The heyday for V8 engines was the 1960s and early ‘70s, when V8s became the standard for American carmakers. Foreign manufacturers jumped in with theirs, too. With pressure to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy, V8s remained a standard for trucks, and they became specialty equipment for cars in the 1980s. Today, American made full-size trucks, and a few high-end SUVs and performance sedans and coupes from domestic and foreign makers are the last bastions, but it is anticipated that the V-8 is destined for extinction soon.
After Ford decided to power its second-generation F-150 Raptor with a 450-hp twin-turbo V-6 instead of a V8, Ram’s release of the 1500 TRX with the HEMI® V8 for the 2021 model year was timely and calculated. The airbox cover on a TRX prototype revealed a massive graphic showing a dying Velociraptor in the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. For the final battle, Ford now answers back with the 2023 Raptor R powered by a version of the Mustang GT500’s 5.2-liter supercharged V-8 making 700 hp and 640 lb-ft, numbers that are just shy of the TRX’s output.
But now, after a half-century of service, Stellantis has hinted that, once and for all, the beloved HEMI® V8, “the Hellcat engine,” is being replaced by a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6. Subsequently, it was announced that 2023 will be the final year of its iconic Dodge Charger and Challenger V-8 muscle cars. It is also rumored that the naturally aspirated HEMI V8 will be dropped from all their vehicles by 2024. So, are the V8 powered TRX and Raptor R’s are final outcries of the old-school take on a supertruck? It’s likely.
Never mind the 10 MPG city/14 MPG highway rating of our 2022 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4X4! For now, let’s enjoy the fact that the HEMI V8 in Ram’s 1500 TRX launches the beast from 0 to 60 MPG in 4.5 seconds– even at 19.4 feet long, 7.3 feet wide, and 6.7 feet tall! It boasts a whopping 702 HP and 650 lb-ft of torque. With widebody fenders, and a special-to-the-TRX frame made of high-strength steel with boxed side rails for absorbing jumps, it is built for speed and just as adept to play in the mud, rocks and sand. Massive 25-inch all-terrain tires mounted to 18-inch wheels give it 11.8 inches of ground clearance, and Ram says it can wade in up to 32 inches of water. Add remote-reservoir dampers, electronic-locking rear differential, 15-inch front brakes, and adaptive Black Hawk e2 Bilstein shocks allowing for 13 inches of travel front and rear, and the question begs, “Where could it not go?” Its only inhibition is the 118-mph electronic speed governor keeping TRX drivers from getting too carried away.
In Ram style, its interior is over the top, sporting among many other things, a 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and wireless charging. And even with its stiffer steering and suspension, TRX on-road manners are surprising. The tow rating is 8,100 (less than other Rams) but still impressive, and its 1310 pounds of payload is substantial.
Getting a V8 will cost you. The base price on the TRX we drove was $78,790, but most, including our tester, go out the door optioned out with a price tag closer to six figures. MSRP on the Lexus IS 500 we drove is almost $18k more than that of the regular IS (Our tester’s delivered price with Premium trim upgrade and special paint was $65,220.) But will you look back and say, “Wow, back in 2023 ‘I could have had a V8?’”
You really need to ask yourself, “Will EVs with fake engine sounds ever be a replacement for those of us who grew up relishing the vibration that only a V8 engine can make?” Now, does this translate to collector status for the last of the V8s? We think so!