The takeaway: With many of the same strengths as the company’s R1T electric pickup (think ease of driving, an abundance of power outlets, and a user-friendly interface), Rivian’s R1S has a third row of seats and an approximately 15-inch shorter wheelbase. These make it more convenient for families and a bit more agile on the road, respectively. As we discovered during our drive in and around New York State’s Monticello Motor Club, this SUV trades just a little (but not much) of the R1T’s adventurous focus for practicality. There is no acceleration tunnel here.
- Base Price: $72,500
- Powertrain: Dual-motor AWD with the standard battery; dual motor AWD or quad motor AWD with the big battery
- Horsepower: 600 (in both twin motor configurations), 835 (in big battery quad motor)
- Torque: 600 lb-ft (in both twin motor configurations), 908 (in big battery quad motor)
- Range: 260 miles (twin-motor AWD with standard battery), 320 miles (two-motor AWD with large battery), 316 miles (four-motor AWD with large battery)
- max. towing capacity: 7,700 lb (for quad-motor AWD with large battery; dual-motor still tow TBD)
On pavement it’s spicy and smooth
The first leg of the test drive was the two-hour drive to Monticello to get to the Motor Club. This included some light highway driving and navigating narrow country roads. And in this context, the R1S was very much like its pickup sibling: intuitive, stable, and with that EV acceleration that belies the car’s heavy curb weight.
The R1S has eight riding modes, all easily selectable via the large touchscreen: All Purpose, Sport, Off-Road Auto, Off-Road Rock Crawl, Off-Road Rally, Off-Road Drift, Conserve and Tow. I spent most of my time on the road in All Purpose mode, in which the R1S was compliant and smooth, smoothing out bumps and potholes in the pavement. I also dice in Sport, which added a bit more vertigo and stiffened up the independent air suspension for better cornering. I especially appreciated the latter when I took the corners a little too hot (easy to do in an EV) and the suspension prevented a lot of rolling away.
Here too, the single-stage drive system came in handy. The regenerative braking system that automatically slows down the car when you take your foot off the accelerator, extends battery life and makes speed adjustment easier. But the single-pedal system took some getting used to (even after riding the R1T last fall); you have to release the pedal gradually to avoid going from acceleration to deceleration.
What was also nice throughout the ride was that the range on the dash was adjusted based on the mode I was in. So I could know exactly how much Sport mode would affect mileage compared to All Purpose.
The R1S also comes with a range of driver assistance features, such as automatic high beam, lane keep and departure warnings, blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking.
Off Road, it almost feels like cheating
I almost noticed those exact words against the Rivian shotgun reputation as I navigated the off-road track in Monticello. She guided me around the 40-minute loop, providing tips and directions for going through the cramped trees, fording rocky streams, and speeding up steep hills and back. It rained that day, so the mud added another slippery element.
But the R1T did it all. The camera system that showed the front and sides of the SUV provided valuable images to check that I was clear of obstacles. Not to mention, as I reached a particularly steep hill for a sharp descent, I caught a glimpse of the trail ahead beyond just the gray sky and trees I could see through the windshield.
The precise modulation of power to the wheels and single-pedal braking made it easier for me to think about things while driving. There were a few times when I had to hit the brakes, but that regeneration that happens when you let go of the accelerator provides plenty of braking power, preventing panic between the pedals. The R1S’ 15-inches of ground clearance and suspension stiffness in Off-Road Rock Crawl mode helped keep the car above all hazards. But when I grated the SUV cheese over some submerged rocks crossing a swollen stream, the aluminum-carbon fiber bottom screen did its job.
So while the R1S looks tamer than the T variant pickup, don’t ignore it if you want to get off the road.
The interior is spacious and comfortable
The main difference between the R1S and the R1T, of course, is that the former has a third row of seats and an enclosed trunk instead of a bed. These increase the practicality of the S in the city. The second row was roomy enough, and the car has 105 cubic feet of internal storage, including the 11.1 in the frunk. I haven’t tried to fold my six-foot frame into the third row, but kids will often be the ones in the back anyway.
There is also plenty of space on the dashboard and infotainment screens. All that space provides additional information and data on things like how changing the riding mode affects settings and range, fine-tuning ride height and what kind of ride you want for certain surfaces. I was able to find what I needed with a little poking around menus and submenus. Plus, the display has room on the bottom for a permanent climate control bar for quick access, although we’ll still never complain about physical air conditioning and heat controls.
Extras are plentiful
While you don’t get the R1T’s gear tunnel, the S has the same flashlight built into the driver’s door, the Bluetooth speaker cum lantern that pops out from under the center console, and Gear Guard setting that uses the external cameras to keep an eye on things. keep calm if you’re carrying valuables and let you know if someone gets too close. The panoramic roof almost makes it seem like you’re driving a convertible. And you can have up to eight USB, three 12-volt and two 120-volt outputs in your R1S. What is arguably the piéce de résistance is the built-in air compressor. It’s housed in the driver’s sidewall of the trunk and lets you air or air the tires for mixed terrain.
The R1S is another example of what could be Rivian’s business card: accessibility. As in making off-road driving easier, the SUV is like the R1T in the way it takes away some of the uneasiness that newer EV owners or drivers may have given all they can see. It’s less hand-tight than empowerment. An expensive piece of empowerment, but empowering nonetheless.
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