2023 RAM TRX 1500 vs Ford Ranger Raptor: Hero trucks compared

Australia’s most outrageous utes face off in a rock-spraying, fuel gargling celebration of excess. Strap in, it’s about to get noisy!

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Things we like

  • RAPTOR: Dynamics, refinement & ride, daily liveability, value
  • TRX: The look & sound, power, local conversion work, space, tub features

Not so much

  • RAPTOR: Fuel economy, tub features, rear space
  • TRX: Fuel economy, driver's knee room, price premium

“Jeez, that’s a serious bit of gear!”

As we get to refuelling the enormous, bright red RAM TRX, a booming voice carries across the service station forecourt.

Darcy the farmer is tall, with a decent beer belly and a bent nose covered in what looks to be freshly applied Band-Aids. “Hooooweeee, that’s a biggun!” he says and slaps the TRX’s tailgate as you might the rump of a horse. “Is this the V8?”

Darcy is a LandCruiser 300 owner and he’s drawn towards the RAM like an eight-year-old at a monster truck show. Not once, during our five-minute exchange (“700hp!? Crikey, that’s a fair wedge!”), did Darcy cast an eye towards the Ford Ranger Raptor parked at the next bowser.

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Also sprayed in eye-searing bright paint, Ford’s burly dual-cab is usually the biggest drawcard in the room. Here, it fades into the background.

The RAM TRX has that effect on most things. Officially the world’s most powerful pick-up, it packs a 523kW/882Nm supercharged V8, can rocket from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and thanks to its sheer size, pumped-up guards and enormous bonnet, it has the visual subtlety of a punch to the nose.

Like the rest of the RAM range in Australia, the TRX is imported by the Ateco Group in an arrangement that employs more than 300 people and includes the fitment of over 400 specially engineered parts.

Converting the TRX to right-hand drive is handled by the Walkinshaw Group – a mob formerly known for its expertise in hotting up Commodores as Holden Special Vehicles – and the quality of the engineering work is top-notch. Unsurprisingly, demand is sky-high. Despite a long wait list and a hefty $210K price tag, about 270 TRXs have already been delivered to Aussie customers and many more are on their way.

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Converting the TRX to RHD is handled by the Walkinshaw Group, of HSV fame, and the quality of the engineering work is top-notch

And as Darcy is demonstrating, it’s a people magnet. Tradies, civilians and kids flock towards it, their eyes widening when they discover how much grunt it has and their heads shaking at the sheer size of it.

It certainly dwarfs the toughest version of Australia’s favourite dual-cab, the Ford Ranger Raptor. You might consider this an odd match-up given the RAM is a full-size American pick-up and the Raptor is a segment below, but until Ford brings the F150 Raptor Down Under, the Ranger is as close as it gets to a genuine rival for the TRX.

Plus, there’s actually a lot of common ground here. Both are flagship performance versions of regular dual-cab utes, both have unique high-output engines (supercharged V8 for the RAM, twin-turbo V6 for the Raptor) and both have been extensively re-engineered for high-speed off-roading.

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Additional strengthening, bash plates, bigger brakes and taller ride heights feature on both utes, as does uprated suspension with high-end remote reservoir shocks.

The Raptor uses Fox’s adaptive LiveValve 2.0 set-up, while the RAM packs Bilstein Black Hawk e2 adaptive shock absorbers. But for all their similarities, there are some colossal differences.

Most obvious is size. At almost six metres long and 2.5 metres wide, the TRX is 504mm longer, 452mm wider and 129mm taller than the Raptor. Need some context? In length alone, that’s roughly the difference between a Kia Cerato and a Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The RAM’s wheelbase is also a whopping 416mm longer, so if size, cabin space and room in the tray are your top priorities, it’s a landslide victory for the TRX.

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It’s a similar story when it comes to performance.

I mentioned the TRX’s outputs earlier, but it’s not until you compare them with the Raptor’s that the sheer excess of the RAM’s 6.2-litre supercharged V8 hits home.

With 523kW/882Nm on tap, the RAM’s Hellcat V8 (it’s the same iron-block Hemi V8 used in Hellcat versions of the Challenger and Charger, and the Track Hawk Grand Cherokee) monsters the Ranger’s 292kW/583Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6.

Can’t do the math? There’s a 231kW/299Nm difference between the pair, which is almost like wedging an entire Honda Civic Type R’s worth of additional output under the bonnet of a Raptor.

It’s enough of a gulf to make you realise that this test isn’t really a direct comparison. It can’t be; this duo is just too different, like lining up a bantamweight boxer against a seven-foot WWE wrestler. But it’s not just size and power that separates them.

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The biggest gulf is found in their price tags.

At $209,950 the TRX is more than twice as expensive as the $86,790 Ranger Raptor (both before on-road costs).

Would anyone actually cross-shop these two behemoth utes? I can’t see it.

So instead, think of this as a celebration of excess. A heady, manly, petrol-gargling middle finger salute to the encroaching EV brigade and a glimpse into a world where more really does equal more and fuel bills don’t matter.

Our plan to test them is simple. Neither ute does its best work in the city – in Melbourne’s tight laneways, the RAM feels more like a small truck than a dual-cab – so instead we’re heading north-east to drive the twisty backroads around Healesville before heading off-road for some fast trail running.

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This seems like a solid plan but it’s one that quickly feels sketchy when I jump into the RAM TRX for the first time. Of all the places to familiarise yourself with a RAM TRX, we doubt a wet and narrow section of the notorious Black Spur would be anyone’s first choice.

If the TRX feels huge everywhere, then it feels impossibly enormous here. Spatial awareness is a top priority, not only to avoid straying into the oncoming lane but to stay clear of the metal guardrail that hugs the road’s outside edge.

You sit incredibly high, like you would in a small removals truck, but the view out is far more intoxicating. The red bonnet is enormous and your eye is drawn to the raised lettering stuck to the side of the bonnet vent that reads ‘6.2 supercharged’.

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And then there’s the noise.

Even on a light throttle, the supercharger delivers a drawn-out whine, like someone pulling a violin bow over a single, forlorn string.

It is but a hint at the venom lurking beneath. The throttle pick-up is actually quite abrupt, so rolling on the power progressively isn’t easy but once you get accustomed to the initial surge of acceleration, flattening the gas pedal is truly addictive.

It doesn’t leap out of the blocks hungrily as much as it surges forward relentlessly, noise and propulsion building with an alarming sense of urgency and force. The power delivery is agreeably linear and the way it piles on speed is deeply impressive for a dual-cab ute that weighs 3057kg if it’s fitted, as ours is, with the optional sunroof.

Mashing the accelerator is akin to seeing an elephant bursting through a patch of trees in the African jungle. Or witnessing Jonah Lomu flatten an opponent as he sprints down the sideline. And if the supercharger whine is a morose backing track on a light throttle, it’s a shrieking banshee at full noise. Ah yes, the exhaust.

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If the supercharger whine is a morose backing track on a light throttle, it’s a shrieking banshee at full noise.

Like the rest of the TRX, the dual outlets are enormous and the noise they produce is properly loud. High-pitched and deep all at once, it’s one of the motoring world’s great soundtracks.

In a straight line, it’s exciting. RAM claims the TRX will hit 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds – a launch control button sits next to your left knee – and unlike some manufacturers which sprinkle their performance figures with a grain of salt, RAM isn’t fibbing.

Against the clock, the three-tonne TRX hits its claim time after time. Get to a narrow, slippery corner on the Black Spur, however, and it’s a different story. The steering is accurate but slow, with a sizeable ‘dead spot’ and sense of vagueness directly on-centre.

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Body roll is also something you need to manage and, through these tight, low-grip corners, the key takeaway is that driving the TRX enthusiastically requires patience. Plenty of it.

Rush into a bend too quickly and the enormous 325/62 R18 front tyres will push. Get too trigger-happy with the throttle and the ESC light bursts into hysterics as it tries to reconcile your power demand with the available grip.

That’s not to say it isn’t surprisingly agile, however. Apply a degree of patience (as you need to in slippery conditions in almost any car) and the TRX is brutishly quick. The brakes feel strong, at least initially, and the roll-on acceleration is exhilarating, but in terms of connection or a sense of how much grip there actually is? It’s a bit of a guessing game.

The Raptor couldn’t be more different. After the colossus of the TRX, the Ford feels tiny, almost toy-like. That in itself is remarkable, given the Raptor is bigger than most vehicles on Aussie roads, yet in this company, the cabin feels snug and narrow. And on the move, the Ford is significantly more wieldy. All of the controls are more immediate.

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The Raptor couldn’t be more different. After the colossus of the TRX, the Ford feels tiny, almost toy-like.

Its steering is nicely weighted and loads up progressively, the brake pedal is firm with no sneeze factor at the top of the travel, and there’s a sense of connection to the road that’s missing in the TRX. It’s the easier ute to hustle, both on wet tarmac and also when we start to attack some treed-in trails.

As you’d hope, both utes are fantastic on dirt. They’re impressively quick and the ride quality is top-drawer. Both utilise adaptive dampers (the Ford’s are adjustable for compression only) and their ability to soak up big compressions and washouts is without par for a production vehicle.

If pushed, we’d give the Raptor the edge for outright ride comfort and it’s also the ute that feels more intuitive to slide around and to let move beneath you at high speed. What it lacks in terms of the RAM’s brute force, the Ford makes up for with poise, balance and, dare we say it, delicacy. In this company, at least. Talk about warped perspectives.

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And the Raptor’s engine isn’t as heavily outgunned as you might expect. It might be slower to 100km/h (our best figure in the Raptor is 6.1sec, which is 1.6sec adrift of the TRX) but the Ford’s lighter, double-overhead-cam V6 feels and sounds more high-tech than the RAM’s brutish V8.

There’s a decent amount of turbo flutter and with the exhaust set to Baja mode there’s plenty of noise on offer, too. Is it the pick of the powertrains? Not by a long shot. The RAM’s V8 is more muscular and charismatic – the way the exhaust note hardens between 5000-6000rpm is a real event – but it’s not a bloodbath either. Wedging the RAM’s engine into the Raptor’s chassis? That’d be awesome.

Ford has the edge over RAM in other areas, too. It’s a smidge more refined on the freeway, though both utes do an impressive job of filtering out intrusive road noise given their chunky all-terrain rubber.

The RAM’s ride also delivers more head toss in regular driving and, on the freeway, it can jolt and shimmy over joins in the tarmac. The Raptor does a better job of filtering out those kind of imperfections.

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Ford has the edge over RAM in other areas, too.

The Ford’s front seats are also more supportive and in some places, it actually delivers more room than the RAM, such as a place to put my left knee. I’m on the tall side so it won’t be an issue for everyone but my knee kept bumping into the chunky drive mode buttons on the lower section of the dash. In a ute as big as the TRX, it feels odd to be cramped.

In addition, the Ford is capable of soaking up greater punishment on tarmac. With the dirt trails behind us, we head back towards Melbourne via one of our favourite road-testing loops and the challenging section of road quickly proves too much for the RAM’s brakes.

The pedal goes soft after one pass and when we pull up the front rotors are smoking. The Raptor’s brakes also get a touch whiffy after the same punishment but the pedal itself remains resolutely firm.

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With the sun setting and both utes in need of a well-earned cooldown, we pull over to take stock.

It’s been a brilliant day. A surprising one, too, mostly because of how well the Ranger Raptor has held its own.

We didn’t set out to declare a winner in this test, but it’s painfully clear that while the Raptor costs less than half of the TRX, it’s certainly not half the ute.

Does that make the RAM feel like poor value? Kind of. But that should in no way diminish the TRX’s appeal or the conversion work carried out by Walkinshaw. There’s not a squeak or rattle evident in the cabin and the craftsmanship and engineering work undertaken to relocate the steering wheel is truly superb.

The cabin feels special, too. Clamber into the driver’s seat (it’s a literal jump up for most) and you’re ensconced in comfy, leather-trimmed front seats that are also heated and cooled. The portrait-style centre screen is large at 12.0 inches and the digital instrument cluster features big dials and clear graphics.

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It’s painfully clear that while the Raptor costs less than half of the TRX, it’s certainly not half the ute.

Connectivity is also impressive thanks to standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad for your phone and five USB ports.

And there’s loads of cabin storage. The centre console at your left elbow is positively enormous, the door pockets are generous, there are two glove boxes and the cup holders are so large they’re actually too deep for a regular takeaway coffee cup. Then again, if you buy this car, you probably drink your caffeine out of recycled beer kegs.

If it’s space you’re after, though, you’ll want to sit in the back. The RAM’s rear bench is positively palatial – we doubt a long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz S-Class offers this much leg room – and rear passengers also score their own dedicated air vents and another four USB ports (making nine in total). Just like the front, the rear seats are heated and cooled too.

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One option we struggle to see value in, however, is the panoramic sunroof, which costs a whopping $10,000. As for the general sense of quality? It feels more top-tier American than $200K luxury car but the RAM is the clear winner of this pair if space is a high priority.

Another area the RAM wallops the Ranger is the size of its tray. It’s not only vastly bigger (1711mm in length plays 1547mm in the Ford) but it’s better-equipped thanks to a soft-release tailgate and four additional tie-down points that slide on rails.

Payload capacity is pretty close between the pair at 717kg for the Raptor and 767kg for the TRX but the RAM can tow 3500kg braked while the Ford only offers 2500kg of braked towing capacity. In both cases, the towing capacity is a tonne less than other variants within their respective ranges.

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It’s when you get to the more mundane stuff, though, that the RAM’s value equation takes a further hit.

It only has a three-year/100,000km warranty, for example, which pales in comparison to the Raptor’s industry-standard coverage of five years and unlimited kilometres.

The RAM’s service intervals are also short at six months or 10,000km and there’s no capped price servicing scheme either. The Ford’s servicing schedule is every 12 months or 15,000km and each of the first four visits is capped at a reasonable $329.

Unsurprisingly, fuel economy is another weakness. Both utes suffer from a case of “with big power comes big thirst” but the RAM will undoubtedly cost you more at the bowser. Over our 200km test loop, the TRX chewed through juice at a rate of 28.9L/100km. The Raptor was slightly more palatable at 19.5L/100km.

We doubt TRX owners will care, though. Heavy fuel bills are part of the deal if you’re dropping $210K on a three-tonne, V8-powered pickup, and it’s easy to argue that the TRX’s performance, noise and sheer extravagance represent a more than worthwhile tradeoff. In fact...

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Outrageous excess is core to the TRX’s appeal.

There’s a reason people like Darcy the farmer are drawn to it. It’s rare, it looks tough, it sounds mean and its sheer size and visual menace are captivating.

Sure it has some shortcomings – fuel consumption and value being the biggest – but in a world of vanilla SUVs and soulless electric cars, it’s dripping with personality.

Does anyone actually need a large ute with 523kW? No. Should you want one? Absolutely. But the good news is that if you can’t quite stretch to $210K – or you don’t have the stomach for the RAM’s fuel bills on top of the purchase price – Ford has built an equally excellent, and in some ways superior, performance dual-cab.

Whatever your poison, take that as a win for those of us who still love an unhinged ute.


Editor's note on scoring

These two trucks, while similar in concept, are also distinctly different in some very important ways. As such, we've elected to not score this comparison – not a first – and declare no champion. Both are outstanding fun, and with the 'highs & lows' below kept in mind, are sure to impress buyers who know what they want and what they can compromise on.

RAM TRX 1500

Things we like

  • Looks and sounds brilliant
  • Tremendous power from supercharged V8
  • Conversion work is top-notch
  • Roomy rear seat and large
  • Well equipped tray

Not so much...

  • Prodigious thirst
  • Lack of knee room for tall drivers
  • Short warranty and servicing intervals
  • Price premium over Raptor

Ford Ranger Raptor

Things we like

  • Superb dynamics for a dual-cab
  • Has the edge for refinement and ride quality
  • Nimbler and easier to drive day-to-day
  • Superior value equation

Not so much...

  • Also very thirsty
  • Tray not as well equipped as TRX
  • Rear seat tight for adults
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Things we like

  • RAPTOR: Dynamics, refinement & ride, daily liveability, value
  • TRX: The look & sound, power, local conversion work, space, tub features

Not so much

  • RAPTOR: Fuel economy, tub features, rear space
  • TRX: Fuel economy, driver's knee room, price premium


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