Rivian R1S: an electric SUV for adventurers
Last September, we drove one of Rivian’s new electric trucks and found its R1 platform to be very capable on and off-road, with an impressive level of engineering that made mountaintop driving almost seamless. effort. It’s been a tough few months since then for the electric vehicle maker, with supply chain issues delaying deliveries, a former executive suing for discrimination and shareholders unhappy with a rather clumsy price hike.
But Rivian remains very well funded, and its plant in Normal, Ill., is finding its footing in building electric trucks as well as delivery vans for Amazon. Now another R1-based electric vehicle is entering production: the R1S SUV.
Like its truck sibling, the R1S is a friendly thing, especially compared to the more aggressive SUVs rolling out of Detroit. This is partly due to the design of the lights, which should trigger your pareidolia, and partly due to what now passes for a relatively low hood height, with curved edges preferring sharp creases at the corners.
That said, the R1S is still a big SUV. It’s the same width (81.8 inches/2,078 mm) as the R1T truck, but at 200.8 inches (5,100 mm) long, the R1S is actually 16.3 inches (414 mm) shorter , with most of that difference (14.7in/374mm) coming off the wheelbase. As a result, there’s no longer a transmission tunnel – the innovative cargo area that sits just below and behind the R1T’s rear seats – but you do get a third row of seats, which fold flat with the floor. when not in use.
Under the hood, there is a large motorized trunk, just like on the R1T, with 11 cubic feet (313 L) of storage space. Open the split tailgate – the lower part can hold up to 1,000 lbs (454 kg), so feel free to sit on it – and there’s a useful cargo capacity of 17.6 cubic feet (498 L) which increases to 46.7 cubic feet (1,322 L) if you don’t need to use the third-row seats. For very large loads, fold down the middle row as well and enjoy a cargo capacity of 88.2 cubic feet (2,498 L).
As with the truck, the interior is a stylish place. I’m a particular fan of the reclaimed wood trim, as well as the thoughtful approach Rivian took to placing the USB-C ports and storage areas. Visibility from the driver’s seat is good, without too many blind spots, but some drives can be disabled by an all-touch user interface for the infotainment system and lack of Apple CarPlay and Android support Auto.
The cabin would need handles to make getting on board easier, and again an automaker has created an electric vehicle with a full-length glass roof without a sun visor. Rivian says the panoramic glass blocks 99.9% of UV rays as well as heat, but it would be nice to have a retractable fabric that could block it all out when the owner wants it. A passenger sitting in the middle row on the right side of the car could also be dazzled by the glare from the main instrument display, as I discovered.
The family resemblance between the truck and the SUV is more than superficial; mechanically, the R1S we drove in New York is basically the same as the R1T we drove in 2021. Our R1S test featured the 835 hp (623 kW), 908 lb-ft (1,231 Nm) quad-motor setup ), paired with the 135 kWh battery.
The front drive unit generates 415 hp (310 kW) and 413 lb-ft (560 Nm), with the rear drive unit contributing 420 hp (313 kW) and 495 lb-ft (671 Nm). Each drive unit contains two motors, one for each wheel, so the powertrain doesn’t need a conventional differential to distribute torque from side to side.