Fresh from a win over the Ford F-150 Raptor, the Ram 1500 TRX has now claimed another victory. The standard Ram 1500, which is a Car and Driver 10Best, won MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year award in 2019. The brand’s heavy-duty models won the award again for 2020. And now for 2021, the TRX gives Ram the award for the third time. Here’s how it happened.
How did MotorTrend perform its 2021 Truck of the Year testing?
Every year MotorTrend tests “new or significantly improved” vehicles to see which deserves its Car and Truck of the Year awards. That’s why the standard Ram 1500, as well as the heavy-duty models, haven’t won the 2021 award: they haven’t been updated enough. For 2021, the Ram 1500 TRX faced off against Ford’s F-Series Super Duty, the Nissan Frontier, both the Nissan Titan and its heavy-duty XD variant, and the Jeep Gladiator.
MT’s testing process takes place over a 10-day period. The pickup trucks were driven on public roads and at a dedicated automotive testing facility. Each truck is tested both unladen and with cargo; the laden evaluation includes towing various amounts of weight. MT also tests each truck’s off-road capability, albeit without cargo for safety purposes.
Determining the MotorTrend Truck of the Year depended on several factors. They include overall design and engineering, efficiency, safety, value, and “performance of intended function.” Regarding that last part, trucks like the Ram 1500 TRX and Jeep Gladiator focus on off-roading, while the F-Series Super Duty is more about hauling and utility. So, just because the Super Duty isn’t as good at off-roading doesn’t mean it’s a worse truck. It’s just designed around a different intended function.
What about the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX made it the Truck of the Year winner?
The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX’s win starts with its engineering, MT reports.
It has a stronger and thicker frame than the standard Ram 1500, as well as five skid plates and steel bumpers, Car and Driver reports. Its other off-road hardware includes optional full-length rock rails, electronically-locking rear differential, adaptive Bilstein remote-reservoir dampers, optional beadlock-capable wheels, and model-specific 35” BFGoodrich off-road tires. The new tires required moving the Ram 1500’s axle mounting points, which also let the automaker fit stronger axles, new suspension, and a wider rear track, The Drive reports.
And, of course, there’s the engine underneath the Ram 1500 TRX’s hood. It’s the familiar 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8, which gives the truck 702 hp and 650 lb-ft. The lower output comes from the modifications, such as upgraded air filters, needed to let the engine run reliably in the desert. And despite weighing almost 6900 pounds, thanks in part to standard 4WD with 2-speed transfer case, the TRX is fast. Car and Driver reports the truck goes 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. It’s officially the fastest pickup MotorTrend has ever tested.
However, the Ram 1500 TRX isn’t just about straight-line speed and dune jumping. With those Bilstein dampers, it corners incredibly flat, with little-to-no brake dive, MT reports. The steering is also “surprisingly good,” MT reports, with good weight and feedback. The brakes aren’t designed for track use, Road & Track reports, but they’re good for an off-roading truck.
The Ram 1500 TRX is also impressively practical. It can tow up to 8100 pounds, and even with its off-road-focused suspension, it’s more stable at high speeds than the Jeep Gladiator. Those dampers also mean the TRX rides well around town. Plus, even with a 5700-lb trailer attached, it out-raced the unloaded Gladiator and Titan XD, MT reports. And to quote MT, “no other truck maker can match Ram in interior design, fit and finish, or quality.”
Are there any deal-breaking drawbacks to the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX?
Although the Ram 1500 TRX won the 2021 Truck of the Year award, it’s not perfect.
Its off-road suspension, for example, is incompatible with the standard Ram 1500’s height-adjustable air suspension. As a result, it doesn’t squat down to ease trailer hitching/unhitching. Though it does come standard with automatic blind-spot adjustment and an automatic trailer hookup checklist. Plus, the backup camera feed is displayed on a 12” central touchscreen.
The other downside is the Ram 1500 TRX’s price—and not just the one on the sticker. A base TRX starts at $70,995. Add in beadlock-capable wheels, extra ADAS features, and the TRX Level 2 Equipment Package, and you’re looking at a roughly $80,000 truck. And that Hellcat V8, combined with the off-road tires and weight, means you’ll be paying at the pump, too. In MotorTrend’s hands, mixed-condition driving saw it deliver 10 mpg.
Are these deal-breakers, though? If you’re looking for a work truck, the TRX is likely overkill, which is why MT recommends the standard Ram 1500. But the inefficiency and mild towing annoyance didn’t stop MT from awarding the TRX its 2021 Truck of the Year. And if it’s understood that supercars aren’t terribly efficient, should what MT calls a “supertruck [sic]” be any different?
Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.