The upcoming electric GMC HUMMER EV, Tesla Cybertruck, Ford F-150 and their battery-powered cohort are on a collision course with the fossil fuel-powered pickup segment like the Chicxulub asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Just like 65 million years ago, the end won’t come overnight, but it does appear to finally be nigh.
Ram has also announced plans for an "electrified" truck in the coming years, but its internal combustion-engine models aren’t going out without making a very big bang of their own.
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is the most powerful production pickup ever made. Period. Not even close.
T. rex, as it’s affectionately known, features a trucked-up version of the 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 that originally debuted in 2015 in the Dodge Challenger and is tuned here to produce 702 hp, which bests the 2004-2006 Ram SRT-10’s 500 hp segment record rating.
The closest light-duty pickup to it these days is the 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor, which recently ended production stumbling around with a relatively measly 450 hp, so the TRX could’ve shown up with 550-600 hp and embarrassed it, but Ram decided to stomp all over its fellow paleontologically nicknamed rival and eat it for lunch.
The TRX isn’t all about brawn, however. Ram thoroughly reengineered the 1500’s chassis to turn it into an off-road supertruck that can leave the Raptor in its dust. Its screaming Hemi V8 can inhale a cloud of that with a giant 29-liter airbox designed to filter out plenty of particulates as it sends 650 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed transmission to a 4x4 drivetrain with a low-range transfer case, locking rear differential and full-time all-wheel-drive capability.
The 1500’s frame has been beefed up with stronger steel sections and rides on a 6-inches-wider suspension than the rest of the lineup. The TRX is so broad that it requires amber indicator lights like a heavy-duty truck. The suspension uses aluminum control arms, four-corner coil springs and unique computer-controlled, remote reservoir Bilstein shocks that can handle 100 mph trips through the desert along with the occasional Olympic-level high jump.
Knobby 35-inch all-terrain tires are standard but still provide enough grip on the pavement for the TRX to accelerate to 60 mph in a little over four seconds and cover a quarter-mile in under 13 seconds, courtesy of the only launch control system offered on a pickup. The tow rating is 8,100 pounds, which is a far cry from the regular 1500’s max of 12,750 pounds, but a lot for an extreme 4x4.
Prices for the TRX start at $71,690, which is a mere $200 more than a Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody sedan. The TRX offers more size, luxury and technology features than one of those, including optional adaptive cruise control, heated leather sport seats, a 360-degree camera system and a 19-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system in case supercharger whine and rumbly exhaust aren’t your favorite duet.
For a jacked-up truck with 11.8 inches of ground clearance, the TRX exhibits very nice manners on the street and better body control than can be expected of anything that weighs 6,396 pounds. Including an elephant. Its appetite for gas is pretty voracious, however, at 12 mpg combined. Drink it while you’ve got it, I guess.
Off-road is where it really shines, though, and the rougher the better. The TRX has 13 inches of front-wheel travel, 14 inches in the rear and about as much articulation as a Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. That makes it a capable rock crawler, but it prefers to run.
It makes bumps disappear at high speeds and feels light as a feather as it does it. It’s only when you put the massive 15-inch brakes to work that you get a sense of the inertia at hand, and it’s easy to get yourself in trouble until you tune your mind to adjust.
But why drive when you can fly? The TRX takes to the air more like a pterodactyl than a tyrannosaur and lands as smoothly as an airplane constructed of memory foam that's piloted by Chesley Sullenberger. There’s no pain or much bouncing around, it just hunkers down and gets ready for more. If there’s a jump on your favorite trail you’ll probably take it so many times on your first visit with the TRX that you’ll wear it flat by the end of the day.
The TRX is the undisputed king of the dinosaurs for now, but will it mark the end of an era? Ford does have a new Raptor in the works that rumor has it might borrow the aptly named Predator V8 from the 760 hp Mustang Shelby GT500 to hunt the TRX down with, while Ram’s pals at Dodge have had no problem squeezing over 800 hp out of the Hellcat.
No one goes extinct without a fight.
2021 Ram 1500 TRX
Base price: $71,690
As tested: $87,670
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger 4-wheel-drive pickup
Engine: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8
Power: 702 hp, 650 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
MPG: 10 city/14 highway