2021 Ram 1500 TRX: Apex Predator
2021 Ram 1500 TRX
There is a new apex predator in the off-road focused truck world. Sure the Raptor is a tried-and-true, super-capable machine, but the all-new 2021 Ram 1500 TRX has taken the factory high-speed off-road muscle truck concept to all-new heights of comfort and capability.
I was one of the lucky few media who received an invite to Reno, Nevada, for an early drive experience of the Ram TRX. I drove it on the curvy roads around Lake Tahoe, the two-lane desert routes near Virginia City, Nevada, the big highway through Reno, and, most importantly, at the Wild West Motorsports Park. I jumped, drifted, crawled, and launched this monster truck. Of course, I did it all for you in the name of a good review and had no fun at all.
We Have Liftoff
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a big, heavy, and powerful truck. It weighs in at over 6,350 pounds and is a full 88 inches wide—8 inches wider than a Ram 1500. That mass is moved, quite quickly, by the 6.2L supercharged Hemi V-8 underhood, putting down 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.
“The Ram TRX is a big, heavy, and powerful truck. It weighs in at over 6,350 pounds and is a full 88 inches wide … That mass is moved, quite quickly, by the 6.2L supercharged Hemi V-8 underhood, putting down 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque.”
Ram claims 0-to-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, a 118-mph top speed, and a quarter-mile time of 12.0 seconds at 108 mph. I have zero doubt that this truck can lay down those numbers or better. Carrying quite a bit of extra weight and driving at well over 4,000-foot elevation I managed 0-to-60 times of 5.2 seconds on pavement and 7 seconds on gravel. I can also attest that this truck boogies to well into the triple-digits in a hurry on and off road.
Oh, yeah, it flies as well. Ram not only allowed us to jump the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX but encouraged it and set up ramps where we could do it over and over again. Having a 6,000-plus pound truck flying 4-plus feet above the ground is an impressive sight to see and experience. While we’ve all seen similar in crazy trophy trucks and other off-road race machines, it’s unlikely that any other unmodified vehicle could accomplish jumps like this over and over again with zero damage.
Ram actually built into the TRX a Jump Detection system. The truck knows when it has left the ground, stops any over-revving of the engine, keeps the wheels turning at relatively the same speed, opens the t-case, and stays in gear. All this amounts to a buttery-smooth takeoff, flight, and landing, and the ability to instantly accelerate and be in control once the tires touch the ground.
The big reason the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX can land big jumps smoothly and in control are the insanely smart 2.5-inch Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive shocks. The five-link coil suspension, with the world’s largest production springs (23.6-inch-tall rear springs), also helps eat up any obstacle this big truck encounters. The smart shocks and coils at all four corners allow for an impressive 13 inches of front and 14 inches of rear wheel travel. I hit an off-road whoop section at over 60 mph and the truck barely flinched.
“This isn’t the insanely aggressive beast that wants to spin you into the nearest ditch and leave you for dead that the numbers and looks might lead you to believe.”
I also used that wheel travel, along with the big 35-inch-tall by 13-inch-wide bespoke Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires, to crawl up an impressive pile of rocks on the side of a steep hill. With low range selected, the rear locker engaged, and the Rock Crawl driving mode selected, the big TRX just meanders up rocks like it’s on a Sunday stroll. The 11.8 inches of ground clearance, factory skid plates, Dana M250 full-floating rear axle, 18-inch beadlock capable wheels, and optional rock sliders all helped in the rocks as well.
You know that Ram has laser-focused the TRX as an off-road machine because it is the only truck in its lineup that is 4WD only. Yep, that sadly means no 2WD burnouts or drifting like you can do in the Raptor. With that said, the TRX does have a bunch, eight actually, of driving modes that help you set up the truck to your preferences. The most fun mode is probably Baja mode, as it is the most rear-wheel biased, sending up to 80 percent of torque to the rear wheels. Four-wheel drifts in this big, heavy truck are sure to elicit massive ear-to-ear smiles.
There isn’t a much more practical one-quiver vehicle than a four-door, fullsize, 4×4 pickup. With that said, the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX is no ordinary truck. The sheer width of this vehicle will make it a challenge around town and on tight trails. All the horsepower, capability, tech, and luxury don’t come cheap either.
The interior of the TRX is a truly nice place to be. It feels sporty and luxurious at the same time, especially in the top TR2 trim level. Alcantara accents on quality leather everywhere help set the mood, while a ton of high-tech gadgets make the driving and passenger experience second to none in a big American pickup. The TRX has a big, bright HUD, huge 12-inch touch screen infotainment screen, and quality analog buttons for all the commonly used features. It also has adaptive headlights, heated and cooled seats, an advanced trailer backup steering system, and so much more. All of this equates to a super-configurable vehicle that works hard to keep the driver’s attention on the road.
The flat-bottom steering wheel and continuous supercharger whine remind you that this truck is about sport performance over utility. Luckily the impressively quiet cabin and quality audio system can help cover up the supercharger whine when you grow tired of it on long trips. The TRX can also do work, as it offers 1,310-pound max payload and an 8,100-pound towing capacity, respectable numbers for such a performance-oriented truck.
“The reality is that the TRX is engineered in such a way that all of its various impressive parts come together to create a much more capable and comfortable truck than you’d expect.”
My favorite “new” feature on the TRX is the return of the console gear selector, and demise of the dash-mounted rotary shifter. Not only is this style shifter easier to use and way more engaging, it also allows for manual shifting mode, through the shifter itself or the paddles on the steering wheel.
With big power and weight comes the increasing need to bring all that mass to a stop from a rapid speed quickly. The TRX offers the largest brakes in its category, with massive 15-inch rotors up front. Combine those big brakes with impressive smooth and predictable pedal feel and you have a winning combo. You do have to remember that this is a big heavy truck though and will need to put a lot of pressure into the brake pedal to get it to stop quickly. I also really like that the truck responds well to left-foot braking, which allows you to get the most performance out of the truck and rotate it on loose surfaces with ease. This takes a little practice, but once you dial it in, the performance envelope and smiles open wide.
Where this truck is going to pain you the most is your bank account. First is the up-front cost of buying one, which ranges from about $70,000 to $90,000. Next is at the pump, as you’re going to be feeding this beast premium dino juice, and it is only rated at 12 mpg combined fuel efficiency. I also know with my heavy right foot and love of the exhaust note when I smash the throttle that the fuel efficiency is bound to be quite a bit lower.
More is More
My big takeaway from driving the ’21 Ram 1500 TRX is that the vehicle is so much more than the sum of its parts. Sure a massive supercharged motor, incredibly smart shocks, big tires, and 4WD are going to be a winning combo. The reality is that the TRX is engineered in such a way that all of its various impressive parts come together to create a much more capable and comfortable truck than you’d expect.
The refinement of the ride is what surprised me most after spending time behind the wheel. This isn’t the insanely aggressive beast that wants to spin you into the nearest ditch and leave you for dead that the numbers and looks might lead you to believe. Instead the TRX somehow manages to tame and harness the 702 ponies underhood into an extremely driveable, fast, and fun vehicle on any terrain.