Other than its menacing mien, the clue to the purpose of the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is that gigantic spare wheel and tire bolted into the cargo bed.
There’s a twin, another spare hanging underneath, because both might be needed. Together they announce that this behemoth is not your average big pickup. Far from it. This dystopian machine starts out as a Ram 1500 but gets a shape-shifting transformation into a mighty dune busting, rock climbing, Baja California racing truck without peer.
Start with the brutish power. Under the hood is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ 6.2-liter supercharged Dodge Hellcat V8 engine, snorting out 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque that forces its way through a mighty eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels.
Anyone might conclude that power of that magnitude might be needed to get this 6,866-pound truck away from the curb. But Car and Driver magazine, using testing equipment and the TRX launch control, measured its 0-60-mph acceleration time at 3.7 seconds. Forget inertia, Newton’s first law of motion that an object at rest stays at rest.
That’s not all. The Ram TRX, dubbed T-Rex by some of its enablers, comes with a whole bag full of off-road goodies, including adaptable Bilstein shock absorbers that enable it to rocket off hills and sand dunes and cushion its landings on the other side, a la Evel Knievel.
Time for a disclaimer. In this Covid-19 restricted metropolitan area surrounding Washington, D.C., there was no opportunity to do the fun stuff of boondocks-bashing for this review. But other assessments by professionals have testified to the TRX’s extraordinary capabilities in tough terrain.
The surprise is that this Marvelous Mrs. Maisel of the truck world handles itself — with a little help from the driver — quite well in the real world of urban and suburban commuting, though of course not economically.
The EPA rates the TRX’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 10/14/12 mpg on premium gasoline — not the sort of numbers that would endear it to environmentalists hoping to save the planet from premature oblivion. Likely the argument would be that, at the tested TRX’s bottom line sticker price of $87,570, it would be but a blip on the green movement’s charts.
Back to the surprise. Climb up into the TRX’s cab — make sure you have strong leg muscles — and punch the start button. The Hellcat V8 roars into life, frightening any small wildlife in the area, but soon settles into a muted drone.
You can actually tootle around in city traffic without contributing to noise pollution. If you keep the massive supercharged eight-cylinder sedated under 1500 rpm — watch the tachometer — you won’t bother yourself or anyone around you.
But punch the throttle and you’re noisily off to the urban drag races. Another surprise: the TRX is relatively light on its tires and delivers a not great but acceptable steering feel and handling. So if you’re not weekend hammering the dunes or rocks, you could use the TRX as a commuter vehicle — and also as a family hauler because it has a generous amount of space for five people.
But its forte is conquering grueling terrain, including sharp rocks that can blow a tire in an instant, which is why the TRX carries two full-size spares. It also has seven selectable drive modes to likely cover anything it encounters: auto, custom, mud/sand, rock, snow, towing, sport and Baja.
The TRX has full-time four-wheel drive with high and low ranges, as well as a locking rear axle. Two-wheel drive for economical cruising on pavement is not available.
With a base price of $71,690 and $87,570 as tested, it comes with a classy interior with carbon fiber accents. A long list of standard and optional equipment includes full-speed collision warning and emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, high-performance brakes, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, blind spot and cross-path detection, front and rear parking assist, and head-up display.
Also: 12-inch iPad-style center screen, navigation, leather-trimmed and heated seats, premium audio system, SXM satellite radio, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a power tailgate release.
So there’s actual comfort when you aren’t bashing the boondocks.
- Model: 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4 pickup truck.
- Engine: 6.2-liter V8, supercharged; 702 hp, 650 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive, high and low range.
- Overall length: 19 feet 5 inches.
- Height: 6 feet 9 inches.
- EPA/SAE passenger volume: 132 cubic feet.
- Cargo bed length: 5 feet 7 inches.
- Cargo bed volume (est.): 50 cubic feet.
- Off-road approach, break-over, departure angles: 30, 22, 24 inches.
- Ground clearance: 12 inches.
- Water-fording depth: 32 inches.
- Weight: 6,866 pounds.
- Payload: 1,310 pounds.
- Towing capability: 8,382 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 10/14/12 mpg. Premium fuel.
- Base price, including destination charge: $71,690.
- Price as tested: $87,570.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.
Photos (c) Stellantis