2021 Ram 1500 TRX takes flight off-road and eats up the street, part II

Quimby Mug Bayou Florida
2021-Ram-TRX-9

This is the second part in a two-part review on the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX. Read the first report here. 

Three, two, one, launch!

It’s hard to beat getting airborne in a truck. I did it once—not intentionally—in a Mazda RX7 which I don’t recommend.

But in the 2021 Ram TRX, jumping is what it’s been engineered for and so jump it I did. And exciting is an understatement. This thing’s an amusement park on wheels. (Next time for even more fun I think I’ll hire someone to play Rosco P. Coltrane from the Dukes of Hazzard to chase me through the woods).

Off-roading is akin to an amusement park ride. It evokes plenty of smiles from passengers.Off-roading is akin to an amusement park ride. It evokes plenty of smiles from passengers.

For anyone who’s never done it, truck jumping is not like jumping your dirt bike, mountain bike, skateboard, pogo stick or whatever. On my Kawasaki KX500 I knew when I was flying. There was no doubt. And landings were always soft.

Landings in the Ram TRX are equally as soft. Granted I didn’t catch big air like I once did on my dirt bikes but then again none of my motorcycles weighed nearly 6,400 pounds either.

On my best jump, I probably got the truck about two feet off the ground which isn’t exactly a YouTube click machine but this wasn’t my truck and I didn’t want to keep pushing it.

That guy on YouTube, Street Speed 717, who got crazy air in a TRX? He owns that truck. And though the back window was busted out, the tailgate misaligned and the frontend damaged, that truck still ran fine. Street Speed even whipped out some donuts before heading home.

In my case, I wasn’t pushing for big air, just enough to get all four wheels respectably off the ground and I did—or rather the truck did with its supercharged 702-hp V8. I just pointed it at our jump and hit the gas.

2.5-inch Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive performance shocks, exclusive to Ram, make for plenty of soft landings and tame the toughest turns on the street.2.5-inch Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive performance shocks, exclusive to Ram, make for plenty of soft landings and tame the toughest turns on the street.

I can’t say enough about those 2.5-inch Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive performance shocks, exclusive to Ram. They provided soft landings again and again in Baja mode. Honestly, I didn’t even know I was airborne. Before making my first jump, I had taken some things out of the cab and repositioned some stuff just to keep things from flying around on impact. Turns out there wasn’t any need for that. Even on my biggest jump, nothing got jarred out of place—not me, not the loose change, pens, phone…nothing.

And here’s the interesting thing. I couldn’t tell if the jumps were all that good or not. Again, truck jumping is not like jumping a dirt bike where you know if you’ve pulled off a good jump. Physics and geometry definitely play greater roles here than me.

While you’ve got control over a dirt bike when it’s airborne, you can’t control squat when a pickup takes flight a la Dukes of Hazzard. The best thing you can do is take your foot off the accelerator while the truck is airborne so that it doesn’t land with all four wheels turning (the TRX is 4×4 full-time) and possibly damage the drivetrain.

Jumping a big boy shouldn’t be taken lightly

It’s no secret that pickups are front-heavy, and with a big 6.2-liter V8, the TRX has plenty of heavy muscle under the hood. So odds are that you’re going to have your share of front axle landings just like I did and like Street Speed 717 did on his monster jump. In an effort to help get the truck’s nose up while soaring in flight, Street Speed threw some wheels and weights in the bed. Not sure if this did much to get the truck’s front end up but therein lies the challenge.

With that said, math definitely comes into play more regarding the angle of the jump, the angle of the landing area, the speed of the truck and weight distribution of the truck. (Hmmm…maybe that’s why the TRX has the math table and square under the center console lid. Just kidding…or maybe…). I wouldn’t push the TRX like a dirt bike and go for great air. A few feet maybe, but nothing too crazy unless you’re setting out to rack up giant views online like Street Speed and don’t mind replacing parts.

Donuts never get stale in the Ram TRXDonuts never get stale in the Ram TRX

For additional off-road fun, I took the truck on our course in the woods which we built just for this TRX. The course is a work in progress so it’s not terribly long but it’s got some good turns, bumps and dips that’ll give any chassis a good work-out. My confidence kept growing along with my speed. When I took my 16-year-old daughter along for a run you would have thought she was at Six Flags. She was all smiles and having a good time getting jostled around.

When it was time to make the donuts, the TRX couldn’t have done much better. It’s a natural donut king. Just floor it and turn. It dug into old bayou mud with those 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory All-Terrain tires (another TRX exclusive) and flung it everywhere, even on my cameraman. I seriously owe him a beer—really an entire case.

The downside on tearing into the mud is that it gets packed into just about every nook and cranny of the chassis. Dad, a retired engineer, alerted me to mud that got packed solid around the exhaust pipe near the 8-speed ZF tranny. A closer look revealed large chunks of mud plastered on the Borg Warner transfer case and in several other places. I couldn’t have it. Components are designed to run at certain temperatures and mud doesn’t exactly make for a great heat sink to dispel that heat—in fact, it may act as insulation and possibly crank up the heat within.

It took me at least a half-hour with a hose to blast out mud where it didn’t belong. Just keep that in mind if you like to play in the mud. I’m inclined to think that more shields can be put in place to better defend against mudslinging. A mesh material could help keep out most mud while still allowing for ventilation.

The nice thing about our course is that we could make it wide enough for the TRX which is about an inch wider than the Ford F-150 Raptor and about six inches wider than a conventional Ram 1500. Not every off-road course will be as accommodating. Know before you go.

Plenty of street cred

From dirt to street, the Ram TRX has super truck DNA that’s hard to beat even for muscle cars designed for speed.

Maybe it’s marketing genius or just a weird averaging fluke, whatever the case, Ram’s TRX is capable again and again of doing better than its advertised zero to 60 time of 4.5 seconds. It’s all over the internet from plenty of reputable sources and it’s generated plenty of buzz.

While flipping through the Performance Pages on the truck’s jumbo 12-inch touchscreen (my family and I love it), I came across a zero to 60 time of 3.9 seconds.

Press the launch button and easy to follow instructions will pop up on the driver’s side display. Launching the world’s fastest production truck is nothing short of amazing.Press the launch button and easy to follow instructions will pop up on the driver’s side display. Launching the world’s fastest production truck is nothing short of amazing.

MotorTrend, which crowned the 2021 TRX as its Truck of the Year, reported that the TRX “is the quickest pickup truck we’ve ever tested. It accelerates from zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds and races on through the quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds at 106.3 mph.”

Keep in mind that the Ford Mustang GT hits zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds. The TRX is a flying brick that can beat it. It can also beat high-performance aftermarket trucks like the Roush supercharged Ford F-150 5.11 Tactical that have a higher MSRP and aren’t built for getting airborne.

And then there’s the roar. Like a scene out of Shrek Forever After, the thrill of that supercharged roar cannot be understated. I definitely respect all-electric torque,  and there are some impressive numbers that smaller engines have put up. But, this is the world’s most powerful factory-produced truck with a record-setting 702 horses and a roaring supercharger dutifully serves to affirm that. It’s an emotional thing like when the crowd roars for the home team following a great a play. I think others on the road like to hear it too. When I punched it to pass up a guy in a Jeep on the highway, he rolled down the window and got an earful of that enviable roar. When a guy in traffic driving a Ford with a souped up PowerStroke saw the TRX badge he gave me a thumb’s up and said there was no way he could compete. True. Not many vehicles on the road can.

But passing up cars and trucks on the road is one thing. How about launch control on a straightaway? Admittedly, I was little concerned about using a feature that relies on a computer to determine the best moment to release the brake and jettison down the road with the pedal floored. In this case, my quest for a mind-numbing zero to 60 would take place on a quiet and deserted country road where I would exceed the speed limit by a mere 5 mph. Possums were more of a concern than police. But then again, I’m in a hulking TRX, so possums aren’t much of a worry either.

As it turns out, setting and using launch control is easy. First, the truck needs to be on a paved, level surface, unless of course you’re auditioning for a Dukes of Hazzard redux where dirt is king. As I found out, launch control will alert you with a pop-up message on the driver’s side dash display if you’re not on a level surface.

Next, pick the RPM launch setting on the mongo 12-inch touchscreen. It’s best to start out small to get a better feel for it. I dialed in 1,400 RPM.

Hold on tight and release the brake when instructed for a powerful launch.Hold on tight and release the brake when instructed for a powerful launch.

Now, it’s button time. Press launch control and the driver’s side display will tell you to place the transmission in drive—if it’s not already—and to press the brake pedal. Once you’ve reached the right amount of brake pressure (a gauge reflects that) you’ll be instructed to press the accelerator to the floor. When the computer’s satisfied that you’ll be able to pull off a good launch at 1,400 RPM, it will flash a message telling you to release the brake.

The first time I tried it, the truck literally threw me back in my seat and hit me with enough Gs to wake me up more than my coffee ever could. It was an absolute rush. But the message flashed so quickly that I didn’t release the brake at just the right moment so I got an obligatory ‘way to foul it up rookie’ type message.

No problem. I’m not easily deterred. I tried it a few more times and increased my launch to around 3,200 RPM. The tires barked at that setting and the truck took off. Unfortunately, I’m not sure on my times. I poked around in the Performance Pages on the touch screen but I could only find my last run which I totally bombed. I’m fairly certain that even the possums were laughing at that one.

Later that morning, the press fleet driver showed up at the house to take back the TRX. The family and I have missed it ever since. Despite its 9.2 mpg average over 300 miles, it brought plenty of priceless smiles and excitement.

Pros

  • Monster acceleration that’s a thrill every time you punch the pedal
  • Luxury, high-tech cab and smooth handling on the street, courtesy of Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive performance shocks, that recalls high-end SUVs
  • Supercharged engine minds its manners and is not obnoxiously loud while cruising through the neighborhood. Goodyear Wrangler Territory All-Terrain tires are also pretty quiet on the street and ready to tear up some dirt when necessary.
  • Tons of infotainment including Performance Pages through that ceaselessly intriguing 12-inch touchscreen
  • The inviting scent of leather, leather everywhere. It’s like stuffing your face in a pricelessly worn leather baseball glove and taking a big whiff.
  • Heated and ventilated seats front and rear (Pssst…the rear seats recline).
  • Ample storage in the cab including under the rear seat
  • Actually a good price for all that record-setting factory-produced power, luxury and on- and off-road performance that big name aftermarket builds can’t compete with

Cons

  • No, not the low mpg. If you’ve signed up for all that power, then there’s no whining about its thirst for fuel. After roughly 300 miles, we ended up with a 9.2 mpg average. Ram reports it’s numbers at 10 city, 12 combined and 14 highway. Of course, the truck I had was floored often and slurped up that premium fuel accordingly (yes, it drinks the good stuff).
  • Not crazy about mud getting packed around the exhaust and caked on the 8-speed ZF transmission and Borg Warner transfer case. Mud doesn’t exactly dissipate heat.Not crazy about mud getting packed around the exhaust and caked on the 8-speed ZF transmission and Borg Warner transfer case. Mud doesn’t exactly dissipate heat.

    After turning off the engine on a warm day I heard a repetitive sizzle that sounded like water slowly dripping on a hot griddle. Leaning on former days as a mechanic, I thought it was either a coolant leak or the A/C evaporator. I got under the truck and saw water slowly dripping on the exhaust manifold. I traced it to the A/C evaporator drainpipe that juts out slightly from the firewall in the engine bay on the passenger side. It’s an easy fix. Simply attach a drain tube that can divert the flow of cool water directly to the street below.

  • Mud caking seemingly everywhere under the truck after doing some donuts in old bayou mud. Some might say, “That’s what you get. Deal with it. Ain’t no shame in that game.” But, when the mud gets packed around the exhaust pipe just aft of the engine, I get concerned. It’s not like I was plowing through deep mud (check out the video below). It looks like those beefy 35s were flinging it everywhere. A few shields bolted in place under the truck did help, but not much. Not sure if more shields are the answer. A fairly simple wire mesh can still allow for ventilation while keeping thick chunks of mud from caking the exhaust, the transfer case and transmission. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t like the idea of mud acting like insulation and cranking up the heat on these critical components. It took me a good half-hour to flush out the mud.
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    Ram’s Heads up Display, or HUD, never gets old but the speed limit sure does.Ram’s Heads up Display, or HUD, never gets old but the speed limit sure does.

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    Plenty of storage in the 2021 Ram 1500 TRXPlenty of storage in the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX