PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, ON – In the cutthroat world of the light-duty pick up, one-upmanship is par for the course. These are the top-selling vehicles in Canada and the U.S., after all. If you can imagine a picture of an F-150 pasted to a dartboard at RAM’s headquarters in Michigan, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
So if the Ford F-150 Raptor, basically a Baja-ready supertruck, can survive being launched off a dirt ramp, you’d better believe the good folks at Ram were busy cooking up something special in response. It might have taken a while, but the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX, or T-Rex if you prefer, is here and I’m going to spoil this for you right now and just tell you that it was worth the wait.
The Ram 1500, redesigned for 2019 is much more capable, comfortable, and equipped with an interior that is miles apart from what Ford and GM are putting out. It also provided an excellent foundation for the TRX.
The engineers studied the weak points of the Raptor and used that knowledge to strengthen the Ram in all those areas. Large sections of the existing frame were replaced with more robust pieces capable of taking the abuse of a rock-strewn trail at high speed.
The suspension has been completely replaced: new forged aluminum control arms in the front, new bushings, new links, and new geometry. To fit the standard 35-inch tires the TRX is a full 8 inches wider than a RAM Rebel, easily noticeable when looking at it head-on.
And to really stick it to Ford, they went all out and stuffed a Hellcat motor under the hood. That means a supercharged 6.2-L V8 that generates a dino-sized 702 hp and 645 lb-ft of torque, fed through an 8-speed automatic transmission. A beefed-up full-time active transfer case handles power distribution and out back a solid Dana rear-axle and electronic locking rear differential ensure optimal traction.
To handle just about any surface Earth has to offer, super-trick Bilstein Blackhawk e2 adaptive shocks are employed complete with external reservoirs. If you want a truck to handle the abuse of a jump, this is the setup you need.
Imagine my delight when the friendly FCA PR rep confirmed that we would be given a chance to achieve lift-off in a 6500-lb truck.
But let me be clear before going any further: jumping half-tons is not something that anyone should ever attempt to do on a public road. We were on a closed course far from any roads and under the supervision of a professional riding shotgun. We were also wearing a helmet and a HANS device because anything can happen and safety is paramount.
Before setting off, selecting Baja Mode from the TRX’s drive mode selector, positioned where the rotary gear selector on a normal Ram is located, sets the suspension up for maximal wheel travel and grants much greater slip angles. Perfect for accelerating on loose, muddy surfaces like the run-up to the ramp.
With over 700hp at your disposal, restraint with the throttle is key to building speed. We needed to see about 70 km/h to get some good airtime. Once airborne, the TRX’s computers know and will optimize engine power, gear selection, torque split, damper settings, and more, in milliseconds, to ensure that when you come back down to terra firma it feels like landing on a bed of soft moss.
FCA says that the TRX is so strong that it can do this repeatedly. So that’s exactly what I did. Over the next half hour I must have jumped it another 30 times. Then we handed it over to the next person in line to do it all over again. The trucks didn’t break a sweat.
When you’re done hooning around in the mud and get on the road like a normal person, set the drive mode to Auto or Sport and the TRX will do an impressive impersonation of a luxury crossover. There’s very little road or tire noise and the ride is so cushioned that you’ll forget you’re in a body-on-frame truck. The cabin is a delight, a finely tailored trove of textures and fine materials framing a vertical 12-inch touchscreen.
About the only thing giving away the TRX’s true nature is the persistent supercharger whine every time you hit the throttle, it dominates the experience but also makes it rather special. And is it ever quick. A couple of launch controlled blasts showed my 0-100 km/h time clock in at 3.9 seconds, faster than the factory claimed 4.5. The TRX is a missile.
Starting at $93,995, it’s not cheap but also not far from the Limited Spec Ram 1500, and this is way more truck. All TRX’s will come as crew cab only with the 5’7” bed. Expect to see them at select dealers in the New Year. This is one you don’t want to miss.
The writer attended this media drive as a guest of the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.