I tried Baja mode on the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX and holy cow

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX in field by the mountains.
Credit: Ram

Trucks are changing. In the last few years, we’ve seen incredible innovations in fuel economy (mostly thanks to using lighter-weight materials), technology related to the around-view cameras and center console screens, and sensors to help you park and avoid obstacles.

None of that mattered to me in the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX once I found the new Baja mode. In the TRX version, there’s a simple dial to help you switch between drive modes. There are eight total drive modes including one for snow, mud, and rocks. I like how Ram even included a sport mode to match the flat-bottom steering wheel. (It’s flat so you can get a better grip around corners, matching what you see in something like a Corvette or an Audi RS6.)

Baja mode is unique. I haven’t seen this drive setting in other vehicles. While we don’t have any sand dunes in the Midwest where I live, it was still fun to find an open patch of loose gravel and see how it all works. In this mode, the 1500 reduces shift times by 68% to give better traction and grip on loose sand (or gravel), turns on full damping mode (absorbing any up-and-down movement if you really are in the Sahara), and adds a slight oversteer.

What I like about this setting is that it shows how trucks are becoming more and more customized to a specific market. Call it the “could drive in a sand dune” crowd. While most of us probably won’t actually head to a sandpit anytime soon, it’s nice to know you could.

On that gravel road, I gunned it a few times and the truck felt “slippery” in a good way, as though it was more forgiving and willing to let things slide around a bit. It’s summer-like weather here without much rain, but I’d be curious how the mud setting or the one for rocks works in the rain.

Overall, the 1500 TRX just looks and feels unique compared to the dozens and dozens of other trucks I’ve tested over the years. It’s more like a wild animal. The vehicle is designed to handle rough roads but also roads that are meant more for a Porsche. I noticed on some curvy roads in my area that the TRX glided smoothly as opposed to the feeling in some trucks where there is so much pull you have to fight to keep the beast centered in your lane.

And, it’s quite punchy. A 6.2-liter V8 engine means the truck springs forward. Ram Trucks includes a note on their website that the TRX doesn’t need any artificial sounds piped into the cab to help you hear the engine, which is a ding against the common practice in both cars and trucks where you are not hearing the exhaust directly (it’s coming through the speakers). You can even hear the engine yourself: Ram has a cool feature on their website where you can press the engine start button and hear the engine rumble right in your cubicle at work.

There’s even a launch control mode for quick starts off the starting line. This throttles the engine to the most ideal RPM and prevents excessive tire slip.

I’m a big fan of all of these new features. The new drive modes might not be something you use on your morning commute, but they sure provide another level of excitement and fun if you do happen to find yourself driving over a pile of rocks, on a muddy road, or (in my case) trying to get some serious drift on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere.