Rivian R1S hands-on driving impressions

It’s solely been just a few months since Rivian began (slowly) delivering the R1T pickup truck to clients, however the firm isn’t losing time launching its subsequent journey automobile: the R1S SUV.

I not too long ago spent the day with just a few early manufacturing R1Ss at a Rivian media occasion and it got here off as an impressively succesful and helpful household automobile — which it ought to, contemplating it begins at $72,500 and rapidly choices as much as $90,000. However Rivian is a model new firm that has but to ramp up manufacturing on any of its automobiles. Its whole goal is simply 25,000 automobiles a yr, of which 10,000 might be Amazon supply vans, so truly getting an R1S is likely to be the most important journey of all.

Rivian R1S and R1T next to each other

The R1T and the R1S are extra alike than completely different

From the entrance door ahead, the R1S is the very same truck because the R1T. The one variations, based on Rivian communications supervisor Shaheen Karimian, are a slight little bit of further silver trim on the surface, and the addition of a button on the wiper stalk to regulate the rear window wiper. The drivetrain and suspensions are the identical, the 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 15.6- inch infotainment show are the identical, the frunk is identical — you get it.

A very powerful shared piece between the R1T and R1T is Rivian’s built-from-scratch {hardware} and software program structure. Most automotive corporations — with the notable exception of Tesla — function very similar to Android and Home windows {hardware} distributors: they purchase completed parts and subsystems from suppliers and assemble them into completed automobiles, with differentiating options and prospers layered on high. However simply as Dell and Samsung rely on Google and Microsoft for many software program updates, most carmakers are on the mercy of suppliers to replace the software program of their automobiles — a dependency many conventional automotive corporations have recognized as an existential aggressive menace. (You’ll be able to hearken to just about any Decoder automotive CEO interview to know how a lot they’re all fascinated with this.)

A yellow Rivian R1S with a flat front tire

In equity, I advised them I might most likely break one thing.
Picture by Nilay Patel / The Verge

However Rivian is an entirely new firm, with none of these preexisting relationships or dependencies, and the flexibility to construct a workforce with the required software program experience from the beginning. If a standard automaker is roughly analogous to a Home windows laptop computer maker, Rivian (and, sure, Tesla) is far more like Apple: in whole management of {hardware} and software program.

Rivian vice chairman of software program growth Wassym Bensaid advised me that his 600-person software program workforce had written nearly all of the code within the R1 automobiles, even all the way down to the bootloaders for numerous microcontrollers. That vertical integration implies that the R1S and R1T share a standard software program platform that may be up to date over the air extraordinarily rapidly, each fixing issues found by clients — the frunk closing tolerances weren’t fairly dialed in — and including options like “pet consolation mode,” which lets the vehicles preserve temperature if it is advisable depart a pet within the automotive for some time. Different options are coming quickly, together with deliberate updates that may add quad-zone local weather controls and different capabilities to the rear touchscreen.

The interior of the Rivian R1S showing the displays

Rivian’s person interface runs on Unreal Engine

I carry all this up as a result of whereas the R1S is a really good three-row electrical SUV with the flexibility to suit 5 carseats in it, what actually units it aside is the software program expertise. The graphics are all dealt with by Epic’s Unreal Engine, which permits for numerous photorealistic renders of the truck to seem on the shows, and just about every part you may consider is controllable from the touchscreen. To a fault, truly: touchscreen HVAC controls are by no means any enjoyable, and Rivian’s vent controls specifically are software program overkill: altering the place the air is blowing requires citing a fullscreen render of the automotive inside that you simply transfer vent icons round. It’s flashy, however on no account higher than having common previous vents which you could simply transfer round along with your fingers.

All that software program must run on highly effective {hardware}, and though Rivian steadfastly declines to specify what chips or suppliers it’s utilizing, vice chairman of {hardware} engineering Vidya Rajagopalan advised me that the present software program wasn’t near maxing out the obtainable compute energy within the R1 automobiles, which have been specced to offer seven to 10 years of usable efficiency as updates roll in. In one other nod in the direction of the advantages of Rivian’s clean-sheet design, Rajagopolan and I spent a number of minutes speaking concerning the automotive’s single-pair Ethernet inner networking structure, one thing conventional automakers have been slowly transferring in the direction of for a decade now.

A Rivian R1S from the rear with the liftgate open

The R1S has a cut up rear tailgate and loads of cargo area.
Picture by Nilay Patel / The Verge

Rivian had scheduled a two-hour drive down a winding mountain freeway in an R1S with 22-inch wheels to an offroad course the place extra R1Ss outfitted with 20-inch offroad wheels and tires had been ready as our take a look at loop for the day.

Off-road, the R1S was a marvel; it has a shorter wheelbase than the R1T and was simpler to navigate by way of the course Rivian had arrange. In comparison with conventional off-roaders, which typically require managing the transmission and differentials by way of numerous four-wheel-drive modes to verify energy from the engine is attending to the best wheel on the proper time, the R1S was hilariously easy to drive. The 4 unbiased motors with torque vectoring, aggressive regenerative braking, superior air suspension, and a devoted rock-crawl mode with a max velocity of 19mph made driving by way of muddy ruts, small creeks, and up rocky hills nearly too straightforward: you may clear up each drawback by urgent the accelerator, and the R1S simply figures it out. In true Verge trend, I did handle to make our unit endure: I hit some sharp rocks within the creek and popped a tire. (Rivian had a van filled with spares, don’t fear.)

A red Rivian R1s from the rear

A pink Rivian R1s from the rear.
Picture by Nilay Patel / The Verge

Nobody at Rivian appeared to be below any illusions about what number of R1S homeowners would truly take these $90,000 SUVs off-road; like Land Rover and Jeep, the off-road functionality is a part of the enchantment however not often a part of the expertise. On the freeway and some small-town streets the place most Rivian homeowners will spend their time, the R1S was composed and assured. The quad-motor drivetrain presents 835 horsepower and the pleasant prompt EV torque made freeway passing easy. An SUV that’s greater than a BMW X5 doing 0-60 in properly below 4 seconds will not be a traditional factor to expertise, however the R1S can do it with out drama at any second.

Rivian’s Driver+ superior driver help system permits for hands-free driving on choose highways, however it wasn’t obtainable on the roads we traveled, as an alternative providing solely adaptive cruise management with lane-keep help. It’s odd that Rivian presents a hands-free driving mode however doesn’t provide the mix of adaptive cruise management and automated lane-centering that methods like Ford’s BlueCruise have as a pleasant fallback half-step on highways that aren’t mapped for hands-free driving.

Rivian is maybe too dedicated to the touchscreen; some bodily HVAC controls can be good.

The R1S configured with the usual battery pack and twin motors is rated at 260 miles of vary; the $6,000 prolonged pack bumps that as much as 320 miles. The prolonged pack is required if you happen to go for quad motors, a mixture which delivers 316 miles of vary. (You’ll get much less vary if you end up placing these quad motors to good use within the passing lane as typically as I did, which is a worthwhile and pleasant tradeoff.) We didn’t have a chance to hunt after charging stations or check out any at-home charging choices, however Rivian is constructing out its personal charging community and makes use of the usual CCS combo connector (J1772 charging inlet with two further pins under), with help for “over 200kW” charging speeds, though these speeds have been laborious to come back by within the R1T to date. (Rivian has promised speeds of as much as 300kW, however that may require completely different {hardware} on future automobiles, not the R1, based on spokesperson Andy Bowman.)

Close-up of a blue Rivian R1S charging port

Rivian makes use of the usual J1772 charging connector
Picture by Nilay Patel / The Verge

The third row has its personal USB-C ports, however it’s extra suited to youngsters than adults

The R1S may be very good inside, however doesn’t fairly really feel like a luxurious SUV, even when probably the most pure rivals on this worth vary are from Land Rover, BMW, and Mercedes. The supplies are well-chosen, issues are properly laid out, and nothing feels low cost, however you’re clearly paying the cash for the drivetrain and the flamboyant software program. You gained’t see family-friendly options like power-folding third row seats or built-in window shades within the doorways. (And there’s no shade for the glass roof both, which is the worst pattern in fashionable EVs: the Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Mannequin 3 and Y don’t have one both.) And the place the R1T has some nifty packaging tips just like the “gear tunnel” in between the rear seats and the pickup mattress, the R1S is way extra regular, for lack of a greater phrase.

However acquainted packaging with a rare drivetrain and a doubtlessly industry-changing {hardware} and software program stack will not be a foul mixture, particularly since there’s much less, um, chaos round Rivian than Tesla, which is the one different automotive firm taking part in in mainstream classes with related benefits. Sooner or later of driving below the watchful eyes of Rivian staffers isn’t sufficient to say the R1S is a contender, however it seems like one.

A white Rivian R1S from the front

Trying good-looking on 21-inch rims.
Picture by Nilay Patel / The Verge

The issue, after all, is that contending within the automotive market requires having automobiles to promote, and Rivian may have treasured few R1S items obtainable. Manufacturing has began — the R1S items we had been driving had been precise early manufacturing fashions with VIN numbers that may ultimately go to Rivian staff — however except for saying some clients will take supply someday between August and September with extra items to observe, there’s no extra timeline info within the face of reported delays, and reserving an R1S on-line proper now outcomes solely in a promise of supply in “late 2023.”

That’s lots of query marks, however spending the day with Rivian’s workforce and their merchandise makes it clear that there’s an infinite quantity of potential right here. Simply please — please — add some bodily buttons to these HVAC controls.

Replace July sixth 9:32AM ET: Up to date to make clear that the Rivian R1S makes use of the CCS combo charging plug, and that the street portion was with automobiles on 22-inch rims, not 21-inch.

Correction July 7 3:46pm ET: Rivian’s promised to ship 300kW charging on future automobiles with completely different {hardware}, not present R1 automobiles with a software program replace.

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