The folks at the Ram Trucks brand rocked the performance world earlier this year when they introduced the long-awaited 2021 Ram 1500 TRX. While it doesn’t use the Hellcat name, this is the supercharged Hemi-powered pickup that everyone has been hoping to see. With 702 horsepower, 650 lb-ft of torque, an advanced full-time four-wheel-drive system, unique Bilstein dampers, a package-specific chassis and tires made specifically for this truck, the TRX is built to be the ultimate off-road production truck.
However, we can’t just look at a press release and assume that the TRX performs as great as we would expect. To experience this beast in the real world, FCA flew us out to Lake Tahoe to test the supercharged super truck on the road and off. The TRX didn’t disappoint and in most situations, the 702-horsepower half-ton exceeded our expectations. We expected it to be great off-road and it was, but it was just as good on the road while the loaded interior provided a luxury-level setting for a day of driving.
Off-Road Credentials in Action
Our off-road testing time with the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX took place at the Wild West Motorsports Park in Nevada. The off-road time was split into five stations, including the dirt race track, a three-mile trail drive, a rock crawling area, a dirt drag strip, and some time with the Ford F-150 Raptor.
I began my off-road test time with the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX on the race track. The track consists of some short straights, sweeping turns, a whoops section and a series of jumps. While I have tested many trucks and sport utility vehicles in off-road settings, jumping these vehicles is generally discouraged by the manufacturers. After all, we have all seen how other off-road trucks bend their frames, deploy their air bags or fail in some other dramatic manner. However, the Ram folks sent us onto the track with the intention of having us launch the trucks skyward.
With the TRX, we were jumping higher and further than we ever have in a truck, so as we entered the track and approached the first jump at low speed, we didn’t expect to get a whole lot of hang time. However, when the truck in front of us popped into the air, we prepared to do the same. Surprisingly, the TRX barely felt like it got off of the ground during the schooling lap. On the first lap at speed, we approached the first jump at 55 miles per hour, soaring into the air and embracing for impact. As the truck touched down, there was no hard impact. There was no bounce at all, with the Bilstein dampers set to Baja drive mode eating up the force of the landing. Even when jumping into the whoops or into a tight turn, the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX landed smoothly without any compromise of complete control.
Between those jumps and the whoop section, the supercharged Hemi allowed the 6,500-pound truck to quickly build speed in the straights with the Goodyear tires digging into the loose footing. We took the turns gently, carefully navigating the deep ruts and making sure to keep the shiny side up, but as we exited those turns, all 702 ponies helped the TRX roar along the track.
Next, we took the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX to the rock crawling test. The Rock drive mode was selected with four-low and the locking rear differential engaged. We have done a ton of rock crawling in testing, but the area at Wild West Motorsports Park was steeper with larger rocks than we have experienced. The TRX comfortably inched up the steep hill, clearing the biggest rocks with ease. At no point did the supercharged Ram struggle with traction, which was a concern of some critics of the 702-horsepower beast.
Our third test with the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX was the three-mile trail, which offered a little bit of everything shy of water. The facility was very dry, so we didn’t have any mud to play in, but the trail course included some steep climbs, several high speed stretches and a whole lot of elevation change. We were basically blasting along a series of cliffs, through clouds of dust, following a member of the facility staff. We ran most of this portion of testing in Baja mode, which allows the best suspension action for varying levels of rough driving. As we blasted through the high speed portions, carefully shifting through the gears with the huge steering wheel paddles, the TRX just skimmed effortlessly over everything. There were points where we would be scooting along on hard, packed rock and suddenly, we would be on loose sand. Nothing really had any impact on the supercharged Ram and in the few situations where we got a little too close to the edge at speed, the brakes did a great job of providing strong, consistent stopping power.
While the race track was a ton of fun, especially with all of the jumping, the trail course was truly exhilarating. At times, we would come out of a technical section into a wide open, flat stretch, allowing us to just put the pedal to the floor and let all 702 horses out to play. The TRX pulled nearly as well on the dirt and rocks as it did on the paved roads, leading to some crazy speeds on the tight path.
Our next test session took us to the dirt drag area, where we tested the launch control system of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX. It was a little over an eighth of a mile long or hard, packed dirt and rocks. It was very smooth, making for a great dirt drag strip. We pushed the button for the launch control system with the launch point set at 2400 RPM. WeI jammed the brake pedal to the floor, creating the needed force to engage the system, then floored the throttle. The engine roared and the boost reserve system prepared to unleash loads of power.
When letting off of the brake, the TRX rocketed away from the starting line without any sort of traction problems. We stayed wide open as the 6,500-pound truck blasted across the dirt and when we lifted on the top end of the short track, we were shocked by the numbers that popped up on the screen. The 0 to 60 time was 4.3 seconds and it took just 8.1 seconds to reach the eighth mile marker. That is as quick as many sports cars on pavement, but the TRX hit those numbers on dirt. The fact that the launch system does such a great job of putting the power down without wheel spin is incredible and so is the rate of acceleration on dirt.
Finally, the last portion of testing at the race facility didn’t involve the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX or the off-road facility. FCA provided us with a Ford F-150 Raptor for side-by-side testing. We spent some time driving on paved roads and on some unpaved roads. The Raptor is obviously far slower than the TRX, but the most noticeable difference is the ride quality. The Raptor suspension is incredibly stiff by comparison, beating you up on rough, dirt roads and transferring every little bump in the road into the cabin. Where the TRX is as smooth as ice, the Raptor is constantly shaking you up in the driver’s seat. The Raptor was also quicker to kick the back end out and lose traction on rough, uphill climbs on dirt roads, but we encountered no such problem with the supercharged Ram.
The TRX also has a vastly nicer interior from top to bottom, but even when focusing strictly on performance, the Ram is leaps and bounds better in every way.
Editor’s Note: It is worth pointing out that both the F-150 Raptor and the 1500 TRX were set up and provided by Ram. It’s probably safe to assume the Ram folks didn’t have Ford’s best interests in mind.
Impressive On-Road, Too
While we got the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX good and dirty at the purpose-built off-road facility, our hotel and base of operations was far from the track facility. The morning of the track drive, we spent the first two hours of the day cruising from Truckee, California into Nevada. That was the portion that surprised us the most, as we expected the TRX to be incredible in the dirt. We also expected the supercharged Ram to be very stiff on paved roads, but the Bilstein dampers, even when set to the Sport drive mode, provide a remarkably smooth ride. As mentioned above, very little harshness makes it from the road to the cabin, making for a very comfortable, quiet ride – shy of the roar of the exhaust and the whine of the supercharger.
The TRX also handles quite well for a high-riding, 6,500-pound truck on 35-inch off-road tires. There were periods where a group of journalists testing the trucks were cruising along a twisty stretch of highway at over 70 miles per hour. From time to time, we would push it a bit too hard for the tires and could feel it trying to walk out a bit, but a quick tap of the brakes got it right back under control. Also, on tighter roads with lots of switch back turns, the suspension does a great job of controlling body roll on the hard side-to-side turns.
Most importantly, the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is very fast. The 118 mph electronically controlled speed limit is easily reached on a hard pull with plenty of room left to go. It cruises at 70 with hardly any throttle and it climbs over a hundred in the blink of an eye. The official acceleration times of 4.5 seconds in a 0 to 60 sprint coupled with a quarter mile time of 12.9 are both grossly underestimated. Our first hard pull on a paved surface was slightly downhill. It wasn’t even registering a degree on the off-road gauges, but it was clearly a gradual downhill slope near the start. We were able to get to 60 in just 3.9 seconds with a quarter mile time of 12.3 seconds. We then went to a location where the surface was very flat and we reeled off back-to-back 4.3 sprints to 60 with a quarter mile time of 12.7. This was at reasonably high elevation, so we believe that in the right conditions, it can get into the lower 12-second range with the factory off-road tires. Swapping to proper drag racing tires could very well put the TRX in the 11s.
Interior Technology Galore
The interior of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX provided an awesome environment to spend a day of high performance driving. The heated and cooled leather and suede seats hold you in place during hard cornering or big jumps and they are comfortable for a two-hour drive. The heads up display looks great and provides a ton of information, but we really appreciate having our speed right in front of us all of the time. As for the things out back, the digital rearview mirror is an excellent addition to the brand – one which we’re sure will become popular on most Ram models.
Finally, the standard 12-inch UConnect screen makes it easy to adjust the radio, navigation system, drive modes or climate control system while on the fly and the Harman Kardon speaker system sounds terrific when playing just about any type of music.
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is, at least in our opinion, the best half-ton truck to ever come to market. It is the most capable off-road, it is the best performing on-road, there is no compromise of comfort for performance and the interior layout is plush enough to make a European luxury brand design jealous. This is a truck that can serve as a weekend off-road toy, a daily driver and a thrilling on-road cruiser, making the TRX the ideal truck for anyone who wants to go fast in lots of places without compromising comfort or luxury.