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Catching air, payload woes: Tales from a 2021 Ram TRX first drive


I recently had a chance to catch some massive air on the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX first drive. Literally, I jumped the approximately $80k truck at a motorsports park where they race trophy trucks. This beast — or Apex Predator as Ram calls it — is something, and it’s mostly good.

While the video below covers everything from our day behind the wheel of the 2021 Ram TRX, I’ll recap the too-long-didn’t-watch version for people now. Also, be sure to check out our launch article for all the down-and-dirty details if you don’t already know them.

The pros of the 2021 Ram TRX

The new frame, which is 74% new versus a stock Ram 1500 Rebel, and the rest of the suspension is built with the goal of being durable. Ram hasn’t historically had a good reputation for its trucks holding up over time and, so making durability the No. 1 goal is a big deal.

Ram literally wants you to jump the TRX — over and over — and it wants the truck to land on its feet without breaking. Full stop. That’s their goal. To that end, Ram tested its competitors, doing exactly the same things it did to the TRX, and broke every one.

Now, reliability is different than being durable. Think of it like this: A piece of steel can last for years, yet if it twists and bends, it isn’t usable anymore. Same thing here. Even though the frame and components are very robust, I’m not saying the truck will be free from issues. Time will have to tell there.

This suspension setup with the new Bilstein shocks is literally the best stock truck setup on the road today. (Photo courtesy of Ram Trucks)

The TRX suspension has newly developed Bilstein shocks working with coil springs as well as an upgraded steering system — and what a suspension it is! Bigger brakes slow down the specially developed Goodyear tires riding on sharp-looking wheels, which can be turned into bead locks through Mopar accessories.

Now, let’s talk about drive modes.

This thing performs amazingly well when engaging Baja mode off-road. It is, simply put, exactly as good as you’d hope it would be. Plus, it isn’t too shabby crawling the rocks, and the launch control mode (yes, launch control!) is pretty damn spectacular.

You could literally road trip in this off-road truck without feeling fatigued. This is quite an accomplishment for a stock off-road truck. (Photo courtesy Ram)

Remarkably, however, TRX drives well on road, too. This is literally echoed in every review of this truck (except for one misguided review), and it’s shocking how well TRX handles even though it is literally built to spend more time kicking up dust.

Once again, Ram raises the bar on the interior. Good luck criticizing it. (Photo courtesy of Ram Trucks)

Building on the on-road driving dynamics, Ram executed an interesting level of quietness inside the cabin — another shocking item for those who know off-road trucks. Even with a massive exhaust without resonators and a really sweet rumble from the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, you literally don’t hear it in the cabin as much as you’d think. Instead, you hear a lot of the supercharger whistle.

Finally, I love how suitable this truck is for drivers of all shapes and sizes. Most trucks these days have grown so much in size, not every person is able to comfortably drive it. In this case, however, TRX is equipped with adjustable pedals, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, wide yet bolstered seats for performance and adjustable seat belts as well as various camera angles. This will make for a truck able to fit a surprising amount of drivers.

The cons of the 2021 Ram TRX

At this point, you might be asking: If the TRX is that amazing, how can there be any downsides? Well, there are a few.

While it is technically a truck, it is really more of a lifestyle off-road vehicle. (Photo courtesy of Ram Trucks)

The first thing to consider with this truck is it isn’t as versatile of a true truck (think, towing and hauling) as you would like. As a matter of fact, the max payload is 1,300 pounds, and one of our test models came in at just 966 pounds!

With a max towing number of 8,100 pounds and the fact you subtract 10% of your tongue weight from the payload number (966-810=156 pounds), you are going to have a really hard time not overloading this truck with cargo.

Another con is the quietness of the cabin. Wait, what? I know I told you above the quiet cabin was nice. However, if you really want to hear that excellent exhaust note, you’re going to have to roll down your windows. The cabin is so quiet, you’ll miss out on part of what makes this truck great.

The TRX selector mode button is great except when trying to use it to swap between popular drive modes. (Photo courtesy of Ram Trucks)

Also, while we love the varying drive modes themselves, the drive modes selector switch cycles in a weird order. Ram definitely needs to take a longer look at the logic on how it organizes its buttons.

On a similar note, the navigation screen is a bit irritating since it stays up the whole time unless you manually close it meaning you can’t easy cycle through cameras, drive modes and the map. Thankfully, these are all easy fixes for Ram.

No sunroof in a $80k+ truck? (Photo courtesy of Ram Trucks.)

Finally, and a nit pick item for sure, I noted a lack of sunroofs in all the models I saw at the event. Seems a bit strange for an $85k truck to come without a standard sunroof  or, heck, even a panoramic moonroof, which has become pretty standard fare these days.

Ok, the other real big cons are the price and fuel economy (if you care). Starting price is at $70k, but more realistically this is a mid-$80k-$90k truck.

As for fuel, it is premium (required!), and boy does this truck drink it. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 10/14/12 MPG city/highway/combined. So, you’ll be passing everything except for the gas station with this truck.

The bottom line from the Ram TRX first drive

I want this truck. I don’t need this truck. But after a day behind the wheel, I didn’t want to give it up neither.

I could see myself road tripping in the TRX and playing all day in the desert. While this would be a great time, the practical side of me wins and says there are better all-around options.

Don’t be like me. Buy this truck!

Related posts:

Raptor fighter? 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is big, powerful and awesome

Ram 1500 TRX vs Ford F-150 Raptor by the specs

Ram TRX debuts Know & Go app, developed in-house by employees

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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