EV startup Rivian is slowly becoming a reality rather than just a promise. The company says it built 2553 vehicles during the first quarter of this year, and a few thousand customers have already received delivery of their R1T pickups. The first examples of the R1S SUV are now starting to hit the ground as well. We tested the R1T Launch Edition earlier this year and have now driven the R1S SUV in New York’s Catskill Mountains. After our first experience with the pickup, we came away impressed with its blistering acceleration, confident handling, and posh interior. Given the similarities between the R1T and R1S, we weren’t surprised to find that the SUV possesses many of the same qualities.
The R1S, though, is missing one of the R1T’s coolest features: the gear tunnel stretching horizontally across the truck between the rear doors and the pickup bed, which not only draws oohs and aahs but provides a remarkably useful amount of space too. That’s because for the SUV, Rivian moved the rear wheels forward to where the gear tunnel is on the pickup, shortening the wheelbase by 14.7 inches. At 200.8 inches long, the R1S is closest in size to many mid-size three-row SUVs, and its proportions remind us of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L’s.
The R1S comes standard with a seven-passenger setup courtesy of a three-place second-row bench seat and a two-passenger third row. There’s not an overly generous amount of legroom in either row, so don’t think that this is an alternative to a Suburban. But Rivian did do a good job with the seat versatility, as both the second and third rows fold flat and create a useful cargo floor.
R1S Horsepower and Range
The R1S we drove had the only powertrain available initially: a quad-motor setup with a 128.9-kWh battery pack feeding the electric motors, which make 835 total horsepower—same as the R1T. The SUV’s numbers aren’t identical to the truck’s, however, as it has slightly better EPA range (316 miles versus 314 for the T) and a lower towing capacity of 7700 pounds (compared with 11,000 pounds for the pickup). Rivian says that several more powertrain configurations are coming at some point in the future, including both a larger and a smaller battery pack and a less expensive and less powerful dual-motor drivetrain.
Driving the R1S On-Road and Off-Road
Ride quality is firm, and the R1S has a planted feel on the road. The steering is heavily weighted, and body roll is far more subdued than you’d expect from a vehicle this big, tall, and heavy—claimed curb weight for the R1S is 7000 pounds (the R1T we tested tipped the scales at 7173 pounds). There’s a fair amount of squat if you give it the beans, and the rush of torque is enough to shove you back into your seat. We measured the pickup’s sprint to 60 mph at 3.3 seconds and think that the SUV will achieve a similar result.
Owing to its shorter wheelbase and better departure angle compared with the pickup, Rivian sees the R1S as the stronger off-roader of the two. The air suspension can be raised to provide up to 15.0 inches of ground clearance, and Rivian claims it can ford water up to 39 inches deep. We bounded over boulders, navigated rutted trails, and crossed a few creeks on an off-road course Rivian had set up, where we found the R1S to be capable and easy to wheel, although the ride quality in these taller suspension settings, predictably, does get noticeably less compliant.
While we had issues with the large central touchscreen in our first experience with the truck, the R1S’s screen didn’t suffer any missteps during our drive. Rivian says that at least once a month it pushes out over-the-air updates that aim to improve functionality and add features to the vehicles. What these updates can’t change is the fact that the screen controls everything, from the air-vent adjustments to the drive modes and much more. We’d prefer at least a few more physical buttons and knobs, but the interior does look sleek and uses materials that are nice to the touch.
The Price and the Wait
Many of those who’ve placed an order for a Rivian may only have seen the vehicle in pictures online. Fortunately, the sheen doesn’t wear off when you get up close and personal. And we’d certainly hope so, given that pricing starts at $91,075. Although it’s expensive, the R1S is a highly capable, convincingly upscale, and attractively designed electric SUV that’s also quite nice to drive.
Rivian is attempting to ramp up production to reach its goal of building 25,000 EVs by the end of the year—although given that the company says it has received 90,000 orders for (both) R1 models, that still leaves a lot of people waiting. If you order one now, Rivian’s website estimates that you won’t get yours until late 2023. (Fortunately, the $1000 deposits are refundable.) Only you can decide if it’s worth the wait, but buyers are not likely to be disappointed when their R1S finally arrives.
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