The world needs an American full-size electric SUV.
With excitement building over the promise of an all-electric GMC Hummer, it's worth remembering that there's another sizeable electric vehicle heading to market. Rivian's two or three-row R1S SUV is on its way, and it promises to be something special. Rivian has been building towards releasing an SUV and truck on its own electric vehicle platforms since 2009. The company has played the long game, and it's starting to pay off with major players like Ford, Standard Chartered Bank, and Cox Automotive investing heavily. On top of that, Rivian also secured a contract with Amazon to build 100,000 electric delivery vans. The future looks bright for Rivian, and if the company delivers on its truck and SUV as expected, then Tesla will find itself with some serious competition.
Something about the silhouette makes us think of what Range Rover models would look like now if they had taken a different turn in styling development ten years ago. The R1S isn't set to have changes made to the heavily stylized front and rear lights before we see them on the road, so what we see should be what we get. The classic off-roader boxy silhouette is simple and elegant but doesn't break any conventions. That will be important for those in the market for large and capable SUVs that traditionally value large gas-guzzling engines and don't want to wear an electric vehicle like a badge.
The R1S SUV will share a lot with its truck counterpart, including its 105-, 135-, and 180-kWh battery packs. The 180-kWh version will be the first on sale, and Rivian claims it will give the SUV a range of over 410 miles. The 105-kWh battery will provide 240 miles of range, while the 130-kWh battery should be good for around 310 miles. The 135-kWh battery will supply the most potent R1S, with the four motors, one at each wheel, combining to deliver 754 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of 3.0 seconds. Even the base model will hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, though. All models are shown with a top speed of 125 mph.
Rivian is aiming for its SUV to be a capable off-road adventurer and on-road hauler. With a motor at each corner providing all-wheel-drive on all models, the ability to control each motor individually promises to take the SUV's off-roading ability to a whole new level. Adjustable air-suspension is also promised as standard along with a maximum of 14.5 inches of ground clearance, which should enhance off-road ability along with the R1S's steep approach and departure angles. Rivian is also boasting a wading depth of three feet.
When it comes to towing, Rivian is reporting the R1S can pull around 7,700 lbs along with a payload capacity of 1,800 pounds. Towing will have a huge effect on range, so people pulling loads regularly will be wanting the model with the 180-kWh battery packs.
From everything we've seen of the production model, the R1S's cabin is set to rival Volvo's finest with its styling and materials. The style is contemporary and spacious and blends old school leather surfaces and wood trim with a prominent horizontally mounted infotainment screen. The driver also gets a large screen in front of the steering wheel to display gauges and relevant information. There's not a whole lot of buttons on the dashboard, so the large screen and its expandable tiled layout will take care of climate control, navigation, and media control duty.
The first wave of Rivian models sold will come fitted with all sensors needed for Level 3 autonomy. However, the software won't be fully developed, and owners will have to wait for an over-the-air update to gain autonomy-based features. One promising feature has shown up in patent filings for a "Guardian Mode." Guardian Mode will allow someone, such as a child, an elderly relative, or physically disabled person, to "request" to ride in the car in driverless mode. However, that would be a long way into the future, assuming driverless vehicles actually become a reality.
Rivian's platform for its truck and SUV is based around a "skateboard" type chassis, meaning the drivetrain and batteries are built into a platform running under the length of the cabin. That means the floor is flat, so the middle person in the second row doesn't have to contend with a transmission tunnel between their legs. It also means that, along with the traditional rear cargo space, the area where a gas engine would usually be housed is available to provide an extra 12-cubic-feet of cargo space.
The Rivian R1S starts at $72,500, but the 180-kWh version will be around $85,000. Currently, the closest competitor is the Tesla Model X, which starts at $84,990.
The company is also planning to open a network of its own stores to sell vehicles and service centers to support its mass-market products. Unfortunately, direct-to-consumer sales of autos in various states are heavily legislated against to protect dealers. It will vary state to state, but already Colorado made amendments to its laws, and it has been reported that Rivian is lobbying in other states, including Washington, to pass similar legislation or changes.
The Rivian R1S was due to go into production later this or very beginning of 2021. Unfortunately, the company has been forced to shut down its facilities due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Rivian has said that will delay the truck until at least early 2021, and the SUV is due to follow it. Until the all-clear is given, the former Mitsubishi plant Rivian now owns in Normal, Illinois, will remain idle.