Rivian R1S Review: Electric Power, Confidence and Comfort

The Rivian R1S is the electric SUV that sophisticated families have been waiting for. Full stop. In a world where electric models frequently mean compromises in appointments and design, the R1S takes three-row travel to a new high.

The exterior of the R1S is polarizing and may be the only contentious bit of the model. It borrows nearly all its looks from the B-pillar forward from the company's R1T pickup truck.

The SUV is large, but not unwieldy. Its 88-inch width is 3 inches larger than the Ford Bronco and 2 inches wider than the GMC Hummer EV. The Rivian is 16 inches shorter than the GMC.

R1S doesn't have a gear tunnel like the R1T instead, it has seating for seven pasengers.

It retains the front trunk (frunk) of the R1T, a space that isn't quite as big as Ford's Mega Power Frunk, but holds a good amount of gear, and has a divider that allows dirty items like muddy boots to be stored where they won't get their muck on items that are better off clean like backpacks and the SUV's charging cable.

The near 7,000-pound weight of the R1S makes it anywhere from 1,000-1,500 pounds heavier than a similarly sized Cadillac Escalade. That can be explained away by the fact that the power for the R1S comes only from a battery pack, which is notoriously heavy.

Rivian R1S headlights on
The Rivian R1S SUV with its daytime running lights on is posed near a puddle in the Catskills. Rivian

And, while the R1S is heavy, it's quad-motor setup delivers 835 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque, which propels the SUV from a stop with ease. The instant torque of the R1S isn't enough to throw you back in your seat, but it is evenly and forcefully delivered, similar to how power is allocated in the Nissan Ariya.

Still, the zero to 60 miles per hour (mph) time of the R1S is similar to that of a much smaller and lighter Porsche car. It doesn't have the gimmicky Watts to Freedom (WTF) launch mode that the Hummer EV does, nor does it have Crab Walk style functionality.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that the Rivian R1S is capable of getting up to 316 miles of all-electric range out of its large pack, quad motor setup. The large pack, dual-motor version gets a Rivian-estimated 320 miles out of a top-off. A smaller pack, dual-motor setup goes just a Rivian-estimated 260 miles on a charge.

The R1S rides as high as a traditional full-size SUV, but its wheelbase is shorter than the R1T's. The standard air suspension allows for up to 14.8 inches of ground clearance, more than what you'll get from any Jeep.

Various drive modes adjust brake regeneration, ride height, and stability controls. Within those, drivers can customize further. All-Purpose mode is as advertised, providing the proper blend of comfort and efficiency. Sport, Conserve, Off-Road and Towing modes round out the list.

Rivian R1S
The a pair of Rivian RiS SUVs being driving on the road in Upstate New York. Rivian

The SUV has Rivian's new Soft Sand mode, derived from time R1T and R1S have spent in the desert.

The near 7,000-pound weight of the R1S makes it anywhere from 1,000-1,500 pounds heavier than a similarly sized Cadillac Escalade. That can be explained away by the fact that the power for the R1S comes only from a battery pack, which is notoriously heavy.

Using the Off-Road mode for some intermediate trail driving in thick mud and through feet of water, over rocks and fallen trees, the R1S had no problem. Its shortened wheelbase (compared to the R1T) is apparent, making it more agile, and though heavier, the spread of the weight makes its crawl and drops consistent.

Like with R1T, in the trickiest of conditions, an attuned driver can feel the technology working to push on in an appropriate measure, while

Rivian's unique steering wheel controls and driver assist technology wand are easy to use with a little basic instruction at the beginning of a drive. The uncluttered appearance is happily the opposite of what the latest Mercedes-Benz wheel looks like and free from gloss black appointments.

Rivian R1S
The interior of the Rivian R1S features a panoramic glass roof. Rivian

The rest of the interior is swathed in luxury, but eco-conscious appointments. Real wood trim and vegan leather upholstery make up much of the SUV's touch points.

The SUV's seats are robust to say the least. Their thickness undoubtedly helps with soundproofing the model, but when it comes to having kids latch and detach the second-row for easy in/out of the third row, even with the assistive button-operated release system, the seats prove a heavy lift.

For convenience, most kids will likely end up entering and exiting the third row via the lowered 40/20/40 pass-through. Adults, most of whom will comfortably fit in the back, won't be burdened by the weight of the seats.

Every second- and third-row seating position in the R1S is capable of holding a car seat thanks to a combination of ISOFIX/Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) connections.

After hours on the road, the seats proved to be more than comfortable and supportive, especially those equipped with heating and ventilation (available as part of different add-on packs). On winding roads, the car's engineering, combined with the seat structure, holds passengers in place without issue.

The second- and third-row seats fold flat, making enough space that a twin bed-sized air mattress easily slides into place, even with the tailgate closed, and has room to spare on either side. The panoramic roof allows for a little extra headroom (33.6 inches total), which makes sitting on the mattress a possibility for average-size and below occupants.

In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch driver information display that cleanly shows navigation, speed, and driver assist necessaries.

At the center of the dashboard is a 15.6-inch infotainment display that is home to audio, navigation, drive mode, and various other functions. The well-designed interface puts most functions easily within a tap or two, unlike the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, which use a variety of screens and haptic controls to do what Rivian is able to far more cleanly and intuitively.

Rivian R1S
The Rivian R1S goes down a muddy trail in Upstate New York. Rivian

There are seven USB Type-C, one 12-volt, and two 120-volt outlets in the R1S.

With the frunk as a dedicated storage space, it's not always necessary to use the R1S's rear cargo space, though it can be handy to place groceries there by lifting up just the top of the split liftgate rather than keeping them in the frunk, which isn't climate controlled.

Every R1S comes standard with a roster of safety and driver assist features. This includes Highway Assist, which steers, brakes and accelerates the model on select highways; adaptive cruise control; and lane change assist

Active Safety Assist is a collision warning, alterts and preventive action suite of technology. It helps keep drivers in their lanes, warns of drifting out of the lane, and alerts when there is an object in the vehicle's blind spot.

Automatic high beams, rear cross-traffic alert, park assist, trailer assist, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and dynamic brake support round out the safety technology.

Like with other systems from other automakers, the Rivian system's downfall is nature. Great differences in lighting caused by shadows can cause the Highway Assist system to disengage. However, unlike many other systems, the Rivian technology seamlessly alerts the driver and a simple wand-press reactivates the system when it's safe to re-engage.

The Rivian R1S is priced to start at $72,500 and goes up to $90,000. It isn't cheap, but it doesn't need to be. The R1S is the first battery-electric three-row SUV to market in the U.S. Its luxury, appointments, and appeal are right where they need to be. The R1S should, and deserves, to be a success, if Rivian can keep up with orders, manufacturing and deliveries.