2021 Ram 1500 TRX Review

When does 450 horsepower seem kind of limp? When you’re behind the wheel of something with more than 700 horsepower.

That’s the difference between the Ram 1500 TRX and its chief rival, the Ford F-150 Raptor.

What It Is

The TRX is the answer, in triplicate, to the Ford F-150 Raptor, which for a little while was the hairiest half-ton truck on the road. It’s powered by a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 that produced 450 horsepower.

A 6.2-liter supercharged V8 powers the TRX.

It is the same V8 that powers the Hellcat version of the Dodge Challenger and Charger, which are the hairiest of muscle cars, only in this case paired with 4WD rather than rear-wheel-drive.

Installed in the Ram, this engine delivers similar performance in all weather with the additional capability you get with a 4WD truck—one that’s raised 2 inches higher off the ground and riding on 35-inch all-terrain tires, with a heavily modded suspension designed to allow maximum wheel articulation and rock-crawling capability.

Plus, it has the utility of a bed, which can almost carry a Challenger and the strength to pull one on a trailer, easily. The TRX can tow 8,100 pounds, which is about twice the weight of a Hellcat Challenger.

Also, the luxury of a crushed Alcantara suede heated steering wheel, and a 19-speaker sub’d Harman Kardon audio system for when you tire of listening to the music made by the belt-driven supercharger pumping up the V8 like Batman’s arch-rival Bane was fortified by his steroid-infusing mask.

There is, literally, nothing else like it. However, Ford is apparently working on something more like it in the form of a V8 version of the Raptor.

But for now, the King remains unchallengeable. The base price is $70,195, a small price to pay to be the King—on the road and off.

What’s New

The TRX is the latest version of the Ram 1500 pick-up.

What’s Good

  • Ferrari performance in a pick-up.
  • Half the cost of a Ferrari.
  • Carries twice as many passengers.

What’s Not So Good

  • Limited production means limited haggling; expect to pay full MSRP plus for this one.
  • The rising cost of gas makes this one expensive to drive.
  • Stubby running boards are next to useless.

Under The Hood

There is a massive engine under the functionally scooping hood of this Raptor eater. It says 6.2-liters, which is nearly twice the size of the Ford F-150 Raptor’s 3.5-liter V6, making a comparatively puny 450 horsepower vs. the TRX’s almost unbelievable 702 horsepower. This is about 80 percent of the power in a current Nextel Cup race car.

It makes all that power because it’s functionally much larger than 6.2-liters.

The belt-driven supercharger nestled in between the cylinder heads increases the engine’s effective displacement by pumping more air into the engine than it could otherwise suck. Each of the big V8’s cylinders compresses more air than a V8 of the same size can inhale on its own.

The result is the power of a much larger engine, in the range of 8-or 9-liters, under full boost.

And the boost (11 pounds) is immediate—a considerable performance advantage over turbocharging, which uses exhaust gas pressure to compress the incoming air. There is a lag in between the gas pedal’s stomping and the production of exhaust gasses sufficient to spin the turbo, which then compresses the incoming air.

Advances have been made toward reducing turbo lag by snuggling the turbo right up against the exhaust port and feeding it gas from specific exhaust ports to take advantage of the ones producing gas before the others produce it. But there is and probably always will be lag.

With supercharging, there isn’t. As soon as you stomp on the gas, the boost is made because the “blower” is driven by an engine belt, along with other engine accessories. It spins as soon as the engine revs, which means power, immediately.

Plus the whine.

One of the great joys of superchargers is the sound you get as the boost builds. It sounds similar to that made by a powerful jet engine as it spools up for a take-off roll—

A wonderfully threatening background whirr that gets louder in tandem with the downward pressure of your right foot on the gas pedal.

In the TRX, this is accentuated by the vacuum-vortex sounds of air drawn into the blower from the very functional hood scoop, which feeds it through twin ram-air boots affixed to the top of the case when the hood is closed.

The net result is a 6,000-plus pound truck that can run a 12-second quarter-mile and will also go practically anywhere, given the 12-inches of ground clearance, the monster-footprint 35-inch knobby tires, and the real-deal 4WD system with low range gearing.

The icing on the cake is surprisingly good gas mileage given the 702 horsepower and the comparatively poor mileage delivered by the 450 horsepower Ford Raptor, which is the next closest thing to the TRX.

The Raptor eater rates 10 city, 14 highway. The Raptor eaten by the TRX rates 15 city, 18 highway. It’s a difference of 5 MPGs in the Raptor’s favor and 252 horsepower in the TRX’s favor.

The downside for both of these beasts is the cost of gas.

When this review was written in early April 2021, premium unleaded, which the TRX requires to do its thing, costs more than $3 per gallon. The TRX has a 33-gallon tank, necessary to avoid needing to stop for fuel once every 200 miles or less.

It costs more than $100 to fill the TRX at current prices. That’s about $400/month, assuming you drive the thing as your daily driver. That is more than a car payment for something like a Prius, which goes a lot farther on a lot less gas.

But then, you’d be driving a Prius.

On The Road

This is a very practical truck.

No, really.

Unlike practically anything else that can run a 12-second quarter-mile, the TRX can also run to Lowes and haul home a pallet of cement for the patio you’re constructing. It can also take you to work in a snowstorm on unplowed roads.

Through and over practically anything.

A Hellcat Challenger or Charger is big fun on dry pavement. They are as helpless on snow-covered pavement as a broken-backed Batman after losing a fight with Bane.

Even in the wet, they suck. It is frustrating to drive a very fast car that you had better drive slowly if the road is wet, and that is the case with the rear-drive Challenger/Charger Hellcat. Even with grippy tires and all the electronic traction helpers, there is only so much traction on a wet road when you’ve got just two wheels putting down the power.

With four, you can put down all the power, even on a wet road.

Full throttle launches are straight down the middle without ever worrying about lifting off the throttle to recover traction. No counter steering, either. Just hit it and be gone. It is hilarious to do this with a Corvette to your left at a stoplight.

The TRX comes with the same Launch Control system as in the car-shaped hellions, but it is hardly necessary while it is essential in the RWD Hellcats, assuming you prefer to go straight and fast rather than sideways, quickly.

And the TRX has an extra thing that neither of the car-shaped hellions offers: Low range gearing, which doubles down the leverage of the 650 ft.-lbs. of torque V8. You can tailor the throttle and shift points for the eight-speed automatic by selecting Baja mode or Rock or back to Sport. Or just leave it in Auto.

Regardless of the setting, you feel invincible. Dawdler ahead and not much time or space to pass? That is a problem for ordinary cars and trucks. They can’t do the Millennium Falcon light-speed jump this thing can. Other than another Hellcat or a Ferrari, there is nothing else on four wheels that can approximate the experience.

A sport bike can, but it can’t carry five, haul anything, and there’s no heated suede Alcantara steering wheel, either.

But speed and capability are only two of this truck’s primary virtues. There is another, perhaps even more important than the other two—comfort.

The TRX is also a luxury car that happens to be a speedy, capable truck. It can crawl over other cars but doesn’t convey the impression that it can until you need it to do so. If you were to ride, blindfolded, in the shotgun seat, it would be no challenge at all to convince you that you were riding in a Chrysler 300.

Once you got in the shotgun seat.

This requires some climbing, even for tall people made more challenging by the ridiculously vestigial running boards that offer at best a toe-hold and forget it if you’re wearing boots. Strangely, Ram chose not to equip this thing with wider running boards given how much taller it is than the standard 4WD Ram, which does offer them.

That aside, once you’re in, you will not want to get out.

The experience is like being released from prison, having forgotten what it was like to feel the sun and no longer be shackled. It reminds the lucky driver and anyone along for the ride what it means to enjoy driving—what American cars and trucks once offered.

And now they do, again.

At The Curb

The TRX, unlike ordinary Rams, comes only one way: Crew cab, short bed with a plethora of unique exterior body panels, including vented front and rear fender flares and an actual functioning hood scoop, which is fitted with three amber LED lights, just in case no one noticed it.

There is also a special in-bed rack for the extra-big spare tire, not a space-saver tire but rather a real 35-incher knobby, just like the other four Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires on this rig—other five, actually.

There’s one more under the bed because when you’re going seriously off-road, you might just need more than one spare.

It comes with locking Dana axles, five skid plates and adjustable Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, and the heaviest duty everything else that you could get in any other Ram 1500. Plus two additional inches of ground clearance.

It also includes the Launch Control and the whole suite of Performance Pages apps that made their first appearance in the Hellcat Challenger and Chargers, plus additional off-road racing apps. The hilarious embossed-in-the-center console cartoon representation of a T-Rex chasing down a poor little Raptor is also a fun little thing too.

It’s not all attitude, though.

The Ram has four USB ports for the driver and front-seat passenger and two are standard, and two are Apple-type. The rear seat riders get the same plus more legroom (45.2 inches) than in the front seat of almost any car. It also has the NBA forward headroom you get in a full-size truck, whether you’re up front or in the back.

This Ram can be ordered with a Heads-Up Display, heated rear seats, wireless gadget charger, ambient interior lighting, an ethereal 19-speaker audio system, and the already mentioned suede Alcantara trim, plus carbon fiber accents, too.

The massive 12-inch vertical touchscreen is standard, and when the Performance Pages are toggled up, you can keep track of practically any conceivable drivetrain function, as well as the horsepower and torque generated as you drive and high water marks during full-tilt forays down the road, plus quarter-mile, 0-60 and g force times, too.

You can even get a dual-pane panorama sunroof, a testament to the faith Ram has in this rig’s structural solidity given the TRX’s intended mission profile as a Baja race-ready off-roader. Glass doesn’t flex very well when articulating over boulders. The shock of going airborne (well, the shock of landing) would not be suitable for a roof-sized sheet of glass, either. If the roof flexed.

Hang on tight!

The Rest

Is there anything to not like about this truck other than the useless running boards?

Yes, there is one thing.

Only a few of these will be made, which will drive up the price of those not already snapped up. Regretfully, Ram won’t facilitate this by building more of them and perhaps even a “de-contented” version, without all the mondo off-road and luxury equipment but with the supercharged 6.2-liter engine and a lower MSRP, to make it financially feasible for more people to find themselves behind the wheel of one of these things.

But that is not politically feasible due to the regulations regarding miles-per-gallon and such that Ram and everyone else building cars (and trucks). It is why magnificent vehicles such as this TRX are scarce and expensive, and thus primarily an experience few of the people reading about it ever will experience.

Sad, indeed, because if they could and if they did, the American love affair with the car via the truck might just rekindle.

America needs that again. A lot of it.

The Bottom Line

This may prove to be the last of the V8 Interceptors. If only it had a de-clutching blower and a lower price tag.

Eric Peters lives in Virginia and enjoys driving cars and motorcycles. In the past, Eric worked as a car journalist for many prominent mainstream media outlets. Currently, he focuses his time writing auto history books, reviewing cars, and blogging about cars+ for his website EricPetersAutos.com.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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