2021 Ram 1500 TRX Review

A 702-hp pickup truck that rockets to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds.

3 months ago
Brian Armstead
Contributor
PROS
  • Burly supercharged V8
  • Capable off-road suspension
  • Doesn't compromise its pick-up mission
CONS
  • Drinks fuel at a prodigious rate
  • Lofty base price

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a full-size pickup truck engineered for off-roading and performance driving. It also delivers a high level of refinement, comfort, convenience, and even luxury. It does everything right, and can actually function well when it needs to behave like an actual pickup, carrying people, hauling payload, and towing some gear. TRX is the latest from the Ram Trucks wing of parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (soon to be known as “Stellantis”) – a company that is hell-bent on extending membership into the Dodge brand’s Brotherhood of Muscle. Starting price for the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is $70,000.

1500 TRX Exterior

It’s all business outside with the 1500 TRX. It sits eight-inches wider than a standard 1500, and sports an 11.8-inch ground clearance, two inches taller than other 1500 models. All TRX models are built in a Crew Cab configuration with a five-foot seven-inch box. The 1500 TRX wears massive 325/65-18 35-inch tires with a super aggressive tread pattern.  Our tester was outfitted with optional ($1,895) beadlock-capable wheels that help secure the tire to the rim during off road jaunts where you must air down the wheels to ensure a larger contact patch. The TRX looks and is super-rugged, but it’s what you don’t see outside that helps it earn its chops as an ultimate off-roader.

Consider the frame, made with thicker high-strength steel to increase durability and stability. Sections of the frame are hydroformed, and the side rails are fully boxed. The front rails use high-strength steel and hydroformed sections to set a strong foundation to better handle the front suspension load. Galvanized frame components provide improved corrosion protection.
 
To protect critical components, including the front axle, transfer case, transmission pan, and fuel tank, the TRX employs five skid plates. A separate skid plate doubles as a belly pan. Heavy-duty-gauge steel rock-sliders are optional.
  
An all-new independent front suspension system with active damping uses high-strength aluminum to maintain overall strength and durability. At the rear, the Ram TRX’s rear suspension utilizes active damping and a five-link coil system for surprisingly comfortable on-road ride quality. The system can handle a maximum payload of 1,310 pounds and towing capability of 8,100 pounds. Also, new Bilstein adaptive performance shocks are tuned for an optimum balance between on-road handling and off-road capability. A Dana rear axle uses an axle-hop damper that enables improved traction and axle control on rough surfaces.

An approach angle of 30.2 degrees, breakover angle of 21.9 degrees, departure angle of 23.5 degrees allow the Ram TRX to go pretty much anywhere you’d want a pickup to go.

2021 Ram TRX

1500 TRX Interior

Long-distance jaunts are just as enjoyable as quarter-mile sprints in this versatile truck. The TRX has surprising standard and available luxury and will look as good pulling up to a concert hall as it would scooting into a desert rally. A large 12-inch portrait-oriented infotainment screen is the interior’s superstar feature. Passengers went gaga over the touchscreen during our evaluation, as it’s super-easy for both driver and passenger to punch up music, navigation, apps, performance features, and more on the screen. Let’s say, for example, you took your TRX to a sand dune rally. With a few touches of your favorite finger, you could switch between off-road modes and also keep track of where you’re going through the off-road pages app. Impressive.

The TRX’s seats are comfortable and supportive, and the crew-cab configuration means front and rear passengers have ample leg and headroom. Leather seat trim, deluxe dash and door trim, power everything, remote start, and premium audio are among many features that give the interior a decidedly luxurious air.

2021 Ram TRX

1500 TRX Powertrain

Powertrain separates the TRX from any other truck – this RAM has power. With 702 horsepower under the hood along with 650 lb-ft of torque on tap, it’s the most powerful pick-up on the market.

The standard 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 in the 1500 TRX is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The high-torque-capacity transmission delivers quick gear changes, enhancing ride quality. Because the TRX has a dual persona, the transmission software monitors engine torque gradients, throttle kick-down, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, detection of friction, downshifts, and road grade to deliver the best shift experience on- or off-road.

The TRX has five drive modes: Auto, Sport, Tow, Snow, and Custom. The drive modes separately control the four-wheel-drive system, throttle response, transmission, paddle-shifters, suspension, and electric power steering. Custom mode allows the driver to personalize the vehicle’s performance with a selectable driving experience, offering myriad vehicle system combinations. The TRX offers three dynamic off-road modes – Mud/Sand, Rock, and Baja – enabling drivers to choose a setting that best fits the terrain around them. Like the on-road modes, the off-road drive modes control several systems, including the four-wheel-drive system, throttle response, transmission, paddle shifters, suspension, and steering.
 
Launch Control is standard equipment and manages tire slip while launching the vehicle from a standstill to give consistent straight-line acceleration. Wheel-speed sensors can detect driveline-damaging wheel-hop at launch and provide inputs to the powertrain control module to modify the engine torque to regain full grip. The TRX is also equipped with Jump Detection, which uses wheel-speed sensors, ride-height sensors, and accelerometers at each corner to identify when the TRX is airborne and acts to prevent driveline damage by modifying engine speed and torque, gear selection, transfer case torque split and damping rates through the landing to deliver optimum performance.
 
In case you are wondering about handing the TRX’s keys to a stranger… or your teenager, Valet mode is also standard on the TRX and disables all high-performance features including Launch Control (drivers can activate and deactivate Valet mode with a personalized four-digit PIN code).

Oh, and by the way — the 1500 TRX has been clocked completing the benchmark 0-60 mph run in 3.7 seconds!

2021 Ram TRX

1500 TRX Driving Experience

You would think a tall vehicle with 35-inch tires would beat you up during normal, on-road driving. Given the raw performance and sheer mass of the 1500 TRX, we expected a high-strung, performance-oriented ride. Surely, when you dial up performance modes with the drive-mode selector, you’ll get just that. But if you cruise around town in “Auto” mode, you get passenger-car ride quality. 

When you want to be a bad boy or girl, you can also make wicked choices through the mode selector. We chose sport, which fully unleashes the Hellcat engine’s potential, yet keeps a measure of security at hand by dialing back, but not fully switching off, safety features like electronic stability control.

While we don’t endorse any type of street racing, we had the opportunity to test out the launch control system on a private road. Accessing the system is easy – the control switch is to the lower right of the steering wheel. You must start on a level surface and the steering wheel must be in straight-ahead position or the system will not engage. Once those minor requirements are met, simply stand on the brakes with your left foot, and floor the accelerator with your right. When the flag drops or the dragstrip Christmas Tree light tower hits green, release the brake and unleash the Kracken.

The TRX charges ahead with unbelievable fury. It’s a super-cool experience when you’re in control behind the steering wheel, yet has the power to elicit an expletive-laden outburst from your poor, unsuspecting passenger. And yes, you can burn a little rubber, even though the sophisticated protection systems outlined earlier keep you under control.

When your three-ton vehicle can reach triple-digit speeds with ease, you’d better have a brake system capable of hauling it back down to reality quickly and consistently. The 1500 TRX utilizes two-piston monoblock calipers up front clamping down on 15-inch inverted hat (outboard venting) rotors for improved cooling. The rear uses single-piston calipers with 15-inch rotors to provide well-balanced stopping power.  

1500 Ram 1500 TRX Trim Levels and Pricing

Although the Ram 1500 series has several trim levels starting with the $32,000 Tradesman, there is only one version of the TRX, and it’s the top model in the Ram 1500 lineup. Engine, transmission, box size, and 4×4 driveline are all part of a “what you see is what you get” equation.

  • TRX (starts at just over $70,000)

If you are looking for a more accurate idea of pricing, you can build and price a TRX on Ram’s official web site. 

1500 TRX Best Features

Though this feature has absolutely nothing to do with the performance, handling or safety of the 1500 TRX, it sure defines the mindset of the Ram engineers and marketers who brought this beast to life. Under the hood, beneath an easily removable engine cover (that hides the incredible 2.1-liter supercharger), is an embossed graphic of a T-Rex devouring a Raptor. Totally cool! Want more humiliation Ford Raptor enthusiasts? Then raise the center armrest (yes, the one with the custom metal tag with the VIN number of your TRX) and look in. At the bottom is another graphic of the scale size of a human, 1500 TRX, massive T-Rex dinosaur, and tiny Raptor. Even the GEICO Cavemen would enjoy this. FCA is well-known for these so-called “Easter Eggs” – searchable treats for owners that enhance brand pride. The Jeep Renegade for example, has over 30 Easter Eggs.

Of course, all things return to the stout, supercharged 702-hp HEMI when it comes to the best TRX features, but the interior and underpinnings hold special treats as well. The 12-inch tablet-style telematics screen is simply the best amongst any in a pickup currently on sale. It makes quite a statement with the amount of dash real estate it takes up, and is super useful, especially if you are in the TRX performance pages about to dial up a can of whoop-ass on a soul who should have known better all along.

Underneath, the  easy-to-see Bilstein off-road shock absorber package is pretty trick. It utilizes a dual channel hydraulic system to distribute damping power as needed to each corner.

What is Our Favorite Version of the 1500 TRX?

Since there’s only one version of TRX, this question is a slam dunk. The only decision you need to make once you’ve settled on TRX is how many options you want to add. Our tester tallied $88,000, equipped with the $1,095 Technology Group (Head-Up Display and more), $1,295 Carbon Fiber Package (Leather and Carbon Fiber flat-bottom steering wheel and Carbon Fiber interior trim), $995 Rock Rails, and $995 bed-mounted tire carrier (making two spare tires available), and $7,900 Level 2 Equipment Group (27 items, including remote start, power-adjustable pedals with memory, luxury interior trim, leather-trimmed bucket seats, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, power tailgate release, front and rear park assist with stop technology and more.

If you’re greedy with checking option boxes, you’re in the low $90s. That’s where we’d wind up.

2021 Ram TRX

Who Should Buy a 2021 RAM 1500 TRX?

Got $70-90K burning a hole in your pocket? Then the 1500 TRX is a great buy. In reality, who really needs a 702-hp pickup? Our take is the same person who would spend a couple-mil on a Bugatti or Tuatara. Just like most of those owners will never go 200 mph, many TRX owners will never go off-road. Bu this truck makes quite a statement. There are folks out there who want the best, most badass vehicle on the road, and if performance pickups are your thing, the 1500 TRX is the vehicle to buy.

2021 Ram 1500 TRX Review

CarExpert’s Take on the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX

The Ram 1500 TRX is the ultimate pickup truck. Don’t even consider one if you are attention shy, as you will be hounded wherever you go with people wanting a closer look at current King of the Hill. And present Ram truck owners will salute you as if you were the President of RAM Nation. The only folks who will look away from you are Ford Raptor owners, especially at stoplights — for fear of total annihilation. 

Insane performance, superb levels of luxury considering the street and off-road pedigree this beast carries, and comfort when you don’t want to race or tackle sand dunes all commingle in this outstanding machine.

2021 Ram TRX

1500 TRX Competitors to Consider 

Are you kidding? Until the 1,000-hp electric GMC Hummer or triple-electric-motor Tesla Cybertruck are launched, there is no competition for the 1500 TRX when it comes to ultimate on-or-off-roaders. However, if you don’t care about being a KWS-YO (King of Whatever Surface-You’re On), consider these offerings:

  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT Trail Boss
  • Ford Raptor
  • Ford Tremor (available summer 2021)
  • GMC Sierra 1500 AT4
  • Jeep Gladiator Mojave
  • Toyota Tundra TRD Pro


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OVERALL RATING7.9
Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 7.9
Ride Comfort 8.1
Safety 8.2
Fit for Purpose 8.5
Handling Dynamics 8.3
Interior Practicality and Space 8.4
Fuel Efficiency 5.5
Value for Money 7.3
Performance 8.9
Technology Infotainment 8.1