- Jun 7, 2021
- Reaction score
It's a classic case of competition improving the breed. After 13 years of escalating stakes as Ford and Ram antagonized each other, the humble pickup truck has evolved into a street-legal sandrail with sport-sedan acceleration.
Such a specific and unique mission brief doesn't leave much room for creative interpretation apparently, because the TRX and Raptor R are conceptually identical. Both trucks use supercharged V-8s, with the Ram 1500 TRX making 702 horsepower to the Ford F-150 Raptor R's 700. Both trucks bound over desert washes and crawl up boulder-strewn trails with 13 and 14 inches of front and rear suspension travel. And both trucks in this test cost six figures. There's a $23,360 chasm between the TRX's $85,785 starting price and the Raptor R's $109,145 entry point, but Ram essentially closed that gap by delivering a $103,980 truck for this comparison. Those extra options make for a more luxurious and more livable TRX without altering its performance or the driving experience.
Comparison tests are rarely this evenly matched. To draw out the differences between the TRX and Raptor R, we flogged them at our Michigan test track and then rocketed 200 miles north to their natural habitat. On winding, rutted trails topped with loose sand and slick snow, we activated each truck's Baja mode and stood on the throttles. This is what we found.
Predator Vs. HellcatOriginally designed for the Mustang Shelby GT500, Ford's Predator engine trades power for torque in the Raptor R, although you'll never notice the 60 missing ponies. The 5.2-liter V-8 revs to its un-trucklike 7,000-rpm redline as if it's bolted in a mid-engine Italian exotic. Stomp the go pedal, and the R unleashes its fury like a collapsing dam lets go of water: all at once, and then in a torrential flood. Sixty mph disappears in 3.7 seconds, and the quarter mile flashes by in 12.1 seconds at 111.8 mph. Neither of those numbers captures the intensity of the thrust, though.
The Predator is so instantaneous, so linear, so unrelenting in its power delivery that you could mistake it for a pair of electric motors if every poke of the throttle didn't unleash a heroic eight-cylinder thunder. Even cruising at part throttle, there's a constant rumble that can't be ignored. On any highway drive longer than 10 minutes, you'll be thumbing the steering-wheel-mounted switch for the active exhaust's Quiet mode.
If only there were a similar button for silencing the supercharger belted to the TRX's Hellcat 6.2-liter V-8. The Ram's twin exhaust cannons deliver a righteous big-displacement boom, but you'd never know it from inside the cabin where the supercharger's high-pitched wail drowns out the fusillade in the combustion chambers. You have to be standing outside the TRX to hear the good stuff. It sounds more fierce from a quarter mile away than when you're sitting inside it.
At the dragstrip, the Hellcat's two-horsepower advantage is crushed by the extra 740 pounds the TRX lugs wherever it goes. It arrives at 60 mph 0.2 second behind the Raptor R, with that gap doubling through the quarter mile.
From the driver's perspective, the difference is more noticeable in the first few heartbeats after standing on the throttle. Where the Raptor R catapults off the line, the Ram builds momentum the way you would expect a 6,700-pound truck to launch—with the slightest hesitation as all that mass is put into motion. Once it's rolling, though, the TRX delivers the same towering mountain of torque we've come to know so well in every other Hellcat-powered car.
The Ford's 10-speed automatic has two more gears than the Ram's transmission and sometimes seems like it shifts twice as often. The gear changes are at least fast and assertive, and the shift logic is sound. Ten really only feels like too many when accelerating from a stop in heavy traffic with light throttle, when the Raptor races to the highest gear and the upshifts come in rapidfire succession. In any other scenario, the Ford's eagerness to downshift comes off as making the best use of that rev-happy engine. Compared to the Raptor, the TRX is content to hold a gear (or at least not downshift to as low of a gear) and dig from lower rpm at part throttle.
And then there's the one difference so significant, it feels philosophical. Whereas the TRX is permanently stuck in four-wheel-drive, the Raptor allows you to clown around in rear-drive. Actually, Ford seems to encourage it, since the Raptor defaults to two-wheel drive in its Normal mode. In anything less than fourth gear, the Raptor R's BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires are hopelessly and hilariously undermatched for the Raptor's 640 lb-ft of torque. It's perfect for flinging rooster tails of dirt into the next county and sending up mushroom clouds of tire smoke.
The Big SquishThe Raptor R rides on a suspension as squishy as the Pillsbury Doughboy's breadbasket, taking pokes, prods, and full-force sucker punches from the terrain with a happy giggle. It'll leave you cackling like a lunatic based on the way it skims across the landscape utterly unfazed. How is this thing so good? And who needs a truck designed for driving off-road at highway speeds?
No one without a professional racing license needs a truck this capable, but the magic of the Raptor R is that it's so satisfying no matter how or where you drive it. It's supple and settled at any speed, over any terrain. By making the small hits so inconsequential, the Raptor lulls you into pushing harder and faster, where the bigger hits are also inconsequential, so you push even harder and faster until your self-preservation instinct kicks in or you do something stupid enough to go viral on TikTok.
Compared to the pillowy Raptor, the TRX feels sports-car stiff. Treading over lumpy, rutted trails at a jogging pace, the Ram's body rocks and pitches over small events that the Raptor irons flat. Just driving down a Detroit freeway will have you doubting every TRX jump picture you've ever seen. Surely dampers this unforgiving would punch through their mounts on touchdown, you think.
Speed helps the Ram's suspension relax. Driving faster sends more force into the suspension, which uses more of the Ram's travel to smooth out the bumps and chuckholes. You just have to be confident enough and committed to get to that point, which makes the TRX's off-road athleticism less accessible than the Raptor's.
The Ram steers better than the Ford, with a quicker rack that's more responsive both on the pavement and in the slough. There's a surprising amount of precision for any pickup, let alone one with knobby all-terrain tires and a penchant for off-roading.
The Raptor's prodigious suspension compliance comes with an unwanted side of steering slack. You won't notice it off-road, because who expects a three-ton truck to turn on a dime in the sand? On dry pavement, though, there's a lag between turning in and cornering forces building. Ford engineers have made a valiant effort to mask this by making the steering firm and weighty on-center, so that your hands receive the fast feedback your eyes and inner ear expect.
The Raptor's BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s are widely regarded as the benchmark all-purpose off-road tire for good reason. In addition to digging into the dirt and finding grip, they're well behaved on the roads, including being relatively quiet at highway speeds. We were equally impressed by the Ram's Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT tires in the loose stuff, but they struggled to find purchase on snow-covered surface streets.
These chassis attributes are where the differences between the Raptor R and TRX are most clearly defined. Even with an extra 250 horsepower over the standard Raptor, the R keeps the engine and chassis in balance, just like the best sports cars. In the TRX, you get the sense that—like every other Hellcat-powered car—the chassis was at best a secondary priority. The Ram was designed around the engine, with the sales folks having full confidence that a giant power number would be enough to get our lizard brains salivating.