2022 Rivian R1T first drive review: The first EV pickup sets a high bar

Stephen Edelstein/Digital Trends

Many startup automakers have tried to repeat the success of Tesla, but the 2022 Rivian R1T is something different. This burly pickup truck aims to take EVs into the wilderness.

When it unveiled the R1T at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, Rivian made some bold claims, boasting of Jeep-like off-road capability, sports car-like acceleration, and enough range to get you to the trail and back.

Since then, Rivian has tooled up its Illinois factory to build the truck, and attracted investments from the likes of Ford and Amazon, as well as signed a contract with the online retail giant for a fleet of electric delivery vans. Since the R1T was first announced, many other companies have also unveiled electric pickups of their own, but Rivian is first out of the gate.

Now that the R1T is finally here, we spent two days driving it on pavement and dirt. Rivian will kick off production with a sold-out Launch Edition, starting at $75,000, followed by regular-production Explore Package ($67,500) and Adventure Package ($73,000) models. We drove a Launch Edition, which is essentially an Adventure Package model with some cosmetic differences.

It’s worth noting that our test vehicle was a preproduction model. Rivian is just starting customer deliveries of the Launch Edition, with other versions expected to follow in January 2022, per the company’s website.

Interior of the 2022 Rivian R1T.

Design and interior

The R1T is close in size to midsize pickup trucks like the Ford Ranger, but it’s pitched as a premium vehicle, making it more like a Land Rover Defender with a bed than a true rival to those internal-combustion trucks. The Rivian is also smaller than most planned electric trucks, such as the Ford F-150 Lightning and Tesla Cybertruck.

With its clean lines and unusual lighting signature, the R1T looks like the mildly futuristic vehicles you see puttering around in the background on sci-fi television shows. Under the sheet metal is what Rivian calls a “skateboard platform.” It contains the entire powertrain, battery pack, and running gear, giving Rivian more flexibility to design new models. A three-row SUV called the R1S is already queued up to start deliveries just after the R1T.

The interior offers a nice blend of high-tech minimalism and distinctive design.

The streamlined packaging of the skateboard platform, and the lack of a bulky internal-combustion engine, allows Rivian to get creative with onboard storage space. You get the obligatory “frunk” (with 11 cubic feet of cargo space), plus the Gear Tunnel. Located behind the cab, it measures 65 inches long, 18.1 inches wide, and 20.3 inches high, creating a covered space for long, narrow items. Rivian even cooked up (pun intended) a camp kitchen that stows in the tunnel and slides out when needed. If you’re not hungry, the Gear Tunnel and frunk offer plenty of space for storing stuff you don’t want to leave in the bed, alleviating a common problem with pickups.

The interior offers a nice blend of high-tech minimalism and distinctive design. The digital instrument cluster and infotainment touchscreen sit atop the dashboard like iPads on a coffee table. Standard vegan leather and available ash wood trim give the interior a luxurious feel worthy of its price tag. The interior also feels distinctively Rivian, thanks to little touches like the metal trim around the dashboard and seats, and USB ports mounted in the front seatbacks.

The 2022 Rivian R1T's Gear Tunnel.

Tech, infotainment, and driver assist

Hop in the driver’s seat, and you’re greeted by a 16.0-inch touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster, both with excellent graphics. Rivian also provides six USB ports, wireless phone charging, LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity (enabling over-the-air software updates), and Amazon Alexa voice control. Rivian did not confirm availability of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto at the time of publication however.

Rivian’s Driver+ system includes a long list of standard features, such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a trailer assist feature designed to help when going in reverse with a trailer.

You get a large touchscreen and digital instrument cluster, both with excellent graphics.

Also standard is highway assist, which combines adaptive cruise control with automated lane centering for highway driving. We didn’t get to try out highway assist because of problems specific to our preproduction test vehicle, but it doesn’t offer anything beyond what other automakers are already doing. We did get to try out basic adaptive cruise control, and were impressed by its smooth acceleration, deceleration, and quick reactions to vehicles cutting in ahead.

Nearly everything in the R1T is controlled through the touchscreen, steering wheel controls, and a pair of stalks. While we did like some aspects of this setup, such as the ability to move the air vents by dragging a finger around the touchscreen, it did present some issues. You’d better be certain that you’ve set the mirrors the way you want them, because resetting involves going back into a touchscreen menu. We also accidentally shifted into neutral while trying to reactivate the adaptive cruise control, which uses the same control stalk.

The 2022 Rivian R1T's touchscreen.

Driving experience

The R1T boasts a quad-motor powertrain, with one electric motor powering each wheel through its own gearbox. The motors send 415 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque to the front axle, and 420 hp and 495 lb.-ft. to the rear axle, which can get the R1T from zero to 60 mph in about 3.0 seconds, according to Rivian. That’s quicker than a base Porsche 911.

With the suspension raised to its maximum height, the R1T also boasts 14.9 inches of ground clearance and the ability to ford up to three feet of water, Rivian claims. You also get an off-road drive mode that can be tuned for different situations, such as rock crawling. We got to do some of that during a long off-road trek around Breckenridge, Colorado, and the R1T performed flawlessly. This truck makes off-roading easy, using its software to keep the wheels turning and leaving you to focus on avoiding trees and rocks. Unlike full-size pickups, the R1T is also right-sized for tight trails.

This truck makes off-roading easy, using its software to keep the wheels turning.

On pavement, the R1T drives like no other pickup truck. It sets a new standard for on-road driving dynamics, feeling completely composed in corners while delivering a smooth ride. The driving experience was especially impressive considering that our truck wore all-terrain tires, not grippy performance rubber. You also get the organ-rearranging acceleration that’s become a trademark of EVs, but experiencing that in a pickup truck is downright hilarious. Most off-roaders stop being fun once you’re back on pavement, but the R1T does it all.

Rivian quotes a maximum towing capacity of 11,000 pounds, which is comparable to conventional pickup trucks like the Ford F-150. However, as with any EV, towing can have a major impact on range. Rivian estimates it can cut range by 50%, in fact. The bed features composite construction, a power-opening tailgate, and an available power tonneau cover, with camouflaged touchpads for the tailgate and Gear Tunnel doors.

Rear-three quarter view of the 2022 Rivian R1T.

Range, charging, and safety

The R1T is rated at 314 miles of range, with efficiency ratings of 70 MPGe combined (74 MPGe city, 66 MPGe highway). Rivian does have a larger battery pack on the way, which the company has said will deliver 400 miles of range, but it will be a $10,000 option.

Rivian is building up its own network of DC fast-charging stations and Level 2 AC stations, which owners will be able to access as part of a membership program. With an 11.5-kilowatt AC source, Rivian estimates the R1T can recover 25 miles of range per hour of charging. The truck can also DC fast charge at around 200 kW, recovering 140 miles of range in 20 minutes, according to Rivian.

Crash-test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) haven’t been published yet. Since the R1T is a new vehicle from a new manufacturer, it’s an unknown when it comes to safety.

Rivian offers a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty for the vehicle itself, plus eight-year, 175,000-mile warranties for the battery pack and powertrain. Rivian also guarantees the battery pack will retain at least 70% capacity for eight years, and includes an eight-year corrosion warranty with unlimited mileage.

Those are fairly generous warranty terms for an EV. Tesla, for example, only offers a four-year, 50,000-mile basic warranty. The automaker’s longest battery warranty — eight years or 150,000 miles — is also available only on the Model S and Model X at the moment.

Front view of the 2022 Rivian R1T.

How DT would configure this car

With the Launch Edition sold out, that leaves the Adventure Package and Explore Package to choose from. The Adventure Package adds a few notable features, including a Meridian audio system, power tonneau cover, ventilated front seats, and ash wood trim, but at a $5,500 premium over the Explore Package.

The base Explore Package still gets the same quad-motor powertrain and 135-kwh battery pack, plus vegan leather upholstery, heated seats, and a built-in air compressor. So while the Adventure Package would be our choice, you wouldn’t be missing out on much by going with the Explore Package.

Rivian is also taking reservations for the aforementioned larger battery pack, but considering the $10,000 cost, it makes more sense to stick with the standard battery pack unless you plan on towing regularly.

Our take

The R1T is both a great EV and a great pickup truck. Its towing and off-road capability are competitive with conventional internal-combustion pickups, and those trucks can’t match the Rivian’s acceleration and on-road driving manners.

If the R1T’s roughly $70,000 price tag seems like a lot, note that comparably equipped pickups cost about the same. A 2021 Ford F-150 King Ranch hybrid we tested last year rang up at $76,720 MSRP. The all-electric 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning will cost around $90,000 fully loaded, while the 2022 GMC Hummer EV will crest six figures in Edition 1 form.

Until those electric trucks (and others) arrive, there will be nothing like the R1T on the market. If you want an electric luxury car or commuter car, you currently have several choices. If you want something more rugged, the R1T is the only game in town. With over 300 miles of range, a full suite of driver aids, and a slick infotainment system, the R1T also compares favorably to other current EVs across the board.

Should you get one?

Yes. EV makers are promising a lot. Rivian is delivering.

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