Rivian owners have woken up to find a new Soft Sand driving mode.
The Rivian R1T leaves the factory as an impressive truck, but the automaker is still rolling out new features via over-the-air update technology. After teasing the tech earlier this year, the automaker has now released a new Soft Sand driving mode - its ninth so far. Though the R1T electric pickup is Rivian's only model on sale, the R1S SUV will get the feature when it's released.
The new mode softens driver inputs to avoid digging into loose surfaces. Rivian says the accelerator pedal has been remapped to deliver a gradual power buildup rather than massive acceleration off the line. As vehicle speed increases, throttle response and power delivery sharpen to become more aggressive with the driver's inputs.
The sand mode also allows the driver to dial in softer regenerative braking so that lifting off the throttle doesn't lead to digging into the ground. The vehicle's suspension system changes to accommodate uneven, unpredictable sand surfaces at speed. With so much variability in terrain, Rivian's suspension has to be supple enough to soak up minor imperfections at high speeds while offering enough travel and movement to tackle significant obstacles like rocks and holes.
Rivian gives guidelines on using and not using the soft sand mode. The automaker says that the drive mode "really shines brightest in deep sand, specifically sand dunes, and can also help the driver regain momentum and unstick the vehicle by moving large amounts of sand at each wheel in a controlled fashion." That means you're unlikely to get stuck, but if you do, your Rivian has tools at its disposal to get you back on your way home. When you're really stuck, Rivian's got you covered with an available winch.
Though it sounds ideal for other tricky conditions, such as snow, Rivian's new sand mode is best kept to the dunes. The automaker says that the mode is not optimal for terrain such as sparse sand or gravel and notes that its Off-Road All-Terrain mode is a much better choice. The company is also careful to state that its promotional photos were taken responsibly and in an area designated for such antics.
Soft sand mode is exciting, but it doesn't change the fact that Rivian's got serious challenges to overcome. The automaker is stuck in a vicious cycle of reduced output and diminished supplier support. After cutting its production forecasts, company CEO RJ Scaringe blamed Rivian's cuts for its inability to secure the semiconductors it needs to build vehicles. Customers have grown impatient as the company threatened extended delays for more complicated specifications.