2022 Rivian R1S First Look Review: Heavy hitter


Technology does not yet exist to make a 7000-pound vehicle feel light on its feet, but Rivian gives it the ol’ college try with the 2022 Rivian R1S. (“S” is for SUV, while the Rivian R1T is the truck. You can read that review here.) Much is shared between the two vehicles, and for first efforts from a fledgling manufacturer, there’s a lot to like here. Let’s dive in.

What is it?

The R1S is an electric, seven-passenger SUV from Rivian, an upstart of a well-financed company headed by an MIT-trained engineer, R.J. Scaringe. (The name Rivian is derived from the Indian River in Florida, where Scaringe grew up.) The firm has made surprisingly few missteps, building over 1000 delivery vehicles for Amazon, as well as the premium pickup and this SUV, which arrived on the market after the pickup truck. The two models share the same basic underpinnings.

This is a three-row sport-ute, two seats up front, three in the middle and two in the rear. Middle and rear seats fold down, making for a cavernous cargo compartment, not to mention the spacious frunk. You don’t have to spend much time with the R1S to understand that a lot of very careful, precise thought went into the inside, outside, and the underlying mechanicals. The Rivian R1S is an impressive piece of work.

What’s new?

Everything from the ground up, and all of it, Rivian says, was built with environmental sustainability in mind. Interiors are “made from 100 percent animal-free materials with mid-life repairability and end-of-life recyclability planned into the design,” the company says. Battery packs “are designed to be easily removed from our vehicles and either recycled or used in ‘second life’ applications.”

Scaringe’s piece: “The scale of the challenge is enormous, but we’re lucky to be a part of this—to be able to help solve how we shift our planet’s energy and transportation systems entirely away from fossil fuel.”

Odd but nevertheless commendable sentiments from a company that is building a three-and-a-half-ton SUV, even if it is 17 inches shorter than the R1T pickup and riding on a 14.7-inch shorter wheelbase. Does it all work? In a word, yes.

Rivian R1S open hatch rear wide

Specs: 2022 Rivian R1S

Price: Base $91,500/as tested $97,000
Powertrain: Front and rear synchronous motors
Power: 835 hp
Torque: 908 lb-ft
Layout: Four-door, three rows of seats, seven passengers
Weight: 6986 pounds
EPA-rated range: 316 miles
O-60 mph: 3.1 seconds (estimated)
Top speed: 111 mph (limited)
Competitors: Tesla Model X Plaid, BMW iX M60i, Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV

What it does well:

Accelerate. Even with its weight, 835 horses are a lot in any corral, and the Rivian R1S won’t lose many stoplight races. At normal speeds, the power comes on smoothly, and if you chose, it’ll come to a complete stop using only regenerative braking. You don’t even need to touch the pedal.

Inside, for such a technologically advanced vehicle, the R1S is stunningly inviting. Instruments and controls seem immediately familiar. Front seats are quite comfortable, middle seats slightly less so, and the back row is best left for kids or adults who don’t have far to travel.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is ride and handling. The Rivian doesn’t feel its weight until you dive into a turn and centrifugal force battles the 22-inch Pirelli Scorpions. Even then the Rivian is composed and predictable. The ride on rough roads is also very good, which is not the case with many high-performance SUVs we test on Michigan roads.

Rivian R1S side action pan

Changes we’d make:

Precious few. Some may wish for a more sizable R1S—it’s about the length and width of a Ford Explorer (though it looks much bigger, likely because it’s much taller, taller even than the Expedition). The relatively modest footprint makes it maneuverable and easy to park, with ample headroom, but we wouldn’t see surprised to see a supersized R1S someday with towing that matches the pickup’s 11,000 pounds. The R1S will still, however, haul a respectable 7700 pounds. And it will cover a quarter-mile in less than 12 seconds. What’s not to like?

Rivian R1S front three-quarter

Who’s it for?

Well-off, EV-curious families are sure to embrace the Rivian R1S. It has distinctive styling, impressive range, and a lot of friendly features for daily commutes as well as adventuring road trips. Of course, buying a vehicle with no nearby dealer network requires a leap of faith, as you can’t drop your Rivian off at the dealer up the street for service work. And while Rivian is reasonably well financed—Reuters says the company has $14 billion in the bank—it’s still a new and unproven marque.

Even so, compared to its most direct electric-powered competition, it’s a bargain at just under $100,000. BMW’s iX M60 is a blast to drive—better handling than the Rivian but smaller and slower, if you call 610 horsepower and 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds slow. However the Bavarian starts at $108,900. Mercedes-Benz’s seven-passenger EQS 450+ SUV starts at $104,400 and has a 305-mile range, but just has 335 horsepower. More deluxe and powerful EQS models are available, but they can top $133,000.

Rivian, assuming the company is making money on each R1S, selected a nice price point for the product. And there are cheaper, less-powerful R1S variants coming, as well as a more expensive model with a lot more range. Regardless, Rivian is cranking them out as quickly as it can; you’d be lucky to order an R1S and have it arrive in a year. Its success is deserved—and entirely unexpected.

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    What does this mean? “Interiors are “made from 100 percent animal-free materials with mid-life repairability and end-of-life recyclability planned into the design,” the company says.” Mid-life repairability? Are they expecting replacement or failure? Confusing.

    Animal-free does not mean free from petroleum based material which isn’t biodegradable. Real leather is actually a sustainable product that is biodegradable and would end up in a landfill if not used. Give me leather – just sayin.

    The whole “sustainability” thing is the woke-car folk BS catch phrase. I am with you – the statement in the article is ambiguous at best, misleading at worst, and if you actually have to “worry” about the seats and dash holding up, that seems like a quality issue. At least it looks like a an SUV and not a baby shoe lol
    I hope this vehicle – and company – does well

    I think “never” is the logical answer to your question. Not only is this vehicle f-ugly, it is priced out of the middle class folks pocketbooks.

    Recently rode and drove my daughters R1T. As a Not EV fan I was amazed! On road and off it did everything very well. We can argue all day about ICE vs EV but Rivian is well made and works very good for this point in time.

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