Throw a Hellcat engine in a Ram, and things get interesting.
Ram already upended the pickup race by using a mix of luxury and capability to outsell the Chevrolet Silverado in the United States for the first time last year. Ram has outsold Silverado multiple years in Canada. Now the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand has a chance to set a new standard for performance in the pickup space with the Ram 1500 Rebel TRX, which is expected to give consumers major punch right from the factory with 707 hp.
If rumors of a Hellcat-equipped TRX hold true, that level of output would leapfrog the 450-hp Ford F-150 Raptor and make the competition for bragging rights in the pickup world even more intense. FCA has teased the idea for years, and a Rebel TRX spotted in camouflage signals that the Raptor is about to get new competition.
Ram introduced the Rebel TRX concept during the State Fair of Texas in 2016. FCA said the concept “has an exterior design that radiates focused aggression.” That model was powered by a 6.2-litre Hemi V-8 delivering 575 hp.
The TRX could potentially go on sale later this year.
“There’s a redesigned F-150 right around the corner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford comes out with something to answer FCA on this,” said Kelsey Mays, Cars.com’s senior consumer affairs editor.
“There’s a lot you can do with forced induction, with supercharging and turbocharging engines,” Mays said. “You can really get a lot more power out of an existing engine. Ford’s got a lot in its wheelhouse. Certainly, we’re seeing that right now on Mustang.”
SPREADING THE MUSCLE
History has shown that FCA is indiscriminate when it comes to spreading muscle across its lineup — in cars, pickups and utility vehicles. After introducing the Hellcat engine in the Challenger and Charger, FCA dropped it into the Jeep Grand Cherokee to create the Trackhawk, a blistering SUV option that costs nearly US$90,000 south of the border and more than C$105,000 in Canada.
In the early 2000s, Chrysler pushed the envelope with the Dodge Ram SRT-10, a pickup outfitted with a Viper engine. It called the SRT-10 the “Viper of pickup trucks” and earned a Guinness Book of World Records entry for “World’s Fastest Production Pickup Truck.”
With the added horsepower, Mays believes a Rebel TRX would top the Raptor’s US$54,800 base price by as much as US$12,000 in America. He thinks 20,000 vehicles annually in the United States is doable for the TRX, which would serve as a halo for the Ram lineup. Mays didn’t discuss Canadian numbers. Although the Rebel line is targeted at off-road enthusiasts, Mays doesn’t see it eating into Jeep Gladiator sales.
“This is an engine that they’ve already scaled out to several other products, and so if it’s not a hit, and actually shoppers don’t want it, it’s not a huge loss for FCA in terms of just development,” Mays said. “So putting it out there and seeing what the market will bear, they could probably afford to come in from a higher price point and see what happens.”
Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader, would like to see a bare-bones version of the TRX aimed at true off-road buyers for around $45,000. An “ultra-base” model, he said, could forgo creature comforts such as carpeting. Moody thinks the TRX would play in multiple worlds by appealing to the muscle car crowd as well.
Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights for Edmunds, said the TRX could achieve the type of performance numbers some were hoping for when the Rebel trim debuted in 2015. With the Hellcat craze playing out so well over the years, Drury said it makes sense to bring it to Ram.
Drury believes Ford still would be able to capitalize on the loyalty it has built with the Raptor, but it would have to keep an eye on how consumers react to the TRX and respond accordingly.
“It’s one of those things where if they do see enough trade-ins going toward FCA, if they see that halo effect that really happened with Raptor begin with FCA — if they start stealing share, they steal eyeballs — then the most logical thing to do is really up the ante,” Drury said. “And, if so, they’re really going to have to crank it up to tremendous proportions.”
The idea for the TRX came from former Ram brand chief Mike Manley, now FCA’s CEO, who challenged designers and engineers to build a truck that could drive at sustained speeds of more than 100 mph off-road.
In addition to the sales generated by a TRX, Ram would benefit from having an additional way to brag about its lineup relative to the competition, Drury said.
“Not every one of these guys is going to take this thing off road; [they’re] not going to be street-racing these things to death,” he said, “but those bragging rights, I think they matter moreso in trucks than in any other segment.”