By on March 11, 2021

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

6.2-liter supercharged V8 (702hp @6,100 rpm, 650 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

10 city / 14 highway / 12 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

22.4 city, 16.5 highway, 19.8 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $71,690 US / $97,465 CAN

As Tested: $87,370 US / $113,460 CAN

Prices include $1,695 destination charge in the United States and $1,995 to $2,695 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

“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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26 Comments on “2021 Ram TRX Review: Or, How To Spend Seven Hours In The Woods...”

  • avatar

    The rear of the truck looks pretty clean for having spun the tires trying to get out. Does this truck not have a locking differential in the rear? Reminds me of my friends 4WD Jeep that didn’t have locking differentials and was really a 2WD Jeep (one in the front, one in the back) when it got stuck in the woods.

    • 0 avatar

      The rear rooster-tails don’t put mud on the fenders (and hood, windshield, roof, bed) like the fronts, especially when steering from lock to lock. .

  • avatar

    I have very little off-road experience but the two reviews have made me think a Power Wagon or Tremor is better suited for woodsy stuff.

    • 0 avatar

      @ajla – I agree. The TRX and Raptor are as wide as a dually pickup. If a full-sized truck is what you want, I too would prefer them. I’d go with the Tremor since you can get an F350 and no payload penalty.
      A Colorado ZR2 or a Ranger Raptor would be my 1st choices for an offroad rig.

      • 0 avatar
        Ol Shel

        Aside from crawling, trucks are miserable off-road. A 3/4 ton rear axle on a dirt road with potholes…blecch. There’s a reason why rallying uses cars.

        • 0 avatar

          @Ol Shel – there’s a difference between off-highway and off-road. A rally car works well on a reasonably well groomed dirt road. A rally car can’t go where a Tremor, PowerWagon,or ZR2 can go.

  • avatar
    Shockrave Flash Has Crashed

    At almost 90 grand, I can’t imagine using it for this purpose.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised you got stuck with the locking rear. But once you hit frame rails it does get pretty tough to get out of sometimes. I used to wheel alot all over the Northeast, As ajla mentions the Power wagon is better suited up here, a little narrower front and rear lockers and a winch. Also it takes some getting used to in mud, you need pretty aggressive tires to make use of that much power in the mud, honestly with less aggressive tire sometimes trying to keep the wheel spin down works better. Also cutting the wheel back and forth is a good idea (saved my but a few times most recently when I decided to drive the wifes pilot into 12″ of unplowed driveway).
    On my old Ramcharger going from All-terrains to Mud terrains did amazing things in mud with no other changes. Even still I managed to get it buried to the frame rails in an old log loading area in rural Maine, luckily I was with a bunch of other guys and an F-250 safely away from the mud got me out, and I fared better then the guy that blew out his front axle on his swing arm F-150.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I have no off-road, AWD, 4WD, or even truck experience, so this was enlightening – good writeup.

    Not going out there alone is a good lesson. I suppose the experts around here will tell you what you did wrong, but it seems to boil down to just that. I guess if you never get stuck, you’re not having enough fun.

    • 0 avatar

      If you go alone you need a lot more extrication gear. It’s stupid to go offroad without anything. A jackall/hilift jack, chain, cables, snatch blocks, shackles, tow straps, and shovel are a bare minimum. Most hardcore offroaders will carry a small air compressor to air down for better flotation.

  • avatar

    I live half a mile down a dirt road, a foot of snow on the ground now, sections of the road are 25% grade and clay. 2001 Tundra, pretty vanilla faux-4wd like rvakenya mentioned. But I once pulled a neighbor out of deep snow/mud with the winch by running a good strong strap back to the base of a utility pole, otherwise my tires wouldn’t have held me. Always have plenty of rope and straps, and the truck has a front tow receiver so I can put the winch on either end.

    I forget the tires I have now, but they are the best I have ever had for the clay here, really good at keeping me from sliding sideways. Still, I have gotten sideways on that 25% hill a few times, and it is a spooky situation. At that point, I don’t care which end goes decides to point downhill, I just back and forth until one does, then back down I go and get out the snowshoes. for the half mile walk.

  • avatar

    A good friend of mine grew up in Utah. He bought a new ’72 Chevy 4×4 to do some off-roading similar to this story. But, before trying it out off-road he made a few modifications to his new vehicle using his experience from growing up in a wilderness area. 1) installed a mongo-sized brush guard on the front end with a 10k# Warn winch. 2) threw a High-Jacker jack into the load bed. The two of us went off road at Grays Lake, Idaho in early winter and, as above, got stuck in snow and mud as well as high-centered on the frame. These were the days long before cell phones and we were in a pretty remote area. I ran the cable out of the winch, attached it around a tree about 35′ away, and he started pulling the truck forward. “THWANG” sang the cable after the hook broke off. Getting dark, we’re still 20 miles from the nearest civilization. Using my Navy skills, I tied a square knot in that cable around the tree and “HUZZAH!”, we got ‘er out. 4×4’s are great things but have definite limitations. That day I learned that going off-road requires a bit more forethought than the drivetrain alone. As an aside, I stuck my 7k# F350 in a very snowy shallow ditch at the neighbor’s house a couple weeks ago. 4×4 and a locking 4.30 rear axle didn’t help much and I didn’t have a winch installed nor a High-Jacker jack in the load bed. I did have a 1940 Ford 9N with a nylon strap to pop it out and back up on the road…

  • avatar

    Air down the tires to 10 PSI or so. But geeze it’s silly to spin the tires wildly until it’s sunk to the frame. Pumping the brakes as you gas it gently helps avoid the spin and set the parking brake at the first or second click.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Generally, if you’re on mud or sand you don’t want to dig. If you’re on snow that’s not terribly deep, digging is ok if it gets you down to hard dirt below. If the snow is deep, such that digging will just get you floating on top of it, like mud, then don’t dig.

    An essential part of the off-roader’s kit is an air compressor. Letting the tires down to 10 psi often will get you out of mud or deep snow, and it’s SOP for sand. You use the compressor to re-fill your tires when you’re on more solid ground.

  • avatar

    “The Ford got stuck and the Chev got stuck and the Dodge got stuck…etc”

  • avatar

    Not airing down has already been touched on, but add to that that A, those tires are really mild (although the sidewalls aren’t, which shows that they understand their target market), and B) these trucks run another thousand pounds over a regular Ram which is already a pig. C&D weighed theirs at 6,866 (!!!) lbs. Buried to the frame rails was a given.

  • avatar

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Geez that truck is kind of a joke, I think I could have made it farther in my 2007 Hoe running Bridgestone AS tires than that pig. Certainly couldn’t have done any worse!…..LOL

    In the snow/ice conditions you encountered driving in, first thing I would have done is turn off the traction control, or thrown it in 4L which will do it automatically. Sometimes it’s a good thing to get out of your vehicle and test the terrain on foot then have a plan for how your going to negotiate it or you may decide it’s time to turn around and cut your losses.

  • avatar

    Irregardless, all 4x4s have a point where they’re stuck. But get out and reevaluate the stuck when any forward/rear movement is lost. Revving it to 80 MPH is goofy.

    Once the frame is grounded, a passing Corolla can no longer give you a tug out of it.

    • 0 avatar

      The simple offroad rule is this, “the more offroad capable you make your truck, the worse you’ll get stuck.” It’s going to happen. No pity for fools who aren’t prepared for it.

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