Rivian R1S review: An impressive electric SUV meant for outdoor adventure.

Rivian impressed us with its R1T pickup, and its R1S electric SUV is no different. The slightly smaller vehicle continues the automotive startup’s trend of building no-compromise electric vehicles meant for outdoor adventure. Living the life of an extreme camper, kayaker or cyclist does have a bank-busting price tag with the R1S starting at $78,000. It also might not be the most efficient EV on the market, but it has a range of up to 316 miles and delivers to those looking to go outdoors with a vehicle that’s solidly built. The R1S also now ships with new Camping features so overnight stays can be a bit more comfortable. Designing a desirable EV is not something Rivian has struggled with to date, though: its real issue is mass-producing cars to keep up with orders. Watch the video below for the full story.

Video Transcript


ROBERTO BALDWIN: A while back, we reviewed the Rivian R1T, the automotive startup's pickup and first vehicle. What we expected was a nice truck from a new company, likely with some issues that could be chalked up to, well, being new to the automotive world. Instead, what we ended up driving was an impressive pickup that any automaker would have been proud to build, regardless of powertrain. Well, now we're driving the second Rivian, the R1S. Well, second Rivian if you don't count those Amazon delivery vans.


Obviously, the biggest difference between the R1S and the R1T is that the R1T is a truck and this is an SUV, that means no more bed. But it also means no more gear tunnel, which probably would be here, I suppose. On the truck it makes sense, on the SUV, not really.

We have tons of storage here. You have tons of storage up front. But we still are kind of bummed and we do miss it. Really, the biggest difference is the size.

The R1S is 16 inches shorter than the R1T, but is $5,000 more starting at $78,000. With that extra money, though, you get a third row, perfect for kids and kid-sized adults. That smaller size also means that the vehicle feels more agile, especially on back roads like this, and in town where, well, space can be of a premium.

And like its larger sibling, the R1T, it can do 0-60 in about 3 seconds. In fact, it's weirdly agile for an SUV, especially one that weighs just under 7,000 pounds. Now, it does help that this is the Launch Edition trim level that has the quad motor system and the large battery pack, giving it 835 horsepower and 908 pounds feet of torque.

That extra power will cost you. While the Launch Edition, this version of the Rivian is sold out, the Adventure Edition can be outfitted with the quad motors and the larger battery pack with a starting price of $95,500, which is a very expensive way of saying that the Rivian is not quite for everyone, at least not yet. For those in the market and with the cash, the SUV has a range of 260 miles for the entry level version, with the standard 105 kilowatt hour capacity pack.

For the launch edition, it has a pack of 135 kilowatt hours of capacity, which should give you 316 miles of range, according to the EPA, but we need to caveat that. For example, wheel size and tires, now, these are the 20 inch wheels. These are the smaller wheels for this vehicle, but they're paired with these all terrain tires.

These are not high efficiency tires. They're not made for EVs, they're made for going off road, which means that by adding these to the vehicle, you lose 40 miles of range. Typically, when we do our range runs, we are driving on days like this. It's nice, it's calm, it's sunny.

Instead, we ended up driving the R1S during a rainstorm. So in addition to losing 40 miles of range because of these wheels, we also lost about another 20 miles of range because of the rain and the headwind. Rain is actually really bad for efficiency. It actually increases rolling resistance, and of course, the headwind is a headwind.

So instead of getting 360 miles of range from this vehicle, we got, well, about 60-70 miles less. If it makes you feel better, rain, headwinds, and giant off road tires also mess with the efficiency of gas powered vehicles. So when you're buying your car and you're deciding what wheels to put on it, maybe think about, well, what you're doing, especially if you're trying to save a few bucks.

Fortunately, Rivian has built the R1S on a 450 volt architecture, which the automaker says supports DC fast charging up to 220 kilowatts. Which is great because the Ford F-150 only does 170. This is, well, quicker. Rivian says it recently updated the vehicle to support DC fast charging and support for DC fast chargers up to 500 amps.

They also have their DC Fast Charging Adventure Network that they've placed outside national parks, and in remote areas, and places where you can do some off-roading. But, I mean, we're going to get some free electricity here. But, back to the over-the-air update, the latest version brought some interesting, and dare I say fun, features to the vehicle.

The largest update and one that Rivian owners will probably appreciate the most is camping. There is a suite of camping features that have been added to the vehicle. They have features like Camp Courtesy. If you're in your vehicle, you want to sleep in your vehicle and you want it on, you can use Camp Courtesy, that way it turns off all the exterior lights so you're not hassling the people who are camping near you.

There is also the ability to turn the displays off. So you can have the climate control running in the vehicle while you're sleeping but without the displays on. There's also something that if you hear a sound outside your vehicle and you want to see what's out there before you go, the lights, the floodlights that are on the side mirrors, you can turn those on and off. So you can just sort of see what's going on out there and you can optimize your energy usage.

One thing that should make, well, over-landers who like to sleep on top of their vehicles and those who like to camp inside their vehicle happy is the auto leveling feature. What it does is that when you park somewhere or where the vehicle is slightly askew, it's not completely flat, you push a button and the vehicle will, well, it'll right itself. Right now we're parked at a negative 5 degree angle, according to the level app sitting here on the tailgate.

Let's see if we can get that to 0. And now we're done and it says that we're at -1%. If you're saying to yourself, well that's only 4 degrees, well, 4 degrees is actually quite a lot. Because look at the difference between the space between the wheel and the fender.

On the back wheel I can stick my fists together and I still have lots of room to move my fist up and down. Meanwhile, up front, I can't even get one fist in here. I have to flatten my hands and get them in there and my hands are actually touching the fender and the wheel. And if I were sleeping in the back of this vehicle, I wouldn't be rolling around nearly as much.

The infotainment has been updated and the vehicle will now pre-condition the battery so it charges quicker when you plan a route to a DC Fast Charging Station. It also now has a pet comfort mode. Now, this is something every automaker should be stealing from Tesla. It makes for happy dogs, happy cats, and if you own a pig, happy pigs.

Another interesting over-the-air update is car wash mode. It turns out, Rivian found out that the charge port on the vehicle in the front left, it's capacitive touch. And what would happen is when people would bring their vehicles into the car wash, the charge port would open. So they created Car Wash Mode.

You just turn it on right here. Boop. And it closes the windows, turns off the charging port sensor so it doesn't pop open anymore. Turn that on, we're good to go.

Driving around, I did find that the infotainment system housed in a 16 inch touchscreen was easy to use. There wasn't a lot of latency, which is nice. I do wish there were more actual buttons in the vehicle. All the climate controls, all of that, all the modes, everything is in the display, which requires a bit more concentration while you're driving.

You also don't get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto Support in this vehicle, which is kind of a bummer, especially if you're used to just using Google Maps for absolutely everything. You do have native Spotify and Tunein, but I would like to see native Apple Music and Tidal. Speaking of Google Maps, the navigation isn't quite as robust as what you find in Google Maps, but really, who cares?

Because the EV has the thing that every EV should have and that is it automatically finds charging stations along a planned route. So if I want to go from here to LA, it'll show me charging stations, how long I'll have to be there, where I need to go along my route. Something every EV should have. It is in the Rivian system.

For all those charging stations, the vehicle can give you a heads up of available charging at each location, except for Electrify America locations. But Rivian tells me they are working on that. The vehicle doesn't have native voice control, but you can use Amazon's voice activated assistant. I will not say the name, because I do not want to activate all the things in your house.

It works fine. It works as well as you would expect. Behind the wheel, we have a nice, clean dash cluster. It has just enough information without being overwhelming.

On the highway, it does have a driver assistance suite, it has adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, what you would expect. Lane keep assist is pretty much on par with everything else that's on the road right now. I did have to disengage it a few times.

It is a hands on system, so you just sort of take over. Taking over isn't that much of a hassle. You don't have to wrestle it away like a Tesla. The adaptive cruise control, I actually like the way that it accelerates.

So let's say I have the setting to 75, car in front of me doing 70, it gets out of my way. Instead of just blasting to 75 miles an hour, it has a nice, leisurely way to get up to 75, which I am a huge fan of. I don't need to be accelerating all the time like a crazy person.

As for the ride quality like the R1T, it rides beautifully for an adventure vehicle and that has to do a lot with the air suspension and the active dampeners. In fact, you can adjust the ride height of the vehicle by 6 inches. So you can have it up really high if you want to go over some rocks or you're doing some off-roading or really low in order to reduce drag as you're flying down the freeway.

The interior materials are impressive. I especially like this wood, adds a nice texture. It feels like real wood, hasn't been sanded down or shellacked. I like it across here on the trim. And the seats are comfy, except for one thing, and that is this weird line.

I had the same issue with a Ford. Automakers are adding these weird lines and it just puts a gap in your back support. I guess it's fine if you're shorter, you just kind of scooch down here. No.

The rear seats are also comfy and the third row, well, I'm tall, it's a third row, just throw your kids back there. Here in the back, you have plenty of cargo space with the third row up for, well, large suitcases. But you can put it down and it just grows exponentially.

Plus you also get these cool tie downs which you can slide around and just pull off. And if you're the adventurer sort, which well, essentially, that's the whole purpose of buying this vehicle, if you have a bicycle, you have an air compressor. And you have power, you have a regular outlet, 12 volt.

And in addition to just some space under here, you can adjust this little plank so everything lies flat, you don't have this bump anymore. So you can just slide things into the back of your Rivian R1S. And, of course, it has a frunk, space up front that, well, Porsche and Volkswagens have had forever, but now it's cool because of EVs.

It has 11 cubic feet of space, which right here, there's probably enough room for two carry on bags, but there's also a little cubby underneath. You lift this up, there's more space. You can have a giant purse.

This is actually a charging cable, but there is actually a lot of additional space down here and it open and closes automatically. You don't have to get your hands dirty with, I guess, the hood. Rivian has a few ways to get in and operate the vehicle.

One of them is via this giant key fob. It's kind of big and bulky, but it's nice and rubbery. Another is via the Rivian app. Now, you can get into the car, you can drive it, but you can also check the charge rate and get other information like that. There's also a NFC card and an NFC band that you can wear.

Now, if you're into surfing or kayaking or any sort of sport that means you're going to get wet, that band might be the best way to operate the Rivian. And finally, there was a bit of fun added to the vehicle. For Halloween, what Rivian did is they switched over the lock, unlock chirp, which is typically a bird, to that of an owl. They also changed the white light bar that flashes white when you unlock the vehicle to green, because everyone knows Halloween's all about green.

One thing they did change, which is a bit cringey, is that in the dash cluster, instead of seeing pedestrians, you saw zombies, which is probably not the best call. Next year, make them werewolves or Dracula's or Frankenstein's instead. That said, it's nice having a bit of fun with the vehicle that doesn't impede in how it works and how it deals with people in the outside world, and Rivian owners should expect more holiday Easter eggs.

The R1S takes the proven excellence of the R1T and shrinks it down a bit and covers everything up. It's a compelling, but expensive, electric SUV that's built for the adventurers out there. Plus, it has a pet mode.

Rivian has been dealing with the same supply chain issues as everyone else in the industry. And so far, it looks like they're going to weather the storm and come out the other side, and let's hope that they do. So far, they've introduced two outstanding vehicles, and hopefully in the future, they can do it again with the same quality and a lower price tag. For more automotive coverage next to a very small body of water, be sure to subscribe to Engadget.