2021 Ram 1500 TRX: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceThe Hellcat of Pickup Trucks
About five years ago, Dodge created a Challenger muscle car with a supercharged V8 engine that generates an unbelievable 700-plus horsepower, introducing the world to the Hellcat brand. Now the company puts that powerful V8 into the Ram 1500 pickup truck to create an off-road monster — the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX. Built for high-performance off-road driving, Ram describes the new TRX as the quickest, fastest and most powerful mass-produced truck in the world.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBenchmark
“The all-new 2021 Ram TRX sets the benchmark for extreme performance pickup trucks and solidifies Ram Truck’s position as the off-road truck leader,” said Mike Koval, head of the Ram Brand at FCA North America. “Ram has a strong history of high-performance trucks and TRX adds to that while expanding the light-duty lineup with the segment’s best combination of performance, capability, luxury and technology,” Koval enthused.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceIntimidating Looks
Even if the badge on the tailgate were ignored, it’s clear the TRX is no ordinary Ram 1500. Standing a full 8 inches wider than the Ram 1500, the TRX features large composite wheel flares that help cover the 6-inch increase in track (the distance between the wheels on each axle). Riding high on Goodyear Wrangler Territory 325/65R18 All-Terrain 35-inch tires, the TRX also sports a unique hood, skidplates, steel bumpers and a front grille adorned with a larger RAM badge.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceWell Lighted
The bold TRX grille gets flanked by standard LED headlights with twin bi-functional projector beams. Additionally, bright LED clearance lights integrate with a large functional hood scoop and also flank the front bumper, giving the TRX a unique look at night.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear View
At the rear of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX sits another large RAM logo, similar to the one on the Ram 1500 Rebel. LED marker lights help set the truck further apart from standard Ram pickups, as do the dual 5-inch exhaust outlets.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX comes well equipped; additionally, the big truck will be offered with TR1 and TR2 equipment groups. A limited-run Launch Edition has already sold out. All Ram 1500 TRXs come as 4-door crew cabs with 4-wheel drive.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 TRX
With a starting price of $69,995, the Ram 1500 TRX comes with vinyl / cloth bucket seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel with aluminum paddle shifters, a 12-inch vertical touchscreen display with Uconnect, a 10-speaker audio system and 18-inch black cast-aluminum wheels fitted with Goodyear Wrangler Territory All-Terrain off-road tires. LED projector headlights, LED fog lights, LED taillights and LED marker lights are also standard.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 TRX TR1
The TR1 equipment group adds $3,420 to the base price of the TRX, outfitting the truck similar to a Ram 1500 Limited. Additional equipment includes leather trim, power front seats, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, rear underseat storage, power adjustable pedals, rain sensing wipers and a 360-degree surround view camera. Also included are body-color door handles and lighting in the pickup truck bed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRam 1500 TRX TR2
For an additional $7,920 over the base TRX price, the TR2 equipment group includes everything in the TR1 group plus a leather and suede steering wheel, heated and cooled front and rear seats, keyless entry and start, remote start, a split-folding rear seat, a power tailgate release, trailer brake control, blind-spot warning and automatic rear braking.

© FCA USLaunch Edition
To celebrate this latest edition to the Ram lineup, a special Ram TRX Launch Edition will be painted exclusively in Anvil Gray and come fully loaded with the TR2 equipment group plus carbon fiber interior trim, a head-up display, beadlock-capable wheels, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon premium sound system. A special red and brushed-aluminum center console badge identifies the truck as a limited-edition TRX. Only 702 Launch Edition TRXs will be sold, priced at $88,570. The Launch Edition sold out in a few hours, confirming the popularity of this special truck.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Under the bulging hood of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX lurks the Hellcat 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 engine producing a massive 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Power gets managed via a TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission designed to handle the high torque of this powerful engine. “The new 2021 Ram TRX demands an engine with specific abilities and robust power delivery to perform in the most extreme environments,” said Micky Bly, head of global propulsion systems at FCA. “The proven 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V-8 engine moves the Ram TRX through punishing terrain at a ferocious pace,” Bly observed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePerformance Stats
Usually the specs and stats associated with a truck are all about towing and hauling, and the Ram 1500 TRX is no slouch with the ability to tow up to 8,100 pounds or haul 1,310 pounds of cargo. But this is the Hellcat of pickup trucks, so it hauls in more ways than one. The full-size pickup sprints to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, reaching 100 mph in 10.5 seconds. It will also run the quarter mile in 12.9 seconds at 108 mph. Top speed gets limited to 118 mph — restricted due to the truck’s off-road tires. The TRX has been designed to handle harsh terrain at speeds exceeding 100 mph.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDrive Modes
The 2021 Ram TRX has seven drive modes. On-pavement modes include Auto, Sport, Tow and Snow, while off-road configurations include Mud / Sand, Rock and Baja. Perhaps the most unique of these modes, Baja reduces shift times to a mere 160 milliseconds; stability control and steering systems are set for desert performance; paddle shifters are enabled; the suspension gets set to full damping and the four-wheel-drive system uses a 25/75 percent torque split.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceShocks and Suspension
The TRX features an all-new suspension system with active damping that allows more than 13 inches of wheel travel at each corner. Bilstein created 2.5-inch Black Hawk e2 adaptive performance shocks exclusively for the Ram TRX, which are designed to provide quick reaction times when tackling rough terrain at high speeds. (Speaking from direct experience, these shocks work incredibly well.)

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUpgraded Chassis
More than simply a powerful Ram 1500, the TRX receives major upgrades under the skin, including a frame reinforced with thicker, strategically placed high-strength steel and fully boxed side rails. To better handle front suspension load, the front rails also use high-strength steel. When compared with the standard Ram 1500, about 75 percent of the chassis has been upgraded to create extremely rigid underpinnings for the TRX.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTires
Designing a tire that could handle the TRX’s high speeds both on- and off-road fell to Goodyear. Developed exclusively for the Ram TRX, the Goodyear Wrangler Territory 325/65R18 All-Terrain 35-inch tires provide excellent traction as well as reduced road noise. The 35-inch tires are also available on 18-inch beadlock-ready wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePlenty of Clearance
Thanks to the standard 35-inch off-road tires, the Ram 1500 TRX boasts 11.8 inches of ground clearance. To keep the big truck from damage when traversing large objects, the pickup has five skidplates that protect the front axle, transfer case, transmission pan and fuel tank. A fifth skidplate rides at the bottom of the front fascia for additional protection. Also available are heavy-duty steel rock sliders. When needed, the Ram TRX can also safely ford 32 inches of water.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceJump Detection
The 2021 Ram TRX is equipped with Jump Detection — definitely not a typical truck feature. Utilizing sensors that measure wheel speed and ride height as well as accelerometers at each corner, the system can detect if the vehicle is airborne and will instantly adjust speed, torque, gear selection and other components to prevent damage to the driveline. And the TRX is plenty capable of getting airborne — as we discovered during our press drive.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
We spent a day with a fully loaded TRX; as tough as it is on the outside, the interior is comfortable and much like a luxury vehicle. Big leather seats can be heated or cooled, featuring large bolsters that provide outstanding support when the terrain gets rough. All materials have a premium feel, further enhanced by detail stitching on seats, steering wheel and dashboard.

Big Display
FCA’s latest Uconnect system adds another level of luxury to the TRX via a 12-inch touchscreen display. This vertically oriented display is bright, easy to read and can be configured in multiple ways. The TRX can also be equipped with an optional Harmon Kardon audio system featuring 19 speakers, a 10-inch subwoofer, active noise cancellation and a 900-watt surround-sound amplifier.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX offers an immense amount of legroom in the rear seat, on par with a typical extended-length luxury sedan. Three adults sit comfortably, and the truck’s flat floor means the middle position is equally as comfortable as the outboard locations. A 400-watt 115-volt power outlet as well as multiple USB and USB-C ports make the rear seat livable. Seat bottoms can be folded up, providing considerably more interior cargo-carrying capacity.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
Even though the 2021 Ram TRX design optimizes off-road environs, the truck is surprisingly comfortable on pavement. Stabbing the throttle releases an amazing combination of supercharger whine, V8 roar and incredibly strong acceleration. With its comfortable interior and strong chassis, the TRX easily cruises freeways at 80 mph — often without the driver realizing the easy velocity (again, speaking from experience).

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDespite 700 Horsepower, Not a Sports Car
With more than 700 horsepower on tap, the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX always has enough power to pass or get up to high speeds quickly, but it is definitely not a sports car. On winding roads it’s hard to ignore that three tons of truck is riding on tires designed for off-road use. During our press drive, the truck’s large, powerful brakes came in handy when our speed going into a fast corner was a bit more than desired.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOff-Road
The TRX really shines when the pavement ends and the terrain gets rough. We had the opportunity to test this new off-road truck at the Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, Nevada, and to say we were impressed is an understatement. With seemingly unlimited power and excellent traction, the TRX delivers on exactly what it is designed to do.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDirt Track
Engineers built the TRX to handle rough terrain at up to 100 mph. We didn’t go that fast, but we got the idea. The dirt track at Wild West had jumps, moguls and tight 180-degree turns, the TRX devoured all of them. The massive truck took jumps at 55 mph and landed with no drama, fully in control. The TRX’s performance on moguls is most impressive — at 60 mph the big truck simply absorbs large humps. At high speeds the TRX’s ride is understandably bouncy but not jarring in any way.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTrail Driving
During our drive, the designated track around the Wild West property consisted of trails of rough dirt covered in loose rocks, and nothing hindered the TRX’s performance. Most vehicles would have to crawl through terrain we encountered to keep from shaking apart; bombing down paths at 40 mph was no problem for this truck or its grinning driver. The only issue: the hood of the TRX is so tall that it can be difficult to see over when cresting a hill. Luckily a camera view out front helps forward visibility.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRock Climbing
While the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX excels at high-speed off-road adventures, it’s also perfectly capable of slowing things down to traverse rocky terrain. Set in 4WD Low with the rear differential locked, the truck’s 13 inches of wheel travel at each corner give it great rock-climbing ability.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
Already a great choice for full-size pickup truck shoppers, the TRX takes the Ram 1500 to an entirely different level. Sure, the standout styling and luxurious interior are likely enough to attract most buyers, although the real reason to buy a TRX is it’s amazing ability to handle off-pavement adventure at high speed, manifested by the monstrously supercharged 702-horsepower V8 engine under the hood. For the off-road enthusiast, the 2021 Ram TRX raises the game to a new level.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0
Pros: Outstanding off-road suspension; luxurious interior; 702 horsepower.
Cons: Gas-gulping engine; tough to see over hood.
Bottom Line: Impressive capability and bold styling make the 2021 Ram TRX the truck of choice for the off-road enthusiast — or any on-road driver who wants to get noticed.
© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Getting airborne.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
More jumping.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
And even more jumping.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Hitting the dusty trail.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Great traction, even in the dirt.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Handling moguls at speed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Full-size spare tire and some big exhaust outlets.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
This special Ram has fittingly bold styling.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
In case passersby are unaware of what resides underhood.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
A rear step unfolds for easy access to the truck bed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Every TRX gets a commemorative badge.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Extra inside storage with rear seats folded up.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Optional MOLLE attachments on the front seatbacks.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Rear-seat passengers have access to a standard 115-volt AC outlet as well as multiple USB and USB-C ports.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Access to 4-wheel-drive systems and drive modes grouped in one dashboard cluster.

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