2021 RAM 1500 TRX 4×4 – Bottom Line Review

2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4x4: Five mandatory NHTSA amber front ID Lamps embedded in the hood betray the girth of this Cretaceous mechanical monster. Starting at $72k, as tested at $91k.

PRE-HISTORY VS. HOLLYWOOD: Michael Crichton’s epic 1991 novel “Jurassic Park”, followed by Steven Spielberg’s 1993 screen adaptation, tells a suspenseful tale of extinct pre-historic Sauroids revived for a 20th century island amusement park. The forewarning, often echoed in these times, expounds upon the dire consequences of humans exploiting nature.  

APEX DINER: Entertainment value dictated that the author and director would take liberties with paleontological information. However, both Crichton and Spielberg, got at least one dramatization right. Fossil finds demonstrate T[yrannosaurus]-Rex devours [Veloci-] Raptor. Should any doubt remain about who eats who one look under the engine air cleaner cover of Stellantis latest to pick-up truck, the 2021 RAM 1500 TRX 4×4 will “clear” that up. 

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WHAT: 2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4 pickup truck. A mutation of the 5th generation DT series half ton packed with Hellcat power. Bred with serious desert dune racing capability it’s RAM’s ferocious response to the Ford F-150 Raptor 4×4.

Standard Powertrain: 6.2 liter “Hellcat” intercooled supercharged gasoline overhead valvetrain V-8 engine, 702 horsepower; 650 pound-feet at 4800 r.p.m., same as found in any Dodge Charger Hellcat.

2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: twin screw supercharger feeds 6.2L OHV intake + 8 speed ZF transmission + BorgWarner electronic 2-speed 4WD transfer case
  • 2.4 liter IHI twin-screw heat exchanger cooled Supercharger; 30,000 liters of air / second; 11.8 psi boost
  • 80 hp spins supercharger rotors @ 14,160 rpm
  • Powder forged steel connecting rods + cracked bearing caps; Hardened forged steel 5 main bearing crankshaft secured by 20 bolts; Hollow stem intake & sodium filled exhaust valves
  • Aluminum heads & deep skirted cast iron block; 90mm stroke & 103.9mm bore
  • High capacity oil cooler; Variable pressure fuel pump + 8 x 600 cc/ min flow fuel injectors
  • 3.0″ straight dual exhaust; 29 liter airbox; 198.4 c.i. air filter surface; 4 x air volume vs. competition
  • +1 NO GAS GUZZLER TAX: Saves $2100 vs. Hellcat powered Stellantis cars

+ Standard Drivetrain: ZF 8HP95 8-speed torque converter planetary automatic transmission + 2-speed part time electronic transfer case 4-wheel drive to an open front & E-limited slip rear differential.

  • Upgraded ZF 8-speed 8HP95 torque converter planetary automatic gearbox w/ fluid cooler; Wide 7.81:1 gear ratio spread;  One-way clutch, non-sequential shifting;  Reduced friction internals;  High filtration; Internal stop-start oil sump;  Magnesium steering wheel dorsal mount shift paddles.
  • 3.55:1 final drive ratio
  • BorgWarner 48-13 2-speed electronic dash-mount dial, chain and viscous clutch coupled transfer case
  • Front wheel disengaged, rear wheel drive;  Variable clutch slip all-wheel drive;  On-the-fly locked prop shaft high / parked low four wheel drive; Front differential = standard open
  • 10.0″ diameter Dana 60 Advantek axle + full floating axle shafts + Spicer Performatrak variable electronic locking viscous multi-clutch limited slip differential

By Comparison: to Ford F-150 Raptor

    • 702 horsepower vs. 450 hp = +56%
    • 650 pound-feet vs. 510 lb-ft torque = +27%
    • 113 horsepower / Liter displacement  vs. 128 hp/L = -12%
    • 6359 pounds vs. 5525 pounds = +15%
    • 11.8 inches vs. 11.3″ ground clearance
    • 0-60 mph: 4.7 seconds vs. 5.2 sec.
    • 1/4 mile:
    • Easter Egg found under hood: In case the above data leaves any doubts, removal of the engine air cleaner reveals an image of a Tyrannosaurus Rex shredding a Velociraptor.
      2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: Removing upper engine shroud reveals 29 liter airbox and a message to Ford: T-Rex devouring Raptor

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The “Big Rig” engine forward, low slung fenders with low mount headlatmps and tall cross haired grille began with a 3rd generation Dodge Ram DR series, muscularized for the 4th generation DS series Ram. Based on the 5th generation RAM 1500 pickup, the RAM 1500 TRX follows the same  “aero” approach more to with taller fenders and headlights positioned on the flanks of a no longer crosshaired multi horizonatal slat upper grille.

“RAM TRX” theme = similar to RAM Rebel 1500 = darkened grille w/ dark lattice inserts; Straked hood dual intake NACA intake ducts; Darkened bumper covers & lower fascia; Exposed darkened front lower skid plate; Darkened window frames & mirror caps; Two-toned darkened lower body; Larger dark wheel arch cladding; Two-tone beadlock tire capable alloy wheels; Rear quarter panel “TRX” appliques.

    • 6.0″ inch combined added fender width vs. Ram Rebel 1500 earn DOT illuminated side markers
    • 8.0″ width vs. NHTSA wide vehicle standard earns 3 amber lamps embedded in hood center snorkel

WHY: As per cinematic paleontology, new reigning terror of Cretaceous apex predator pickup trucks is able to devour current Veloci “Raptor” AND it’s lunch. 

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2020

WHERE: RAM new truck dealers

WHERE MADE: Sterling Heights, Michigan, U.S.A.

WHERE TO: High four-wheel drive on the fly is but a twist of the electronic two-speed helical gear transfer case selector knob. Where improved roadway ends, the air-suspension provides about an inch greater wheel articulation while light truck knobby Goodyears grab the dirt. Skid plates protect engine, transmission, transfer case & fuel tank in the event of rock climbs. During daring dune jumps RAM TRX’s 198.4 cubic inch surface air cleaner element filters 4 times the sand and dust of the competitiion. TRX Off-Road mode data can be displayed in the gauge cluster 7.0″ TFT multi-function display while custom settings happen via the 12.0″ LCD portrait infotainment screen TRX Performance Pages.

  • Terrain Management modes torque split: 40/60% Auto, 45/55% Snow, Tow, Mud & Sand, 30/70% Sport, 25/75% Baja, 50/50% 4-Low Rock Crawl
  • Jump Detection: accelerometer detected airborne status of TRX and prepares driveline and suspension for landing
2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: TRX Terrain Management

HOW STRONG: Like a bull that hasn’t been broken of all its independence the RAM TRX lets the community know who is the boss. Make that the entire county. The tall climb into the cab is a deterrent to those of poor balance. A red dash-mount ignition button ought to glow to warn of potential risk ahead. The push-rod small block V-8 comes breathes life with an unstressed thrum, thrum, thrum, thrum resonance from the dual exhaust with crossover pipe. Tooling in town TRX lumbers, snorting a bit, the supercharger making a background hissing, absolutely under-utilized.

Push those heavy Red Wings into the accelerator after some lengthy tip-in, the beefed up German built 8-speed ZF kicks down firmly. Vacuum cleaner whirring emanates from the twin screw blower voraciously gulping air. The 3.0″ dual catback exhaust issues an exorcized demon’s wails. More than three tons of mobile brick signals “Get out of the way” to all else on the road. The only adversary at high speed clips is a bit of an aerodynamic wall. RAM estimates that with the right rubber 150 miles per hour would be within the RAM TRX’s reach. All-wheel drive high defeats the rear drive Hellcat Charger’s all hell break’s lose launch antics, allowing but a whiff of tire chirp. A beefier drive-line is less susceptible to abrupt power judder, and the cabin is nearly too insulated rendering the symphonic experience to Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathrustra.”

    • Performance Pages, accessible via dashboard driver’s knee side TRX Mode switch, dispatches driver selected five drive modes and as brutal a brake torque Launch Control imaginable via the 12.0″ Uconnect infotainment screen.
2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: TRX Performance Pages drive modes
2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: launch control via Performance Pages

HOW LIMBER: Tipping it’s suspension hat to the challenge of daunting off-road terrain, the RAM TRX suspension control arms, links and bushings are substantially strengthened from your ordinary RAM 1500. The very Bilstein e2 Blackhawk remote reservoir variable dampers which must independently respond to as much as 14″ inch wheel articulation yield a relatively jounce free and at times supple ride compromise. Progressive rate coil springs, measuring more than 2 feet when uncompressed, help maintain body composure in turns. Wide all-terrain rubber preclude razor sharp turn in and road feel is repressed but the steering effort varies with deft acuity. Hard braking serves up a good amount of nose dive. Lacking the fixed multi-piston calipers of Hellcat cars, firmer pedal application is demanded in the RAM TRX to slow considerably.

Suspension Special Bits:

2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: double wishbone front suspension with Bilstein e2 Blackhawk bypass dampers = 13″ wheel travel
  • 11.8″ inches ground clearance; 13.0″ inches, 13.9″ inches F:R wheel travel
  • 2.5″ inch diameter Bilstein e2 Blackhawk variable bypass pressurized dampers, remote rear reservoirs
  • Front 2-piston front floating caliper + 15.0 vented rotor F+R brakes
  • 325-65/ 17  Goodyear Wrangler Territory All-Terrain tires = 33.4″ inch diameter
  • Available MOPAR forged bead-lock rims for reduced off-road tire inflation
2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: coil suspended rigid rear axle + bypass reservoir Bilstein Blackhawks + 13.9″ wheel articulation

HOW FAR: 11 mpg combined fuel economy = cover the eyes at, bring lots of cash to the gas pump.  495 miles highway range = -30% worse MPG or +41% greater consumption vs. Ford F-150 Raptor V-6.

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: Almost as large as boats it will tow; Holds five big grown-ups wearing their Carharrt and steel toed Red Wings;

2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: crew cab w/ split panorama roof

HOW USEFUL: Power sliding backlight window; Box J-Channel sliding cleats; Crinkle finish sprayed-in bed liner; Wide full cab length running boards; Folding extendable tow, lower convex wing mirrors; Easy action tailgate hinges; White LED overhead bed & under-rail lights ; 60:40 split tilting, 2nd Row bench + fold-up cushions, fold-down backs; 2nd Row sub-bench dual locking bins; RAM box 1 x 115V, 400W outlet; 1st Row full fore center console deep storage management & saddle pockets; 1st & 2nd Row door pocket management. OPTIONAL: ♦ Locking bed cargo divider; ♦ Folding bed tonneau

2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: 5.5 ft box with spray-in liner overtaken by full size spare tire + wheel
  • +1 2nd Row sub-floor storage bins
  • Easter Egg found in center console bin: image of Tyrannosaurus Rex in scale next to RAM TRX and small Velociraptor
2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: perspective of T-Rex hidden deep inside center console armrest storage bin

By Comparison: vs. Ford F-150 Raptor

  • Tow Rating (at tongue) = 8100 pounds vs. 8200  lbs = -1%
  • Payload Rating = 1404 pounds vs. 1200 lbs. = +17%
  •  

HOW SAFE: STANDARD: IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus; 10 airbags; Rear camera w/ predictive grid; Audible front & rear park warning; Roll mitigation; Post collision S.O.S. alert; -1 “Moderate” IIHS small front overlap impact score

AVAILABLE (included in test vehicle)

    • Blind Spot, rear cross traffic warning; Adaptive cruise control; Forward collision avoidance braking; Lane departure warning, audible w/ slight tug. Front & rear sonar audible/ visible park warning with emergency braking.

HOW FRIENDLY: Grab onto the pillar handles at each door opening and feel free to hoist up some Over the foot plus threshold to enter and the white “TRX” embossed front seat inboard torso cushions, the RAM TRX’s cabin is a coexistence of pleasant shapes and useful gear. Ample smoked metallic bezels surround climate vents, audio speaker covers and switch groupings with an upscale feel. The metallic banded twin analog ELD gauges, steering wheel and tandem white contrast stitching throughout are classy pieces. So are the jewel finished lower center stack trailer / bed toggles. Connectivity and storage are situated for accessibility. The glam focal point is a glossy, foot diagonally long, portrait oriented embedded touch LCD media screen.

2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: driver’s entry with lower left dash controls for power pedal adjustment

Leather seats, heated front, driver: 8-way power w/ 2 setting memory, front pax: 4-way power; Power folding side mirrors; 4 Pillar grab handles; Dual analog gauge cluster flanking colorized multi-function LCD display; Heated power tilt/ telescoping leather & alcantara wrapped steering wheel w/ horizontal spoke ventral side MFI & driver assist controls & dorsal side audio switches; 4-zone auto climate control; Tandem contrast stitched soft-touch upper dash-top & door elbow panels; Extended leather, Alcantara & carbon fiber trim; Split panorama moonroof, power sliding front pane.

  • +1 Traditional center console lever transmission selector; Power pedal adjustment; Work related controls work glove handed operational
  • -1 Hard dark large grain plastics dominate below the belt
  • -1 Slim trail-rated Rock Rails do little for entry/ exit

HOW CONNECTED: UConnect 4.0 center dash embedded 12.0″-inch portrait oriented, capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; Bluetooth & voice command hands-free communications; GPS HDD Navigation w/ 3-D map, voice guidance; voice to text SMS messaging; USB-A x 4, USB-C x 4, 12V x 2 (dashtop, cargo), 115V AC x 2 (1st, 2nd Rows)

2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4: cockpit dominated by glove operable controls, 7.0″ twin dial gauge cluster, 12.0″ embedded portrait Uconnect 4.0 touch LCD infotainment, upper & lower gloveboxes

+1 Concealed forward center console wireless device storage; Qi inductive device charging pocket aft of center armrest.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE:

Android Auto / Apple Car Play smart phone projection; 19-speaker, 825 watt Harman Kardon audio booms the bass; UConnect Apps

    • +1 Extensive UConnect voice commands for climate, audio, voice to text SMS and navigation inputs

By Subscription: Sirius XM Traffic, Metro Weather radio & TravelLink apps (5 yrs. included); Wi-Fi hot spot (by Verizon Wireless)

HOW MUCH: $91,205 for a 2021 RAM 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4×4

WHAT’S MISSING: 2022 model year’s Uconnect 5.0; heated rear seats; Start Stop or ETorque or anything to mitigate the abysmal fuel economy

ANY COMPETITION: Ford F-150 Raptor: +1 A little less obnoxious and a lot less thirsty

FINAL SAY-SO: An American Stellantis model stuffed full of Hellcat, capable street or desert racing, while carrying another Hellcat engine in its bed.

(Contributing Editor: P. Stamatis)

 

An automotive enthusiast since an orange toy VW Beetle ended up in his playpen and following him everywhere, George Straton has been chief editor at ChicagoNow.com/Drive-He-Said automotive lifestyle blog since 2010. In 2017 George established Roadblazing.com, dedicated to accurate and relevant automotive reviews, news and road trip stories. George is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Phoenix Automotive Press Association. George also happens to be an attorney and Loyola University of Chicago Ramblers fan.

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