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Friday, October 22, 2021

Q: What’s more fun than a 702HP Supercharged Pickup Truck? A: Nothing.

Speed is relative. Case in point, I thought my 2500 Cummins was fast, that is, until I got behind the wheel of Ram’s supertruck, the 1500 TRX. Lurking under the hood of this sporty-looking beast is the Hellcat, a 702-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 Hemi that can propel the TRX from 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds (Ram advertises 4.5), according to a handful of third-party testers.

But this truck has more up its sleeve than blazing-fast speed. The TRX boasts Bilstein’s Black Hawx e2 adaptive suspension, TorqueFlight 8-speed transmission, Dana solid rear axle with floating hubs, electronic locking rear differential, 15-inch brake rotors, a huge air filter (specifically designed for dusty environments), and more than 13 inches of wheel travel at all four corners of the truck. With so many best-in-segment offerings, the TRX truly redefines what a 1500-series truck can be.

And while the TRX sounds impressive on paper, it’s even more incredible in person. In short, I was amazed by my recent driving experience in Northern Arizona. While I’m still debating the TRX’s practicality (for overlanding, daily driving, etc.), there’s no question that this is one of the most fun vehicles I’ve ever had the pleasure of piloting.

Ram TRX lineup on cinders

 

The Ram TRX at a Glance

You may remember an early Ram advertisement that included a few clips from the film Jurassic Park, culminating with the tyrannosaurus rex demonstrating its dominance over the velociraptor. It wasn’t exactly subtle marketing, but then again, there is absolutely nothing subtle about the TRX.

From its throaty, high-decibel exhaust to the unmistakable whine of its supercharger, the TRX makes a statement on the pavement and the dirt. It stands out visually, too, with bold graphics, 35-inch tires, punched-out fender wells, and a 6-inch wider track width than a standard 1500.

And in case you were wondering, Ram turned the dial on the interior design of the TRX up to 11 as well. An oversized center console houses a 12-inch touch screen infotainment system, and the 900-watt Harman Kardon stereo seriously bumps. High-end finishes like brushed aluminum, leather, suede, and carbon fiber elevate driver comfort while tying everything together in this race-inspired cockpit. 

 

Behind the Wheel of the Ram TRX

If vehicle test drives are designed to showcase the unique aspects of a particular vehicle, then the volcanic landscape of cinders that I piloted the TRX through couldn’t have been a more perfect venue (aside from the sand of Baja). It was playful and challenging. From dead-flat runways to steep climbs and tight off-camber sections of trail, I don’t think I’ve experienced a greater variety of terrain in such a short course.

 

Launch – Our group began our time behind the wheel by testing the TRX’s smile-inducing horsepower with the launch control feature (button located in the transfer case button cluster to the right of the steering wheel). For drivers looking to accelerate quickly, you could just mash the gas pedal, but utilizing launch control lets you set a predetermined hold on engine RPMs so that you can safely build up some energy before dumping it to the wheels.

Lining the trucks up on the flat “lake bed” of cinders, we each took turns. I’ll note that before mashing the gas pedal, I rolled the window down to get the full audio effect of the Hellcat roaring to life. I pressed the launch button, then followed the prompts on the screen to hold the brakes while pressing the gas pedal to the floor. The TRX quickly came up to the predetermined engine RMPs, at which time I released the brakes and shot forward. Because of the loose driving surface, the TRX’s acceleration was tempered, but it was still very quick.

I’ve since watched videos of drivers claiming to have achieved faster acceleration without using the launch control feature. Personally, I’m not too concerned, and I think that whichever way you choose to accelerate off the line, you’ll find the TRX to be surprisingly (and satisfyingly) fast.

Power means nothing without technique. At least we brought recovery gear.

 

Suspension and Off-highway Performance – Just as intriguing to me as the Hellcat engine under the hood was the Bilstein Black Hawk e2 active suspension which was custom-designed for the TRX. Without getting into the technical details (because much of them are beyond my understanding), this suspension basically adapts to driving surface conditions on the fly by adjusting the compression and rebound via an electronic valve. If you want to learn more about the minutiae of the TRX’s suspension, Dan Edmunds has a fantastic in-depth YouTube video.

When it came to driving the TRX on a mix of loose and hard surfaces, I was extremely impressed with the suspension. It felt appropriately plush while hitting bumps at high speeds and also felt adequately supportive when cornering. Additionally, it provided an excellent amount of ground clearance and articulation. While traveling over many cross-axle sections of large tree roots and whoops, I didn’t lose wheel contact with the driving surface, and I never scraped or hit any debris with the truck’s undercarriage.

Because we primarily drove on volcanic cinders, I had the truck in Baja mode for 90 percent of my time off-highway. This driving mode splits power 25 and 75 percent front/rear and specifically adjusts overall vehicle performance for loose, undulating surfaces. I made a point to test the electronic locker as well as hill descent mode.

 

Drive it Like You Stole it

I couldn’t resist testing the 0-60 performance of the TRX a few more times on my drive back to Flagstaff, and every time I buried the accelerator, I had the same experience; a huge smile coupled with a rush of endorphins. There is no doubt in my mind—this truck was made to be driven fast.

The smiles say everything.

 

In terms of practicality, there are more suitable options if you need an around-the-world overlander or something that can tow massive payloads. But when it comes to pure off-highway performance and unadulterated fun, the TRX gets my (eager) nod of approval.

 

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