2021 Ram TRX Review: Or, How To Spend Seven Hours In The Woods
2021 Ram 1500 TRX
“That sounds fun,” Spenser from roadside assistance thought to himself as he read the message from his dispatcher. “Four-wheel drive required.”
At least that’s how he’d related it to me when he arrived with his 4×4 midsize pickup and six-ton winch. Perhaps I imagined it in a delusion spurred by mild dehydration and hunger. You see, I was stuck.
Driving a capable vehicle like the 2021 Ram TRX will give you incredible confidence in the abilities of the vehicle and in your own driving. Unfortunately, when you finally run out of talent and road, you might find yourself well beyond the reach of your typical roadside wrecker service.
Yes, I’m aware that Tim reviewed the TRX two weeks ago, and also got it stuck but good. But sharing in others’ misery – in other words, making fun of people who do something incredibly stupid – always makes for a good story.
The plan was simple – see how well a 702-horsepower, offroad-focused, full-size truck can manage, you know, off the road. Ohio isn’t known for BLM lands like you’d find out west, so I had to be creative. Google Maps revealed a state forest about fifteen miles from where I had to drop my daughter for softball practice. That meant I had a couple of hours to explore.
The roads were clear to and from the forest, though piles of snow remained from the wintry blast we’d had the week prior. The ambient temperatures hovered just above freezing, and those roads invited a brisk drive. The TRX, while not a corner carver, dances nicely and grips surprisingly well when tossed into a backroad curve. The ride quality is superb – the tall sidewalls and supple suspension meant for bounding over dunes with abandon manage the imperfections of rural flyover country nicely. Yes, there is plenty of noise from the chunky tread blocks, assuming you’re not on the throttle. With the right foot down, the Hellcat within drowns out all else. Sadly, I never tried launch control – I can only imagine the hilarity amid clouds of Akron’s finest.
I turned off of the rural route into the poorly-marked state forest entrance, seeing very quickly that the excellent county road maintenance was not managed within the forest. It’s likely the road beneath was gravel or dirt, but all I could see was snow – three to six inches deep. A few tires had packed a bit of it down, but it was quite slippery. I turned the traction control knob on the dash from auto to “SNOW,” and continued at a reasonable pace to a clearing about three-quarters of a mile from the main road, where a path of some sort led up a hill into the distance.
Seems that path, based on the few passersby who stopped to offer assistance they couldn’t really give without getting themselves stuck alongside me, wasn’t meant for public driving. It’s not marked as such, but I was warned that the warden might have fined me had he come along. I drove up the path a few hundred yards to a ridgeline, where I could see that I really shouldn’t go further. I stopped for a few photos (the non-muddy images you see on these pages) and attempted to turn around to go back down the hill.
But I couldn’t turn around – at least without trampling some of the brush. I’m not a treehugger specifically, but I had a sense I’d gone where I shouldn’t have – I don’t know that I wanted to be responsible for any damage to any plants. So, I tossed the mighty Ram into reverse, and slowly backed down the way I’d come.
Here’s where I put on the car reviewer hat – “The twelve-inch touchscreen with rearview monitor gave me a magnificent view of the mud pit into which I was sliding, ass-end first.” The snowy path was melting, it seems, and the clearing I’d noticed earlier had a number of vehicle tracks that, it turns out, had been the site of another vehicle having been stuck two days prior. Said vehicle had dug deep below the snow to reveal dirt below, which mixed with the rapidly-melting snowpack into a quagmire of muck. Quickly I found the left side of the TRX buried up to the hubs, and no amount of aggressive throttle application (yes, even with the rear differential locked and transfer case in 4WD low range) would free me.
On the bright side, burying the left side of the TRX significantly lowers your step-in height, which is a bit of a stretch normally. 11.8 inches of ground clearance was reduced to nearly nothing.
It was 11:30 am on a Sunday. I called my personal roadside assistance, which dispatched a tow vehicle – a 2WD rollback. The driver was unfamiliar with the area and called me from about five miles away, so I guided him toward my predicament. He got halfway down the snow-covered forest road to me before HE got stuck. He walked to my truck and informed me that my subscription roadside service was canceling the call because nobody could get to me. I think it was around 4 pm before I heard his truck finally get towed away.
So, I pressed the roadside assistance button on the ceiling of the TRX. Mercifully, I wasn’t in the cell service dead zones that dot much of Southeastern Ohio – the AT&T 4G network provided with the Ram connected easily, and I managed to get someone coming … eventually. I was sure to keep the engine off for much of my downtime – with a combined fuel economy rating of 12mpg, this Helltruck would have idled away gallons of dead dinos had I decided I needed to stay warm. Incidentally, that’s why I’m not listing my observed fuel economy here – my rooster-tailing of mud and occasional idle time are not typical of most, I’d hope.
I called and woke my wife, asking her to pack up HER car and head to pick up the kid. The joys of travel sports – she’s now on a team two counties away from home, without any local friends who might be able to give her a ride. Oh well. That’s an argument for another day. I grabbed my gloves and wandered the forest for anything I could use to create traction.
No luck. No downed limbs to wedge under the tires – at least, nothing small enough for me to carry. No rocks to be found either.
I’d forgotten my old Boy Scout rules of always being prepared. I had NOTHING with me (save a warm-ish coat and a cheap pair of gloves) that would help me. I’ve since read a number of articles on off-roading – all of which emphasize the necessity of NEVER WHEELING ALONE. Now I see why. Had I been with someone else, they could have winched me out. Instead, I had to rely on Spenser, who cheerfully arrived with the winch that I should have had, and with minimal struggle pulled the TRX free.
I’d been buried for seven hours in a remote part of Ohio – but I had cell and data service. I even watched a bit of YouTube to pass the time. Had I been without any connection, I can’t imagine the mess I’d have been in – let alone the arguments with my wife and kid. I’d have had to walk what turned out to be five miles into the nearest town to get to someone who could help. Not impossible, but considering the weather and that I would have been temporarily abandoning a borrowed vehicle on government property, the thought was unappealing. Bright side? The interior, front and rear, is an incredibly comfortable place to spend a day whether driving or pondering existential questions.
Never again. Next time I head off-road, I’m finding someone to go with me. I’m carrying a shovel, and probably some traction boards should I find myself buried again. The Ram TRX is an absurd machine that can take you much farther than you’d imagine – and, indeed, farther away from help should you need it. So tread lightly.
[Images: © 2021 Chris Tonn]
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