In the late fall of 2014, FCA’s Dodge Division threw down the gauntlet in the “pony car” wars with the introduction of the supercharged Hellcat Challenger SRT, instantly creating a marketing and performance monster that has altered the trajectory of sales for any product since equipped with this overachieving engine.
Today, the Hellcat 6.2-liter V-8 is featured in three Dodge-badged products, one Jeep (currently) and now in a Ram pickup — the all-new TRX, which has quickly become known as the T-REX. Aimed squarely at Ford’s F-series Raptor high-performance, off-road-oriented pickup truck, the TRX jumps over, beyond and past the Raptor.
Like the Raptor, a 10-year success story for Ford, the TRX has an unmistakable stance. Eight inches wider than a conventional Ram 1500, the TRX’s sculptured profile hides the immense changes to the frame and chassis below. The massive hood-scoop, with integrated LED lamps, plus giant heat-escaping vents on the hood and fenders, help the Hellcat engine breathe better, while massive 5-inch diameter dual exhaust pipes produce the trademark guttural howl.
For a truck designed for, and promoted to handle, high-speed off-roading, the Ram engineers reworked the frame below to create a stiffer, stronger foundation for a 6,800-pound truck that can literally fly — yet land without braking itself. The front suspension remains independent, while the Dana 60 solid rear axle retains coil springs and gains a sophisticated multilink setup that controls rebound rates, axle hop and squat under acceleration. Heavy-duty Bilstein gas shocks with oversized oil reservoirs at each corner, along with 18-inch bead-lock wheels wearing over 12-inch-wide Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT off-road tires, complete a design that rides with superior on-road compliance and 14 inches of suspension travel off-road.
The existing Ram series is the best riding full-size pickup. The TRX sacrifices little of that composure in this brutish version, as the chassis adeptly handles winter-ravaged rural roads and frost heaves, as well as droning down the highway with equal parts grace and surprise. Steering feel, turn-in, throttle tip-in — all of the dynamics that enthusiast drivers want to be perfect on-road or off — Ram nailed them.
And then you nail the go-pedal, and your perceptions of previously thought fast pickups are discarded like a soiled diaper. With full-time four-wheel drive putting all of the Hellcat’s 702 hp right to the pavement, the TRX leaps forward and screams to whatever velocity you can stand in the blink of an eye, the eight-speed automatic snapping off redline shifts just like the original Hellcat Challenger. The Ram TRX is simply the most powerful, fastest production pickup truck, ever, until Ford regroups and launches its latest supercharged Raptor V-8 anyways. Just like Mustang vs. Camaro vs. Challenger, the Raptor vs. T-REX promises to be great for enthusiasts and great for the automaker’s bottom line.
That’s because the TRX costs double what a regular Ram crew cab generally sells for. A base TRX, crew cab only, starts at $71,690 and includes a Class IV tow setup (8,100-pound rating), 33-gallon gas tank (EPA rating of 10-14 mpg on regular gas), and a host of the interior features that buyers find so attractive in the Ram. Start checking off luxury amenities like heads-up display, rear view digital camera/mirror, carbon-fiber appearance group as well as the TRX Level 2-package ($7,920 all by itself) and the Flame Red TRX shown comes in at $87,170.
A full-size spare rests under the bed, plus you can opt for a bed-mounted carrier bracket and have two spare tire/wheels. Ram also offers a new trailer-reverse system, while the digital dash includes launch control.
Some buyers will lament the absence of a rear-drive only setting, which would obviously aid fuel economy, but seriously, the full-time four-wheel drive maximizes acceleration so well that you will still be thoroughly entertained. And despite the superior off-roading capabilities of the TRX, this Ram will be like other Ram pickups and spend most of its time on road. Besides, no one is buying this truck and worrying about the gas bill.
The supercharger gear whine never grows old, the wicked performance is addictive, while the lushness of the polished cabin is ahead of all pickup rivals. Multiple drive modes, the excellent laptop-sized U-Connect screen, plus numerous electronic safety aids should cover the demands of any driving needs.
The rock-rail nerf bars offer some entry assist (they are very narrow), the soft-top tonneau cover should be rigid at this price, and you will need to practice mature restraint to keep your license.
The Raptor owned this niche market for a decade. The Ram TRX just slayed the master.
Next week: Toyota Tundra SR5 CrewMax