The Rivian R1T’s gestation was a somewhat nebulous affair. What with the intervention – then non-intervention – of Ford, the styling, then the fact that seemingly out of nowhere it arrived, beating Tesla’s Cybertruck to market.
The Rivian is here, however, and it looks great. It comes with four electric motors – one per wheel – that produce a combined 831 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque. There’s 465-525 km of range depending on spec and it can be fast charged at up to 200 kW. Or, if you’d rather just charge as you drive, you can do so with two levels of brake regen; this can never be fully shut off and as a result, the R1T is in one-pedal drive mode all the time.
Now, I’ve driven many one-pedal drive modes before, and I can’t recall the last time it felt this natural. It didn’t take me long to get used to when to release the accelerator to come to a complete stop and there were times when I had to remind myself after stopping that I had never actually hit the brake to do so.
The Rivian’s interior is like a cross between MEC and Matt and Nat; there’s vegan leather everywhere (the company’s CEO, RJ Scaringe, is a vegan), bronzed buckles on the doors, and the front seatbacks look like they’re made from a repurposed MSR stove. There’s even a removable Bluetooth Meridian speaker!
More practically, the interior is a very open and low-clutter space; like a Tesla, the 16-inch main display is your go-to for pretty much everything. Typically, I prefer “hard” buttons but such is the way of the world these days in cars. There is no support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto at this time, however; the same goes for Amazon Alexa and Google on-board. That’s going to be a tough pill to swallow for many, especially considering I found that the native navi system was not as good as the smartphone navigation apps so many of us are used to. Better features and support for Rivian’s own apps could be coming in future over-the-air updates.
There is one thing, however, that you adjust via the touchscreen that I’ve never seen, and that’s the mirror and steering wheel adjustment – sort of. To do so, you have to first tell the truck via the screen that you want to adjust the mirrors or wheel (it tilts and telescopes), then the two steering wheel buttons – typically reserved for your trip computer or audio adjustment – become your mirror or wheel adjustment. It’s no big deal, except for the fact that there are no auto tilt-down mirrors; apparently, those are coming, but this is where we’re at now.
The rear seat doesn’t have quite the space of the F-150 (or the R1T’s R1S SUV twin), but it is roomy enough for two adults to sit comfortably and they get their own USB-C ports. Since the Rivian features a quad-zone climate control system, each back seat occupant gets their own climate controls, including heated seats.
The front-end styling with its full-length light bar is divisive, but I have trouble believing anyone would have any problems with the rest of the exterior styling. The cabin gets an almost “chopped” look – that looks even cooler when you have the R1T set to its lowest ride height (the four-corner air suspension that allows this also keeps the Rivian flatter through corners) – and the off-road wheels and tires on my tester are a good fit and shroud bright yellow brake calipers.
Even though the R1T is obviously aimed at a more relaxed/recreational group, that’s not to say it can’t get some work done. The tow rating is 11,000 lbs. and you can get a tow hitch set up. You can only have a 4.5-foot bed and there is no bed extension upgrade. Mounted within the bed are two 240V outlets, tie-downs – even an air compressor. If you opt to skip the full-size spare option and go with the tire repair kit instead, you get additional storage beneath the bed floor that can be sealed if you want to store drinks, wet items and so forth.
There’s also a frunk, of course, and perhaps, more importantly, is the “gear tunnel” ahead of the rear wheels. That allows storage of longer items and whose doors provide a step to help access the pickup bed.
Performance-wise, once you dip into the pedal of this thing, you’re flat-out gone. That, of course, is what the instantaneous release of over 800 horses and 900 – nine-hundred! – torques will do. You are off the line in a hurry and while I wouldn’t call the R1T a performance pickup it’s fun to dip into that throttle pedal, that’s for sure.
To show that there is actually some fun to be had when off the beaten track, however, Rivian has provided both Rally and Drift – yes, Drift – modes to allow you to tap into your inner hooligan when on more slippery stuff by changing the power delivery. Rally mode is truly something to behold, as it’s somewhat easier to enjoy than the ultra seat-of-your-pants Drift mode.
The steering feels almost hydraulically assisted as if you were driving a Nissan Frontier. It’s an uncanny feeling not just for a truck, but for an EV of any kind as they really do tend to isolate occupants as much as possible and that means making sure no unnecessary vibrations or what have you through the wheel. There’s not really any of that here, either, just a good amount of weight. The one thing I did fight with a little, however, was the lane-centering and lane-keep assist system which I found too sensitive.
The Rivian R1T is a lifestyle-focused vehicle meant to contend with the likes of the Jeep Wrangler 4xe and Land Rover Defender (and probably the Bronco, too), according to Rivian. That means unique styling both inside and out—indeed, there are few vehicles more unique-looking than the Wrangler or Defender—until now with the Rivian. It is a darn cool thing that turns heads left, right and centre, can lift itself to go off-road or lower itself down to be more fuel efficient on the highway. With all that cool kit inside, meanwhile, it is a truck that looks poised to carve its own niche in the fast-growing EV truck world and is beating quite a few others to the punch while it’s at it.
2023 Rivian R1T
BODY STYLE: Four-door mid-size pickup
DRIVE METHOD: four EV motors, all-wheel drive
ENGINE: four permanent magnet synchronous EV motors, 835 hp, 908 lb-ft
ESTIMATED RANGE: 465-525 km
TRANSMISSION: single-speed automatic
BED LENGTH: 4.5 feet
TOWING CAPACITY: 4,990 kg (11,000 lbs.)
PAYLOAD: 798 kg (1,760 lbs.)
MSRP AS TESTED: $129,800
WEBSITE: Rivian R1T