We got behind the wheel of the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX, and oh boy, it packs a lot of punch. Auto expert Bryon Dorr put the pedal to the metal for this first-drive review of the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX.
When a truck comes with Jump Detection, Launch Control, Baja mode, and a plaque on the center console that lets you know there are 702 ponies under the hood, you can be pretty confident that it’s going to be a good time when you slide behind the wheel. The 2021 RAM TRX is such a truck, and we got to jump, drift, launch, and generally hoon it on and off road.
Here are our takeaways.
2021 RAM 1500 TRX Performance
With an exterior design inspired by trophy trucks and an interior even sportier than the top-spec RAM 1500 Rebel, it’s hard not to smile when around this truck. The other thing sure to plaster a smile across your face is depressing the skinny pedal and hearing the supercharger whine and the growly exhaust.
With 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque on tap, from the 6.2L Supercharged HEMI V8 under the hood, this truck backs up the impressive sounds it makes with raw performance.
Make no mistake, the RAM TRX is a sporty luxury muscle truck.
This beast weighs in at over 6,350 pounds, and you can for sure feel that when behind the wheel. Even with all that weight and rolling on big, heavy 35-inch tires, it can hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 4.5 seconds.
It achieves this through 4WD and launch control, something I played with extensively. I managed 5.2 seconds on pavement and about 7 seconds on gravel — both impressive when you consider the truck was sucking in thinner air at an elevation of over 4,500 feet in my testing.
Also impressive, a 118-mph top speed. That makes it the current fastest production off-road-focused pickup in the world. While I didn’t attempt a top speed run, I can attest that triple-digit speeds are accomplished effortlessly. RAM claims a truly impressive 12.9-second quarter-mile time at 108 mph.
RAM TRX Suspension
Besides the massive power and speed, the biggest thing you’ll notice jumping into this big, wide, heavy truck is how precise the steering is and how little body roll it has, relatively at least. The upgraded steering rack, five-link coil suspension, and special 2.5-inch Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive shocks are what make this incredible handling possible.
The suspension setup on this truck allows for massive wheel travel, 13 inches at the front and 14 inches in the rear. That wheel travel is what allows this big, heavy truck to handle any terrain with ease. Big wheel travel usually means big body roll, but the adaptive shocks help keep that impressively under control.
Ram 1500 TRX Brakes
The largest brakes in the category are required to stop this big truck. Massive 15-inch front brake rotors bring this beast to a stop in a hurry when needed, but a lot of brake pressure is needed to accomplish that feat. The best part about these brakes is how smooth and responsive they are to pedal modulation.
If you enjoy performance driving, then you’ll enjoy two-foot driving this truck. Impressively, the computers on board don’t shut down the truck when you left-foot brake like many modern vehicles tend to do. On loose surfaces, left-foot braking is the best way to get this big truck to rotate at speed through corners, impressively so.
RAM TRX Off-Road Adventure Truck
The RAM TRX is a 4WD truck, period. There is no 2WD option on this big machine. There is little doubt that the TRX is specifically optimized to perform off road. It truly excels in high-speed, wide-open terrain situations but also does impressively well at slow speeds in the rocks.
Yes, You Can Jump It
Reporters asked a RAM engineer how high and far they had jumped the TRX in testing. The response was, “A second of airtime.” I know that I personally witnessed the truck over 4 feet in the air, and was behind the wheel during similar airtime.
This truck actually has a feature called Jump Detection. It knows when the truck is in the air, opens the T-case, ensures the engine doesn’t over-rev, stays in gear, and prepares the adaptive shocks for landing.
All this amounts to a buttery smooth landing that allows you to put the power down again fast and race off to the next jump. Was your truck made to jump?
Don’t expect the TRX to fit down tight trails, or even some tight parking spots, for that matter, as it’s a full 8 inches wider than a RAM 1500. If it fits, though, it can probably tackle the terrain ahead. With massive 35-inch tires wrapped around 18-inch wheels and an engineered suspension lift, this truck manages a full 11.8 inches of ground clearance.
Factor in skid plates, a full-floating Dana M250 rear axle, and optional rock sliders, and there is little that the RAM TRX can’t crawl over. For slow-speed crawly stuff, you just need to select low-range 4WD, lock the rear e-locker, and put the truck in the Rock Crawl driving mode.
As with all modern off-road vehicles, there is a full host of computer-optimized driving modes for any situation. The TRX offers eight different driving modes, each with a cool graphic that pops up on the gauge cluster when selected.
My favorite feature is the custom mode that allows you to set up the truck exactly how you want. Also, with the touch of the info button in each driving mode, the system tells you exactly how it’s set up, taking the guesswork out of the equation. You might know something the computer doesn’t about the terrain ahead, and you can optimize the setup for it.
Even though 2WD isn’t an option, and that sucks if you want to drift, there is a Baja mode. In Baja mode, 80% of the truck’s torque is sent to the rear wheels, which allows for a more active rear end with liberal application of the skinny pedal.
RAM TRX Practicality
First, let’s get the elephant out of the room on the practicality front. This thing guzzles dino juice like an actual T-Rex! You’re not going to buy the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX for its fuel economy.
It manages just 10 city, 14 highway, and 12 combined mpg. Add in that you’re going to be feeding it premium dino juice, and there is little doubt that your wallet will get a lot lighter each time you fill up, which will be often.
Price & Availability
Speaking of lighter wallets, the TRX does not come cheap. The base price on this truck is $69,999, and it quickly climbs from there. The TRX Launch Edition trucks have a sticker price of $88,570 and are already sold out.
Expect to see the first TRX hitting the road in late 2020, with dealer deliveries in early 2021 for those of us that missed out on the Launch Edition.
The RAM TRX is incredibly comfortable to drive. I love how the door and center console armrests are the perfect height and padded.
The seats are pretty plush, and they’re more bolstered than a standard pickup. But, GMC still designed them for much heavier and wider people than me, at 6’3″ and 165 pounds.
My long torso also hits the upper seatback in a weird spot, which isn’t horrible but isn’t great. The seats can also be heated and cooled, and the truck offers a plethora of cup holders, storage areas, and power sockets, as you’d expect from a modern American pickup.
While offering the lower end of payload and towing for a half-ton truck, 1,310 pounds and 8,100 pounds, respectively, are usable capacities. With the lifted suspension, big heavy motor, loads of luxury appointments, and off-road focus, you’d expect these lower capacities.
What these numbers mean in practical terms is that you can still tow a wake surf boat or Airstream and still have a basic overland pop-top camper set up on the truck. A RAM TRX with a pop-up camper just might be the ultimate Baja adventure machine. Searching for that remote beach with the perfect waves has never been so much fun.
The biggest upgrade over the standard RAM 1500 on the TRX is actually a sort of throwback to trucks of the past. Specifically, replacing the rotary shifter on the dash with a console-mounted shifter. Not only does this style shifter work smoother and easier, but it also allows for manual shifting mode.
While my heart races when I hear the supercharger spool up on the big Hemi, the sound it makes can get tiring on long road trips. Lucky for us, RAM put a very nice audio system in the TRX, so you can drown out the supercharger noise when you grow tired of it.
Is the TRX the Apex Predator?
The only truck on the market that can really compete at all with the RAM 1500 TRX is the Ford F-150 Raptor. In fact, the Raptor started the desert-runner production muscle truck category.
With that said, RAM learned from Ford’s successes and failures with the Raptor and has built a truly, comprehensively better off-road truck. RAM had a Raptor on hand for me to drive as well, for comparison.
The RAM TRX offers 252 more horsepower, a much more advanced suspension system, a much more luxurious and technology-packed interior, and much more accurate steering than the Raptor. We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the much more pleasing exhaust note that emanates from the TRX’s big HEMI V8 versus the Raptor’s EcoBoost V6.
The Raptor does have a few competitive advantages, however. The biggest is probably the 10-plus-thousand dollars’ lower sticker price. The Raptor is also narrower by 1.5 inches, lighter by nearly 800 pounds, and offers 2WD. Big power and 2WD is way more fun if you want to do burnouts or drifting, where the TRX is 4WD all the time.
In the end, the TRX is a more refined, luxurious, and capable machine than the Raptor. The TRX suspension handles body roll better and puts down power in a much more immediate and confidence-inspiring way.
We have no doubt that the all-new 2022 Raptor that Ford is currently testing will step up to the plate and answer the gauntlet that RAM has thrown down with the TRX. Could we see a big V8 under the hood of the Raptor once again?
A Special Truck
The 2021 RAM 1500 TRX is truly more than the sum of its impressive parts. The engineering and packaging of this truck make it stand out as a truly unique vehicle. Add in the fact that we’re very unlikely to see a massive, supercharged V8 that chugs dino juice under the hood of a pickup ever again, and you wonder how the TRX made it to market in the first place. Besides its undeniable environmental impact, this truck is truly something special.
Stay up to date on all things RAM TRX at RAMTrucks.com.