The 2021 Ram 150 TRX is an awesome truck—full stop. And we don’t mean that in the colloquial sense of awesome, we mean that in the literal sense—its astounding acceleration, cross-country abilities, and relative civility inside inspire awe. It’s a super truck, the first of its kind, and a no-brainer for the title. No question that the TRX does more than any other truck in history effortlessly, and with few flaws.
But you know why we love it. You also know about our only major quibble: with great performance comes great thirst. The TRX delivers atrocious fuel economy, and no one should be surprised by that when you’ve got a 702-hp supercharged V-8 accelerating 7,000 pounds worth of off-road full-size pickup truck to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds—making the Ram the quickest truck we’ve ever tested. It chugs gas, and the window sticker carries EPA estimates of 10 mpg in the city and just 14 on the highway.
Prodigious Thrust, Prodigious Thirst
That’s … not good. Maybe there is no getting around it; the Hellcat derivatives are the Crown Jewels of the Ram/Jeep/Dodge lineup. Had Ram downsized, hybridized, or dieselized the TRX at launch, it would’ve run the risk of the sharing newest Ford F-150 Raptor’s fate: showing up a few days late and a couple of cylinders short. For better or worse, one-upmanship is a truck’s game, and Ram went all in.
So Ram launched a full-bore TRX, and regardless of how long it endures, the point has been made. Maybe there’s room to address the gap—more like a chasm, actually—between, say, a Ram 1500 Rebel and the formidable TRX.
Lose the Blower
It’s a chasm that, we think, Ram is going to bridge. And the cool way, too. Not just making the Rebel more capable, but instead offering a full-throated TRX chassis sporting one of the company’s non-supercharged engines. And on that front, it has a lot of choices. As we speculated previously, the Hemi 392 V-8 is the obvious choice—tons of power, great sound, a small but meaningful fuel economy increase (in the heavier Ram 2500 Power Wagon, for example), at a more affordable price point. And while we’ll generally steer anyone with the money and inclination toward the Hellcat variant of a model, the 392 is really good. (Especially in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.)
The TRX packs the firepower and the long-travel suspension articulation to eats up the open desert like a methamphetamine-addled roadrunner, but not everyone lives near such a wide-open space. For slower or more technical work, say on either rocks or dirt roads, the TRX’s suspension would provide a benefit—but any of Ram’s V-8 options would provide the sort of torque you need to venture off-road.
It’s not like Ram 1500s with the even less-potent 5.7-liter V-8 are slouches, even. We’ve clocked the 395-hp versions of the 5.7 to the low sixes in the run to 60 mph, and that’s a four-wheel-drive crew cab, too. The question of whether, say, a 5.7 eTorque’s 410 lb-ft of torque would be “enough” for a TRX-Lite is more of a marketing question than a capability question.
The TRX Has Charms Beyond Its Power
But more importantly, while the Ram’s off-road chops and tough wide-body stance are wildly appealing, the thirst is not for everyone. We haven’t spent enough time in a TRX for the thrill of the outright thrust to wear off, but there are only so many on-ramps and backroads you can dig into that massive well of power for. After just a week, we wished the TRX came with an auxiliary fuel tank, or we owned a refinery. The lightest foot barely got us out of single-digit fuel economy, and what fun is that? Romp on it as you should, and you’ll watch the fuel needle swing.
This is a comfortable, capable truck, too. Full up with family and mall-crawling in the sprawl, there’s pleasant compliance without nausea-inducing floatiness. It’s something owners are going to want to drive, and not just at an ORV area with a few gas stops along the way, but maybe all the way across the country to some legendary off-road playground like Moab. A trip like that in a TRX is going to be painful compared to, say, a Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel, which manages 28 mpg highway—and can be had in rock-bashing Rubicon trim (although not in desert-running Mojave flavor). Some owners wouldn’t mind, but after a few days (and a few fill-ups) behind the wheel, the fuel economy started to grate on us. This is something we’ll need to address when our long-term Ram TRX test truck arrives soon for a yearlong stay.
An EcoDiesel EcoFantasy
While we don’t think a TRX with the Ram 1500’s available EcoDiesel V-6 is likely due to its horsepower deficit (just 260 ponies makes for bad messaging) and cylinder count, the thought crossed our mind on every fill-up. After all, the turbo six is a torquey motor, offering up to 480 lb-ft for the 2020 model. In a regular 1500 4WD, the EcoDiesel manages 21/29/24 in EPA testing—and even more in its HFE fuel-economy special variant. Even given the penalty the TRX’s wider body, taller ride height, and knobby tires would exact, we don’t think it’d be impossible for an EcoDiesel to roughly double a TRX’s fuel economy.
Re-tuning the motor to, say, 300 hp and 500 lb-ft—if that’s possible, and we’re not saying it is—could give the marketing team enough ammunition to make it work. We love torque, and we love the EcoDiesel’s off-road performance and fuel economy in the regular 1500—and almost as much in the off-road-oriented Rebel as the diesel GMC Sierra AT4. Since Ram’s already decided the Rebel is finally a match for the torquey, efficient EcoDiesel, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
But an EcoDiesel TRX would probably be slow. As in, extremely slow—sort of the antithesis of what the TRX is all about. As much as torque and economy appeal to us, we can’t ignore that the fact that the Rebel EcoDiesel took 8.1 seconds to reach 60 mph in our testing. Even without a porky Hellcat motor aboard, the TRX is a heavier truck all around, with a beefier chassis. The heft wouldn’t do the EcoDiesel any favors, even if it made additional power. We can dream about an oil-burning TRX’s advantages, but the reality is the EcoDiesel, in its current iteration, almost certainly wouldn’t cut it—a 392 would be a better fit, if not as efficient.
Thinking About the Year Ahead
We love the TRX. For certain enthusiasts to whom compromise is a dirty word, the TRX’s supercar-like fuel economy goes with the territory. It’s a super truck and you’ll never forget it. For the rest of us—those without supercar resources or a strict need for the excesses the TRX celebrates—the ownership proposition gives us pause, and makes us daydream about all that capability paired with a less extreme powerplant.
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