2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a 702-hp Raptor fighter with the heart of a Hellcat
With 702 horsepower and a beefed-up suspension, the Ram 1500 TRX is out to eat the Ford F-150 Raptor's lunch.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Fiat-Chrysler is known for throwing its supercharged Hellcat engine into just about everything, from the Dodge Challenger to the Dodge Durango to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Now the Ram 1500 full-size pickup truck is getting the Hellcat treatment in the form of the new TRX, and I am 100% here for this long-awaited Raptor-fighter.
Ram first showed the TRX as a concept in 2016, and while it took several years to bring it to production, the folks at Ford should be very, very afraid. (Read our TRX vs. Raptor spec comparison here.) The TRX is only available with a Crew Cab body and a 5-foot, 7-inch box. The supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine pushes out 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Why not the Hellcat's full 707 hp? Engineers opted for a high-mounted air induction system and needed more exhaust pipe to breathe through, which meant losing a few horses along the way.
Even so, 702 hp is enough to scoot this full-size truck to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. Hitting 100 mph takes just 10.5 seconds and the full quarter mile is completed in 12.9 seconds with an exit speed of 108 mph. Top speed on this bad boy is 118 miles per hour.
2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a desert-running pickup with a Hellcat heart
But this isn't just a revamp of the old Ram SRT-10, affectionately known as the Viper truck. Sure, the TRX has launch control, paddle shifters and a sport mode, but this pickup is meant to conquer dunes and gobble up desert whoops.
That requires a huge suspension upgrade. Specially developed 2.5-inch remote-reservoir Bilstein Black Hawk E2 shocks include active damping that should be able to soak up most of what the desert has to offer, while coils at all four corners should provide a good compromise between on-road comfort and off-road prowess and durability. Longer, forged-aluminum front upper and lower control arms allow for over 13 inches of wheel travel in the front. And don't worry, the electronically locking solid Dana 60 rear axle with a five-link setup also allows for over 13 inches of rear wheel travel.
Off-road geometry in the TRX closely matches that of the Ford F-150 Raptor, thanks to standard Goodyear Wrangler Territory 325/65R18 All-Terrain 35-inch tires on 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels and a 2-inch lift over the standard 1500. The TRX has 11.8 inches of ground clearance, an approach angle of 30.2 degrees, breakover angle of 21.9 degrees and a departure angle of 23.5 degrees.
In addition to the on-road drive modes of Auto, Sport, Tow and Snow, the TRX has some dirt-specific modes that also switch up the programming of the throttle, transmission, adaptive dampers, steering and four-wheel drive system. Rock mode splits the torque evenly between the front and rear axles and adjusts the locking rear axle to take full advantage of the TRX's low-range gear ratio of 2.64:1. Like the Raptor, I expect the TRX to do just fine in the rocks, but with its long 145-inch wheelbase it probably won't be the most maneuverable. A Mud and Sand mode splits the torque 45/55 front/rear and switches up throttle programming to keep wheel spin at bay. With all the power on tap here, I expect the TRX to be a major dune basher. Finally, there's a Baja mode with a 25/75 torque split, quicker gear-changes and full-travel damping on the Bilsteins. Heck, there is even a jump detection feature that knows when the truck is airborne and prevents driveline damage on landing.
While I am all about a go-fast mode for desert running, I do wish Ram would have found another name for it. The Raptor has had a Baja mode since 2017, and while Ford doesn't hold a copyright on the word, I feel like Ram could've differentiated itself somehow. The company could have called it Mojave mode and tied it in with the latest Jeep Gladiator model, or Dakar mode, Whoop mode or even Ocotillo mode after the ubiquitous spiky plants found in the desert. Heck, it could have just used Desert mode. I get what Ram is trying to say, but nobody likes a copy-cat.
Other dirt-worthy features on the TRX are full skid-plating, including little protection plates for the shocks, a dual-air intake through the front grille and hood scoop, the largest air filter in the full-size truck segment and available rock sliders. The TRX has a maximum payload of 1,310 pounds and can tow 8,100 pounds.
Ram didn't just drop all this gear on a standard Rebel and call it good, either. The truck's track is increased by 6 inches and the body is a full 8 inches wider thanks to some pretty dope-looking fender flares. I totally dig the clearance lamps that are integrated into the front hood scoop, too. Inside, drivers get their choice of three trims: cloth, leather and suede or leather and suede with red accents and some integrated carbon fiber. The rotary gear shifter is gone, replaced by a more traditional, floor-mounted shifter.
The TRX is also packed with tech, with Ram's cool 12-inch portrait-oriented infotainment screen standard. A new head-up display can show icons for lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, navigation, speed, current gear and speed limit. I love that there is an available digital rear-view mirror, which should help drivers know what's going on back there when descending steep rock faces, and the available forward-facing camera will help when drivers need a little help looking over the crest of a hill.
The TRX also features an available Trailer Reverse Steer Control, similar to Ford's Pro Trailer Back-Up Assist. This technology takes the backward weird-ness out of reversing a trailer. If drivers want the trailer to go to the left, simply move the separate dial to the left and the truck takes care of controlling the steering wheel.
The TRX also gets off-road performance pages that show things like pitch and roll, wheel articulation, ride height and transfer case position. This comes in addition to the performance pages found in other Hellcat models, showing g-force monitors and the like.
I haven't driven the Ram TRX, but just looking at the spec sheet, it looks to be equivalent to the Raptor in many ways, but with gobs more power. I never thought that the Raptor ever needed any help under the hood, but adding horsepower is what FCA does best, and I'm excited to see what the truck can do.
A special Launch Edition of 702 units will be available with exclusive Anvil Gray paint, unique badging and the most fancy pants interior for a whopping $92,010 including $1,695 for destination. Thankfully the standard TRX starts much lower at $71,690 including destination. Yes, that's more expensive than a Ford F-150 Raptor, but you also get much more power. You can order yours starting Aug. 18 and the trucks should be at dealers by the end of the year.