Somewhere, deep in the bowels of Stellantis' sprawling North American headquarters in is a room. In that room, there are countdown clocks. And above each clock, is the name of one of the company's products: Ram 1500, Jeep Wrangler, Chrysler Pacifica, Peugeot 308, Ram ProMaster, Fiat 500X. These clocks count, to the second, how long it'll be before the automaker shoe horns a Hellcat engine under the hood.
Okay, we're kidding a bit, but after Hellcatting and then Redeyeing the Charger and Challenger, introducing the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and then rolling out the Durango, the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is the least surprising product variant in years. And while it's immensely powerful and supremely capable off-road, if you climb behind the wheel hoping for anything beyond “Hellcat-powered 1500,” you'll be in for some disappointments. Unless you're routinely jumping dunes or pounding down drag strips, the TRX experience doesn't differ much from the standard truck.
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The overarching design philosophy for pickup trucks during the last decade has been “more.” But we salute Ram's restraint in transforming the traditional 1500 into the TRX. Unlike the Ford F-150 Raptor, which goes to sometimes absurd lengths to distinguish itself from the standard truck, the TRX is a bit more under the radar.
Subtract the hood scoop and the wildly flared fenders, and the TRX could pass for the flashy 1500 Rebel trim. Indeed, the two cars share quite a lot – the grille designs, the overall shape of the hood, and the shapes of the front and rear bumpers are all similar enough that, were it not for the engine badging on the hood or the black TRX badge on the tailgate, a passerby might never realize what this truck is.
Ram exhibited similar restraint in the cabin, which adopts an sportier steering wheel, a TRX-branded drive mode controller, a console-mounted gear lever, a dedicated launch control button, and meatier seats. Beyond those touches and the splash of carbon-fiber trim on the dash, this truck interior is indistinguishable from a standard Ram 1500. The interior irks us less than the exterior, though. Ram is building the best interiors in the pickup truck game, and the TRX is as plush and well-appointed as any of its less powerful siblings.
There's ample leather, attractive contrast stitching, and the sort of small detailing on the plastic pieces that helps us forget that it's not genuine metal. Functionally, the steering wheel rim is well-padded and wears its mix of Alcantara, leather, and carbon fiber proudly – it's an attractive item that suits the TRX's purpose. We just wish the rest of the interior felt so distinctive.
Ram knows how to build a comfortable truck interior and the TRX's mission hasn't gotten in the way of that. The front seats are big and cushy, with sizable bolsters that provide plenty of support. Designed for all manner of body types, we had little trouble finding a reasonable seating position. The back of the TRX is as cavernous as on any other Ram 1500 Crew Cab, meaning there's Bentley-besting legroom and headroom. The rear bench is pretty comfy, too, although not as supportive as the front chairs. If we were jumping dunes, we'd rather be in the first row.
Despite our tester's 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler mud tires, road noise is rarely an issue, and the ride is very smooth. You could absolutely drive a Ram TRX on a regular basis without worrying about hearing loss or back problems. In-cabin storage space is adequate too, with a large center console and that immense backseat. And of course, there's the bed. The TRX is only available with the smaller 1500 bed, a 5-foot, 7-inch box. Unfortunately, it's not available with the nifty RamBox storage system. Still, the box is suitable for when your TRX needs to be a pickup truck and not an off-road monster.
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The Ram TRX's 12.0-inch display is now tied for the biggest in the segment (Ford matched Ram with a landscape-oriented screen of the same size in the new F-150) but it's still the most striking piece of design, occupying almost the entire center stack. At the same time, it runs an older version of the Uconnect infotainment suite – we'd love to see Uconnect 5 here, but 4 remains a capable offering. Together, the hardware and software make for a suite that's attractive, responsive, and easy to navigate.
Complementing the center display is a 7.0-inch screen between the speedometer and tachometer. This familiar unit is easy to use and rich with data, covering everything from the TRX's laughable fuel economy to the temperatures of its internals to basic trip and audio information. It works well enough, but we're eager to see Ram add an all-digital instrument cluster to better match up with the new F-150 and the upcoming Raptor.
Beyond those bread-and-butter items, the TRX's cabin is a well-equipped place. An available wireless charge pad, called the Ramcharger (a clever throwback, that), stands out because it actually works – the number of setups we've experienced that lose connection is infuriating. There's also LED bed lighting, the expected seat heating/ventilation systems, a new head-up display, and a rear-view mirror camera. All told, the TRX's function might be brute speed, but it's damn smart too.
Smarts are good, but you buy the TRX for the aforementioned speed, which it delivers in huge, satisfying dollops. The supercharged 6.2-liter V8 packs 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, which is down slightly on other Hellcat models, but nowhere near enough to notice or complain about.
And holy moly is this thing fast. Stand on the throttle and the Hellcat engine sings its familiar song, with the shrill whine of the supercharger up front mingling pleasantly with the thunderous V8 note from the twin rear exhausts. But what's remarkable about all this speed is how undramatic it feels. You floor the skinny pedal, the horizon gets closer, and the numbers on the digital speedo blur, but the heart-in-your-throat sensation that comes from a Challenger or Charger is missing.
The sprint to 60 takes less than four seconds, which is staggering for a vehicle of this size and weight (a massive 6,350 pounds), but you won't dwell on that because you'll be too busy wondering where the tire shredding and squirrely rear are at. There isn't a hint of slip, with the TRX handling straight-line blasts like they're strictly business. Even managing the throttle is easy – you just keep it pegged.
Working alongside the supercharged V8 is the familiar ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic. Similarly business-minded, it blasts through upshifts and downshifts with little hesitation. Manual mode is a hoot, especially because such a feature in a vehicle of this size is uncommon, but we found the smallish paddles, split by the steering wheel spokes to effectively create four parts, less than convenient when attached to such a large steering wheel. And frankly, the eight-speed is so smart and capable it doesn't need a meatbag like yours truly telling it what to do.
Handling on dry roads is not the TRX's forte, but it's notable that this high-riding pickup, shod with knobbly tires, behaves with more aplomb than a comparable Raptor. There's plenty of roll, huge amounts of squat, and substantial dive, but when faced with a corner the Ram and its Bilstein active dampers feel more composed. The steering is quite good too, with appropriate weighting and a predictable ratio that makes any sort of maneuver a relatively simple affair.
But in some ways, the Ram is a little too good. You fling a Raptor into a corner, and it protests. You do the same in a TRX and it more or less carries on. This is doubly true in everyday driving, where the soft suspension isolates the cabin a little too well. You can forget the TRX's purpose-built nature pretty easily, which we find disappointing. Then again, there are 702 reminders at the beck and call of your right foot.
Ram deserves credit for outfitting the TRX with some of its best active safety gear, although we wish Stellantis didn't stow it away in a standalone package. That said, adding just $995 to a vehicle that starts at $70,000 is only a minor annoyance. Tick that box and you'll score full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection (which really should be standard, considering the way a TRX could obliterate smaller vehicles in a rear-end collision), and a 360-degree camera.
The integration of these systems is adequate, but hardly outstanding. Adaptive cruise works well enough but responds a bit too suddenly to other vehicles entering a lane. We tended to switch off lane-keep assist, which felt oversensitive at times. Most helpful, though, were the 360-degree camera and the available rear-camera mirror, which made navigating tight confines in the hulking TRX less stressful.
Take a look at our gallery and you'll see that with three-eighths of a tank of fuel, our range estimate sat at a meager 82 miles and the trip indicated we were netting 8.6 miles per gallon. Yep, this is a Hellcat alright. While our real-world figures are probably unreliable, owing to a heavy right foot, the EPA's estimates aren't much more encouraging. The TRX returns just 10 mpg city, 14 highway, and 12 combined while running on premium fuel.
As it stands, its 12-mpg combined rating is five full points away from our target for this segment. Last year's Ford F-150 Raptor, which we should note is dramatically less powerful than the V8-powered Ram, returned 15 city, 18 highway, and 16 combined. It could serve up those numbers and its 450 hp on regular fuel, too. But considering what you get in the Ram (and the fact that Ford's V8-powered Raptor is some years away), the TRX's low score isn't worth too much concern.
Worthy of much thought, though, is the TRX's sky-high price. Starting at $69,995, the TRX is nearly $6,000 more than the $64,145 2021 Raptor. That seems small, considering the Ram's horsepower advantage, but digging into the options mitigates the TRX's the value that output adds. As tested, our truck carried a price of $87,370.
It got there by adding virtually every option in the catalog. The priciest was the TRX Level 2 Equipment Group – at $7,920, it added the heated/ventilated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, front and rear accent lighting, adjustable pedals, LED box lighting, and some interior material upgrades. That's a lot of dough for mostly small-ticket items. Beyond that, our test unit added the $995 Advanced Safety Group, the $1,095 Technology Group (rear-camera mirror, head-up display), and a smattering of smaller items. All told, the nearly $16,000 in options didn't really feel like a great value.
TRX Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2021 Ram TRX: Review
2021 Ram 1500 TRX