Since Ram first unveiled the at 2016 State Fair of Texas, and probably since the first Dodge Challenger Hellcat was revealed even before that, it’s seemed like an inevitability we’d get a Ram 1500 with a Hellcat supercharged 6.2-liter V-8. That time is now, as Ram unveils the 702-horsepower 2021 Ram 1500 TRX that makes 650 pounds-feet of torque.
It’s probably cliche to bring up the scene toward the end of Jurassic Park when the Tyrannosaurus rex appears and easily defeats the puny velociraptors, but on paper anyway, that’s what the TRX feels like compared with the Ford F-150 Raptor. This isn’t just a shot across Ford’s bow, or the constant heavy-duty wars where each new torque king is incrementally better. This feels like a paradigm shift.
Of course, we haven’t driven the TRX yet to see if it delivers on its promises in the real world. We also don’t know if the TRX will sway Ford Raptor loyalists over to Ram — especially with rumors that Ford may put a version of the Mustang Shelby GT500’s V-8 in the next-generation Raptor.
We’ll worry about that later. For now, it’s the TRX’s time to roar.
The TRX isn’t just some Ram 1500 gussied up with badges and decals. It’s 88 inches wide, 8 inches wider than a standard Ram 1500 (and 1.7 inches wider than a Raptor). There’s also a functional hood scoop that handles 50% of the airflow to the engine. The other 50% comes in through the grille, which includes a unique “flow-through” Ram badge that gives a new meaning to “ram air.”
Since the TRX is more than 80 inches wide, it needs marker lights. Stealing a page from the Raptor, there are front LED clearance lights, one on each front fender, and then a set of three placed under the hood scoop. Rear marker lights are located between the tailgate and bumper, like on Ram HDs.
The tires are TRX-specific 35-inch Goodyear Territory All-Terrains wrapped around 18-inch wheels, and beadlock-ready wheels are optional. To accommodate those tires, Ram had to shift the front axle forward 20 millimeters. The TRX also sits 2 inches higher than any other Ram 1500.
Owners looking to customize their TRX will have more than 100 Mopar parts to choose from, according to Ram, including everything from graphics packages to a bed-mounted spare-tire holder. Various off-road lighting elements will also be available.
There will also be a limited-production run of 702 Launch Edition TRXs painted in an exclusive Anvil Gray with special graphics and equipped with the TR2 interior equipment package (we’ll get into that momentarily).
Ram has claimed accolades for its luxurious interiors — PickupTruck.com’s parent site Cars.com named the 2020 Ram 1500 Limited and Laramie its 2020 Luxury Car of the Year — and sticks to its guns to some extent with the TRX.
Interior options are defined by three levels: TR, TR1 and TR2. The TR Equipment Group, which Ram says is “based on the Rebel layout” is the entry-level package and features cloth and vinyl upholstery with black and dark ruby red accents. The gigantic 12-inch infotainment screen is also standard, though the TRX uses Uconnect 4 instead of the newer Uconnect 5 unveiled in the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica.
TR1-equipped models gain leather and suede upholstery as well as heated and ventilated front seats. TR2 goes even further, offering optional red stitching and carbon-fiber accents. Both TR1 and TR2 include a Modular Lightweight Load-bearing Equipment/Pouch Attachment Ladder System (MOLLE/PALS) on the front seatbacks to stow additional gear. A 60/40-split, folding backseat is standard, but the TR2 offers a 60/40 reclining rear seat with a center armrest for you to chauffeur your passengers in comfort as you blast through the desert.
Also available on the TR1 and TR2 packages is a head-up display, a first for any Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Ram’s parent company) product, that can display up to five different types of content at once.
All TRX models also get a unique flat-bottom steering wheel, new gear selector and steering-wheel-mounted aluminum shift paddles that extend above and below the spokes of the steering wheel.
Engine, Transmission, Suspension
The exterior and interior are all well and good, but let’s be honest, this is why you’re really here. Let’s start with the engine, which is a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 based on the Hellcat motor. In the TRX, it produces 702 hp and 650 pounds-feet of torque. That’s a decrease of five ponies compared to the Dodge Charger Hellcat, but also 252 more than the Raptor. Ram says the TRX can hustle from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, hit 100 mph in 10.5 seconds and run the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 108 mph on the way to a top speed of 118 mph; in our testing, a hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds at 96.6 mph.
The TRX is mostly similar to the Hellcat motor, but uses a new truck-specific deep-sump oil pan to make sure oil is consistently delivered where it needs to go — the Hellcat probably isn’t racing through the desert or crawling up rocks — and the alternator is relocated to a much higher position to keep it protected when using the TRX’s 32 inches of water fording.
Since the TRX is a desert runner and delivering clean air to the engine is important, it uses a giant air box isolated from the engine (hovering above to reduce vibrations, according to Ram) that uses two 8-by-12-inch air filters that Ram says capture up to four times the amount of dust and dirt competitors catch.
Mated to the engine is an 8HP95 TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. Launch control is standard, as are eight selectable drive modes. The five for on-road driving are Auto, Sport, Tow, Snow and Custom (letting drivers choose their preferred mix of settings) while the three off-road modes are Mud/Sand, Rock and Baja. There’s also a jump detection system for when the TRX’s wheels leave the ground, mitigating potentially damaging power spikes while airborne.
In a nod to the Hellcat, the TRX also includes a Valet mode activated by a four-digit PIN that limits horsepower and engine rpm, keeps the electronic stability control on, disables drive mode selection and more to make sure no one who isn’t you hoons your TRX.
Power isn’t enough to get through the desert, which is why Ram upgraded or changed pretty much everything under the Ram 1500’s skin when building the TRX. The frame is significantly reinforced, and the new rear axle is an electronically locking 3.55 solid Dana 60 unit that Ram engineer Jeff Roselli says is “basically set up to take a direct missile strike.” (We don’t recommend you test this.)
The transfer case is a full-time active BorgWarner unit that has six different calibrations depending on the selected drive mode. It also includes a 2.64:1 low-range setting for rock crawling. The TRX also includes Ram’s Selec-Speed automatic crawl mode that can be used to keep the truck moving at 0.6 to 5 mph and adjusted using the gear selector or shift paddles.
The suspension is entirely new and features longer forged-aluminum front control arms, longer rear stamped steel control arms, a five-link coil setup and Bilstein adaptive shocks. TRX has 11.8 inches of ground clearance, 13 inches of suspension travel (40% more than a standard Ram 1500) and the aforementioned 32-inch water-fording depth.
Payload and Towing Capacity
If you want to use your TRX for more than just high-speed runs through the desert, it has 1,310 pounds of payload capacity and an 8,100-pound tow rating. Trailer Reverse Steering Control, a first for Ram, can be added to the TRX to make backing up easier. The system uses trailer measurements, cameras and a directional dial to control the steering wheel and move the trailer in the desired direction.
More From PickupTrucks.com:
Standard safety features are pretty limited, and consist mostly of a backup camera with dynamic grid lines, electronic stability control and six airbags. Available safety features include a 360-degree camera, self-parking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring that works with a trailer, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and a digital rearview mirror to display a camera view behind the TRX if the traditional rearview mirror is obstructed.
According to Ram, production of the 702 Launch Edition TRXs will begin early in the fourth quarter of 2020, with regular ones to follow at some point after that, though we don’t know exactly when the TRX will go on sale. We don’t yet have pricing or fuel economy ratings, either, so stay tuned for that information and more in-depth coverage of the TRX.
PickupTrucks.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with PickupTrucks.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of PickupTrucks.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.