SAN DIEGO — The motor in the RAM TRX pickup was something no one asked for.
Half a decade ago, engineers in Dodge’s SRT division – secretly! — took the brand’s excellent 6.4-liter V8 and fixed an enormous supercharger that boosted it to a staggering 707 horsepower, before showing it to Dodge boss Tim Kuniskis in a meeting that I think ended with “So, we have done something…” began.
The rest is muscle car history. Dubbed the “Hellcat,” and in a glorious example of corporate synergy, the monster engine has been installed in the Dodge Challenger coupe, the Dodge Charger sedan, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, and this week’s test car, the RAM 1500 pickup.
The RAM 1500 is no stranger to powerful V8 engines; What about an entire ad campaign revolving around the question, “That thing has a HEMI?” But the Hellcat is a whole different beast. Now a 6.2-liter V8 with that huge supercharger, the RAM TRX makes 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. Now I know what you’re thinking: Does a pick-up need 702 hp?
No it does not. But it’s lovely.
When I first drove a Dodge Charger Hellcat, I giggled every time I even touched the throttle. The roar of the exhaust and the way the big sedan would leap forward at the slightest provocation was like a dopamine injection straight to the brain. The effect was intoxicating.
The RAM TRX – pronounced T-Rex, like the dinosaur – is just that, but more. The RAM 1500 pickup on which it is based is not a small vehicle. It’s gigantic. And it has nothing to do with accelerating as quickly as it does. With 0-100 km/h acceleration in under four seconds, aided by full-time four-wheel drive, the TRX is capable of beating many purpose-built sports cars in a drag race.
The cost of all that noise and rage is reflected in fuel economy, with an EPA estimate of 14 on the freeway and 10 in the city. With enough enthusiasm, driving the truck straight into single-digit MPGs isn’t hard.
If you’re buying the TRX, which costs close to $80,000 well-equipped, you probably aren’t overly concerned about fuel economy, even with gasoline chasing $6 a gallon. In fact, for many buyers, poor mileage may be viewed as a feature.
With big decals, massive fenders, a low hood, gigantic brakes and suspension, the TRX has an imposing presence. It’s unmistakably special even before you start it, and it’s one of those vehicles that people absolutely despise or completely adore.
Hands down the craziest, craziest, craziest truck out there
Inside, the large RAM is much less controversial. It’s a TRX-ified version of the most luxurious RAM 1500 pickup version. There’s a huge, vertical center screen and leather parts throughout. It’s spacious, with plenty of cargo space in the rear and room for four large adults. The sport seats are incredibly comfortable, and aside from the tremendous climb in the raised cab (and fuel economy), the TRX is an excellent everyday truck.
Thanks to off-road suspension and 35-inch all-terrain tires, the TRX swallows even the worst potholes without disturbing the occupants in the cabin. Of course, the TRX is meant to hurtle over the desert dunes rather than the concrete jungle, but it still gets the job done. And while there are undoubtedly some TRX buyers who will head to Glamis or Dumont Dunes to take full advantage of the truck’s impressive capabilities, many more – perhaps most – will see nothing more adventurous than a dirt back road.
But who cares? This is a lifestyle truck, and the people who buy it know exactly what they’re getting: a rough good time with plenty of throttle-induced dopamine injections and sneering looks from their Nissan Leaf neighbor, as another feature of the TRX ticks off EV owner.
There is no logical reason to buy a RAM TRX, nor is there a logical reason for its existence, other than that it’s pretty profitable for RAM. But logic and reason don’t have to play a part. It’s a truck that should make the buyer happy. If you have $80,000 and want a pickup truck, you have no shortage of choices.
For that price, you can get a Ford F-150 Raptor (the most direct competition for the TRX, at least until the V8-powered F-150 Raptor R comes out later this year), an electric Rivian R1T (which makes even more horsepower than the TRX , wild) or a luxury-focused GMC Sierra Denali.
But the TRX is hands down the craziest, craziest, craziest truck available today. And if you find these to be features rather than cons, this RAM is for you.
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