Auto123 test drives the 2021 1500 TRX, newest and craziest version of the Ram pickup truck.
Prince Edward County, ON - These are incredible times and I'm not referring to the pandemic here. Rather, I’m thinking of this unique moment in automotive history where different driving types of powertrains, different philosophies, and certainly opposing visions of the future overlap.
The domain experienced something similar a little over 100 years ago, at a time when the combustion engine was imposing itself in the face of steam and electric engines; I'm thinking of the Stanley Steamer and the models made by the Detroit Electric company, among others.
What else happened in the midst of that upheaval? The 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic. I’m not sure what the significance of that is, if there is one, but history sure has this strange tendency to repeat itself.
In today’s febrile automotive universe, we have, on the one hand, the official debut of a 1,000-hp electric pickup (the GMC Hummer), and almost simultaneously, the presentation of another pickup running on a 702-hp gasoline engine.
Is it possible to love both? I hope so, especially since the desire among folks like me to try both is strong. We were able to do just that with the second of those trucks, the 2021 Ram TRX truck. Those of us on hand for this first-drive event felt a little like we getting in a last rollercoaster ride before the amusement park closes down for good.
Because let's be clear; we know what's best for the planet today, unlike last century. This time, logic will prevail.
The Ram family of pickup trucks has no shortage of high-performance engines, except that in this sub-genre, enough is never actually enough. The competition is also always there to remind manufacturers of that. That's why this TRX version ("T-Rex", get it?) comes with more horsepower under the hood and delivers what it takes to stand out off the beaten path.
Up until now, top honours in this class went to the Raptor version of the Ford F-150 with its 3.5L EcoBoost V6 that spits out 450 hp and 515 lb-ft of torque. Fortunately for Ram, it has access to the FCA (Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles) toolbox, which includes a certain Hellcat engine. At over 700 hp, it's hard to find anything better.
It was only a matter of time before this TRX version was born. All that was left to do was to modify the rest so that the frame would be able to withstand the forces unleashed by the cohort under the hood.
A beast of another kind
As with the Ford F-150 Raptor versus a regular F-150, the Ram 1500 TRX is totally different from its "little" brother, the 1500 truck. Yes, many of the components are the same, whether you're talking about the chassis or the interior, but the differences are notable even in these elements, and in a bunch of other places besides.
But before listing some of the highlights of its technical specifications, a few words about its mission, because to understand what it's made of, you have to understand what its buyer is looking for.
The Ram 1500 TRX is the ultimate pickup truck for those who want maximum power and virtually unlimited off-road capabilities. And not the kind of trail that gets you to your hunting camp. Instead, picture a Baha-style pickup truck speeding through the desert, followed by a helicopter. The TRX version has to be capable of anything, from overcoming obstacles at low speed to attacking dunes at high speed.
Dunes are rare in North America, you say? Never mind that. Ram is selling you the dream: your Ram TRX is really, really capable. And on the road, the driver feels like they can swallow any vehicle that comes their way. A monster capable of anything, is what Ram is pitching its customers here.
Does the world need such a vehicle? Of course it doesn't. But as they say, it’s in humans’ DNA to always try to surpass themselves. That's what Ram did with this model.
Chassis and suspension
And what’s the TRX like under that imposing exterior? Here are the highlights.
First, about the frame. It is of course based on the Ram 1500, but it’s composed of reinforced parts as well as additional structures that are unique to it.
At the front, the track has been widened by just over 15 cm to accommodate the 35-inch wheels (developed for this model), but also to allow for the large suspension travel (330 mm). The suspension has been moved 20 mm to the front for the same reasons. At the rear, a multi-link suspension with longer control arms and 24-inch springs is present.
The shocks are Bilstein Black Hawk e2 units exclusive to the model. We’ll spare you the overly technical details of these units equipped with dual valves and independent pressurized nitrate reservoir. What you need to know is that they operate at lightning speed and make constant adjustments (up to once every 20 milliseconds) to optimize the vehicle's behavior, regardless of road conditions and driver attitude. The result is convincing on the road, but also when landing after gliding, as we were invited to do and which you can see from the photos.
Add to this a multitude of drive modes (Auto, Custom, Sport, Baja, Tow, Rock, Snow, Mud/Sand) and what you have here is a vehicle capable of going anywhere.
The cocoon of this TRX version has been designed starting from the 1500 Limited variant, to which have been added several unique keys for differentiation: a flat-bottomed steering wheel, some unique controls (for drive modes, for example), TRX logos and a plate grafted to the console explaining the variant’s pedigree.
On the central screen, pages detailing the levels of chassis customization are accessible, and an interesting colour code makes it easy to see. Ram has also added a device to assist when backing up a trailer by allowing it to be guided with a switch.
Because of its sheer size, it’s clear that at the wheel you feel like you’re guiding a mastodon. The feeling is accentuated by the 702 h^p and 650 lb-ft of torque accessible under the right foot. 0-100 km/h acceleration in 4.5 seconds with a 6,350-lb vehicle is, I can assure you, impressive.
It also forces you to be aware that you're holding a weapon in your hands, so it's important to remember that. This toy, because at heart that’s what it is, must be used on a dedicated playground, and driven responsibly on your way there.
That said, the machine is impressive. The Hellcat engine is never out of breath. In fact, its 2.4L volumetric compressor breathes deeply through the air intake on the hood, but also through the grille, and even through the letters RAM. The 8-speed automatic transmission paired with it does an excellent job, and that's worth mentioning. Braking is also adequate, aided by 15-inch discs at the front.
Towing capacity, in case you’re wondering, is 8,100 lb, by the way. Load capacity is 1,310 lb.
And on the road, the suspension offers an astute compromise between firmness and comfort. You're somewhere between the smoothness of a 1500 version and the rougher handling of an HD variant. Off-road, the Ram TRX is really in its comfort zone. It'll take more than the obstacle course prepared for us by Ram to destabilize it or even push it close to its limits.
The Ram TRX is impressive and it’s imposing. This truck will appeal to buyers who want more and more out of their pickup in terms of power and off-road capabilities. These buyers will need deep pockets, of course, because with a starting price of $93,995, it's not aimed at the masses. An option package is even offered at $4,995, pushing the bill to $98,990.
And that's without counting on the individual options and Mopar accessories that will be offered at launch, in addition to possible maintenance fees and the amount of fuel it will require. Our fuel consumption average on this day was in line with the company's recent announcement of 19.8L/100 km city/highway combined.
There's nothing logical or economical here, but a lot of excitement. That's mostly what's offered here, along with frightening capabilities.
Impressive off-road capability
Amazing comfort on the road
We like less
Other-worldly fuel consumption
The presence of certain amenities in the $4,995 option package (e.g. ventilated seats)
Launch Control mode completely useless with this type of vehicle
Ford F-150 Raptor