|✓ People look at you wherever you go||☓ Potential quality issues (more below)|
|✓ Great do-it-all capability||☓ Firm, occasionally jarring suspension|
|✓ Sensational acceleration & performance||☓ No native Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or satellite radio support|
|✓ Fun, thoughtful gadgets and gizmos||☓ Availability (as of late 2022) and price|
Review sections (click to jump):
Rivian R1S Overview: A great SUV overall
For years, Tesla has absolutely dominated the electric car space, particularly when it comes to its Model X SUV. It’s been one of the only players in town, but times are changing. So-called “legacy” automakers are launching their own family hauling EVs, but I’ve been intensely interested in the upstart Rivian R1S.
If you’re looking for a quick take and need a TL;DR rundown, here it is: This SUV is staggeringly good. It’s easily my favorite electric vehicle to date, though it still had some issues that I’ll get into below.
The three-row Rivian R1S starts out at $78,000 as of November 2022, should you try to configure one yourself. The car we’re actually testing, however, is the quad motor Launch Edition, which comes in at $98,000 with the 316-mile-capable “Large pack”, Rivian Blue paint scheme and 20-inch all-terrain wheels wrapped in bespoke Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus Elect tires.
On paper, this SUV is definitely a capable do-it-all choice. It packs serious power; it has seven passenger seating capability and it can tow up to 7,700 pounds. It’s a daily driver, a road trip cruiser, an off-road juggernaut — it slices, it dices, and it does it all on pure electricity. It sounds freaking awesome, but you should know all the details before plonking down nearly $100,000 to put a Rivian R1S in your driveway.
One crucial detail is availability. Rivian, like every other automaker, is trying to ramp up production against a tough landscape of supply chain constraints, inflation and all-around frustration at the state of the new car market. As such, go to reserve an R1S and the soonest you’ll see it is late 2023, per the automaker’s website.
Performance: Driving the Rivian R1S is a (mostly) scintillating experience
Starting with the best point — and one of the EV automaker’s headline features — is the performance on tap. Right now, the only configuration available to test is that quad-motor setup with a 128.9-kWh battery pack. It’s the same package that you get in the R1T pickup, though the Rivian R1S gets slightly better range (at 316 EPA-rated miles, vs. 314) and worse towing capacity (7,700 pounds vs. 11,000). Still, you get a whopping 835 horsepower, 908 lb-ft of torque and a 0-60 time of around 3.0 seconds.
Get behind the wheel, and you’ll feel every ounce of that power as soon as you mash the throttle. It’s not a neck-snapping experience, but rather this satisfying surge that will keep you coming back for more. The torque will still throw you back into the seat, don’t worry about that, and you can absolutely break all four tires loose if you reduce or turn off the stability control through the infotainment system.
One of the key differences between Rivian’s SUV and its pickup is length. The R1S is 16 inches shorter than the R1T, and rides on a 14-inch shorter wheelbase. That does help make it more maneuverable in tight spaces, while you also get a tidier turning circle and better apporach and departure angles off-road (more on that below).
A note on range
Keep in mind, constantly mashing the throttle off the line will obviously impact your range. Although, if you’re looking to eke every mile out of a charge, it’s also worth considering your wheel and tire package. 21-inch Road wheels come standard with street-focused tires, and those will offer the best possible range. Pick up the 20-inch All-Terrain wheels or the 22-inch Sport wheels, and Rivian says your range will drop by 21 to 40 miles.
Testing out the R1S with the A/Ts, we managed around 270-280 miles on a charge, or an efficiency rating of about 2.1 miles per every kilowatt hour of available energy.
The suspension setup is a mixed bag here
One fantastic point: The Rivian R1S has air suspension that can raise the vehicle up through five ride height settings, ranging between 9.5 and an astonishing 15 inches of ground clearance. If you’re looking for the best driving dynamics, though, it’s definitely worth getting some wheel time in the R1T pickup. Its longer wheelbase eliminates some of the SUV’s on-road shortcomings, if you’re able to give up the third row.
For instance, the SUV has a tendency to squat much more than the pickup under hard acceleration. You’d think the benefit of that would be a sort of comfortable floatiness like, say, a Chevy Tahoe or a Jeep Grand Cherokee L, but the suspension is awfully firm even under its “Soft” setting. Put it in the “Stiff” setup, either through the standalone suspension setting in certain drive modes or putting the R1S in Sport (where it’s the default), and the suspension feels jarring over uneven bumps.
There’s only so much you can do to combat the heft of a 7,000-pound electric SUV, granted. However, it feels like Rivian needs to do some more suspension tuning with the R1S. It doesn’t ride terribly by any stretch, but it doesn’t feel quite as compliant or refined as some of the established conventional competition.
If you’re an off-roader, this is a seriously tempting option
This particular 2022 Rivian R1S Launch Edition sports the 20-inch All-Terrain Dark wheels, so it’d be remiss of me to ignore the car’s go-anywhere capability. The tires and ground clearance I mentioned help its case quite a bit, as do the accessible recovery points. But everything gets better when you dive into the infotainment system.
At first glance, you have your standard All-Purpose (Normal), Sport, Conserve, Off-Road and Towing. Delve into that Off-Road setting and you get five more settings that tailor the ride height, suspension stiffness, brake regen system, stability control and disengage the brake hold to suit the conditions. You can get a closer look at a few examples below (click to enlarge):
Now, how often will you actually use these settings? That depends on how hardcore you are and what sort of off-roading is available. Nonetheless, Rivian evidently put a great amount of thought into making their vehicle a truly well-rounded rig.
It hardly stops with the drive modes, either, as I discovered and nerded out over the Camping Mode.
As a three-row SUV with a large glass roof, the Rivian R1S is well suited to one or two-person camping, whether you aim to use the SUV itself or pack a ton of gear. You can use the settings on the left and right side of the 16-inch screen to control the lights and energy usage, if you plan on using the 400-watt outlets. IF you go way off the beaten track, you can use the “Stay Off” setting in the upper right corner to power off all auxiliary systems (like the Gear Guard five-camera monitoring system and infotainment display) that could sap power from the battery pack.
A cooler feature, though, is the ride height leveling button. This will raise each individual corner of the vehicle to level it out on an uneven surface — useful for sleeping in or atop the vehicle, should you fit it with a rooftop tent. Sadly, the Rivian R1S does not get the passthrough Gear Tunnel between the rear doors and the bed, so the $5,000 Camp Kitchen that fits in that space isn’t an option.
Living with the Rivian R1S: Storage, tech and charging capability
Despite the shorter profile from the pickup, you do obviously still get a third row of seats here, and all three rows are covered in sumptuous leather. Up front, you get even more leather, luxurious wood trim and a relatively minimalistic layout. That said, there’s still a huge amount of tech to touch on here, from the driving controls to more on the infotainment system.
For the driver, nearly all major controls (apart from the drive modes) live on the steering wheel or on the two adjacent stalks. The left-side buttons are for media controls. It may take a moment to work it out, but they also control the left side of the driver information screen: You have to long-press either of the side buttons to change between efficiency, tire pressures and a navigation display. The right buttons, for their part, control the Rivian Driver+ semi-autonomous (hands-on) system. Double tap the gear selector downward to engage it, and you’ll be able to set following distance and speed.
In the center, that 16-inch display gets you access to every other onboard system. The climate controls are available with a tab on the lower left corner, though you can get to major controls without going into another menu. Rivian’s system feels snappier and more responsive thanks to a steady stream of updates, and it’s all decently intuitive to use. Much like some Tesla models, you do have to use the climate menu to adjust the front A/C vents, which can be a bit finicky at the best of times. Fortunately, second-row passengers will have no such issue, and they get their own screen to control their climate zones.
While the Navigation system is okay, you can’t opt to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto instead. You’re stuck with the base interface (and using Bluetooth to stream audio) whether you like it or not. Satellite radio is not natively supported, either. So, FM radio or streaming where you’re able are presently your only options, which is massively disappointing on a nearly $100,000 SUV.
On the bright side, though, you do get wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, Amazon Alexa capability and the 20-speaker Meridian Elevation audio system is amazing — one of the best I’ve heard in any vehicle. On the audio front, Rivian also includes a portable “Camp Speaker” in its own storage compartment below the center console.
Seating and storage
While all the seats are comfortable, legroom is a mixed bag depending on where you’re sitting. Front space is ample, not to mention those in the first row get fantastically effective heated and cooled seats, as well as four-way lumbar adjustment. The second row is a 40/20/40 split bench, and does offer both reclining capability and adjustment to give rear occupants more legroom.
As comfortably trimmed as the third-row seats are, getting into that back row is an awkward affair, at best. Legroom is tight, though head room across all three rows is an entirely different story thanks to the glass ceiling. Tucked inside two small storage bins, though, back-row passengers do get a USB-C charging port, so at least that will help keep the kids occupied.
Even with all three rows in place, the Rivian R1S manages 17.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity. That’s far more than the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV, not to mention the Rivian also has an 11-cubic-foot frunk. Each end has a shelf installed to provide some extra space for hiding valuables (or your charging cables).
Fold down all three rows, and the Rivian R1S becomes a cavernous load lugger with 104.1 cubic feet of available cargo space. Loading isn’t as cumbersome as you might expect, either, thanks to the split-folding tailgate and a new “Kneel Mode” feature. Thanks to a recent over-the-air update, the feature makes entry, exit and loading a bit easier by lowering the car as much as 1.4 inches while parked. How long the process takes depends on which air suspension setting it’s lowering from, but it generally should take about five seconds.
Par for the course these days, the new Rivian R1S includes an A/C charging cable, and the company offers an 11.5-kW home charging station that adds about 25 miles of range each hour.
More importantly for folks on a road trip, though, Rivian’s SUV supports up to 200-kW DC fast charging. On my first excursion to a 150-kW Electrify America charging station, I managed to add 83.4-kWh (from 19% to 75%) back into the battery in a 40-minute charge session. That charge rate will naturally vary depending on environmental conditions and what’s available where you live.
Keep in mind, most effective charging happens between 20% and 80% state-of-charge, so your mileage may vary based on that factor as well. Rivian says that you can charge up from a low state to 80% in just over 30 minutes if you can find a full 200-kW capable fast charger.
For those concerned about battery degradation related to repeatedly charging up, Rivian offers an 8-year/175,000-mile battery and powertrain warranty.
To date, Rivian has dealt with a few recalls on its new vehicles, including a couple hundred with improperly secured front seat belt anchors. The more notable campaign, however, quickly addressed an issue where the steering knuckle could separate from the control arm. That involved most of the 13,000 vehicles it built up to that point, though it did quickly identify and work to eliminate the problem.
That said, you can expect a few issues with any brand-new, first-generation vehicle, and indeed I did with this R1S. I cannot say that this is an issue you’ll have to worry about with your Rivian — it could just be this specific vehicle. It’s still worth pointing out, however, for the sake of noting possible issues to look out for and so the automaker can hopefully address problems in future production. For example, I took the new R1S through a touchless car wash, and some water found its way into the frunk (shown above). So, if you purchase a Rivian, you may want to do the same to test watertightness before placing any valuables in the frunk, especially on the lower level.
Another, more serious issue I encountered came on my last morning with the Rivian R1S. On a sub-freezing commute into the office, its onboard computer felt it necessary to cut power to the electric motors under moderate acceleration. Apart from an immediate lurch after I hit the throttle, an error message appeared on the instrument cluster and in the infotainment system saying, “System fault detected…service may be required.”
Essentially, the R1S went into a sort of limp mode to protect the powertrain from some sort of perceived issue. That made any reasonable acceleration nigh on impossible, which could be a hazardous problem if you’re in the middle of a passing maneuver. The only difference between this commute and my earlier, flawless driving sessions was the temperature. However, I can’t confirm with certainty that it is a temperature-related issue (I did alert Rivian’s team, who noted they would look into the issue).
In total, I was able to replicate the power loss problem twice after the initial, unexpected encounter. Pulling over and putting the R1S in park cleared the fault, and in the last few miles of the commute the issue no longer manifested itself.
Verdict: Even with some issues, the Rivian R1S is a fantastic SUV
As critical as I am in some areas, I genuinely adore the Rivian R1S. It’s certainly a capable, well-rounded rig that speaks to the adventurer in me, and I think it makes a great companion if you can afford one.
A few years ago, I remember attending a local Rivian event where CEO RJ Scaringe stressed that he wanted to focus on building folks a good electric vehicle. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but on the whole his team really did a great job in developing a vehicle for Rivian’s target, outdoor lifestyle-oriented audience. I’m glad Rivian’s a new competitor to the EV game and hope their vehicles will continue to improve in the coming years.
To that end, let’s get to the big question: Is the Rivian R1S worth it? If you have a serious off-road hankering and/or need three rows, then the R1S is a solid choice if you’re looking to jump into a full EV. If the $100,000 price tag is a kick in the stomach — I can certainly understand that — less expensive variants with a dual-motor setup and a smaller battery pack should be along in time (though it may be awhile).
In this field, you really have three midsized electric SUVs to consider at the moment. The Tesla Model X still delivers the goods on driving range, with the $138,990 Plaid model being the undisputed speed king. The $108,800 BMW iX M60 feels much sharper in on-road driving. There’s also the Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4Matic SUV, which comes in at $127,100. The Rivian R1S does come in cheaper than that bunch, and
Andre goes into more details on the Rivian R1S’ tech offerings below, and we drag race it against the GMC Hummer EV. Check out both those videos and let us know your thoughts!