Excitement was high as I slid across the leather and alcantera seat and behind the wheel of the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX. With over 3-hours of diverse mountain and desert on-road driving and some time at an off-road race track on the day’s schedule, I knew it was going to be a very good day. With the sun shining over Lake Tahoe and over 700 hp on tap, how could it not be?
There is really so very much to talk about with this truck, as it is so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s not just a widebody stickered RAM 1500 with a big motor, advanced shocks, and big tires. A huge percentage of this truck has been upgraded or modified over the standard 1500 pickup. Let’s dive into what we found after a day of hooning this big truck on and off-road.
1. The RAM TRX Is Fast!
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. This truck offers massive power, 702 hp and 650 lb.-ft. torque, from its 6.2L Supercharged HEMI V8.
That big power motivates this 6,350-plus-pound truck to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. I used the launch control on pavement and on gravel, with 5.2-second and about 7 second times respectively. That’s impressive, considering the truck was carrying some extra weight, an extra full-size wheel/tire in a bed carrier and all my camera gear, and I was driving it in the thinner air of about 4,500-foot elevation.
Even with its immense weight and big 35-inch tires, the TRX has a 118 mph top speed. That is the fastest in the world for a production off-road-focused pickup. It even lays down 12.9-second quarter mile times at 108 mph. I can attest that triple-digit speeds are quickly and easily achieved, too easily for public roads to be honest.
With big power, big weight, and big tires you can’t expect good fuel economy. The 2021 RAM 1500 TRX gets 10 city, 14 highway, and 12 combined miles-per-gallon. Factor in premium fuel and the fact that you will no doubt have a heavy right foot, like I did, when driving this truck and fill-ups will get expensive quick!
The single biggest upgrade for the TRX over the standard RAM 1500 is the move to a console gear selector, over the rotary shifter on the dash. Not only does this new, old-style, shifter work smoother and easier, it also allows for manual shifting mode, which also activates the paddle shifters.
With big power and speed, especially in a big heavy machine like the TRX, quality brakes are a must. The TRX has massive 15-inch front brakes, the largest in the category. The brake pedal feel and modulation is extremely smooth and predictable, but it does require a lot of pressure to stop the truck in a hurry. Left foot braking works really well to get this truck to rotate on loose surfaces, and is a must to get the most performance out of this truck.
2. Off-Road Focused In Every Way
There is little doubt that the RAM TRX has been specifically optimized to perform really well off-road. Specifically, it is designed to go off-road in wide-open terrain really fast, while still having solid slow-speed rock crawling credentials. The TRX is 8-inches wider than a RAM 1500, so don’t expect it to fit down a tight trail, or even in many parking spots for that matter. There isn’t even a 2WD option on the TRX, as it is always in 4WD.
Impressive 2021 RAM 1500 TRX Suspension
One of the huge highlights of this truck is the 2.5-inch Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive shocks. These shocks are super smart and offer unrivaled dampening from a factory fitted shock. Combined with the five-link coil suspension set up, with 23.6-inch tall rear spring (the world’s largest production spring), this truck offers rock-solid control at high speeds over nearly any terrain. I hit some sizable whoops at over 60 mph and the truck ate them like it was going over a freshly paved road. Big suspension travel, 13-inches front and 14-inches rear, is what allows for this impressive rough terrain performance.
That big suspension travel also makes the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX extremely capable in the rocks. Select low range, lock the rear locker, and hit the Rock Crawl driving mode and the TRX crawls over anything in its way. With 11.8-inches of clearance, skid plates, a Dana M250 full floater rear axle, and optional rock sliders the TRX can traverse some seriously rocky terrain with ease. The electronic locking diff also has no speed limit, so it can be used during high-speed desert assaults without issue. Even 32-inch deep rivers can’t stop the TRX, as that is its max wading depth.
Big 35-inch tall by 13-inch wide bespoke Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires are wrapped on 18×9 wheels. You can either choose a basic aluminum wheel or a beadlock capable wheel. I like the clean look of the basic wheel much better, but being able to run a true beadlock from the factory is an impressive off-road-focused feature.
My favorite off-road feature, although it could be used on-road, is Jump Detection. The truck is smart enough to know when it has left terra-firm and it actively prepares for a smooth landing. Specifically, it doesn’t allow you to over-rev the engine, it keeps the wheels turning at relatively the same speed, opens the T-case, and stays in gear so you can accelerate out of the landing.
As with all modern off-road vehicles, there are a plethora of computer-controlled driving modes to suit every off-road situation you might encounter. The TRX offers eight driving modes, each with a cool graphic that pops up on the gauge cluster. What I find cool is that you don’t have to guess as to what each mode is actually telling the truck’s computers to do, as you just have to hit the info button in each mode and it will show you the detailed configuration. A full custom mode lets you configure the truck exactly how you like as well. The mode I used the most was Baja mode, as it is the most rear-biased, with up to 80% of torque sent to the rear wheels. It’s really fun to use the skinny pedal to unleash all those ponies on the rear wheels and get it to slide around!
3. Function Drives Form
So many off-road vehicles these days are covered in fake vents and have wheels covered with fake bolts. While those things might look cool, they can and should be functional design elements. On the RAM TRX everything is functional. There are no fake bits to ruin an otherwise impressive machine.
The massive hood scoop on the truck is fully functional and actually sends 50% of the air to the engine. The other 50% comes through the big grille, with an open RAM badge design for optimized airflow. Letting the heat out of the engine bay are big functional hood vents. Even the air curtains in the front composite fenders are aerodynamically functional design elements, not just styling bling.
Other examples of function driving form are the beadlock capable wheel option and ID lights in the hood scoop and below the tailgate. These lights are required by law for vehicles over 80-inches wide, but are also a distinctive styling queue.
RAM also saw no reason to pipe in artificial noise into the cabin, as the huge supercharged HEMI and quality exhaust already produce the perfect noises. While the cabin is very quiet, the supercharger whine can get old on long trips. The quality audio system in the truck helps a lot though.
4. 2021 RAM 1500 TRX Is A Luxury Muscle Truck
Sure big horsepower and crazy suspension are the headlines, but this truck is packed with the latest tech and luxury features as well. It’s the first RAM truck to get a heads up display (HUD), and it gets a large bright one that is super configurable, legible, and unobtrusive. A center console 12-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard, and offers a huge amount of control over every feature of the truck. Hard buttons surrounding the screen and on the steering wheel allow you to more quickly and easily navigate common features while keeping your attention on the road ahead.
The TRX offers such things as heated and cooled seats, a camera-view rear-view mirror, advanced trailer backup steering system, adaptive headlights, and so much more. The flat-bottom steering wheel also lets you know this truck is more about sporty performance than hauling gear, although the TRX does have a respectable 1,310-pound max payload and 8,100-pound towing capacity.
There are three trim levels of the TRX, and the trims determine the interior options available. The base trim level is called ‘TR,’ and is similar to what you’d expect in a Rebel with rubber floor mats. The TR1 trim level is similar to the Limited 1500 appointments. The top-level TR2 is what I got to experience, and includes all the bells and whistles.
5. TRX Eats Raptors For Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
The Ford F150 Raptor paved the way for the RAM 1500 TRX in every way, proving there is a considerable market for a premium off-road-focused half-ton pickup. Let’s start with where the Raptor is better; it’s narrower by 1.5-inches, lighter by nearly 800-pounds, and offers 2WD hooning opportunities that the 4WD only TRX doesn’t. The Raptor is also considerably less expensive.
The RAM TRX has 252 more horsepower, much more advanced suspension, a much nicer interior, more precise steering, and a much more emotional exhaust note. I got to drive the 2020 Ford Raptor on the same day as the 2021 RAM TRX for comparison. The truth is that the TRX felt like a more refined and luxurious machine. The TRX controls body roll and puts down power in a much more immediate and confidence-inspiring way.
Supposedly the T-Rex dinosaur reference was a coincidence that fans of the original TRX concept truck made stick. RAM already owned the TRX named, and says it didn’t have the time to vet a new name. From there RAM ran with the “Apex Predator” theme, with easter eggs throughout the truck referencing the T-Rex eating the Raptor.
There is little doubt that Ford will answer RAM’s call to arms soon. The next generation 2022 Raptor is sure to be a much-improved machine. Will we see a big V8 under the hood of a Raptor once again?
2021 RAM 1500 TRX Price & Availability
Big horsepower and luxury don’t come cheap, but for the right buyer, the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX is quite a value. Pricing starts at $69,999, but quickly climbs from there. The already sold out TRX Launch Edition trucks for example have a sticker price of $88,570. With launch editions hitting the road in late 2020, we can expect the full range of RAM TRX trucks to hit dealer lots in early 2021.
Stay up to date o all things RAM TRX at RAMTrucks.com.