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The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX.

Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The truck is heading for a crash landing at 75 km/h. Out the front window is only dirt and mud, no sky. A brief moment of weightlessness is about to come to an abrupt end since what goes up, well, you know. The only thing to do is tense up and wait for the crunch. Cracking plastic sounds a lot like breaking bones. Now is the time to pray the anti-whiplash helmet and harness contraption actually works.

At first, the impact feels like landing on a trampoline. The truck’s shock absorbers cushion the blow but they don’t stop the falling motion; they only slow it down. The front bumper scrapes the ground. There’s a whiff of hard impact as the suspension feels close to bottoming out, like just beneath the trampoline is a concrete floor, but we only just graze it before the whole truck bounces back up.

That wasn’t so bad actually. Only the front licence plate is bent. We pull around for another run, but this time aim to hit the jump at 65 km/h so the truck won’t nosedive quite so much.

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Antics like this are what the new 2021 Ram TRX was built for. It’s a 700-horsepower gas-guzzling toy for people with $100,000 to spend on such things.

Fire up the gargantuan 6.2-litre supercharged V8, and your neighbours will hear its deep ‘wob-wob-wobburble. The engine alone, which is also found in Dodge Hellcat models and the Jeep Trackhawk SUV, costs $30,000, which partly explains the TRX’s price. The electronically controlled Bilstein remote reservoir shocks – with 13 inches of travel in the front, 14 in the rear – are exotic. They do a frankly miraculous job of keeping this 2,880 kg truck away from the ground.

Still, $100,000 is Porsche-level money, so it had better be good. Behind the wheel of this behemoth, you tower above other traffic – almost at eye-level with big-rig truckers. There’s a delay to the steering, which reminds you how very far away the wheels are from the driver’s seat. Plant your foot on the throttle, and the eight-speed gearbox kicks down, sending the revs up. As the engine groans, a high-pitched supercharger whistle cuts through the noise. The truck rears up on its hind wheels and charges forward, but it doesn’t feel especially quick because you’re so high above the ground.

Fuel economy? Sorry, can’t hear the question. The engine’s too loud. (It averaged 17.0 L/100 km on the road.)

The TRX was built for aggressive off-road driving.

Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

You may be surprised to learn there’s quite a lucrative market for toys like this, which is why Ram, a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has decided to enter it. Well, that, and to one-up the Ford F-150 Raptor, which invented the factory Baja-truck-lookalike niche.

There’s a big community of people who modify their pickups with tall suspension and big tires, says Mike Szymkiewicz, head of product planning for FCA Canada. “This stuff’s not cheap to do, so they’re incredibly passionate people,” he explains. “Some of them do go off-road; others just like the look.”

For proof, drive anywhere outside a major city in Canada, and you’ll find plenty of lifted trucks with loud exhausts. Even in cities like Toronto and Montreal, Ram sells a lot of high-performance “sport trucks,” Szymkiewicz says.

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Instagram channels like TerraCrew and countless YouTube videos with titles like “epic pre-runner truck build” cater to enthusiasts. Upgrade parts and accessories for pickups are far more popular than those for cars or SUVs, according to the Speciality Equipment Market Association, which represents the US$46-billion vehicle-customization industry.

Lifted trucks with loud exhausts aren't hard to come by outside Canada's major cities, and that's the market Fiat Chrysler is targeting with the TRX.

Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The TRX is Ram’s belated response to the Ford F-150 Raptor, which dates back to 2009. The current Raptor has a 450-hp V6 engine and costs $77,000, figures which the Ram easily trumps. However, rumour has it Ford will soon put the 700-hp engine from top-dog Mustang into the F-150. The pickup wars are heating up (and so is the planet).

“Ford does sell quite a few Raptors, and they use it for the same reason we’re using the TRX,” says Szymkiewicz. “These are higher-[profit]-margin vehicles.” Plus, they act as halo products for the brand, he explains, drawing in customers who will buy a regular Ram 1500 because the TRX exists.

If you don’t get the gut-level “yeeeehhaawww!” appeal of a ginormous truck soaring through the air and crashing back down to earth, then you’ll likely see the Ram TRX – and any fast, loud, gas-guzzler – as everything that’s wrong with the world. Where you stand on this truck could very well be a litmus test for which side of the culture wars you’re on.

Regardless of what you think, Ram has already seen strong demand for the TRX, the first examples of which should be hitting dirt jumps near you before the end of the year.

The truck's frame was redesigned to cope with the stress of being sent off dirt jumps and sand dunes.

Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Tech specs

2021 Ram TRX
  • Base price: $93,995
  • Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8
  • Transmission/drive: 8-speed automatic/four-wheel-drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 22.4 city, 16.5 highway
  • Alternatives: Ford F-150 Raptor or a homemade Baja buggy


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Looks

If you have always dreamt of racing the Baja 1000 or the Mint 400, you’ll love it. If you’ve never heard of those races, the TRX looks like conspicuous over-compensation.

Interior

The TRX's interior is both palatial and utilitarian by design.

Courtesy of manufacturer

It’s palatial. Despite the stitched leather, carbon-fibre trim and high price, you wouldn’t mistake it for a Mercedes-Benz, but the utilitarian feel is part of the truck’s appeal.

Performance

The truck’s frame, based on the standard Ram 1500, was almost entirely redesigned to cope with the tress of being sent off dirt jumps and sand dunes.

Technology

Thank heavens for the surround-view parking cameras and the rearview mirror that turns into a screen.

Cargo

Make sure anything in the cargo bed is securely tied down before sending the truck over any jumps.

The verdict

Either the best truck ever, or the worst.

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Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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