DALLAS – Ford and FCA’s Ram are on course for a head-to-head battle for performance light-duty truck supremacy with the all-new ’17 F-150 Raptor landing soon and Ram responding with its Rebel TRX concept truck.

Ram rolled out its flashy 1500-based Rebel TRX concept at ground zero for truck fanatics, the State Fair of Texas. The TRX features a supercharged 6.2L V-8, detuned for its 4-wheel-drive chassis to a mere 575 hp and 500 lb.-ft. (678 Nm) of torque compared with the same engine that produces 707 hp and 650 lb.-ft. (881 Nm) in the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat duo.

The Hemi engine is mated to a paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic transmission sending power via a BorgWarner 44-45 transfer case and beefed-up driveline to heavy-duty axles and 37-in. tires that are pushed 6 ins. (152 mm) wider than a standard Ram 1500. The wheels offer 13 ins. (330 mm) of travel – a 40% increase compared with a normal Ram.

“With 575 supercharged horsepower and a suspension system built to withstand an all-day hammering, the Rebel TRX concept can devour the roughest terrain at more than 100 mph (161 km/h) and never look back,” says Mike Manley, head of Ram Brand-FCA Global.

Besides its wider track, the TRX employs a taller hood borrowed from the Ram heavy-duty line to provide space for the supercharger. Exhaust is ported through the side rock rails, exiting with a roar through 5-in. (127 mm) outlets.

Mike Gillam, design manager-Ram truck, had 77 days to take the Rebel TRX from idea to running concept, building on the production Rebel. “This project was a moonshot,” Gillam says. “I like to think it’s what the Rebel should have been.”

The TRX name is not a play on T-Rex, but rather is a name originally planned for the package that eventually became known as the Outdoorsman, Gillam says.

Asked if FCA plans to build the Raptor competitor, Jim Morrison, vice president and head of Ram Brand-FCA North America, responds: “It sounds like we’re too late already.”

Raptor Rocks

The TRX timing stole some thunder from Ford’s big state fair announcement that its F-150 Raptor, powered by a high-output version of the automaker’s all-new second-generation 3.5L all-aluminum, twin-turbocharged V-6 hooked to an all-aluminum 10-speed automatic transmission, will produce 450 hp and 510 lb.-ft. (691 Nm) of torque.

That’s up 39 hp and 76 lb.-ft. (103 Nm) over the previous Raptor powertrain, a naturally aspirated 6.2L V-8 with a cast-iron block and 6-speed automatic. The new truck also records an EPA-certified 36% jump in city fuel economy at 15 mpg (15.7 L/100 km), a 12% bump in highway mileage at 18 mpg (13 L/100 km) and a 23% improvement combined at 16 mpg (14.7 L/100 km).

​Powertrain isn’t the only efficiency driver, however. The all-new Raptor, based on the automaker’s aluminum F-150 body, is up to 500 lbs. (227 kg) lighter compared with its predecessor, helping fuel economy while also giving it a 21% improvement in torque-to-weight ratio, Ford says.

Doug Scott, marketing manager-Ford truck group, wastes no time in punching back against FCA’s conceptual attack on his brand’s Raptor.

“It’s interesting that some are talking about a concept and we’re introducing our second-generation Raptor here,” Scott says. The ’17 Raptor goes on sale in late November.

Ford announced this week the second-generation 3.5L powertrain in the standard ’17 F-150 improves fuel economy by 1 mpg (0.43 km/L) across-the-board compared with the ’16 model, with a 2-mpg (0.87 km/L) gain on combined mileage for all-wheel-drive trucks to 20 mpg (11.7 L/100 km). The ’17 model is rated at 17/23 mpg city/highway (13.8-10.2 L/100 km) for 4x4s and 18/25 (13-9.4 L/100 km) for 4x2s.

The new engine delivers a 10-hp increase to 375 hp compared with the previous iteration, while torque jumps 50 lb.-ft. (68 Nm) to 470 lb.-ft. (637 Nm).

bgritzinger@wardsauto.com @bobgritzinger