If we didn’t see this one coming, we should have. FCA has been finding new roles for its supercharged 700-plus-horsepower Hellcat V8 ever since the engine first torched tarmac in the 2015 Challenger and Charger. The 6.2-litre monster motor now also performs in the Trackhawk version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, will soon play a part in the Dodge Durango and has “guest starred” in aftermarket conversions of the Jeep Gladiator.
But the Hellcat-motored 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is more than just the world’s fastest pickup truck. (Or so FCA claims.) It also aims to rewrite the rule book on truck off-road ability. Going even further, it also represents a new pinnacle trim grade for Ram, offering luxury (e.g. suede and carbon-fibre trim) and technology (e.g. head-up display) not available on even Ram’s previously-ultimate Limited grade.
The mission, said interior design chief Ryan Nagode, was to create a top-dog halo product previously lacking in the Ram line.
The current unchallenged halo-wearer among high-performance off-road pickups is the Ford F-150 Raptor. And “TRX” reads an awful lot like “T-Rex.” See where Ram is going with this? Dinosaur wars!
Canadian pricing has yet to be revealed, but when it goes on sale late this year, U.S. pricing starts at US$69,995 (C$93,000). And yes, that is just a starting point. Ram will provide options to help you spend more. Or try to bag yourself one of the 702 Launch Edition models (100 of them for Canada) that start at $88,570 stateside.
For reference, the Ford Raptor SuperCrew starts at $79,199 and its twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6 is rated at 450 hp; the closest equivalent from GM, a GMC Sierra AT4 with the off-road performance package and 6.2-litre, 420-hp V8, would start at around $70,000.
Available only in a Crew Cab/Short Box configuration, the Ram’s new “apex predator” is founded on a beefed-up frame that is claimed to be 75 per cent new. New aluminum front control arms and upgraded rear axle help widen the track by 6 inches, and TRX-exclusive 35-inch Goodyear Territory tires are sheltered by flared fenders that broaden the body by 8 inches. A 51-mm suspension lift provides 300 mm of ground clearance.
Off-road oriented features and tech include Bilstein Black Hawk e2 active dampers, Active Terrain Dynamics, 8 drive modes (including “Baja” for desert racing), 13-inches of front and 14-inches of rear wheel travel, a tow-hook at each corner, electronic locking rear differential, and a high-mounted alternator to facilitate the 32-inch-deep wading target. The transfer case includes a full-time AWD mode and a 2.64:1 Low Range.
Combine all that with the 6.2-litre supercharged V8′s 702 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque and you have a monster truck that can accelerate from 0-60 mph (96 km/h) in 4.5 seconds, 0 to 100 mph (160 km/h) in 10.5 seconds, and then, at the end of the drag strip, continue across the farmer’s field next door without slowing down.
In case you’re wondering, the engine is 5 hp down on its passenger-car version, mainly due to the pickup’s different exhaust plumbing. Top speed is electronically limited by the tire construction to “only” 190 km/h.
Moving back inside, the 12-inch touch-screen includes an update of Performance Pages that includes Off-Road Pages. A traditional T-handle shift lever replaces the rotary knob on other Rams and is supplemented by aluminum shift paddles. Launch Control is standard.
An available digital rear-view mirror is a first for FCA (as is the head-up display) while other visual aids include a forward camera that shows the tire lines for the steering angle, and twiddle-a-knob trailer reverse steering control that doesn’t need a prior set-up process. Speaking of trailers, the max tow rating is 8,100 lbs. Max payload is 1,310 lbs.
In case you’re wondering, the TRX is not (Launch Edition aside) a limited edition. Ram execs say they will build as many as they can sell. Truck enthusiasts are no doubt already in love with it. Environmentalists, not so much.
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