Review: The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Is Detroit’s Mightiest Off-Road Pickup

The Hellcat-powered truck is also the last gasp of over-muscled V8 menace

April 19, 2021 7:48 am
A blue 2021 Ram 1500 TRX off-road pickup truck after driving through the mud
We tested the new 2021 Ram 1500 TRX in the place it feels most at home: the mud.
Benjamin Hunting

Over the course the last six years or so, Stellantis (previous known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) has followed a very specific performance playbook: stuff its phenomenally powerful supercharged Hellcat V8 engine into as many different platforms as possible and then set them loose on both the street and the track.

The strategy has been a smart one, as the engine’s monstrous, 700-plus horsepower output has proven an excellent distraction from the older platforms in which it rides. Effectively, it offers an excitement upgrade to keep sales figures churning at Dodge and Jeep when actual technical and design updates have been deemed too expensive to implement.

Ram’s pickup lineup has long seemed like the odd one out at the Hellcat party. While the supercharged V8’s burnout-inducing antics kept ancient autos like the Dodge Challenger coupe and the Dodge Charger sedan relevant, Ram’s soaring popularity with full-size truck buyers obviated the need for any pyrotechnic injection under the hood.

Of course, when discussing asphalt-shattering torque, terms like “need” seldom enter into the conversation. Determined to sell the sizzle, there was no question that the Ram would eventually take a seat at the supercharged table alongside its corporate siblings. The difference would be its push away from on-pavement performance towards a far more profitable slice of the pickup segment.

Enter the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX, a behemoth that goes toe-to-toe with Ford’s equally enormous Raptor in an attempt to capture the hearts and minds of desert-running horsepower heads. Or, at the very least, pound them into submission.

A blue 2021 Ram 1500 TRX pickup truck driving down the road
You’ll see the Ram 1500 TRX coming a mile away. If you don’t, you’ll certainly hear it.

I’m Bad, I’m Nation-Sized

As with all modern pickups, everything about the Ram 1500 TRX is larger than life — and that’s before you take a peek at what’s hiding between the front fenders. Taller and wider than any other Ram in the showroom, the TRX looms over traffic like the stalking theropod its name implies. Further enhancing the pickup’s visual threat level are an array of lights, scoops, vents and cutouts on the hood and fenders, with even the tail lamps showing off details that aren’t available on the standard version of the 1500.

If you somehow miss the black plastic R-A-M grille crowding your rearview mirror, the sound of thunder that accompanies it at full gallop is sure to turn your head. Rated at 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, its 6.2-liter V8 evinces supercharger whine even at part throttle, and features an ominous rumble that deepens to a roar should the driver’s right foot dip further. The TRX is a veritable storm for the senses in almost any environment, but its overall effect catapults to Category 5 in an urban environment as it looms like Lord Humongous over lesser (read: all other) vehicles on the road.

The front two seats in the interior of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX pickup truck
You don’t buy this pickup for the plush interior. Then again …

Dare We Say Luxury? 

Despite its obstreperous outward character, riding along inside the Ram 1500 TRX can be a surprisingly docile experience. Selecting “auto” from its many different drive modes (including Baja, Snow, Tow, Rock and Sport) dials down the full-time four-wheel-drive system’s bite and backs off the exhaust’s exaltations to a bare minimum, which when paired with the Ram’s relatively upscale interior can momentarily trick you into think you’re commuting in a more traditional truck.

That illusion instantly dissolves the moment you do anything other than simple highway cruising or low-speed traffic crawling. Accelerating the TRX’s 6,800 lbs of curb weight is appallingly easy. Reaching 60 mph from a standing start in a mere 3.7 seconds while weighing roughly the same as a pair of Porsche 911s put together will have you wondering if someone replaced the Ram’s supercharger with a teleporter.

Indeed, there’s far more concern surrounding how quickly you’ll be able to stop all that mass once you’ve spiked past the legal speed limit — or whether you’ll be able to keep things together through the next corner. It’s worth noting that the TRX’s Sport mode keeps things relatively under control, but in most other drive settings the Ram’s ultra-stiff chassis and soggy suspension wrap your knuckles should you make the mistake of carrying too much speed through a bend in the road. This only enhances its unwieldy character, especially when operating in an environment where civilian vehicles are present. 

A blue 2021 Ram 1500 TRX pickup truck gets some airtime
Most off-road trucks aren’t meant to get this much air. The TRX is not most trucks.

Built for Dunes, Rivers and Rocks

Of course, this truck was never intended to be caroused anywhere other than the wide open spaces of your nearest dune park. Much like the Raptor, the Ram TRX’s shocks and springs are design to maximize travel and absorb as much punishment as possible while being dive-bombed into the next set of ruts or rocks, encouraging any effort to get its bellicose bulk airborne so it can stick the landing with its remote-reservoir dampers.

Indeed, it’s absolutely pointless to own the TRX outside of an off-road context. There’s no true way to appreciate what the truck brings to the table without bashing it up, over or through whatever obstacles foolishly appear in its sights. With almost 12 inches of ground clearance, I was unable to find a pit so deep that the Ram’s 35-inch tires couldn’t crawl out of. Likewise, with nearly three feet of water fording capability, my sojourns into the drink were shrugged off with alacrity.

Most impressive is the truck’s level of sheer control when bounding from one high-speed bump to the next. Even with the throttle pinned the TRX outlasted my own nerve as I banged through muddy moguls, never once putting a wheel out of place or pointing me dramatically off-course on the rebound. This sets it apart from other, less sophisticated off-roaders that aren’t nearly as composed when confronted with rapidly changing terrain. Yes, the Ram’s size is a liability on tighter trails, but out in the open there are few, if any, 4x4s that can approach its terminal velocity as it mows down the moor.

A blue 2021 Ram 1500 TRX pickup truck covered in mud parked on a city street
No stone was left unturned in our testing process.
Benjamin Hunting

The Hellcat’s Last Gasp

All of the above comes at a fairly fantastic cost. The least-expensive TRX starts at just under $71,000, and it’s possible to skip past $80K after loading up on options (such as the $12,000 Launch Edition model, or the advanced safety systems and lavish cabin found on the model I tested). Still, in a world where heavy duty and luxury trucks alike are routinely stickering in this range, the Ram’s eye-popping price is oddly at home.

Despite the skyward push for pickups, the Ram’s price eclipses its closest competitor, the Ford F-150 Raptor, by a good margin. Of course, the TRX is considerably mightier and much more plush than the Blue Oval entry. It also boasts two extra cylinders compared to the Raptor’s turbocharged V6, which counts for a lot among high-performance truck fans both in terms of attitude and aural pleasure.

There’s no doubt that the Ram 1500 TRX’s status as the apex predator of the pickup truck world comes with a firm expiration date. Federal regulators look poorly upon the seven miles per gallon the Ram turned in during our week together (its official EPA rating stands at 12 mpg combined), and the Hellcat motor only has a few more years of life left before its powerful thirst and tightening emissions regulations make it harder to amortize across Stellantis’s lineup.

The TRX is the mightiest and most completely over-the-top pickup ever to emerge from Detroit, which is truly saying something considering we live in a time that has also given us a Ram powered by the Viper supercar’s V10 engine. That it represents the last gasp of an old-school, hyper-horsepower era on the verge of extinction, just like its tyrannical namesake, only feels appropriate.

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