Road Test: Rivian R1T EV Truck
The Origin of Rivian
Have you ever wondered how today’s new all-electric vehicle companies come up with their names? I mean, Tesla is obvious dedicated to innovating electrical genius Nikola Tesla, but what about companies such as Lucid or Rivian? Well, as for Rivian, the name comes from the Indian River where Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe spent much of his youth exploring in his rowboat near Melbourne, Florida. As the story goes, Scaringe loved to hike, camp and boat, becoming all too aware of the pollution to the environment near his home. He decided to do something about it and a company was born in 2009 aimed at environmental sustainability.
Those lofty goals have come to fruition in the form of a world-changing vehicle that does everything well and doesn’t pollute our planet. While Rivian’s R1T is certainly a pickup truck, the company thinks of it more as an electric sport utility vehicle. It is built on a skateboard platform that will support future vehicles of different types for both off-road and on-road driving applications. One of the most amazing things about the R1T is that while most other EVs have one or two electric motors for front, rear, or all-wheel drive, the R1T has FOUR electric motors, one at each wheel.
Four Motor Four-Wheel Drive
The combination of four electric motors makes the R1T a true game changer in the EV world. The two motors at each axle produce an amazing 415 horsepower and 413 pound feet of torque to the front wheels and 420 horses and 495 pound feet of torque to the rear wheels. That combo is enough to carry you from zero to 60 miles per hour in just three seconds! That lends an entirely new dimension to the meaning of the term “sport truck.” It can honestly be said that you can do things in this Rivian that you would never consider doing in any other truck on earth.
For instance, a motor for each wheel also provides truly amazing agility both on and off the road. Combined with the vehicle’s height-adjustable air suspension system, the R1T gives you real-time torque vectoring, delivering plenty of power to each wheel independently so you have power exactly where you need it, all the time. Unlike traditional off-road vehicles, the Rivian pickup has no clutches to open and close, no couplings or differentials to worry about. The system is extremely adaptable, with a wide variety of drive modes for any possible off-road condition.
Road Testing the R1T
Before we talk about putting this high tech beast through its paces in real world conditions, it must be said that the R1T is a well-rounded wonder. Size-wise it fits somewhere between a midsize pickup and a half-ton full-size truck. Think of the size and adaptability of a Honda Ridgeline with the face-peeling acceleration of a Porsche Taycan. But this EV marvel will also rock crawl with the best Jeep or tow 11,000 pounds with ease. In short, it is remarkable.
Another impressive attribute of the R1T is it space and storage. Because the motors, suspension, and batteries all live under the vehicle in its skateboard platform, there is all kinds of space in this thing. For instance, where the motor normally lives in a gasoline-powered truck, you’ll find a large storage area under the hood. There’s also a full width pass-through behind the rear seats and ahead of the bed, known as a Gear Tunnel. It is here that an optional kitchen complete with an induction oven can be outfitted for an additional $5,000. The truck bed itself offers an electrically powered and lockable cover to keep your gear safe.
Getting into the R1T, we found the cab extremely comfortable with refined seating and excellent visibility. Everything is handled by the large touchscreen and the multipurpose buttons on the steering wheel. Even such details as adjusting the air conditioning vents is handled via the touchscreen. If you enjoy swiping screens, you’ve come to the right place with the Rivian truck. It makes you feel like you’re inside the world’s largest smartphone.
The R1T is remarkably swift and sure footed on the highway. The standard on-road drive mode setting is called “All-Purpose” and that certainly fits the bill for most of the driving you’ll do. For every day travel, you will find that the R1T offers a very comfortable ride though it is capable of rocketing away at incredible speeds when called upon and it holds a line very well through sweeping curves. In fact, it feels as though it is on rails as you glide from corner to corner or curve to curve.
To fully enjoy the abilities of the Rivian’s torque-vectoring capabilities, switch to “Sport Mode” and hit a hard curve, powering out with an aggressive throttle. You’ll notice a bit of understeer and then a whooshing, astounding, launch into the straightaway that feels more like you are in a sports car than a big truck.
“Conserve Mode” allows you to only use two of the four motors, making the R1T essentially a front wheel drive vehicle to save power. For those who still worry over “range anxiety,” the R1T has an estimated range of over 300 miles on a charge with a 400-mile battery pack coming soon.
The R1T has an entirely separate set of drive modes when it comes to off-roading. These allow you to raise or lower the suspension and change the throttle response to suit the driving conditions. Using the various degrees available in these modes is like having several different trucks all in one. This allows the same truck that blasts along highways to delicately traverse stream beds, ford rivers, or turn into a mountain goat and go rock climbing with the greatest of ease.
Again, because of its skateboard design, there is nothing hanging below the carriage to get stuck or caught while four-wheeling in a canyon. You won’t hear the crunch of an exhaust system or the clang of a driveshaft. Ground clearance can be adjusted from 7.9 inches all the way up to 14.4 inches, exceeding the clearance of even a Jeep Gladiator. And for true rock climbing hijinks, an onboard compressor allows you to let some air out of your tires and scale canyon walls with the best off-roaders and then simply pump the tire pressure back up when you’re ready to get back on the highway.
However, off road is where this new EV really shines. Its four motors sense slip and send power to each wheel as needed. Unlike gas-powered off-road vehicles, there are no differentials to lock and no crawler gear to engage. Just switch to the mode of your liking and apply the right amount of throttle. The R1T is capable of traversing the most damning and daunting terrain with uncanny smoothness.
Another plus for off-road warriors is the Rivian’s excellent regenerative braking system that can be adjusted to four different levels of regeneration. This assures that you never run down steep slopes. The electric motors slow the vehicle as soon as your foot lifts off the accelerator. In Low or Medium mode, the braking slows in a way reminiscent of engine braking in a gasoline-powered vehicle. Whereas Maximum Mode gets on the brakes pretty hard and High Mode feels great for off-camber or stair-stepping off-roading adventures.
A Game Changer
As we said at the beginning of this article, the Rivian R1T pickup truck is a true game changer. It does everything very well and does a number of things that no other pickup truck is capable of. It may very well have the ability to change the minds of a lot of people who would normally never consider buying an all-electric vehicle, much less a zero-emission pickup truck. While Ford is giving the faithful F-150 crowd a lot to think about with its excellent Lightning variant, Rivian has reinvented both the concept of what an electric vehicle can be and what it can do both on and off the road.
Starting MSRP for the R1T Explore Package with 300-plus mile battery pack is $67,500.
Don't forget, you can always find detailed information on the newest model electric vehicles inside our EV Catalog.