Back when the Dodge Hellcat lineup was first unveiled, I joked that it was only a matter of time before that hulking supercharged V8 made its way into every vehicle its parent company builds. While my hopes of a Chrysler 200 Hellcat have been sorely dashed, that whining lump did eventually find a strange bedfellow in the Ram 1500 pickup. The result is the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX, and while it defies common sense, I’ve been having way too much fun to notice.
- Goes like spit
- Over-the-top aesthetics
- Great cabin tech
- Starts at $70,000
- Has a drinking problem
Modern pickup trucks already look like they’re chiseled from solid blocks of testosterone, yet somehow the TRX manages to amplify that even further. The Ram is almost 2 inches wider, about 2.5 inches taller and has 0.3 inches more ground clearance than the Blue Oval’s Baja big-boy, the F-150 Raptor. In my quaint, quiet neighborhood, the TRX looms large on my driveway — well, mostly on my driveway, since it’s so wide that the passenger-side tires bleed over onto my neighbor’s lawn. Not that my neighbor would dare say anything, because the fat fenders and copious black accents make the truck look like it’s ready to beat you up just for looking at it the wrong way.
When it comes to capability, the Raptor and TRX are pretty evenly matched, but the Ram squeaks ahead by slim margins. The TRX can tow 8,100 pounds, a hundo more than the Raptor can muster, and it’ll haul 1,310 pounds in the bed, 110 more than the Ford. Ram’s also got the advantage in breakover and departure angles (21.9 and 23.5 degrees, respectively) albeit by a few tenths of a degree, while approach angle is equally matched at 30.2 degrees. Both trucks also boast a foot or more of suspension travel front and rear, which matters less on the street than it does in the dirt.
Even though I know this truck is plenty capable, as our own Antuan Goodwin proved by, odds are many of them will never see that sort of intense off-road action. But it’s not like the TRX doesn’t shine as a garage queen, either. In fact, it’s one of the dumbest and most grin-inducing experiences I’ve had in months, and it left me wanting more every time.
Under the hood is the same 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 as every other Hellcat-based product out there, and in this instance, it’s tuned to produce 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. When I jam my right foot into the firewall, the standard four-wheel-drive system pushes me forward with surprising haste — a 4.5-second jaunt to 60 mph isn’t quick in the grand scheme of things, but when it’s in a crew cab pickup that weighs almost 6,400 pounds, it damn near feels like I’m rewriting mechanical physics. Combine that almost unnatural feeling of speed with the loud supercharger whine and the basso profundo roar coming from the exhaust pipes out back, and it makes for quite the engaging sensory experience. The only way you’ll miss a gap in traffic is by overshooting it. The V8 can drone a bit at highway speeds, but people in it for the sound and the fury probably won’t care.
The ride quality is… truck-ish. With up to 14 inches of suspension travel and meaty 325/65R18 Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires, things are on the softer side, with the usual body-on-frame movements that are part and parcel with all pickups. But the TRX is far from a discombobulated mess, thanks to Bilstein adaptive dampers on each corner. In its standard Auto setting, the truck is pretty well balanced, and throwing it into Sport adds some stiffness while boosting throttle response. Modes for snow, towing, rocks, mud and sand and Baja-style dune-blasting are all standard, too. Braking is surprisingly good, given the thing’s heft, but it’s hard not to be keenly aware of the momentum I’m carrying at all times.
Just make sure you’re good at staying in your lane, because the TRX is roughly the size of the lane, so there’s not a lot of space for deviation.
The only thing that truly sucks about the TRX is its fuel economy, which, as you might expect, is pathetic. The EPA couldn’t do better than 10 miles per gallon city and 14 mpg highway — and even achieving those numbers requires a lightness of foot that flies in the face of the Hemi mantra. After a couple hundred miles of urban and highway driving, I barely break into double digits. Yikes.
The latest iteration of Ram 1500 boasts one of the best and most luxurious interiors in the light-duty pickup segment, especially compared to the Raptor, which still uses Ford’s last-generation body. My TRX tester is thoroughly kitted out, thanks to a $7,920 equipment package that includes ventilated leather front seats, leather dashboard and door-panel trim, adjustable pedals, a heated steering wheel, the whole nine yards.
Whether it’s for people or for stuff, there is a ton of space in here. The rear seats are extremely spacious, which helps for hauling things that you don’t want in the bed, while door and armrest pockets swallow up everything from purses to tablets and whatever other tchotchkes I bring along. The 12-volt outlet atop the dashboard is a nice little touch for fans of radar detectors, and there are ten USB ports (five USB-A, five USB-C) scattered about the interior, in addition to a wireless device charger just under the infotainment screen.
Ram’s parent company continues to improve its already-great cabin tech, and the Ram TRX offers some of the newest, flashiest kit on offer. Standard equipment includes a honkin’ 12-inch portrait infotainment display running the automaker’s Uconnect system, which boasts, and Performance Pages, which allow me to pick and choose settings for different parts of the vehicle, in addition to monitoring things like wheel articulation and steering angle. I like that the screen can show multiple corners of the system at once, whether it’s audio, navigation or Sirius-based weather maps. The controls are large and legible, making for easy use with minimal distraction. A large display in the gauge cluster is capable of showing just about everything the main screen can, with dead-simple steering wheel controls to cycle through tire pressures, transmission temperatures and a variety of other information, all wrapped in this rugged-looking design that keeps the beefy TRX theme alive.
Some harder-core vehicles eschew the usual panoply of active and passive safety systems, but most of the good stuff is available in the TRX. In addition to standard forward-collision warning, my tester has a $995 package that adds emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capabilities and lane-keeping assist. The $7,920 equipment package also throws parking sensors into the mix, because trying to fit this thing into a typical parking space takes a little more effort than usual.
Stellantis’ high-horsepower offerings are not cheap, and the 2021 Ram TRX is no exception. Its starting price of $71,690 (including $1,695 for destination) leapfrogs the Challenger and Charger Hellcat twins, and with a hefty dose of options, my tester rings in at an eye-watering $87,370. You could buy a real sports car for that much.
But there’s nothing quite like the Ram TRX. The Hellcat’s 6.2-liter V8 has always been something special but throwing it into a pickup truck results in a vehicle that exceeds the sum of its parts, delivering equal doses of high performance and hilarity. It’s a hoot.