Even Ford Raptor lovers have to admit, there’s areas where the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX wins

Chad Kirchner

Chad Kirchner

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX is a compelling truck for off-road enthusiasts.

Part of this whole “automotive journalism” thing is I get to drive new cars. Years ago, my very first loan was a 2013 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, with the 6.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 making 414 horsepower. I was hooked.

Raptor quickly became my favorite pickup, and the changes the company made for the big 2017 refresh only made the truck better. Yes, Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost doesn’t sound meaty like a V8, but it is faster and lighter. Add on the LiveValve suspension technology from 2019 and you have the ingredients for my favorite pickup truck.

2017

Ford Performance showcases the jumping power of the Ford Raptor at Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

But, I also understand that competition is necessary to make products better. Consumers win where there is competition, so when I caught wind of Ram Trucks building their Raptor-fighter I was all for it.

So, while I haven’t had a chance to drive the new Ram TRX, I do believe it’s a truck that I could easily fall in love with. It might even replace the precious Raptor as my favorite truck. But why would it? Here’s some areas where the TRX, at least on paper, beats the Raptor.

Power plant

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Raptor’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost makes a perfectly acceptable 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. At no point driving Raptor have I ever thought, “Hmm, this needs more oomph.” Yet, here we are with 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque in the TRX.

The EcoBoost in the Raptor will undoubtedly weigh less than the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the TRX, which always helps with handling, but in sheer grunt the Ram wins the day.

Exhaust note

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

My only real complaint about Raptor is how the truck sounds. I want a trophy truck to sound like a trophy truck, and not a modified Focus RS. The sound doesn’t hurt the Raptor’s performance at all but listening to the Ram TRX rev is like listening to the approaching apocalypse. It’s glorious.

Technology

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Raptor is filled with modern tech, especially for off-road driving. So is the TRX, which has more USB ports (Types A and C) and a larger infotainment screen.

One interesting thing that the Ram offers that I’d love to see on the F-150 lineup is a color head-up display. Is it necessary? No, but it’s one piece of tech that the Ram has that can benefit you when you’re jumping dunes – knowing at what speed you hit that dune as you keep your eyes focused ahead.

Standard equipment

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Yes, the Raptor is less expensive for the base model ($53,455), which makes it a smarter buy if you just want to jump the dunes for less. But, the Ram TRX has more on its base truck than any other Hellcat-equipped FCA product, making it a bit of a bargain (if $70,000 is a bargain).

Wheels and tires

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

TRX comes with bead-lock capable wheels and 35-inch tires as standard. The bead-lock capable wheels on the Raptor are an optional upgrade. Also, the Raptor drives around on “just” 34-inch tires, while the TRX goes bigger.

Spare tire

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

From the factory, both trucks come with a spare tire mounted underneath the bed, like on a typical truck. But if you’re an off-roader, you likely would like access to that tire made easier. The Mopar accessory catalog includes a spare tire carrier, which will be able to be added to the bill when your truck is ordered and installed at the factory before delivery.

For the Raptor, there are many options available for putting one or two spare tires in the bed, but none are currently available from Ford to be installed for delivery.

So, where does Raptor win?

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor’s EcoBoost engine has been used during the Baja 1000 and tested extensively for desert performance. While Ram says they durability tested the motor – plus it’s in thousands of vehicles already – they haven’t built a race truck yet.

The Raptor will also have better fuel economy, especially with the 10-speed automatic transmission compared to Ram’s eight-speed in the TRX. It’s not much better, mind you, but it’ll be better.

This might be personal preference, but BFG’s K02s that come standard on Raptor are more appealing to me as an all-terrain tire than the Goodyear on the TRX. On paper, the same applies for the Fox Racing shocks; I haven’t seen how these Bilsteins perform yet.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Raptor will likely have a bit better handling. It’ll be a lighter truck with less weight in the nose, which will make it steer and handle a bit better. How much better? I’m itching to get behind the wheel and find out.

Finally, the Raptor, in its current guise, is cheaper. A fully loaded Launch Edition TRX is over $90,000. It starts a shade under $70,000 for the base truck. Yes, there’s more standard features but there’s a significant price jump from Raptor’s approximately $54,000 base price. All in, albeit for a few accessories like a tonneau cover, the Raptor comes to around $72,000.

The ultimate winner?

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Until the trucks are driven back-to-back there’s no clear winner. If you like just pure horsepower, the Ram is what you want. But the Raptor is still an immensely capable pickup with a proven record of performance.

With that being said, the Ram TRX appears to be an EXTREMELY compelling offering and will likely sell like bananas. At least until Ford releases an updated Raptor here in the near future.

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