Will the Ram 1500 TRX Get a Non-Supercharged Engine?
The pros and cons of a lesser Raptor-killer.
News of the 1500 TRX, Ram's new 702-horsepower Raptor killer, as well as its $70,000 price tag, brings an obvious question: Will there be a more affordable, non-supercharged version—perhaps a "TRX Sport" package for the Rebel?
Ram's official answer is "Not at introduction," which, you will note, is not a definitive no—but neither is it a yes. We can only speculate, and speculate we shall: While Ram clearly intends the 1500 TRX as a halo vehicle, we think a less powerful version would make sense.
Recouping the Ram 1500 TRX's Development Costs
First, there's the simple business expedient of spreading out the investment of developing such a high-performance vehicle. There's a lot more to the Ram TRX than its supercharged Hellcat engine: The frame has been modified, suspension components redesigned, new interior fittings, and new software, plus new bodywork to accommodate the changes in track and wheelbase and to give the TRX its distinctive look. That's a lot of investment for a vehicle which, given its $70,000-$90,000-ish price range, isn't going to be a volume seller.
Second, there's the fact that the Ram 1500 TRX doesn't need the Hellcat engine to outgun Ford's F-150 Raptor. The TRX's supercharged V-8 tops the Raptor's twin-turbo V-6 by 252 horsepower and 240 pound-feet and, if Ram's claims are correct, it'll be about a second to a second-and-a-half quicker to 60 mph. And let's not forget that the TRX is about $16,500 more expensive than the Raptor.
Of course, all this could change—we don't know what Ford has in mind for the next-gen Raptor, but we do know the Blue Oval has its own 760-horsepower supercharged V-8, currently biding its time in that ridiculously awesome Automobile All-Star, the Shelby GT500.
Would a TRX Without a Supercharger Still Have Appeal?
But let's say, just for the moment, nothing changes with the Raptor. What might a non-supercharged Ram TRX look like?
Well, we know it would be quick. Ram has a good choice of V-8 engines: Ram's just-updated 2500/2500 HD trucks now offer the 6.4 liter V-8 in 410 horsepower/429 pound-feet truck tune. In the SRT 392 version of the Challenger, this engine delivers 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet. The truck version is optimized for lugging heavy loads, and while there might be some plumbing restrictions (the same factor that lowers the Hellcat engine from 717 to 702 horsepower), it probably wouldn't take much to get a good performance tune out of the 6.4-liter.
And we know the Ram 1500 could make good use of such tuning. Our colleagues down the hall at MotorTrend have track-tested several Ram 1500s with the 395-horsepower 5.7-liter, and seen 0-60-mph times in the low-to-mid six-second range. That's within shooting distance of the Raptor and its mid-to-high fives. (A TRX Sport wouldn't necessarily have to be quicker than a Raptor, but it sure would embarrass Ford if it were.)
We already know the TRX's ZF 8HP95 8-speed transmission is up to the job—if it can handle that supercharged V-8, it can handle anything. So it seems that it would take minimal development dollars to bring out a naturally-aspirated TRX.
Why There Might Not Be a Naturally Aspirated Ram 1500 TRX
What are the arguments against a non-supercharged TRX? Well, for one thing, there's the risk of diluting the TRX's appeal. Ford knows pickup buyers inside and out, and you'll note that it hasn't seen the need to produce a Raptor with a less-powerful engine.
And let's not forget that Ram already has a truck in this role: The 1500 Rebel, from which the TRX takes many of its styling cues. Ram has already put several of the TRX's accessories, including the light bar and bed-mounted spare-tire carrier, in the Mopar accessories catalog. All it would take is a body kit to make the Rebel into a less-functional TRX clone.
We also have to ask: Is a non-supercharged TRX really necessary? The TRX is, first and foremost, a high-speed off-roader. If you're going to go out and try to flatten the dunes, you want all the hardware you can take, including maximum horsepower.
Wait and See ...
We wanted a second opinion, so we asked Sean Holman, Director of Content for MotorTrend Group's Truck and Off-Road Group and co-host of The Truck Show Podcast, for his thoughts.
"If Ram intends the TRX to be the new halo vehicle for the Ram brand, it isn't messing around, literally giving the truck the best of everything the company has to offer," he said. "However, seeing the base price and the base TR trim leads me to believe that Ram really wants to get this truck into people's hands. I could definitely see the company make a TRX for the masses with a normally aspirated V-8 to better match the Raptor's starting price. If it used the 392, you bet horsepower would still be competitive and give potential customers something Ford won't offer: The sound of a sweet V-8 under wide open throttle while sliding sideways through a desert wash."
So, will there be a naturally aspirated version of the Ram 1500 TRX? All we can do is wait and see. For now we have the supercharged version to play with, and that should make the time fly by.