The 2022 Rivian R1T Makes A Strong Argument For The Brave New EV World
The new electric truck from Rivian is a crucial pivot in automotive history.
The Illinois-made 2022 Rivian R1T electric pickup truck has been floating around the internet and auto shows for years. But this week, we finally got a big dose of driving impressions from a long list of car journalists. The consensus seems largely positive; if Rivian can do distribution as well as its done design we might see the truck space changed a lot by this thing. Here’s a huge rundown of what the first folks to drive it had to say.
For some context: Rivan founder and CEO RJ Scaringe started the company 12 years ago to build electrified autonomous cars; the outfit’s pivoted a few times into the company we know today. Since 2018, it grew from 250 employees to a staggering 7,000-plus in June of 2021 with billions of dollars of investment including hundreds of millions from Amazon and Ford.
In its highest trim, the R1T has a proud 314-mile EPA estimated range from a 135-kWh battery pack, more than satisfactory for a truck. Built on what’s called a “skateboard” chassis, Rivian developed a battery, motor, and suspension architecture that works as the floor of the vehicle, freeing engineers to develop different body shapes on the same chassis. The R1T has no shortage of novel storage solutions, interesting camping-centric features, or luxury features that make it a real competitor in its $68,000 starting price bracket. Rivian treated this product as life-or-death and it shows in its impressive levels of completion.
Here’s the Scoop
Rivian is a brand-new chess piece in the wider game of the industry with some serious vehicle engineering experience on it team with both connections to Ford and a former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois turning out its trucks. It wants to revolutionize the industry with its product and not with novel production methods, unlike another well-known groundbreaking EV maker. Still, the Rivian R1T’s goals are decidedly more North Face and less Carhartt. Instead of aiming for a forklift certification, the new truck is aggressively catered to glamping and deep wilderness hiking, as well as rugged off-road capability. Utilitarian work truck, this is not.
On Accessories and Features
Besides the EPA-estimated range, four electric motors, and absurd off-road capability, the Rivian’s real call to glory is the multitude and thoughtfulness of features and usage of space that would typically be taken by an engine and associated parts. For $5,000, buyers get a stowable 30-piece kitchenware set, some pour-overs, a coffee pot, a stove, and don’t forget the kitchen sink. Standard features include a few that you wish all trucks come with: a removable Bluetooth speaker that also doubles as a camp lantern, onboard air compressor for airing tires up, a 1,000-lumen flashlight in the drivers door, and the watertight LED-lit 14.3 cubic foot gear tunnel that can fit the optional kitchen, or an entire human being. Don’t forget about power outlets to power any external accessories too. This is where the Rivian goes to a campsite rather than a construction zone.
James Gilboy for The Drive – “The R1T was envisioned as an outdoor recreation vehicle from the get-go, and its keyfobs are styled accordingly. One’s shaped like a carabiner, another is a waterproof wristband, though there is also a keycard and a phone app option for more everyday use. Hidden in the driver’s door is a 1,000-lumen flashlight with a cell identical to those in the under-floor pack, which, trivia time, brings the total cell count to exactly 7,777. In the dark, it’ll help you find your way to the standard, bed wall-mounted air compressor, which can pump a set pressure as high as 150 psi through an included 20-foot hose with quick disconnects, and adapters for inflating a variety of outdoor gear.
Said gear can be stored in the R1T’s numerous compartments, whose capacity totals 38.5 cubic feet, not including the bed. These include the drain-equipped front trunk and under-bed compartments, a cubby under the rear seat, and the Gear Tunnel; a nifty, watertight, LED-lit space that runs the width of the vehicle. Its back-seat pass-through port can be used to stuff something on top of your skis, golf clubs, or rifles, assuming the space isn’t filled by the optional roll-out Camp Kitchen, or perhaps a body. You can crawl through it.
Further, there are 12- and 120-volt outlets inside the doors, themselves capable of supporting 300 pounds when folded out. They also double as handy steps for loading the 54-inch bed, which while stubby has integral tie-downs, anchors for an included eight-foot, cut-resistant cable to secure cargo, and attachment points for optional crossbars that can mount an optional three-person tent.
The door and seat-back pockets deserve a special mention of their own, too. They’re rigid-backed and hinged at the bottom, with a tensile strap to keep them taut—they won’t get distended the way many seat-back pockets do. It’s all in service, of course, of holding up to outdoor sojourns, which the R1T itself can go on with the best of them.”
Dave Burnett for Top Gear – “And here’s another, the Gear Tunnel. Behind the rear passenger doors are two more small doors on the flanks that open to reveal a storage area that spans the width of the truck. You’d get a person in there, and based on the fact that there are glow-in-the-dark release buttons inside, I’m not the first to have thought that. The open doors double as seats. Or stands, to help you load things into the bed. That tunnel can also contain the optional Camp Kitchen, a slide-out pod with convection burners, utensils and even a grey-water system.
Combined with a locking, powered tonneau cover and another load bay under the bonnet (what, you thought there was an engine up front?) this has to have the most hidden storage of any truck ever made.”
Antuan Goodwin for CNET Roadshow – “The R1T is packed with optional features and gear aimed at enhancing the “adventurous lifestyle” of its prospective buyers. For example, the Camp Kitchen is a 1,440-watt dual burner electric stove with accessories that can be installed in and then deployed from the gear tunnel for mobile cooking.
Rivian’s Gear Guard is an in-bed cable locking system for things like bikes or kayaks and has built-in tamper detection. When triggered, it sends a notification to the owner and stores video recordings of the bed and the area around the truck for retrieval later. There’s an optional in-bed automatic air compressor that’s good for airing up the tires after a day of low-psi off-roading. The R1T also features a bespoke Yakima-mount crossbar system that can quickly be installed or removed from the roof or across the bed to hold bikes, skis or even a three-person tent.”
On Off-Road Capability
With all of those useful features for a few nights at a forest campground, the R1T needs to have the capability to get there. Some folks might think an electric truck would be at a disadvantage compared to a gas-powered truck but the truth is that the Rivian benefits greatly from its electrons. A low center of gravity keeps the truck stable and friendly over extreme angles, and electric motors eliminate the need for low-range, thanks to the fact that the motors generate their peak torque at zero rpm. More than anything, the Rivian is built as a nearly Jeep-killing off-roader with almost none of the compromise.
Dan Edmunds for Autoblog – “Rivian’s unique electric powertrain was making constant traction-management decisions in response to steady pressure on the accelerator pedal because each of its 34-inch 275/65R20 Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tires is propelled by its own direct-drive electric motor. The front pair of motors make a combined 415 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, while the rear pair team up for another 420 hp and 495 lb-ft. Peak power was definitely not entering the equation at this point, but the Rivian’s immense torque potential was looming large.
That’s because electric motors produce their maximum torque from zero rpm, which in turn means there’s no need for a low-range transfer case, let alone a transmission. The presence of four traction-managed electric motors makes the idea of driver-selectable front, center and rear differential lockers completely unnecessary, too. Electric motors also give up nothing at altitude, and that mattered here because we were pushing 12,000 feet. The end result was forward progress that was steady, serene and sort of hypnotic over the challenging terrain. If this is what electric off-roading is like, sign me up.”
James Gilboy for The Drive – “My drive in the R1T took me above 12,000 feet—not that elevation really matters to an electric vehicle—on a rock-crawling trail that I’m confident even some terrific late-model off-road trucks couldn’t tackle (we’re talking Rubicon territory). There, I tested the R1T’s off-road driving modes, which optimize its ride height, damping, stability control, power distribution, and pedal map. According to Rivian, these let the R1T creep up slopes as steep as 45 degrees, and wade up to 42.7 inches of water, while approach, breakover, and departure angles of 34, 25.7, and 29.3 degrees with up to 14.9 inches of ground clearance enable uninhibited travel over broken ground.
That kind of capability eased the R1T up wet, rocky creek beds and down dusty trails, its torque-vectoring four-wheel drive digging itself out of everything. Though heavy, its low center of gravity made it stable on unnerving camber as it straddled ruts, sparing my attention to keep the truck pointed away from roots and rocks that’d scratch its paint. And not only was this off-roading easy, but it was also downright comfortable, not to mention as quiet as any hike. The only sounds were those of tires on rocks, creeks as we passed them, and the surprised yelps of wildlife that didn’t hear us coming.”
Tom Moloughney for InsideEVs – “The Rivian R1T is the first mass-produced electric pickup truck, so there’s really no proper apple-to-apple comparison to make with it. I can only draw from my experience driving off-road in my friends’ vehicles (Jeeps, an F-150 Raptor, and the Ram TRX). What stood out the most to me (and to some of my fellow journalists on the drive) was how easily the R1T managed the toughest challenges.
The R1T’s quad-motor drivetrain senses slip by the millisecond and distributes the proper amount of power to each wheel, precisely as needed. The vehicle slowly and confidently climbs over obstacles like lava oozing down the side of a volcano – it feels unstoppable.
Rock crawling mode enables a slow, steady ascent or descent. There’s no need to play with the throttle to maintain the proper RPMs or even use the friction brakes to slow down. That’s because the regenerative braking system holds you back slowly and steadily, even better than the hill descent modes I’ve used on a variety of gas-powered AWD vehicles. It’s one-pedal rock climbing and it’s actually easy, maybe even too easy. Plus, you’re adding energy back into the battery pack, to boot
On The Interior
While the rest of the truck seems like an undisputed home run, some reviewers are less than stoked about some features of the interior. With no Apple Carplay or Android Auto available at launch or anytime soon as well as some pre-production issues with the infotainment, the Rivian might be a little behind on tech. Interior quality seems good while some evaluators found the seats to be comfortable, others found them supportive and easy.
Antuan Goodwin for CNET Roadshow – “The R1T’s cabin is home to vegan leather upholstery, a full-glass panoramic roof and, for Launch Edition and Adventure models, an ash wood dashboard with a natural-grain finish. Front and center in that dashboard is a 16-inch multimedia touchscreen. Just ahead of the steering wheel is a second 12-inch display that serves as the digital instrument cluster.
The software powering those displays is very well organized with a bright, minimalist design and phonelike shortcuts to the various pages for navigation, audio source, climate control, drive mode selection and other features along the bottom edge of the screen. The maps for navigation look good and destination entry is simple enough, though at least once during the street portion of my two-day drive I noticed the turn-by-turn directions lagged enough to almost make me miss a turn. For the most part, however, I found the rest of the software to be fairly responsive and very easy to use.”
Hannah Elliott for Bloomberg – “Laden with vegan-leather seats and an all-glass panoramic roof, the R1T is no workhorse. Its front end will not sustain a snowplow; its 16-inch center touchscreen should not get wet and won’t respond to input from gloved fingers; and its stiff, not-very-adjustable seats lack the comfort of the premium work rigs that double as offices and conference rooms for contractors on the move.
After nine hours during my longest day of driving, my neck and shoulders felt like they had been wedged into rear-row coach status on a transatlantic flight.”
James Gilboy for The Drive – “A recycled microfiber headliner stretches over Chilewich floor mats and paneling of stained ash, near which yellow highlights lurk. Seats upholstered in vegan leather are heated everywhere but the rear middle, and ventilated up front, with power lumbar adjustment for both front seats. Its 1,200-watt, 18-speaker Meridian sound system with 3D audio accepts input from onboard apps like Spotify and TuneIn in addition to Bluetooth, all of which can also feed a detachable “Camp Speaker” that docks in the center console. It’s kind of a gimmick, but a thoughtful one (it has a “campground” low bass mode to help keep the peace in the wild).
Some of this was down to superb material choices, starting with the unpolished wood paneling, whose coarse, weathered texture and unique grain makes it impossible to confuse for veneer or plastic. The headliner had me thinking suede, and upholstery was a worthy substitute for leather, while the seats they covered—power-adjustable with memory settings—are both comfortable and looked like they belong to something capable of light speed.
Legroom is plentiful, and with a high panoramic glass roof, so is headroom, which a removable roof option coming in 2022 may bolster. Visibility is as strong as anything these days, with a large rear window, and well-positioned second-row windows to minimize blind spots. What few remained, of course, were monitored constantly by the R1T’s onboard safety tech.”
Dan Edmunds for Autoblog – “The seats proved to be very comfortable and supportive all day, whether bouncing over rocks or hustling through turns. Front-seat head- and legroom were on par with full-sized trucks, but the overhead view of the R1T reveals a Coke-bottle shape that makes the cab narrower than its exterior width specification suggests. It never felt cramped inside, but its interior width is more like a Honda Ridgeline than an F-150. The Rivian’s relatively short overall length of 217.1 inches (versus 232.7 for the F-150 Lightning) does take a nibble out of the rear half of its crew cab, but rear legroom felt similar to that of the family friendly Ridgeline’s.
The sizable 16-inch landscape touchscreen has a good deal of shortcut buttons along its perimeter, and drive mode selections are easy to make. But everything is touchscreen-based, with more than a few controls two or three levels down. Two of these came up on the trail: The mirror folding switch was nowhere near the mirror adjustment menu, and the HVAC system’s recirc button was an unwelcome extra layer deep when I was suddenly enveloped by dust.
I have similar mixed feelings about the infotainment system, mainly because of limited input choices at launch. The wonderful 1,200-watt, 18-speaker Elevation by Meridian premium audio system sounds outstanding, and you can readily log into your Tune-In or Spotify streaming accounts if you have them. AM/FM and HD radio are available, too. But there’s no Sirius XM if you’re away from cell service, which isn’t uncommon while off-roading, and the only way to bring your smartphone into the mix is via Bluetooth streaming audio. Like Tesla products, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not supported, and the USB-C ports around the cabin are power-only. Rivian says this was done to maintain complete control of the look and feel of the immersive touchscreen ecosystem, but I think this will tempt drivers to diddle with their phone screens and suction-cup them to a nearby window because they can’t interface with that immersive touchscreen ecosystem.”
On Performance and Road Refinement
Thanks to its four electric motors, the truck makes a touch over 800 horsepower. Harnessing all that power is a four-wheel independent suspension with dual-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension with cross-linked hydraulic dampers like a McLaren 720S. While the tech is impressive off-road, most trucks compromise their on-road refinement and fun in the name of the trail. The R1T is radically different and disagrees with this philosophy.
Dan Edmunds for Autoblog – “On the pavement, the R1T’s steering feels nicely weighted and reasonably direct, and it’s easy to hustle the truck through sweeping bends. Body roll is definitely well-managed, and big 34-inch Pirelli all-terrain tires are remarkably silent. There was more impact harshness on the many frost heaves than is preferred, but unfamiliar roads made this hard to judge. Still, the recommended on-road tire pressure for the Pirellis is a surprisingly high 48 psi. It’s unclear whether the standard 33-inch 275/55R21 tires would have fared better.
Most of my slowing throughout the day was done with lift-throttle regenerative braking, which is fine by me. The R1T has three regen modes, but even the Low setting is fairly strong (0.21g) and works down to a full stop. The Standard setting is stronger than many other EVs at 0.25g, and the Max setting is downright sporty at 0.30g. The real brakes include six-piston Brembo front calipers, but I didn’t regularly use them. The pedal operates the Brembos on a direct basis, so there’s no blending apart from what you get by adding brake force on top of the underlying regen that comes from releasing the accelerator.”
Robert Duffer for Green Car Reports – “The R1T has five drive modes—All-Purpose, Sport, Offroad, Conserve, and Towing—with five different suspension settings as well as settings for adaptive dampers, regen braking, and stability control. The default All-Purpose, or auto mode, straddles the middle of all these settings, and can be overridden by the driving conditions or by the driver’s discretion.
Not every height is available with every drive mode, and most of them can go one notch above or below the standard ground clearance of 11.5 inches. The air suspension travels 6.5 inches, topping out at 14.4 inches in Offroad mode, and bottoming at 7.9 inches when parked.
The different suspension heights and drive modes give the R1T a variability unmatched by other vehicles. If you never fiddled with the settings accessible only through the 15.6-inch touchscreen, All-Purpose mode does what’s advertised. At speeds of over 50 mph, the suspension lowers to 10.1 inches, which is the default height in Sport mode.
Conserve mode lowers the suspension to 9.5 inches, limits the climate control, and disconnects the rear axle, making it a two-motor front-drive unit with softer pedal mapping and a stiffer suspension setting.”
James Gilboy for The Drive – “Trucks as unstoppable as the R1T was off-road are rarely pleasant on it, but the Rivian is the exception to the rule. Hunkering down on its air suspension to reduce drag and lower its center of gravity, the R1T rode smoothly and quietly, its noise cancellation suppressing wind at highway speeds. There’s a range-extending Conserve mode, which disconnects the rear axle, but I spent most of my time in Sport, with stiffer damping and sharper pedal response.
Not that response matters much when you flatten the R1T’s accelerator, unleashing a sound like the Millennium Falcon as it dumps 835 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque, almost lifting you out of your seat as 7,000 pounds (give or take) recoil under supercar-like acceleration. Six-piston front brake calipers, single-piston rears, and dual-axle regenerative braking slow the R1T in time for corners, where the Rivian basically doesn’t roll at all thanks to the electro-hydraulic anti-roll system.
It may have been on all-terrain tires, but the R1T was still hungrier for hairpins than some actual race cars I’ve driven. Approximately 50-50 weight distribution meant it stayed predictable near the limit, too, as I determined while messing with oversteer on unpaved turnouts.”
On Pricing and How It Compares
While the $68,645 base price of the R1T may seem steep to some, this price tracks incredibly well with some high-trim half-ton pickup trucks like an optioned-up Ram 1500 Limited, a Ram TRX, Ford F-150 Limited or a Ford Raptor. However, the Rivian can quickly ramp up in price with expensive options and a potential max range battery pack that will cost an extra $10,000. Most review trucks were around $80,000 as-tested which is still competitive with a Ram TRX and decked-out Raptor. It is not an affordable truck but it tracks well with the upward trend of the truck market.
James Gilboy for The Drive – “The R1T sets a mighty high bar for the electric pickups that will follow it, namely the 2022 GMC Hummer EV and 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning, anticipated later this year and Spring of next respectively. The Tesla Cybertruck… well, who knows. Rivian’s truck lands in the middle as far as price—it starts at $67,500, with no dealer fees or markups on top of that—power, weight, and range go, though it will eventually offer a 400-mile battery option that’ll put it in the lead. It’s also the best at towing with some caveats; its 11,000-pound rating beats the lighting’s 10,000, and the Hummer’s hasn’t yet been announced, though it will come with impressive hands-free highway towing capability.”
Antuan Goodwin for CNET Roadshow – “The $74,075 Launch Edition I drove — $76,075 as tested with the off-road upgrade — is already sold out, snatched up by early deposit holders. However, you can still put down a $1,000 reservation to get in line for one of the 2022 Rivian R1T’s two trim levels.
The $68,575 base price gets you the R1T Explore with a manual tonneau cover, matte black interior and, of course, the quad-motor powertrain, air suspension and 314-mile range. Also starting at $74,075, the Adventure trim is almost identical to the Launch Edition, and gets you a powered tonneau cover, Rivian’s Gear Guard system and nicer heated/ventilated seats with lumbar adjustment and higher-quality cabin materials. Those prices include the $1,05 destination charge, but not any qualifying state or federal EV incentives and rebates. Deliveries of Launch Edition models are already underway with the first Explore and Adventure examples expected to start rolling off the line sometime in January 2022.”
Dan Edmunds for Autoblog – “The truck I drove was an Adventure Package, which starts at $73,000. The only other choice is the Explore Package for $67,500. Both come standard with the Large Pack battery, and the bigger Max Pack with an unconfirmed range of 400-plus miles is a $10,000 option. The Pirelli 34-inch all terrain tires are an $1,800 upgrade, but they’ll set you back $3,500 if you want gloss black wheels. Curiously, a full-size matching spare costs $800 either way. An Off-Road Upgrade consisting of reinforced underbody panels and tow hooks costs $2,000, and from there we get into accessories like crossbars, rack accessories for the crossbars, a rooftop tent, a fully-equipped slide out electric kitchen and other miscellany you can peruse on the Rivian website.”
The EPA estimates the R1T test trucks range at 314 miles, which is substantial especially for a truck. Rivian also says towing will cause a 20 to 40 percent reduction in range, and that a larger optional wheel and tire are worth a 10 to 15 percent range penalty. It plans to introduce an upgraded battery pack worth 400 miles of range for $10,000 which may be a welcome addition for some owners. The truck has strong regenerative braking that is constantly recovering energy, with some reviewers coming out of a trail range positive thanks to the regeneration.
Antuan Goodwin for CNET Roadshow – “Those motors are powered by a 135-kilowatt-hour Large Pack battery beneath the R1T’s floor, good for an EPA-estimated 314 miles of range when equipped with 21-inch wheels. Optioning 20-inch all-terrain or 22-inch sport wheels will reduce the range by up to 15%, according to Rivian. Off-roading or towing the maximum 11,000-pound capacity can also slash the range by as much as 50%. Next year, a 180-kWh Max Pack will be added to the options list, bumping the estimated range over the 400-mile mark for an additional $10,000.
Able to DC fast-charge at speeds up to 200 kW, the R1T can rapidly add around 140 miles in just 20 minutes with an 80% charge taking a little more than 30 minutes. At an 11.5-kW home or public Level 2 charger, you’re looking at adding around 25 miles per hour of charging or 12 hours to full from flat.”
James Gilboy for The Drive – “Under its floor sits a huge, 135-kilowatt-hour battery, good for powering the R1T’s quad-motor, four-wheel-drive powertrain an EPA-rated 314 miles. A 180 kWh, 400-mile “Max Pack” battery will be available for a $10,000 premium starting early next year. Recharging info is limited, but Rivian says it’ll recover 140 miles of range in 20 minutes on a 200-kW DC fast-charge feed.”
Hannah Elliott for Bloomberg – “I experienced no anxiety related to range, which Rivian says is 314 miles on a single charge of its largest battery option. I found this to be a reliable estimate; in fact, on some segments of the off-road portion of my drive, the truck showed more charge on it than when I had begun, thanks to energy regeneration as I braked down steep grades.
My longest day over nine hours of driving saw the battery go from 215 miles to 89 miles of range. Towing another vehicle would, of course, have depleted the range far more (up to 50%) as would wheel size, which range from 20 to 22 inches and can deplete range an additional 15%. Using DC fast charging, you can add 140 miles of range in 20 minutes, Rivian says. It will take hours to recharge fully.”
Special Segment: Dan Edmunds on Engineering
Dan Edmunds was the only reviewer to take a photo of the underbody of the new truck and as a veteran journalist and automotive engineer, he would know what to look for. For his piece on Autoblog, he explains the suspension concept, hydraulic dampers, suspension travel, on how it compares to other trucks in the segment.
Dan Edmunds for Autoblog – “The R1T rides on a four-wheel independent suspension, with double wishbones up front and a unique multilink setup in back. Both ends employ air springs that offer a full 6.5 inches of height adjustment served up in six increments from the lowest kneeling position (only in Park) to the highest “Max” off-road setting. The latter translates into 14.9 inches of ground clearance, more than 3 feet of water fording depth and healthy maximum approach, departure and breakover angles of 34, 29.3 and 25.7 degrees, respectively. I tackled the trail in “High” mode, because 13.1 inches of ground clearance proved to be more than sufficient, especially since the R1T has a pan-flat bottom with no protuberances.
Front and rear suspension travel worked out to 10.2 and 10.6 inches, respectively. That’s quite strong, but the Hummer EV, Ford F-150 Raptor and Ram 1500 TRX offer considerably more because they have between 5 and 6 inches of extra track and body width. Wide-track suspensions make it easier to engineer more wheel travel, but such wide-bodied trucks wouldn’t have fit on this trail (or in many parking spots). The Rivian may have fit, but I had to ease by a few trees at times, and later had to fold in the mirrors to get through a twisting, articulated and steep-walled luge section without breaking them off.
The R1T has no stabilizer bars in the traditional sense. It instead uses a hydraulically interconnected set of adaptive dampers that’s an evolution of a concept I first saw on the McLaren MP4-12C. The Electro-Hydraulic Roll Control system’s left and right dampers are cross-linked rebound-to-compression and compression-to-rebound, while the fronts and rears are connected like-to-like. There are accumulators and valves at strategic points, and the system can stiffen to varying degrees to flatten cornering according to your mode selection, go limp so the suspension can flex to its maximum extent off-road, or offer no roll resistance when driving straight to minimize head toss.”
Reviewers were hosted in Colorado by Rivian on a 200-mile trip between Breckenridge, CO and Denver, CO on the highway, mountain road, and rugged trail over three days, with meals cooked on the optional stowaway kitchen for reviewers.