3 cars in an electric SUV

  • The R1S is the second consumer vehicle from Rivian, a California electric car startup.
  • The SUV generates 835 horsepower and hits 60 mph in three seconds, says Rivian.
  • It has seven seats and is an off-road beast.

It is extraordinarily difficult to start a new car company from scratch. It’s another feat to come on the scene with vehicles that can convince buyers to give their hard-earned money to an unproven newbie.

That’s exactly what California-based electric vehicle startup Rivian has achieved – first with the pioneering R1T pickup truck launched in September, and now again with the R1S, a fantastic large SUV that should start hitting reservations holders in September. August.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


If you’re in the market for an electric vehicle that’s an off-road explorer, an exciting sports car, and a plush family truck all in one, the R1S deserves a spot at the top of your list. It’s a thoughtfully designed vehicle-shaped multi-tool, packed with cool features and deeply capable both on and off-road.

What is Rivian R1S?

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


Rivian specializes in rugged, high-end EVs for outdoor types, and the R1S is their second consumer model. Eventually it will start at $72,500 for a basic twin-engine version. But the first available model — which I drove at an event the company hosted last month — has four engines and costs $90,000.

The R1S shares a lot with the company’s R1T pickup, but swaps the bed for a third row of seats and a cavernous cargo area. It fits seven people and goes up to 316 miles when fully loaded, says the EPA. This places it among the longest-range electric cars on the market.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


What’s it like to drive?

The notion that a bulky 7,000-pound SUV can hit 60 mph in a quick three seconds seems unbelievable. But that’s exactly what Rivian says the quad-engine R1S can do thanks to its 835 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque. Press the accelerator and the SUV instantly moves forward with a silent rapidity that is completely at odds with its hulking size.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


Off the beaten path is where the R1S really shines. I took it on a challenging trail with uneven rocks, water crossings and incredibly steep slopes, and the R1S smashed through all the obstacles with ease. A sophisticated all-wheel drive system (with a motor driving each wheel independently) means the R1S rarely has trouble finding grip. All that torque is useful for moving over large rocks.

And a handful of off-road riding modes that adjust suspension, throttle and ride height for different types of terrain make trails on the R1S foolproof.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


How is the interior?

Inside, the R1S feels spacious and sophisticated. Its price rivals SUVs from BMW, Audi and Cadillac, so it’s as much comfort as it is capable.

The Launch-Edition models I drove had faux leather seats and wood trim on the dashboard, doors, and elsewhere. Two panoramic sunroofs enhance the feeling of openness.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


In addition, the interior of the R1S is functional and versatile. The third row is surprisingly usable for adults. You can fold the second and third rows to create a flat-floor cargo area that can accommodate a single bed. The cabin is filled with small storage cubicles and


USB-C

ports, so no one needs a place to charge their phone.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


The SUV’s large 15.6-inch touchscreen might be a turn off for people who prefer physical buttons and buttons (like me). Almost all of the vehicle’s basic functions go through the screen, including the direction of the air vents, which can make it difficult to switch settings while driving. But I have to hand it over to Rivian: both the main display and the digital gauge cluster are easy to use and impressive to look at.

It’s all in the details

Rivian took the opportunity to dream up a vehicle from scratch and raced with it, choosing to reject unnecessary conventions and instead incorporate a lot of cool features that you won’t find in every EV.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


A built-in flashlight fits in the driver’s door, where it’s always charging. A wireless speaker/flashlight combo slides out of the center console for camping or back doors. A nifty feature called Gear Guard watches over the area around the SUV using multiple cameras and logs when it detects anything suspicious.

A built-in air compressor on some models allows owners to inflate tires or mattresses with air in real time. A frunk adds extra cargo space.

The Rivian R1S electric SUV.

The Rivian R1S.

Tim Levin/Insider


our impressions

A starting price above $70,000 is nothing to sneeze at. But my little time with the SUV has shown me that it is the best of all worlds, offering excellent everyday practicality, off-road capability and on-road performance. Its most direct rival in the EV space, the Tesla Model X, costs $121,000 and is not suitable for off-roading.

Clearly, I’m not the only one passionate about R1S; the company is working on thousands of pre-orders and says new orders won’t be filled until the end of 2023. That brings me to its biggest flaw: it’s so convincing you can’t buy one right now even if you try.

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