The verdict: The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is built to go fast off-road, but on the street, it’s more livable than you might expect.
Versus the competition: More extreme than the already extreme Ford F-150 Raptor, the TRX one-ups its primary competitor with a more luxurious interior and surprisingly friendly on-road driving manners.
The Ford F-150 Raptor has been largely unchallenged in the full-size off-road truck arena, but Ram has gone right for Ford’s throat with the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX. Available exclusively as a crew cab with a 5-foot-7-inch cargo box and full-time four-wheel drive, the TRX sees substantial modifications to its frame, suspension and exterior compared with a regular Ram 1500. And that’s not counting what’s under the hood: a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine rated at 702 horsepower and 650 pounds-feet of torque.
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The TRX starts at $71,690, including a $1,695 destination charge, which makes it the most expensive version of the 2021 Ram 1500. It’s also considerably more expensive than a 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor, which starts at $55,150 in extended-cab form. (A new Raptor based on the updated 2021 Ford F-150 is expected in the near future.)
The as-tested price of our TRX test truck was a whopping $91,950 due to a long list of technology, convenience, safety and luxury options. It also had a number of Mopar accessories including off-road running boards, a bed-mounted spare-tire carrier and a RamBar with off-road LED lights.
We unfortunately weren’t able to test the TRX off-road due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but we did put it through our typical testing process and were pleasantly surprised with the everyday drivability of this purpose-built off-roader. Once we get some off-road time in the TRX, we’ll update this review or link to separate coverage.
The star of the TRX show is, undoubtedly, the truck’s supercharged V-8 — and wow, does it perform. Stab the gas pedal when cruising at highway speeds and the TRX lunges forward with a ferocity that’s hard to believe is possible for such a heavy truck (the TRX’s curb weight is 6,350 pounds). But that’s the point of 702 horses, isn’t it? The V-8 teams with a well-behaved eight-speed automatic transmission that makes smooth, unobtrusive shifts when leisurely cruising and firm, quick gear changes in the truck’s Sport mode.
2021 Ram 1500 TRX | Cars.com photo by Mike Hanley
The penalty for all this fun is dreadful EPA-estimated gas mileage of 10/14/12 mpg city/highway/combined. The 2020 Raptor, which is powered by a twin-turbocharged V-6, is rated 15/18/16 mpg. Within the Ram 1500 lineup, the diesel-powered model is rated as high as 26 mpg combined, and even the four-wheel-drive, 5.7-liter V-8 version gets up to 19 mpg.
With a rumbling exhaust note and an ever-present supercharger whine, the TRX makes noises gearheads will love. The 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory all-terrain tires create some noise at highway speeds, but it’s not excessive.
The TRX is incredibly wide — it’s 8-inches wider than a regular Ram 1500 — but despite the truck’s substantial width, it was easy to position on the suburban streets and highways we traveled. Credit the steering, which is direct and precise.
Ride quality is firm and there’s some chassis shudder when driving on rough pavement, but body motions are well controlled. The TRX is fitted with Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive shock absorbers, and the truck’s Sport mode firms up the shocks even more. Sport also tightens the steering, directs more engine torque to the rear wheels and keeps the automatic transmission in lower gears for better performance.
Performance Luxury Interior
The TRX is made to get dusty in the desert, but if you select the right options, its interior can have the same level of quality and luxury as its high-end sibling trims that won our 2020 Luxury Car of the Year award. The $7,920 TRX Level 2 Equipment Group and $1,295 TRX Carbon Fiber Package give the cabin a performance-oriented look that includes carbon-fiber accents and an all-black color scheme with red stitching. Standard performance cues include a flat-bottom steering wheel, aluminum shift paddles and a console gear selector instead of the rotary shifter that’s in other 1500s.
2021 Ram 1500 TRX | Cars.com photo by Mike Hanley
It’s a bit of a climb up to the driver’s seat, but it was made easier by the optional low-profile running boards tucked below the doors. Few consumer-oriented vehicles, however, offer comparable forward views; you sit so high that very little blocks your line of sight. Over-the-right-shoulder visibility is good, too, thanks to the crew cab’s large side windows, but the driver’s-side B-pillar restricts over-the-left-shoulder visibility.
The crew-cab’s backseat is massive, with plenty of space to stretch your legs. An available 60/40-split bench seat flips up, converting the rear of the cab to cargo-carrying duty, and the backrest also reclines.
All TRXs have a vertically oriented 12-inch touchscreen with navigation that takes up most of the middle of the dash. The system is configurable, letting you customize the home screen and apps that appear in the toolbar at the base of the display. The large screen doesn’t enhance the smartphone connectivity experience, though; both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto use a portion of the screen that’s similar in size to the 8.4-inch touchscreen available on other Ram 1500s. The multimedia system’s native navigation map does use the entire screen, however.
Unlike other crew-cab Ram 1500s that offer a choice of a 5-foot-7-inch or 6-foot-4-inch cargo box, the TRX is available only with the shorter box. The truck’s aggressive, lifted off-road suspension contributes to a box floor that was nearly waist high for me (I’m 6-foot-1), which will likely make loading and unloading certain kinds of cargo more difficult. It makes climbing in and out of the bed harder, too, though an optional retractable bed step makes the process easier.