I slide to a quick stop on the mud-slicked trail. Up ahead, a pair of trees on either side force the track into a pinch point, one narrower than I was expecting. A Wrangler looks like it’d pass through with ease, but I’m driving the 2022 Ram 1500 TRX, the widest off-road truck in the business. I eyeball the gap with some apprehension as a fellow off-roader pulls up to me in their side-by-side.
“We typically fit our full-size trucks through that gap,” he assures me.
I gesture at the TRX, which is essentially a full-size truck in ultra-wide panorama mode, and voice my width concerns in return. Still, his confidence gives me some resolve, and I decide to trust the park regular and send it. And by send it, I mean idle along slowly watching each side of the truck — it’s a long way over to the passenger side corner — to ensure I don’t return Ram’s test truck with slightly narrower fenders than when I received it.
Ultimately, the stranger’s advice proved itself, and I just made it through the gap and onward to the next part of the trail where I promptly crashed through a big ‘ole mud puddle with a triumphant V8 bellow.
Big ‘ole mud puddles are the main source of entertainment at The Mounds ORV Park, too. There are all sorts of different sizes and depths for you to try out, which is exactly what I did with the 702-horsepower TRX, trusting its 32-inch wading depth to be my friend for the day.
The TRX hardware is firmly in the realm of absurdity, allowing it to attack just about any terrain or surface – assuming it can physically fit through. The 6.2-liter supercharged V8 supplies 650 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels that lets it power out of mud and muck by aggressively flinging it skyward as though it has a vendetta against both the sky above and Earth below. This sort of driving is best done in Mud/Sand mode, as it sets the four-wheel-drive system, throttle response, transmission, suspension and steering into their ideal settings to have the most fun in the slick stuff. It works as advertised.
Going 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds in a truck so large is already a mind-altering experience, but having the traction and ability to properly launch off-road is where the TRX truly sets itself apart. Those 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory all-terrain tires, developed specifically for the TRX, dig into the mud and dirt, shooting you forward with far less scrambling and scrapping for purchase than you’d expect from such a sloppy surface. The Dana 60 solid rear axle, axle-hop damper and electronic limited-slip differential that Ram claims help those launches are all putting in the work that needs to be done. No matter the terrain, the TRX digs in, growls and shoots where you point it. If you’d rather move sideways, a quick stab of the traction control button relaxes the truck's nannies to do just that.
The suspension is just as hardcore with the Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive dampers and their remote reservoirs making this 6,396-pound lead weight of a truck more agile than it should be, yet forgiving at the same time. Its damping characteristics don’t provide the same pillowy and graceful off-road ride as, say, the Multimatic dampers on the much lighter Colorado ZR2 do, but that’s comparing apples to oranges on the weight scale. Ruts and uneven off-road surfaces do get transmitted to the cabin with a degree of harshness, but it’s a controlled harshness that you can live with through prolonged periods of being knocked around. It may seem counterintuitive to say, but the off-road ride could be likened to that of a sports car with adaptive dampers. The TRX is stiff and controlled when you want it to be, but then you can dial the damping back to a more forgiving level when you’re simply moseying along. Ram got the tuning right for the off-road enthusiast with this one.
The TRX’s ground clearance of 11.8 inches makes moguls a cinch and gives you the confidence to point it anywhere and trust that the truck will clear it. And even if you do end up scraping, the five skid plates and steel bumpers will make sure you don’t come home with any missing pieces.
Sitting in the driver seat is like ruling from a leather-covered throne atop an impenetrable fortress. The truck oozes a sense of invincibility, which can lead to dangerous over-confidence off-road, but it sure is a fun one to experience. Other off-roaders stare as you pass by. Throttle stomps will have necks snapping and wildlife on the run. It’s rather ridiculous, really, but that’s what makes it so fun.
Even if you never push the TRX’s limits, you’re still going to have a ball with this truck on account of it being in excess of absolutely everything. Been moving at a slow crawl through a trail for too long? Take the opening up ahead to goose the throttle and hear the sound of Mopar and supercharger echo off the forest around you. Truck looking too clean after the first hour of mudding? Find an open area and execute some of the most deliciously muddy donuts you’ve ever done. Better yet, search out somewhere you can safely jump the truck. The Mounds doesn’t have such an area, but I got to experience air in a different TRX just a few months earlier — it lands softly and doesn’t seem to mind endlessly jumping with little to no break between attempts. Your stomach’s durability will likely be reached before the TRX is done for the day.
And when you are ready to call it quits, the fun doesn’t stop on the pavement. That is, if you have a deep enough wallet to keep the TRX’s tank full. My week of off-roading, highway trekking and lots of around-town trips saw the final average at 11 mpg. Matching the TRX’s highway mpg of 14 seemed impossible in Michigan with our 70-mph limits, as even driving at that speed saw us hardly crack 12 mpg over the course of a 150-mile trip. There’s no sugarcoating how horrible that is, but since it'll be atrocious no matter how you drive it, you might as well exploit all 702 horses as much as possible.
The lightening of your wallet at Shell won't be the only pain experienced on road. Though it's certainly possible you'd get accustomed to its width in a lane, even after a week, I never got comfortable with the size. It takes up the entire lane of whatever lane you’re in, leaving very little room to spare on either side. Take your eyes off the road to fiddle with a setting, and any amount of wander will leave you crossing into the next lane. It’s genuinely annoying at times how much effort has to be dedicated to just keeping the truck where it should be, but it’s also reasonable to surmise that some may see the TRX’s domineering and bloated road presence to be a plus. The flared fenders and I want to eat you face are unmistakably intimidating to other motorists.
And while we’re on ease of use, the TRX, alongside the rest of the Ram 1500 lineup, has one big upgrade for 2022: Uconnect 5. This infotainment tech is definitely an upgrade over the outgoing Uconnect 4, and it’s also our first look at it paired with Ram's vertical screen. Load times are considerably speedier — especially for the Performance Pages and Off-Road Pages — but a terrific new feature is the ability to put Apple CarPlay or Android Auto into a full-screen vertical format. That means you now have the option to truly take full advantage of the smartphone connection tech as opposed to it occupying only half the screen while another menu occupies the rest.
At $91,575 as equipped, the TRX is both a performance and luxury truck since it snags so much of the equipment from the standard Ram 1500’s interior. The stitched leather thrones are wide and comfortable, but hold you in just fine off-road. Heated seats and a heated steering wheel mean that you can hit the trails in the winter in total comfort. And the optional Harman/Kardon sound system is a worthwhile box to check. You’d expect those giant 35-inch tires to cause major irritation on the highway, but they’re not as loud as you might expect, and there’s next to no wander effect or lack of certainty from the steering wheel as a result of them. Instead, you just get to enjoy the firm, but forgiving ride of those Bilstein dampers.
Ford hasn’t hit us with the Raptor R yet, which means this TRX is still at the top of Mt. Ridiculous. And while ridiculous it may be, the TRX is almost guaranteed to make you break out in laughter and sheer joy every time you drive it. Whether that joy comes from hearing the wake-the-dead remote start from a block away, or the hilarity of such maddening acceleration, just depends on the day. This truck will do nearly anything you might want it to do, so long as your fuel budget and the path ahead are big enough.
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