There are a lot of vehicles out there that make us scratch our heads and ask, “why does this exist?”
Usually, it is a vehicle that is poorly executed and priced higher than any of its competitors. On the other hand is there a vehicle that begs that question because it is excessive in every way without being incredibly overpriced. The latter is where we find ourselves, while behind the wheel of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX.
At its core, the TRX is a Ram 1500 truck, with all of the great interior design and tech that we love about this latest generation. The interior has the same great buttons, comfortable seats, huge amount of useful cubbies everywhere, and even some useful rulers and measurement calculations written on the underside of the centre console.
Up front and centre is the absolutely wonderful 12-inch Uconnect infotainment screen, which provides a seamless experience with all sorts of vehicle controls, performance pages for on-screen engine and off-road data, and even a split screen experience while using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The best interior upgrade that the TRX brings along with it is the return to a proper, traditional shifter on the console, instead of the knob style shifter.
The exterior is where everything changes, literally. Significantly wider front and rear fenders make the TRX large and in charge. Pair this with significantly higher ground clearance provided by the super high-tech adaptive off-road suspension, and the TRX is quite imposing. Up front, the power dome hood hides three marker lights, while making room for a beastly engine that lives beneath it. All of this makes for an incredibly capable off-road vehicle that can tackle any terrain, while having the most spacious cab you can imagine.
The base Ram 1500 TRX comes with a starting MSRP of $93,995, which is not actually all that bad in todays environment, considering you get a Hellcat engine under the hood. Fully loaded, run of the mill pickup trucks are well into this price range, and none of them match the power, or off-road prowess that the TRX comes with out of the box. As is typical with Rams, plenty of options are available, and our truck came with an as-tested MSRP of $115,840 before fees, taxes and incentives. Notable options are the Technology Group ($1,595) and TRX Level 2 Equipment group ($4,995) that add a ton of great tech and aesthetic features.
Two absolutely useless options that you should entirely skip, and were our biggest gripes with the truck, are the Mopar Rock Rails ($845) and bed-mounted tire carrier ($995). These two might be useful if you actually intend on taking your six-figure pickup truck out to the middle of nowhere on a weekly basis, but around the city they did more harm than good. The spare tire makes the bed barely useful, and does not easily come out when you do need to haul something. Worse yet, the tire sticks up above the sides of the bed, so a tonneau cover to keep cargo dry and safe is out of the question. The rock rails are so narrow and tight to the body, that you barely can get a foot on them. We opted to jump in and out of the truck all week, instead of using those injury magnets.
On the road the TRX is an absolute beast, with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine mated to a 4×4 system that can actually handle the power. Rated for 702 horsepower at 6,100 RPM, and 650 lb-ft. of torque at 4,800RPM, the TRX screams down the road, while making all kinds of incredible sounds, and the supercharger whine is addictive. Power delivery is instant and on demand, but not at all overbearing when unwanted. Piloting around quiet neighbourhood streets and staying below the speed limit is easily done, as the supercharger only spins up when summoned with your foot.
An eight-speed transmission couples the engine to the 4×4 system, which handles everything the engine throws its way with class. A heavy throttle input can send any of the other Hellcat cars completely sideways if not careful, but the TRX lays power down at all four corners and just goes wherever it is pointed. The large tires, 4×4 system and fancy Launch control button get the TRX a 0-96 km/h rating of 4.5 seconds. That is muscle car territory, with four doors and plenty of hauling space.
All of this performance comes at a cost, of course, and a significant one. The 2021 Ram TRX gets ratings of 22.4L/100km city, 16.5L/100km highway and a combined 19.8L/100km, all while burning premium fuel. If you have a hankering for the sound of the supercharger, or have a heavy foot, expect to see numbers significantly higher. Our observed fuel economy numbers were consistently higher than the number of days in a month.
From a purely technical perspective, the TRX is an extremely capable machine, and likely does deserve the claims to fame over its direct competitor and inspiration for existence, the Ford Raptor. Multiple drive modes change the suspension and 4×4 response significantly, and the remote-reservoir active Bilstein shocks can do things most other systems can only dream of.
Bead-lock compatible wheels and pre-wired aux buttons mean serious rock crawling is not just a suggestion. To top all of that off, the Ram TRX has a payload rating of 1,310lbs (594kg) and maximum towing capacity of 8,100lbs (3,674kg) which is more than enough for most situations.
From a practical perspective, the novelty wears off quickly, and it has absolutely no business living in the city. The majority of people that will buy this truck in Canada will not live out in the dunes, or have any real reason to use the off-road suspension that can eat a speed bump like it’s a twig on the ground. The oversized body and fenders are a nuisance trying to navigate neighbourhood streets or the downtown core, and the highway ride is adequate, but with a lot of noticeable body movement.
The ride height is a pain to jump in and out of since the side steps are so useless, and the fuel economy cuts deep if you have any sort of traffic on your commute. My own Chevrolet Avalanche felt like a nimble, low riding sedan when I got back into it after a week with the TRX, despite actually only being a few inches shorter lengthwise.
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a monster in every way, and great value for what it is. For what you get, it is an incredible amount of value and capability, but it is also an incredible amount of overkill for most people. Taking that thought one step further, it is also an incredible amount of fun to drive in the right situations and that supercharger whine is still playing a solo in my head. I hope they stick this powertrain in a standard body Ram one day, because that is the truck I would want to buy.