The Rivian The R1T electric pickup was a revolution when I drove it last year.
Even setting aside the electric powertrain (which gave it a 0-60mph time of just 3 seconds thanks to over 800 horsepower), it was a totally reimagining of what a pickup truck could be.
This can perhaps best be summed up in the Camp Kitchen, a fully-equipped pull-out galley complete with cutlery, dishes, pots, pans, coffee maker, two-burner induction hob, and even a sink with a few gallons of water on board. The $5,000 kitchen is as useful as it is over-the-top, and there’s nothing quite like it in any other vehicle.
It also best sums up my disappointment with Rivian’s second vehicle, the R1S electric SUV. As revolutionary as the R1T was, it was perhaps inevitable that the still excellent R1S was destined to become a less exciting evolution of the Rivian formula.
Watch Jordan Golson’s video review of the Rivian R1S
Still, the R1S is the first electric large SUV not made by Tesla, and that alone makes it interesting. It’s slightly smaller than a Mercedes-Benz GLS and slightly larger than an Audi Q7, with seven seats and a decent amount of luggage space behind the reclining seats in the third row.
From the B-pillar forward, it is identical to the R1T, except for one change: the control of the rear window wiper on the turn signal lever. Everything is the same, including the frunk, windshield, infotainment and dashboard cluster screens, and the front seats. I encourage you to read my review of the R1T, as much of what I said about it applies to the R1S as well.
That means it has the ingenious Camp speaker, a removable Bluetooth speaker hidden in the center console with a built-in lantern and USB-C port (it charges when placed in the vehicle), and a 1000-lumen flashlight that is stored in the driver’s cab. door that also charges automatically.
A 16-inch horizontal touchscreen in the center of the dashboard controls most functions in the car, and the lag I noticed during my ride with the R1T last year has been eliminated. There’s no physical volume rocker, which is still annoying, as is the lack of support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
If you’re navigating to destinations beyond your current range, the Rivian Navigation System will recommend DC fast charging stations from Electrify America, EVGo, ChargePoint, and its own Rivian Adventure Network, which is a must-have feature these days.
The tailgate is a split setup like a Range Rover, and there’s room for a week’s worth of groceries and then some, thanks to 17.6 cubic feet of storage space. There are sliding attachment loops and a relatively spacious hidden storage compartment under the floor with a first aid kit and connections for the standard built-in air compressor. Folding down the third row is a manual affair, slightly annoying, but that brings your rear storage space up to 46.7 cubic feet, which should suit just about anyone’s travel needs.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s a voluminous power frunk measuring 22.7″ x 25.4″ x 54.8″ with the luggage shelf removed. roof rack fasteners secure a six-person pop-up tent.
The second row seats are comfortable, with plenty of legroom and a generous backrest. They also slide forward to give extra space to passengers in the third row. Adults probably won’t want to spend a four-hour road trip on the way back, but if you slide the second-row seats forward a bit, there’s plenty of room. There are also cup holders and small storage boxes with USB-C power ports to fuel the kids and their devices. There’s no rear-seat entertainment, apart from the huge panoramic sunroof that extends to the second row, plus an additional sunroof over the third row, so the R1S feels spacious and airy, whatever your seat.
After all, big SUVs like the R1S are about moving people and stuff from place to place and the big Rivian excels at this. But there’s nothing I’ve talked about here (other than the frunk, I guess) that’s different from any other large SUV. They all have space for a lot of people and stuff; the Rivian just does it without consuming fuel or spewing CO2 everywhere.
Where the R1T design blew me away, the R1S is… a large electric SUV.
Still, it’s a large SUV with four electric motors that deliver 835 horsepower and 908 ft-lb of torque and a 0-100 km/h time of almost 3 seconds. That means you get four-wheel drive torque vectoring and impressive wheel control, both on and off the road, thanks to Rivian’s internal dynamics and handling.
It seems likely that most R1S vehicles — like the R1T pickup — won’t stray too far from the curb, but if you’re going off the beaten track, the Rivian will take good care of you. There are three wheel options, all with Pirelli rubber, including 20-inch all-terrain tires that seem to be the preferred choice for Rivian engineers. The R1S’s quadrangular air suspension lifts up to a maximum of 14.9 inches of ground clearance and three feet of water fording. It can tow up to 7,700 pounds and drop to 8.8 inches to make it easier to load the aforementioned people and gear.
The R1T was an impressive off-roader and the R1S has even better specs in approach (35.6 degrees), take-off (34.3 degrees) and breakout angle of 29.6 degrees. In my short time on an off-road course, the R1S performed admirably at rock crawling, fording rivers and scrambling up and down alarmingly steep slopes.
The experience on the road is slightly less pleasant in the R1S than in the R1T. I can’t quite figure out if it was the large cab or the shorter wheelbase—probably a bit of both—but the SUV feels a little less planted than the pickup. It still has ridiculous acceleration and overall excellent handling (the low center of gravity and four motors help a lot), and it’s doubtful most Rivian buyers would notice or even care.
Only the quad-motor, large pack version is available at launch, good for 316 miles on the EPA range test. A cheaper twin motor version will eventually be available later with slightly better range (320+ miles expected), while a more affordable, smaller battery option will come later with lower range (260+ miles expected).
The sold-out Launch Edition I drove was about $98,000. That’s a lot of money, but when you consider that it has more horsepower, faster acceleration and better off-road capability than a Mercedes-Benz AMG G 63 (which starts at well over $150,000) and it’s not hard to find a GLS in that price range. , it’s starting to seem a little more reasonable. Moreover, you do not have to pay for gas. The standard 2-motor R1S battery pack starts at about $72,500, although you’ll have to wait a while to get it.
So on the road, the R1S is a monster performer ready to pound the tarmac and explore the world. Off-road, he’s capable of much more than he’ll likely ever be able to handle. And when it comes to carrying people or stuff, it beats anything else with a plug.
The R1T’s Camp Kitchen was a feature that would blow away anyone you showed it to. If you had a friend who was skeptical about electric vehicles, you could pull them out and say, “I bet your truck can’t make dinner.” The R1S does not have that trump card.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rivian R1S is the best electric SUV you can buy, and I’d be very happy to have one in my driveway. I wish it had its Camp Kitchen moment.
A Cool Detail: The Rivian Adventure Network
Like Tesla, Rivian is installing its own charging stations across the country, both DC fast chargers and Level 2 chargers like this one — installed before the Rivian R1S press ride at our Windham, NY hotel — in locations on the road and beyond.
Electric car charging appears to be at a turning point right now, with electric car ownership set to explode, we will either have more chargers than we know what to do with them – or, perhaps more likely, electric vehicle adoption will be way ahead of the number of chargers available no matter how many are installed.
Rivian installing his own network of chargers for his customers could eventually be just as attractive as the Tesla Supercharger network for Model Y buyers. We’ll see, but the chargers at the Eastwind Hotel in the Catskill Mountains certainly came in handy for our ride.
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Rivian provided the travel and accommodation costs to assess the Rivian R1S on site, as is common in the automotive industry. Car manufacturers or their affiliates have no overview when it comes to: inverse editorial content, which remains completely independent and comes from the brain of our extremely opinionated auto analyst and critic, Jordan Golson.