UPDATE 10/28/22: This review has been updated with test results for an R1S Launch Edition.
EV startup Rivian is slowly becoming a reality rather than just a promise. The company says it is on track to build 25,000 vehicles this year, and many customers have already received delivery of their R1T pickups. The first examples of the R1S SUV have started to hit the ground as well. We drove the R1S SUV in New York’s Catskill Mountains earlier this year and have now strapped our test equipment to an R1S Launch Edition as well. We came away impressed with the R1S’s blistering acceleration and posh interior but were surprised that the SUV doesn’t drive nearly as well as the mechanically similar R1T pickup.
The R1S is missing one of the R1T’s coolest features too: the gear tunnel stretching horizontally across the truck between the rear doors and the pickup bed, which not only draws oohs and aahs but provides a remarkably useful amount of space. That’s because for the SUV, Rivian moved the rear wheels forward to where the gear tunnel is on the pickup, shortening the wheelbase by 14.7 inches. At 200.8 inches long, the R1S is closest in size to many mid-size three-row SUVs, and its proportions remind us of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L’s.
HIGHS: Blistering acceleration, attractive inside and out, capable off-road.
The R1S comes standard with a seven-passenger setup courtesy of a three-place second-row bench seat and a two-passenger third row. There’s not an overly generous amount of legroom in either row, so don’t think that this is an alternative to a Chevy Suburban. But Rivian did do a good job with the seat versatility, as both the second and third rows fold flat and create a useful cargo floor. We fit five carry-on suitcases behind the third row and 34 cases with both the second and third rows folded, almost identical to what a Grand Cherokee L can hold.
R1S Horsepower and Range
The R1S we tested had the only powertrain available initially: a quad-motor setup with a 128.9-kWh battery pack feeding the electric motors, which make 835 total horsepower—same as the R1T. The SUV’s numbers aren’t identical to the truck’s, however, as it has slightly better EPA range (316 miles versus 314 for the T) and a lower towing capacity of 7700 pounds (compared with 11,000 pounds for the pickup). Rivian says that several more powertrain configurations are coming at some point in the future, including both a larger and a smaller battery pack and a less expensive and less powerful dual-motor drivetrain.
In our real-world highway range test, the R1S Launch Edition managed to go 230 miles on a charge. That’s farther than we went in an R1T equipped with all-terrain tires that hit 220 miles but significantly less than a later test of the pickup equipped with the same 22-inch wheels and all-season tires that achieved a result of 280 miles.
Driving the R1S On-Road and Off-Road
Ride quality is firm, the steering is heavily weighted, and body roll is far more subdued than you’d expect from a vehicle this big, tall, and heavy—we measured the R1S’s curb weight at a whopping 6986 pounds (that’s still less than the 7036-pound R1T). But, driven over a challenging road, the R1S’s dynamics really turned us off. There’s floatiness, front to rear porpoising, and probably the worst thing is that the steering response is out of line with the rest of the vehicle. Turn the wheel, and the chassis responds a beat later, like it’s set up to Scandi-flick sideways into corners. Perhaps the R1S feels so different from the T because Rivian optimized the tuning for the longer-wheelbase R1T and the S didn’t get sufficiently retuned?
There’s also a fair amount of squat if you give it the beans, and the rush of torque is enough to shove you back into your seat. The S was just a tick behind the quicker of the two Ts we’ve tested with its 3.1-second sprint to 60 mph, making it one of the quickest SUVs we’ve ever tested, and its quarter-mile time of 11.6 seconds at 111 mph is similarly impressive. Riding on Pirelli P Zero All Season Elect tires, the R1S’s skidpad and braking results were nearly identical to the truck’s as well, and predictably better than the R1T we tested on the all-terrain tires. The R1S gripped the skidpad to the tune of 0.85 g and stopped from 70 mph in 173 feet.
The all-terrains are available for the S as well, though, and Rivian says the SUV is the stronger off-roader of the two owing to its shorter wheelbase and better departure angle. The air suspension can be raised to provide up to 15.0 inches of ground clearance, and Rivian claims it can ford water up to 39 inches deep. We bounded over boulders, navigated rutted trails, and crossed a few creeks on an off-road course Rivian had set up, where we found the R1S to be capable and easy to wheel, although the ride quality in these taller suspension settings, predictably, does get noticeably less compliant.
While we had issues with the large central touchscreen in our first experience with the truck, the R1S’s screen didn’t suffer any missteps during our drive. Rivian says that at least once a month it pushes out over-the-air updates that aim to improve functionality and add features to the vehicles. What these updates can’t change is the fact that the screen controls everything, from the air-vent adjustments to the drive modes and much more. We’d prefer at least a few more physical buttons and knobs, but the interior does look sleek and uses materials that are nice to the touch. Our test vehicle did have an issue that no over-the-air update will fix, however: a leaky roof. After a run through a car wash, water would dribble through one of the mounts for the passenger’s side sun visor and onto the seat.
The Price and the Wait
Many of those who’ve placed an order for a Rivian may only have seen the vehicle in pictures online. Fortunately, the sheen doesn’t wear off when you get up close and personal. And we’d certainly hope so, given that pricing starts at $91,500. Our test vehicle, which included options such as 22-inch wheels and a reinforced underbody shield, stickered for $98,750. Although it’s expensive, the R1S is a highly capable, convincingly upscale, and attractively designed electric SUV. We just wish it drove as well as the pickup.
LOWS: Occasionally stiff ride and wonky dynamics, disappointing real-world range, nosebleed pr
Rivian is attempting to ramp up production to reach its goal of building 25,000 EVs by the end of the year—although given that the company says it has received 90,000 orders for (both) R1 models, that still leaves a lot of people waiting. If you order one now, Rivian’s website estimates that you won’t get yours until late 2023. (Fortunately, the $1000 deposits are refundable.) Only you can decide if it’s worth the wait, but for our money, we say go with the R1T.
2022 Rivian R1S Launch Edition
Vehicle Type: front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $91,500/$98,750
Options: 22-inch sport dark wheels, $3500; underbody shield, $2000; Limestone paint, $1750
Front Motors: permanent-magnet synchronous AC
Rear Motors: permanent-magnet synchronous AC
Combined Power: 835 hp
Combined Torque: 908 lb-ft
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 128.9 kWh
Onboard Charger: 11.5 kW
Peak DC Fast-Charge Rate: 220 kW
Transmissions, F/R: direct-drive
Suspension, F/R: control arms/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 13.5-in vented disc/12.9-in vented disc
Tires: Pirelli Scorpion Zero All Season Elect
HL275/50R-22 116H M+S RIV
Wheelbase: 121.1 in
Length: 200.8 in
Width: 79.3 in
Height: 77.3 in
Passenger Volume: 144 ft3
Cargo Volume: 18 ft3
Curb Weight: 6986 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 3.1 sec
100 mph: 8.1 sec
1/4-Mile: 11.6 sec @ 111 mph
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 3.3 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 1.5 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 2.0 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 111 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 173 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 340 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.85 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY AND CHARGING
Observed: 55 MPGe
75-mph Highway Range: 230 mi
Average DC Fast-Charge Rate, 10–90%: 109 kW
DC Fast-Charge Time, 10–90%: 61 min
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 69/73/65 MPGe
Range: 316 mi
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
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