fast off the beaten path. The 18-inch beadlock wheels, as equipped, are wrapped around 35-inch all-terrain tires. On all four corners, Bilstein Blackhawk e-shocks provide damping against numerous bumps, ruts, and jumps that the TRX may face. These shocks each have their own remote reservoir for better heat management and consistent damping. Depending on which drive or off-road mode the truck is in, the Bilstein shocks can resist more of the bumps or absorb them. The frame of the TRX has also been beefed up to not only handle high speed off-road driving but also any jumps that the truck may encounter. Yes, this almost 3 tonne truck can fly.
Four-wheel-drive is standard on the Ram TRX as is a locking rear differential but unlike other 4WD systems, this one does not have a 2WD setting. It’s 4WD Auto, 4WD Hi, & 4WD Low. 4WD Auto is what you’ll be in for daily & on-road driving as it sends most of the engine’s power to the back wheels. But you can also just leave it in that mode for the majority of the off-road modes while the computer best decides at which axle to send the power given the off-road situation. My favourite of those drive modes is Baja. It turns off the traction control, adjusts the damping of the shocks to absorb bumps quickly, and sends most of the engine’s power to the back wheels to better rotate the truck’s body in soft sand. You can have a lot of fun with this truck off the beaten path.
Ride Comfort – As a “supertruck”, you’d expect the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX to be an uncomfortable daily commuter. Not so. It’s not as comfortable as the Ram 1500 Limited with its air suspension but the Bilstein shocks and 35” tires do a fantastic job of absorbing bumps both off and on road. When the suspension is in the Street mode, you almost get the urge to drive a bit faster when encountering a speed bump or really deep pothole. Off the beaten path, the truck is easily one of the most comfortable out there when driving on a deeply rutted forest road or just in the middle of a desert. Obviously you’re going to feel the bumps but it’s not like in other “off-road” rated pickup trucks like the Sierra AT4 where you have to watch your speed otherwise it shakes your fillings loose. You can almost drive at any speed and the Ram TRX’s suspension will soak it all up.
Interior Space – Because this is a Ram truck to begin with, there is an abundance of space for both front and rear occupants. At 6’4”, I feel small in relation to how much space there is inside the cabin. I have no issues at all with legroom or head room in the front seats. In the back it’s the same story. There’s at least 3-inches of space between my knees and the back of the front seat behind my driving position. Furthermore, the rear seats can recline for added comfort and are ventilated (if you option them in your TRX). There’s also the panoramic sunroof that further aids in making the cabin feel bigger and more cavernous. One thing to note though, the TRX is quite high off the ground so shorter individuals may have a hard time getting in and out.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Starting off with the bad, the Goodyear all-terrain tires produce quite a lot of noise at higher speeds. That is to be expected though. But because this is a Ram truck, the interior is very well insulated from exterior noises. You do notice the tire noise on highways, so you can never escape that. But it’s not as loud inside as the cabins of the Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss or Jeep Gladiator Mojave.
Now onto the good noises. The engine produces two of the most intoxicating noises you’ll ever hear. From the front, it sounds like a wailing banshee. From the back, it’s a roaring Kraken. It sounds like a drag racing car and best of all, you hear the supercharger whine even at low rpms.
Apart from the noises, the cabin is well built and put together. During my time with the truck, I never heard any squeaks or rattles from the interior trim pieces.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – This being essentially a top trim of the Ram 1500, it is equipped like a top spec trim. It has the portrait style touchscreen with Ram’s latest version of the Uconnect infotainment system. For the most part the system is quick and responsive except for the Performance pages. It takes a good 30 seconds for the pages to load with each drive cycle. Other than that, it has navigation with traffic information, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto connectivity, and although the heated & ventilated seat controls are integrated into the touchscreen, the climate controls are buttons on each side of the screen.
Other gadgets on the 2021 Ram TRX include the aforementioned panoramic sunroof, surround view cameras, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane keep, blind spot sensors, automatic emergency braking, front & rear parking sensors, remote start, trailer reverse steering, and AUX switches for added electrical components.
Interior Design – Currently, Ram makes the best looking and feeling interior of any pickup truck. That is a bold claim but the cabin of the Ram TRX oozes with luxury. The leather and carbon fiber across the dashboard, the red contrast stitching, and black suede on the center console are some of the materials that are more commonly associated with luxury sports cars. Overall, the cabin of the TRX – or rather, Ram trucks in general – is the one I’d choose to be in if I were sitting in traffic 5 days a week.
Exterior Design – The exterior of the 2021 TRX exudes a rugged look, however, to some it’s not as distinctive enough from the regular Rebel trim of the Ram. It shares a similar grille, similar headlights & taillights, and similar bumpers. But there are some differences besides the “TRX” lettering on the side & hood.
The 2021 Ram TRX has a fully functional hood scoop with three marker lights (there is another marker light on each fender) and the TRX has much larger fenders to accommodate the 35-inch tires. The fenders give the truck a very wide stance and also physically make it wider than the standard Rebel trim. I personally like how the truck looks with the wider fenders and aggressive hood scoop.
What I don’t like, however, is the extra tire & wheel in the bed. Sure, it does add to the Baja look but it makes the bed completely useless for anything other than carrying around an extra wheel. By the way, there’s another spare wheel underneath the bed. So this truck has 6 wheels?!?! Thankfully, the in-bed wheel is an accessory so it’s not a standard feature on the Ram TRX.
In the end, the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX brings out my inner 9 year old and for that reason alone, I love it. The engine noise & power is intoxicating. The off-road capability is astonishing. And the interior comfort is near perfection. Not only is the 2021 Ram TRX a Supertruck on and off the beaten path, but it’s also a truck that you could use every day. But there is a very, very big price to pay for it. It starts at $94,770 CAD ($70,095 USD) and after you spec it up with options & packages, it will easily cost over $120,000 CAD ($95,000 USD). Pricing for the upcoming Ford F-150 Raptor has not been released but compared to the last generation Raptor, the TRX is almost $20,000 more expensive. Granted, the Raptor has less power and only a V6 engine but the next generation Raptor is said to be available with a V8 in addition to the EcoBoost V6. So it’ll be interesting to see if the Ram TRX will eat the Raptor or if the Raptor will leave the TRX in the dust. For now though, the TRX is the king of the supertruck jungle.
Thank you to Ram Trucks Canada for providing the vehicle. www.RamTruck.ca