- The R1S is the second consumer vehicle from Rivian, a California electric-car startup.
- The SUV cranks out 835 horsepower and hits 60 mph in three seconds, Rivian says.
- It has seven seats and is a beast at off-roading.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to create a new car company from scratch. It’s another feat entirely to land on the scene with vehicles that can convince buyers to give their hard-earned cash to an unproven upstart.
That’s exactly what California-based electric-vehicle startup Rivian has accomplished — first with the groundbreaking R1T pickup truck launched in September, and now again with the R1S, a fantastic large SUV that should start making its way to reservation holders in August.
If you’re in the market for an electric vehicle that’s an off-road explorer, a thrilling sports car, and a plush family-hauler all in one, the R1S deserves a spot at the top of your list. It’s a multitool in vehicle form that’s thoughtfully designed, stuffed with interesting features, and profoundly capable both on-road and off.
What is the Rivian R1S?
Rivian specializes in rugged, high-end EVs for outdoorsy types, and the R1S is its second consumer model. It’ll eventually start at $72,500 for a basic, dual-motor version. But the first model available — which I drove at an event the company hosted last month — has four motors and costs $90,000.
The R1S shares a lot with the company’s R1T pickup, but ditches the truck bed for a third row of seats and cavernous cargo area. It fits seven people and goes up to 316 miles when fully charged, the EPA says. That places it among the longest-range electric cars on the market.
What’s it like to drive?
The notion that a bulky, 7,000-pound SUV can zip to 60 mph in a brisk three seconds sounds unbelievable. But that’s exactly what Rivian says the quad-motor R1S can do thanks to its 835 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque. Nudge the accelerator and the SUV instantly surges forward with a silent swiftness that’s completely at odds with its hulking size.
Off the beaten path is where the R1S really shines. I took it out on a challenging trail with jagged rocks, water crossings, and incredibly steep grades, and the R1S crushed all obstacles with ease. A sophisticated all-wheel-drive system (with one motor driving each wheel independently) means the R1S rarely has trouble finding grip. All that torque comes in handy for muscling over big rocks.
And a handful of off-road drive modes that tune the suspension, throttle, and ride height for different types of terrain make hitting trails in the R1S idiot-proof.
What’s the interior like?
Inside, the R1S feels spacious and high-end. Its price rivals SUVs from BMW, Audi, and Cadillac, so it’s about comfort as much as it’s about capability.
The Launch-Edition models I drove had plush faux-leather seats and wood trim on the dash, doors, and elsewhere. Two panoramic sunroofs add to the sense of openness.
Moreover, the R1S’s interior is functional and versatile. The third row is surprisingly usable for adults. You can fold down the second and third rows to create a flat-floored cargo area that can fit a twin bed. The cabin is packed with little storage cubbies and USB-C ports, so nobody’s left needing a spot to charge their phone.
The SUV’s sprawling, 15.6-inch touchscreen may be a turn-off for people who prefer physical buttons and knobs (like me). Almost every basic function in the vehicle runs through the screen, including the direction of the air vents, which can make it difficult to toggle settings while driving.
But I have to hand it to Rivian: Both the main display and digital gauge cluster are easy to use and stunning to look at.
It’s all in the details
Rivian took the opportunity to dream up a vehicle from scratch and ran with it, choosing to reject unnecessary conventions and instead incorporate lots of interesting features that you won’t find in every EV.
A built-in flashlight slots into the driver door, where it’s always charging. A wireless speaker/lantern combo slides out from under the center console for camping or tailgates. A nifty feature called Gear Guard surveils the area around the SUV using a bunch of cameras and records when it senses something fishy.
An integrated air compressor in some models lets owners inflate tires or air beds on the fly. A frunk adds extra cargo space.
A starting price north of $70,000 is nothing to sneeze at. But my short time with the SUV showed me it’s the best of all worlds, offering outstanding daily practicality, off-road capability, and on-road performance. Its most direct rival in the EV space, the Tesla Model X, costs $121,000 and isn’t suited to go off-road.
Clearly, I’m not the only one enamored with the R1S; the company is working through thousands of preorders and says new orders won’t be fulfilled until late 2023. That brings me to its biggest flaw: It’s so compelling that you can’t buy one right now even if you tried.