It’s official. The race to put the first all-electric pickup in the hands of customers has been won by Rivian Automotive. Last month, the automaker’s debut vehicle, the R1T pickup, began rolling out its Illinois factory. It’s a significant occasion for several reasons.
First, Rivian beats Tesla, Ford, and General Motors to the punch. Next, market-leading Tesla faces another credible challenger in the EV space (Lucid Motors’ luxury sedans have also begun rolling off the assembly line). And, lastly, Rivian is giving credence to its plans for a proposed $80 billion initial public offering (a valuation that will put the Irvine, CA-based firm at ten percent of Tesla’s worth).
About The R1T Pickup Truck
Considering that the top-selling vehicles in the U.S. are pickups (Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram Pickup, in that order), Rivian wisely started its efforts in the busiest part of the automotive marketplace. Going where the money is (pickups) makes perfect sense, plus it avoids the premium EV sedan segment already dominated by Tesla and attracting other automakers, including Porsche, Lucid, and Faraday Future.
While the R1T has the basic form of a pickup, visually, it’s very distinctive. The vertical oval headlights have an almost anime quality giving the front end a whimsical look. At the same time, the intersecting horizontal light bar accentuates the R1T’s width and bulk.
The Launch Edition R1T reaches the streets with a promised 314 miles of range and 0-60 mph time of three seconds. These specs will give Tesla’s Cybertruck (now pushed back to next year) something to shoot for. Also standard for the R1T is a four-motor, all-wheel-drive setup and a three-foot water fording capability that gives the truck serious off-road creds. Rivan promises a 400-mile range R1T next year.
The truck is also rated for a towing load up to 11,000 pounds, putting the R1T on par with the Nissan Titan XD and beating out the Toyota Tundra’s towing strength (by 800 pounds). Detroit’s half-ton trucks (when fully equipped) usually max out in the 12,000-13,000 pound towing range.
Inside, the R1T offers a crafted but streamlined cabin that’s reminiscent of the Tesla experience. Separate horizontal tablets provide a driver information display and the center console infotainment touchscreen. Standard gear includes “vegan” leather upholstery, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel as part of the entry-level Explore Package.
Step up to the Adventure Package, and the cabin gets upgrades, including ventilated seating, natural wood accents, and a Meridian audio system. A power moonroof is standard on all R1T models, with Rivian reporting that an optional removable roof will be available in mid-2022.
Rivian cleverly makes use of every nook and cranny in the R1T. The “frunk” offers 11 cubic feet of storage. In the cargo area, the underbed storage space can handle about 14 cubic feet of gear. The 4.5-foot cargo bed stretches out to 7 feet when the tailgate is dropped.
The R1T’s signature space is the Gear Tunnel which runs the entire width of the truck behind the rear doors. There’s an access panel on each side, and the compartment is the ideal place to stash golf clubs and other sports gear. Or, the R1T can be equipped with the available Camp Kitchen. The $5,000 option (Adventure model only) slides out of the Gear Tunnel space with a two-burner electrified cooktop, sink, and complete dining set.
Rivian R1T By The Numbers
The R1T starts at $67,500, with the Adventure Package adding another $5,500. There’s a host of options, including a $2,000 Off-Road Upgrade (underbody protection and front tow hooks) and a $2,500 three-person Yakima tent that sits on top of the cargo bed.
What Others Say About The Rivian R1T
With the R1T finally hitting the streets, the obligatory “first drive” reviews have been coming in droves. Of course, anyone who writes about cars can easily get distracted by new and bright and shiny objects. And, the situation is no different with the Rivian R1T. The truck’s first-to-market status no doubt is attracting attention. But what makes many so curious about the company is the more than $10 billion of investments provided by Ford, Amazon, Cox Automotive, and other heavy hitters. In other words, does all this money produce a superior product?
Seth Weintraub, the publisher of EV website Electrek , remarks that the R1T is “Easily the best pickup I’ve ever driven, both off-road and on.” In his review, Weintraub puts hits money where his mouth is by placing a deposit on Rivian’s forthcoming R1S SUV (which he says is a better fit for his lifestyle).
In its R1T review, Car and Driver comments that the pickup “accelerates like a Corvette, off-roads like a Power Wagon—and includes a kitchen sink.” It also dishes out high marks for the truck’s behind-the-wheel composure, mainly when off-road. The dings are minor, mostly citing the absence of an inclinometer and altimeter for off-road journeys. And, the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto gets called out.
In addition, Robb Report heaps praise on the R1T citing how the pickup handles high-mountain adventures with aplomb. The review points out that conventionally powered vehicles would find tall elevations a challenge for sufficient oxygen intake, which doesn’t matter with the Rivian. The review is critical of a hard-to-control virtual volume slide and the occasional frozen infotainment screen (which Rivian attributes to prototype issues).
Across numerous reviews, it’s impossible to find any significantly negative comments about the R1T other than availability and pricing (noting that the truck’s starting price is more than 50 percent higher than the average new vehicle transaction). Of course, time will tell about durability and reliability.
What’s Next For Rivian
The seven-seat R1S SUV will be the next Rivian vehicle to hit the road. The sold-out Launch Edition is scheduled to release in early 2022, followed by other versions which offer five- or seven-seat flexibility. The R1S promises features and performance similar to the Rivian pickup. This comes as no surprise being it uses the same underpinnings as the R1T, and the two vehicles are virtually identical from the second row forward.
The starting price for the R1S begins at $70,000. For this amount, you get the Explore Package and an estimated 316-mile range. The more luxurious Advantage Package tacks on another $5,000 to the total.