In the January, 1978 issue of Car and Driver magazine, Larry Griffen wrote a review of the 1979 Pontiac Trans-Am titled “It will not pass this way again.” It was a heads-up to the readers that ’79 would be the last time they could buy a new Trans-Am with a big (400 cubic inch, 6.6 liter) V8 engine. There were only a few of the big V8s left in stock – left over from the ’78 model year – and once they were gone, that would be it.
So it is, again – almost.
2023 will be the last – or second-to-last – year that anyone will be able to buy a new Ram 1500 truck with the 6.2 liter, supercharged V8 that is the centerpiece of the TRX package. Ram’s parent company, Stellantis, has already announced the Hemi V8’s forced retirement in favor of electric or partially electric (i.e., hybrid) powertrains after the 2024 model year, which will be the last year for the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 that serves as the basis for the TRX’s supercharged, 6.2 liter version of that V8.
Whether the TRX survives another year is anyone’s guess. And even if it does, it shall not pass this way again, after that.
What It Is
The TRX is a very high-performance variant of the Ram 1500 half-ton pickup. And not just in terms of how powerful – and quick – it is.
Which is a lot – and very.
702 horsepower and 0-60 in 3.7 seconds.
Low 12s in the quarter.
That’s what comes of putting the Dodge Charger/Challenger’s Hellcat’s engine in a truck.
But it is also a very capable truck, featuring a lifted suspension almost a foot of ground clearance, locking differentials, 35-inch knobby all-terrain tires and a full-time 4WD system with multiple driver-selectable terrain modes, among other things.
It goes like Hell – and it goes off-road, too.
That’s not inexpensive. But it is a deal compared with what some of its “electrified” competition costs. And not just in terms of money.
Also relative to the one other truck that’s anything like this truck. More on that in a bit.
What’s New for 2023
A Havoc Edition is available that features Baja Yellow exterior paint and Prowler Yellow interior stitching accents.
Keeps up with the quickest EVs.
Leaves them behind when they run out of range.
Doesn’t bleed range from just sitting.
What’s Not So Good
The clock is ticking.
An engine, first of all. Not a “frunk” – as you’ll find under the hood of electric trucks like Ford’s F-150 Lightning and the Rivian.
And not just an engine, either.
Raise the hood and behold the supercharged 6.2 liter V8 engine that powers the TRX.
Literally behold it.
It is not hidden underneath a black plastic cover, as 99 percent of all new car/truck engines are (with the result of that being they all look the same and also no different from electric vehicle powerplants, which can’t be seen, either). The only thing on top is the dual snorkel ram air feed that seals up against the functional hood scoop, which routes cooler/denser outside air to the supercharger that sits on top of this very special version of the Hemi V8 – which is painted Hemi Orange, the same as its 426 dual-quad namesake of the late 1960s and early ’70s.
Almost no one else bothers to paint engines anymore, in part because almost everyone else hides their engines under those black plastic covers – which aren’t so much ugly as anonymizing. There’s a reason why new car dealers no longer leave the hoods of the new cars (and trucks) on their lots up. It is because there’s nothing to see. If you go to a classic car show, on the other hand, you will see every car with its hood raised, so as to show off what’s under there.
It’s the same here – only the TRX is a new classic. Fifty years from now, people will still flock to look at what’s under its hood, too.
This Hemi produces an astounding 702 horsepower (and 650 ft.-lbs. of torque). The original 426 Hemi (which was also about 6.2 liters in modern size-speak) made just 426 horsepower – or so was advertised. As it was a detuned race engine, its actual output was understated and was probably closer to 500.
But it was nowhere near 702.
That is power. Not quite the unlimited power of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars – but enough to give you an idea. And enough to get this massive, full-size truck to 60 in 3.7 seconds – which makes a dual-quad 426 Hemi equipped ’70 Charger Daytona seem like an ’84 Aries K-car in comparison.
But it is also enough to go a lot farther – much sooner – than electric rocket-trucks like the Ford Lightning and Rivian R1T, both of which are also exceedingly quick but take a very long time to get going again, if you make use of their quickness. Even at the “fastest” chargers, you’ll wait at least half an hour to put a partial charge back into either. Meanwhile, the TRX’s 33 gallon gas tank can be fully filled in about five minutes and that gives you 330 miles of city driving range and 462 on the highway. Those 33 gallons making up for the Hemi’s 10 MPG in city driving and 14 MPG on the highway thirst.
The TRX may use a lot of gas but you will always know how much, because its range doesn’t change when the weather does or if you use accessories such as the heater and defroster when it’s cold out. If you parked it with a full tank you will still have a full tank the next morning – unlike an EV, which will “leak” range overnight (especially in the cold) if you leave it unplugged overnight.
An eight speed automatic transmission is standard, as is a full-time 4WD system specific to the TRX that features variable torque split ranging from 40/60 (front to rear) in 4WD auto, 45/55 in Snow mode, 30/70 in Sport, 25/75 in Baja, 45/55 in Mud/Sand and 50-50 in Rock crawl mode.
This mightiest of all Ram 1500s only carries an 8,100 pound maximum tow rating (some other Ram 1500s are rated to pull as much 12,750 lbs.) which is also less than the 10,000 pound capacity touted by the Ford Lightning. However, the TRX can actually pull what it is rated to pull without having to stop shortly after you begin pulling. It does burn up more gas when pulling a trailer, of course. But you can replenish all of what you burned in about five minutes – as opposed to some of the range (in an electric truck) after waiting a half hour or longer to get it.
You may also be happy to know that this truck does not come with automatic engine stop-start (ASS) and that “advanced driver assistance technologies” such as Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Monitoring are . . . optional.
Ram assumes that people interested in a TRX are probably uninterested in such things. It almost makes one’s knees weak, like re-uniting with a long-lost loved one.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn – who was imprisoned in the old Soviet Union for no legitimate reason – wrote about how he and his fellow political prisoners “burned in the camps” when they thought about how they didn’t put up a fight before being sent to them. We may “burn,” too – when we realize (in the rearview) what we might have done to prevent machines such as the TRX from being forced off the road.
It is the apotheosis of performance, capability and practicality.
Behold. A 700-plus horsepower, 12 second quarter-mile truck that can out-accelerate almost any car, that is much more useful than any car – being capable of carrying six people and their stuff plus a load in the bed and a trailer hanging off its bumper. It is orders of magnitude more practical than any electric truck – notwithstanding the absence of a “funk.”
It does not rescind practicality for the sake of performance. And it does not offer capabilities that impose liabilities if you make use of them.
But most of all, it makes you smile – every single time.
Actually, it makes you giggle – just a little. It is like being ten again and having just successfully jumped your bike over that homemade ramp – only now to the accompaniment of the supercharger’s keening gear whine and the booming exhaust blasts emanating from the four inch twin pipes jutting from the underside of the rear bumper.
No one needs a truck like this.
But it is exactly what is wanted, especially now.
It is real in every way. Nothing ersatz – or apologetic – about it. No “sound augmentation technology” is necessary when you have a machine like this, that does not sound like a device. It signals the virtues of not being a herd creature. Of wanting nothing to do with such guilt-riddled, gelded and anodyne docility.
Say what you will about the TRX. It does not pretend to be what it isn’t. Unlike “electrified” trucks such as the Ford Lightning that preen green but aren’t, really – unless you view them myopically, in terms of their absent tailpipes. As if that made up for the smokestacks. As if that made any meaningful difference, given the improbability of the “climate” “changing” on account of increasing the 0.04 percent of the earth’s atmosphere that is C02 by a tiny fraction of that fraction.
Spare us, please.
Better yet, fuck off.
The TRX may be a gas hog. It is not an energy hog – or a time hog. Its existence does not require kids in the Congo to claw toxic cobalt out of pit mines, by hand. Nor oceans of water to be fouled leaching non-renewable lithium for “high voltage” batteries it does not have. No one is being pushed into buying one, either – and those who do buy one are paying full freight for theirs without any “help” from the government, funded by you.
Whew. I needed to get that off my chest.
Which never gets old because it is never the same – unlike every EV, which is just a device. A bigger – or smaller battery pack. A bigger – or smaller – touchscreen. Which you’ll want because you’ll need something to keep you from falling asleep. That cannot happen in the TRX. Unless you are the kind of person who can fall asleep in the middle of good sex.
It is one of the last of the taken-for-granted machines that make driving a pleasure rather than a means to an end – and no doubt that is why they are working so diligently to end machines like this. To sever the bonds of affection that once bound us to our machines, by replacing them with . . . devices.
If you take a TRX for a test drive you will understand this – and will do whatever it takes to make it yours, while you still can.
Normally with half-ton trucks, you have a lot of thinking to do about which cab size and bed length to get, as well as a number of other things. With the TRX, your thinking will mostly focus on the relative handful of options you can add.
Every TRX comes essentially the same way: Crew Cab with a short (five foot) bed and – of course – the Hellcat powertrain. Also included as standard equipment is a lifted suspension with Bilstein shocks that allow 13 inches of travel and 11.8 inches of minimum ground clearance, which gives the TRX the ability to ford almost three feet of water.
Visual differentiators include fender flares and – most visual of all – a functional ram-air hood that has LED lights built into it and “supercharged” callouts on either side of it.
Inside, there are gauges – not displays.
Well, there are both.
The main gauge panel still has analog instruments, supplemented to your right by an array of digital gauges that cover everything from air-fuel ratio to boost. Tap the app for Performance Pages and you can view a real-time engine dynamometer as well as keep electronic track of eighth-mile, quarter-mile and zero-to-60 runs. There is also a launch control feature but this is less necessary than it is in the rear-drive Hellcats, which are harder to control when the full fury of the supercharged V8 is unleashed. In the TRX, the 4WD system takes care of most of that.
Just punch it – and watch the world blur.
It is only when it comes time to park that you become aware of the size – the width – of the TRX. It is often wider than the space allotted in between the painted lines of supermarket parking lot spaces, effectively forcing you to take up part of another one. This will of course annoy the virtue-signalers.
There are a few things the TRX doesn’t come standard with, such a heated (and cooled) seats, leather/carbon fiber/suede trim and an available 900 watt, 19 speaker Harman Kardon audio system. You can also get a Heads-Up Display and a surround-view camera system. But these are things you can get in many other new vehicles.
All hope may not be lost.
At least insofar as the TRX Ram’s only real rival – that being the F-150 Raptor. Specifically, the new-for-2023 Raptor R – which isn’t powered by the standard Raptor’s turbocharged “Ecoboost” V6 but, instead, the Shelby Mustang’s 5.2 liter supercharged V8.
Ford, it seems, may be the one holding the candle by the darkened door.
The Bottom Line
It’s not 1978 – but here we are, again.
And – as it was, back then – it will not pass this way, again.
. . .
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