i was there when the 2004 dodge ram srt-10 destroyed the tennessee smokies' parking lot. actually, it was a bunch of srt-10s. plus a couple of ford svt f-150 lightnings that dodge brought along for comparison-slash-ridicule. an autocross course was set up in the smokies' freshly paved parking lot and we were turned loose with the new truck, which stuffed the viper's 500-hp v-10 and six-speed manual transmission into a short-bed, rear-wheel-drive pickup. as it turned out, when you start throwing around a 500-hp vehicle that weighs more than two and a half tons, fresh pavement is soon wrinkled and torn asunder. and so we failed, yet again, to answer the essential question appended to a 153-mph pickup: where are you gonna use that? not in the smokies' parking lot, apparently.
the new 2021 ram trx is both far more powerful than the srt-10 and far slower. it tops out at 118 mph, making it likely the only 702-hp vehicle that can be outrun by a subaru crosstrek. to which i say: who cares? you'd lose your license if you got clocked running top speed in a 1978 dodge li'l red truck, never mind subsequent hot-rod pickups like the gmc syclone, chevy 454 ss, and ford lightning. those trucks derived their mojo from their ability to surprise and humiliate the sports cars of their day. we pitted a syclone against a ferrari in a drag race, and the truck won. but the performance baseline has shifted so much that the 2021 toyota rav4 prime that we just tested was quicker than both the syclone and its ferrari foil. when a hybrid family crossover does zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, where else are you gonna go from there? off-road, that's where.
maybe you can't use 702 horsepower on the street—for long, legally—but you can use it climbing the dunes at silver lake or in a dry wash in yuma or in a mud pit in maine. off-roading is informal, accessible, and tons of fun, which is one big reason that our performance trucks have mutated from syclones and lightnings into raptors and zr2s, power wagons, trxs, rubicons, and tremors. the fantasy moved from the track to the woods, and i'm all for it. when your standard-issue stingray does zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds, you need a track or a really long driveway if you want to approach the limit. with off-road trucks, all you need is . . . not a road. thus definitively answering the question we always threw at the ridiculous performance trucks of yore: where you gonna use that? anywhere you want.