First Drive: 2023 Rivian R1S

The EV age is truly upon us, and the best evidence of this is manufacturers like California-based Rivian popping up seemingly out of nowhere. Though the electric adventure company was founded way back in 2009, consumers are just now finally seeing its R1T truck and R1S SUVs out on public roads. Vicarious got the opportunity to take the latter out for a test and here’s the 4-1-1.

2023 Rivian R1S

Exterior: Both R1s are identical from the B-pillar forwards. Amongst a sea of competitors, Rivian truly manages to stand out with the quirky upright “Tic Tac” LED headlamps connected to a horizontal light bar. The rounded elements of the nose contrast against the rest of the body’s rectangular shape. Thick protective cladding runs all around along the bottom of the vehicle, and at the rear there’s a complementary wrap-around taillamp bar. A pair of polished tow hooks poke out of the front bumper above the matching skidplate.

Some may have the opinion the lack of a bed causes the model to appear less rugged, but the boxy canopy actually looks pretty tough and as a bonus provides a lot of additional secure space for gear.

2023 Rivian R1S

Buyers can equip up to 23-inch wheels on specific trims — our Quad-Motor loaner rode on some blacked out 20-inch five spoke wheels shod in chunky Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain rubber. It’s interesting to note driving range estimates change quite drastically depending on the specific rollers equipped. For example, moving up to 21-inch wheels and more efficient road tires yields a 20 per cent increase in total travel distance.

Interior: The minimalistic interior is a proper case study of how to combine leading tech with a sustainable, attractive aesthetic. The seats are comfortable and upholstered in easy-to-clean and visually interesting faux leather. The microfiber headliner overhead is made from 100 per cent recycled materials and feels premium. Opting for the Adventure Package unlocks extra goodies like beautiful natural-grained ash wood dash trim and a Meridian stereo bundling a unique docking portable Bluetooth speaker to bring the party to a campsite or poolside.

2023 Rivian R1S

Particularly for those who haven’t been in many EVs previously, operating the Rivian requires one to forget everything they know about operating a “normal” car. First of all, virtually all controls are handled via the 15.6-inch central touchscreen. I sat in the driver’s seat for a few minutes before figuring out changing the side mirror position required first tapping on the user account menu button, and then using the steering wheel thumb control to perform the actual adjustment.

2023 Rivian R1S

Occupants won’t be left wanting for comfort or storage features. The front seats can fold virtually flat to facilitate the catching of Zs when parked, and all three rows have sufficient legroom. Behind the back bench is almost 500 litres of space, along with 300-plus litres below the frunk and 140 in a clever under-cargo-floor compartment. Even furry companions will enjoy the journey thanks to a Pet Comfort mode that maintains a comfortable temperature inside while the people have stepped away, and a special message pops up on the main display assuring onlookers all is well.

Powertrain: Currently, the R1S is offered in either Quad or Dual Motor AWD flavours and three different battery sizes (note the automaker has removed the grade-topping Max Pack option for the former powertrain, and whether it returns remains to be seen). As mentioned above, Vicarious was given the opportunity to try the Quad AWD outputting a mighty impressive 835 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque.

2023 Rivian R1S

The accompanying 135-kilowatt-hour Large Pack battery is enough to allow the nearly 6,000-pound behemoth to travel over 500 kilometres on a full charge. Using a Rivian Level 2 48-amp charging station at home expect a full top-up to take somewhere around 12 hours. Plugging into a high-output 350-kilowatt Level 3 public source should get the reserves from 10 to 80 per cent in the neighbourhood of 40 to 45 minutes.

Drive: Considering the gargantuan performance lurking beneath the bodywork, the vehicle behaves remarkably tamely until the go pedal is pressed to the floor. There are multiple dynamic modes altering throttle response, suspension height and dampening, drivetrain layout and more. Out and about running errands? Conserve switches to front-wheel drive mode and hunkers the stance down for better aerodynamics and overall efficiency. Hitting the trail? Off-Road Rock Crawl is capable of independently sending torque to each corner to maximize grip.

The R1S and R1T share the same air suspension setup, however the pickup sits on a longer wheelbase and may be why the ride on the shorter SUV feels on the bouncier side. That said, the handling is sharper than expected given the large dimensions thanks to a slick hydraulic roll-control replacing a conventional mechanical anti-roll bar. And when you do utilize a heavy foot, hold on to your hats. Blistering is the only appropriate adjective to describe the acceleration feel. We didn’t do any hauling, but towing capacity is rated at 7,700 pounds.

Conclusion: If Rivian is an indication of what’s to come in the electric revolution, the future is bright. The caveat is change doesn’t come cheap: Dual-Motor prices start at MSRP $105,250 and Quad-Motor, $124,500.

2023 Rivian R1S
Price (base): $124,500.00
Configuration: all-wheel drive
Engine: four electric motors
Transmission: one-speed automatic
Power/torque: 835 horsepower/ 908 ft-lb of torque
Charging: peak 220-kilowatt
Combined fuel (equivalent) economy rating: 3.7 Le/100 km
Warranty: five years/100,000 km (basic), eight years/280,000 km (battery pack and drivetrain)
Competitors: Jeep Grand Wagoneer 4xe (2024), Range Rover PHEV, Tesla Model X
Website: Rivian

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