Considering the size, weight, power and purpose of the TRX, you’d expect it to be a handful on the road, but it’s surprisingly civilized. While the truck defaults to Auto mode every time you restart the engine, there are seven drive modes to choose from, all of which are accessed by the drive toggle buttons just below the TRX button (which brings up a unique, Ram Rebel-influenced iteration of SRT Performance Pages).
It’s worth noting that Sport mode has worthwhile virtue in every day driving, stiffening up the suspension, weighting up the steering, and allowing the engine to rev up a bit more before upshifting. With the massive sidewalls of the 35-inch tire, even this firmer suspension setting can provide a totally agreeable ride quality over all but the most busted-up pavement, so I eventually found myself switching to the user-defined Custom mode and using the Sport suspension setting with the other, less-aggressive default driving attributes.
If you’ve heard a Hellcat-powered Challenger, Charger, or Grand Cherokee before, the TRX’s growl will already be familiar. Ram says the TRX’s 702-horsepower rating, which is shy a few ponies of the Trackhawk and the original iterations of the Hellcat models, comes as a result of the longer exhaust system required for this truck. But behind the wheel it still sounds every bit as visceral as you’d expect, replete with the banshee wail of that 2.4-liter twin-screw blower under the hood.
As with those other supercharged machines, the TRX uses a ZF-sourced eight-speed gearbox, though here the tuning seems to be a bit gentler. There’s no setting that’ll bang through the gears like Track mode will in the supercharged Dodges and Jeep. It fits with the personality of the TRX, though, as it’s the first Hellcat-powered vehicle I’ve driven that doesn’t feel obscenely (but charmingly) overpowered. Still, when you consider the fact that it’s almost a ton heavier than a blown Challenger, this thing seriously moves out; drop the hammer at 60 mph and you’ll be in the triple digits before you can say “cop car.”
Through the Air
After a few hours tooling around Lake Tahoe, I pointed the Ram’s wide nose toward Wild West Motorsports Park in Sparks, Nevada. It’s a facility where purpose-built rock racing buggies and other high performance machines compete in various off-road series. The jumps here are legit.
Ram hasn’t turned me completely loose with the truck, bringing a coterie of off-road racing pros to babysit and make sure it stays shiny side up. So I head out for a few sighting laps around the course following Josh Hall, the son of late off-racing icon Rod Hall. “Let’s take it easy while I show you the course,” he says over the radio. Hall’s version of “easy” turns out to be what most other folks would consider hauling ass, though, and when we get to the main straight on our last preliminary loop around the course, I decide to close the gap.
That requires going over one of the larger jumps on the course at about 70 mph instead of the suggested 40 mph. And I’m not supposed to do that because I don’t have an instructor riding along with me for these practice laps. Sorry, Ram! Hell, I don’t even have the drive mode set. But when in Rome, right?
Suddenly the suspension unloads and the engine blares, free from the constraints of drivetrain load. (It’s worth noting that part of the truck’s sophisticated Jump Detection software intervenes in these situations to prevent that power spike from damaging any components.) The TRX and I arc through the air with the grace of a three-ton ballerina. Then the truck lands with a hearty thump—and that’s it. There’s absolutely zero drama. The grin on my face is ridiculous.
I head back into the pits and prepare for my actual hot laps. “Just tell me where my braking zones are and what speeds to hit each section at, and I think we’ll be good,” I say to the brave soul riding shotgun with me. He instructs me to put the truck into Baja mode, which keeps the engine in the powerband, sets the suspension on full damping, and relaxes the traction and stability control systems to allow the truck to rotate.