Left foot on the brake. Hard. Because you have to hold back a 702-hp and 650-lb-ft supercharged Hellcat V-8. Right foot to the floor. The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX has launch control, complete with adjustable launch rpm, but that’s not really a factor on a high-grip paved surface. After a quick rise in engine speed, release your left foot, which results in the TRX doing the first of many things that bowl us over: a blast to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds followed by a quarter-mile pass in 12.3 seconds at 110 mph. That makes the outrageous TRX the quickest pickup we’ve ever tested and just 0.3 second slower to 60 mph than a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, despite the big Ram weighing an astounding 1600 pounds more.
Welcome to the wild world of the TRX, which Ram created by taking our favorite full-size 1500 pickup and swapping in a blown 6.2-liter Hemi, comprehensively beefing up its frame, and endowing it with serious off-road capabilities by fitting adaptive Bilstein dampers that manage knobby Goodyear Wrangler Territory all-terrain tires over more than a foot of suspension travel (13.0 inches in front and 14.0 at the rear, to be exact). Offering a rear-wheel-drive mode to quickly burn off a set of rear tires would seem in keeping with the TRX’s over-the-top demeanor, but its two-speed transfer case is four-wheel drive all the time, offering only 4WD Auto, 4WD High, or 4WD Low settings.
What’s shocking about the massive TRX—it’s 3.3 inches taller, 5.9 inches wider, and weighs about 1100 pounds more than the Ram 1500 crew cab on which it’s based—is how amazingly well-mannered it is on paved roads. A faithful buildup in steering effort and reassuring on-road dynamics make this behemoth pickup easy to place, even on winding two-lanes. Sport mode cinches down the dampers considerably, but despite the long-travel suspension, there’s none of the float or wobble that you’d get in a Ford F-150 Raptor, the TRX’s prime competition. Maximum cornering grip is a mere 0.70 g, but the TRX allows you to easily exploit as much of it as you’d like. The brake pedal has some initial squish to it, and a lot of squish after repeated stops from high speeds. It posted a reasonable 189-foot stop from 70 mph. But from 100 mph, that distance grows to 418 feet and with significant fade, despite sizable 14.8-inch front and 14.9-inch rear brake rotors.
While the 6866-pound TRX has the power and structural reinforcements to mask its massiveness, there is a serious fuel-economy penalty to pay. EPA numbers are 10 mpg city and 14 mpg highway, the worst of any light-duty pickup and down there with the Bugatti Divo and Bentley Mulsanne in the ranks of least efficient new production vehicles. We averaged 9 mpg overall.
The crew-cab-only TRX maintains all of the regular Ram 1500’s goodness, including the nicest interior in pickup-truck-dom and an expansive back seat. Maximum payload is a claimed 1310 pounds, but our well-equipped test truck can haul only 934 pounds before exceeding its gross vehicle weight rating. And that’s without the optional panoramic sunroof, which would have certainly eroded its capacity further. Towing is a strong 8100 pounds; take that, Ram SRT10.
Although the TRX’s $71,790 base price may seem high relative to the $55,150 starting point for a crew-cab Raptor, the Ram is a relative bargain among all-wheel-drive Hellcat-powered machines. The Dodge Durango Hellcat opens at $82,490, and the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk starts at $89,165. At an as-tested $89,365, our test truck was loaded with the $7920 Level 2 Equipment Group that brings all of the goodies from the conventional Ram 1500 Limited model: heated and ventilated power front seats with leather upholstery, heated second-row seats, keyless entry, upgraded interior trim, and more. Also included were $1895 18-inch beadlock-capable wheels, $1295 in carbon-fiber interior trim, a $1095 head-up display and rear-view camera mirror, and $995 rock rails under the door sills (which aren’t very helpful as running boards on the high-riding TRX).
Our example also had an optional $995 bed-mounted full-size spare in addition to the one slung underneath the cargo box, which meant we were carrying two extra 103-pound wheel-and-tire assemblies—a further excuse to take big chances. How can you not go for the full send with two spares onboard? We found plenty of thrills (and airtime) on the sand dunes in Silver Lake State Park, which sits on Lake Michigan’s coast on the west side of our home state.
We won’t try to convince you that the best place to experience a TRX isn’t the driver’s seat, but a close second is standing outside it when it’s tearing around Silver Lake’s 450-acre sandbox. Hellcat is a very appropriate name for the wake-the-dead rips and cackles that spew from the TRX’s tailpipes. We also managed to put three or four feet of air under its tires, leaps that it took in stride. Activating the Baja drive mode loosens up the suspension considerably, and despite its massive heft it managed to stay well-composed as we skipped across big whoop-de-doos as fast as we dared. Soft sand has a huge power-sapping effect, which made the TRX’s 702 ponies feel less excessive than on the street. But the supercharged Ram does earn the honor of being the first production vehicle we’ve driven in deep sand that doesn’t feel woefully underpowered.
We have to give kudos to Ford for leading the way into this new era of high-performance off-road pickups, which ultimately spurred Ram to create something that could challenge the Raptor’s heretofore uncontested dominance in the segment. That the TRX is as impressively quick as it is also makes us wonder if it’s producing more power than advertised. But comparison tests and technical analysis aside, even a brief drive in the TRX is enough to confirm that it is simply awesome in almost every way a pickup truck can be.