We're finally behind the wheel! Read our first drive of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX for more on how this truck performs.
Back in 2016, Ram showed off the Rebel TRX concept, a design exercise that featured the recently introduced Hellcat supercharged V8 and an upgraded suspension. The company stopped short of confirming it would build a Ford F-150 Raptor rival inspired by the concept, but nevertheless, here we are four years later watching the reveal of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX.
Based on the company’s current half-ton pickup, the eminently cool TRX gets a long list of mechanical and cosmetic upgrades that finally give Ram a legitimate high-speed rival to the heretofore-unchallenged Ford Raptor. Due at dealers early next year, the TRX will start at $69,995, available in a crew cab/short bed body style.
Ram calls the 2021 TRX “the apex predator of the truck world,” and it’s hard to argue with that hyperbole given the truck’s hard bits. FCA’s legendary Hellcat 6.2-liter V8 makes the jump to a body-on-frame vehicle in the TRX, which boasts 702 horsepower (523 kilowatts) and 650 pound-feet (881 newton-meters) in this application. That makes it the least powerful member of the Hellcat family – Ram says the longer intake and exhaust paths sap power somewhat – but it’s still the meanest engine in any pickup (excluding tuner specials like the Hennessey Maximus).
Ram didn’t just drop a Hellcat in and call it good, though. Engineers also beefed up the standard 1500 pickup’s frame for the TRX, infusing it with higher-strength steel and strategically thicker, heavier rails. The company claims the frame carries over only 25 percent from the base 1500, giving the TRX greater torsional rigidity and strength. Ram wouldn’t cop to a specific number, but representatives did say that it’d be able to handle repeated jumps and off-road abuse without breaking “unlike some of [the TRX’s] competitors,” an apparent reference to viral videos of the Raptor’s frame snapping in the middle after inadvisably high jumps.
A high-performance ZF eight-speed transmission, shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, routes the Hellcat’s power to all four wheels through a part-time four-wheel drive system. The transfer case gets an upgraded chain, pinion, bearings, and clutches to cope with the prodigious torque, and a Dana 60 solid rear axle comes equipped with an electronic-locking rear differential for lurid powerslides and good desert performance.
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX will start at $69,995, plus a $1,695 destination charge. The company will also offer a 702-unit limited run of the TRX Launch Edition, which comes fully loaded with beadlock-capable wheels, Harman Kardon 19-speaker audio, a panoramic roof, and unique Anvil Gray paint – a bed-mounted sport bar and spare tire you see here are probably Mopar accessories. The Launch Edition will demand $90,315 plus destination, and it’s likely the most expensive Ram 1500 variant on offer.
Specs & Performance
In addition to the Hellcat V8’s 702 hp and 650 lb-ft, the Ram TRX boasts a two-path air intake, with half coming through a ram air inlet in the grille and the other half via a massive functional hood scoop. The company says that its off-road monster can sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 4.5 seconds and 100 mph in 10.5 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 12.9 seconds and a maximum speed of 118 mph. And if you’re counting, each of those numbers represents class superlatives. For a crazier pickup, you’d have to go to the aftermarket.
A 6.0-inch-wider track provides more stability at high speeds, with composite fenders increasing overall width by 8.0 inches relative to the Ram 1500. A 0.8-inch-longer wheelbase makes more room for massive 325/65R18 tires that measure 35 inches tall.
Those tires were developed exclusively for the Ram TRX. The Goodyear Wrangler Territory rubber found under the high-performance pickup offers exceptional performance in wet, dusty, and muddy terrain, thanks in part to robust side lugs in the tread pattern. These 13-inch-wide tires should also offer plenty of floatation in sand and snow, helping the TRX stay on top of the dust rather than sunken into it.
All four corners boast Bilstein Blackhawk E2 adaptive shock absorbers, which can vary between 22 pounds and 1 ton of damping force. Remote reservoirs for the nitrogen-charged shocks help improve performance and reduce fade in high-speed desert driving or high-impact off-roading. The rear suspension was redesigned with unique-to-TRX hard mounting points to provide a better ride and more durability off-road without compromising bed space.
New front and rear springs join the dampers to provide 11.8 inches of ground clearance – in fact, the rear springs are the tallest on any non-commercial vehicle sold in the US. Ram also says to plan for 13.0 inches of front and 14.0 inches of rear suspension travel, just edging out the Raptor’s 13.0 inches and 13.9 inches of travel and 11.5 inches of ground clearance. Both Ford and Ram should be able to handle standing water depths of 32 inches without damaging vital components.
In sum, it all sounds very promising. It must be said, however, that whatever suspension specs Ram promises compare very closely to the Ford Raptor and its trick Fox Live Valve adaptive dampers. When the TRX's superlative power isn't a factor, it will have to distinguish itself through its stronger frame and intangibles not easily laid out on a spec sheet.
Notably, the 2021 Ram TRX is on our list of the Fastest Trucks in the world.
If you’re building a performance truck’s cabin, there are few better places to start than the Ram 1500. The TRX improves on its basic sibling with abundant contrast-color stitching, several different trim and option packages, and a console-mounted shifter that replaces the rotary dryer dial. Our opinions on that last part are split; the dial opens up plenty of storage room in the console, but the shift lever should be more intuitive, and it befits the Ram TRX’s sporting intentions.
The base TR Equipment Group will pick up where the Ram 1500 Rebel leaves off, with cloth and vinyl seating with dark red accents. The TR1 and TR2 channel the Ram Limited with all-black leather and suede upholstery, as well as ventilated front seats. Both come with grey stitching and metal-tone interior accents, though the TR2 offers red stitching and carbon-fiber trim as an option.
Like other SRT-enhanced models, the Ram 1500 TRX gets a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel, and large aluminum paddle shifters make manual gear changes easier and more convenient, even with the steering wheel turned. A head-up display is available with the TR2 equipment group, a first for the Ram brand that might make its way to higher-trim 1500 pickups in the next model year.
In addition to the head-up display, the TRX offers an optional rear camera mirror. The 1500 family’s first transfer case mode selector also gets settings for Normal, Wet/Snow, Off-Road and Baja; launch control (on a Ram!) makes an appearance as well. There are also drive modes for sand and rocks, helping provide ideal throttle response no matter the terrain.
As one might expect of a Raptor-fighting off-road pickup, the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX also features jump detection. Using wheel speed sensors, ride height sensors, and accelerometers, the truck can tell when it’s airborne, preventing harmful power spikes in the driveline and preparing for re-entry with optimized gear selection, torque split, and damping rates. Those variable shock absorbers are likely invaluable here, working to provide smoother, more stable landings.
If, for some reason, an obstacle exceeds the TRX’s ground clearance or suspension travel limits, five underbody skid plates protect the front axle, transfer case, fuel tank, and transmission pan. Another skid plate up front looks good and provides more protection for the truck’s belly.
Towing & Payload
The 2021 TRX has a maximum towing rating of 8,100 pounds and can haul up to 1,310 pounds of payload. That compares well to the Ford F-150 Raptor, which can tow 8,000 pounds and haul 1,200 pounds.
The Ram 1500 TRX will also offer Trailer Reverse Steer Control. Unlike Ford's similar Pro Trailer Backup Assist, Ram's solution can automatically sense the trailer length, so the driver doesn't need to add a funky sticker to the trailer tongue or input trailer lengths and profiles. Ram says it will be much more user-friendly.
The Ram 1500 TRX hasn’t been rated by the EPA for fuel economy yet, but we aren’t expecting much. We’d expect a fuel economy rating of 12 miles per gallon city, 18 mpg highway, and 15 mpg combined, using both the 2020 Ram 1500 Hemi and the 2020 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat as reference points.
Built at Ram’s Sterling Heights, Michigan, assembly facility, the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX will appear on dealer order forms starting August 18. The company says to expect the first deliveries of the hot pickup by the end of the year.