An accomplished SUV that will hide in the shadows of its pickup twin in all likelihood

Does Rivian need any introduction? Arguably the most exciting startup to have emerged after Tesla, Rivian has put itself on the map with two products – the R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV – that are slated for a launch in the latter half of 2020. The Michigan-based startup debuted the R1S at the 2018 LA Auto Show. The Rivian twins have pretty much been in the news ever since then. Rivian is touted to be the next big thing in the EV industry, and from the looks of it, it could actually give Tesla a run for its money in the pickup truck and SUV market.

What Kind Of Range And Performance Does The Rivian R1S Have?

  • Based on a “Skateboard” Platform
  • Quad-Motor Setup
  • 0-60 mph In Under Three Seconds
  • 753 Horsepower
  • 826 Pound-feet of Torque
  • First Mainstream Vehicle To Feature ‘Tank Turn’
  • Towing Capacity Up To 7,700 pounds
  • Payload Capacity Up To 1,800 pounds
  • Available With Three Different Battery Pack Options
  • Range Up To 410 Miles
2020 Rivian R1S Exterior
- image 807519

The Rivian R1S shares most of its components with the R1T pickup truck.

The SUV is based on a “Skateboard” platform that houses the batteries, drive units, and braking and cooling system.

Since all of this is placed under the height of the wheels, the R1S boasts a super-low center of gravity. It features a quad-motor setup with one motor connected to each wheel. The motors are mounted on the board and not in the wheel hubs. This is a more conventional setup and a less sophisticated to build. The only other mainstream EV company to feature in-hub wheel motors is Lordstown on its Endurance pickup truck. Although not a popular choice, this setup offers better maneuverability and reduced energy consumption.

The combined power output varies for every battery pack, with the maximum power rated at 750 ponies. Thanks to this massive output, the Rivian R1S can sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in under three seconds when chosen with the right battery setup. Rivian has mounted to the motors as far as possible and installed a long driveshaft to enable big articulation. This, coupled with an impressive ground clearance of 14.5 inches makes the R1S a go-anywhere vehicle. The SUV also features torque vectoring that makes it even more agile and dynamic than it already is. Torque vectoring basically means the ability to vary the torque to each wheel. This is even more impactful in EVs than combustion engines because the current going into the motors can be measured accurately.

2020 Rivian R1S Exterior
- image 807518

The R1S features something known as ‘Tank Turn’ (Rivian has even patented ‘Tank Steer’). Thanks to the quad-motor step, the SUV can turn on a dime as the motors have the ability to turn in the opposite direction. This effectively means the SUV can do a zero-radius turn. Now, this may not be entirely possible on the tarmac and we will need to wait to get more information on that, but you can expect it do the tank turns quite easily on sand, mud, and snow. There’s no word on the air suspension on the R1S. It is present in the R1T pickup and the adjustable air suspension there can raise the truck from 7.9 inches to 14.2 inches at the press of a button.

The towing and payload capacities for the Rivian R1S are rated at 7,700 pounds and 1,800 pounds, respectively. The R1T, on the other hand, can tow 11,000 pounds and haul up to 1,760 pounds.

Rivian R1S Battery Specifications

2020 Rivian R1S Exterior
- image 879601

Rivian purchases battery cells from its vendors, which are 21 mm in diameter and 70 mm in height. Apart from this, everything is done in-house. The company even integrates them into modules to fit them into packs that are logically placed under the floorboard. These modules even help cool the cells. If you look at a conventional module wherein cells are placed cylindrically, they are designed to cool the cells radially. But, in the case of the Rivian twins, a unique placement allows fitting more cells within a space. There is a cold-plate sandwiched between the cells, thus creating a lot more efficiency per pack.

Rivian offers the R1S with three different battery packs – 105 kWh, 135 kWh, and 180 kWh.

The smallest 105-kWh battery pack offers a combined output of 402 horses and 413 pound-feet of torque. It will deliver 240 miles on a full charge. The mid-level 135-kWh battery pack makes 753 horses and 826 pound-feet of torque and can last for 310 miles. The biggest 180 kWh battery pack delivers the same torque but three horses less, and is rated with a 410-mile range on a full charge. Individual performance specs for each of them are not out yet, but logically speaking, the 135 kWh battery will be the one to breach the 0-60 mph mark in under three seconds. Estimated 0-60 mph figure is 4.9 seconds for the 105 kWh battery, and 3.2 seconds for the 180 kWh battery. It’ll be interesting to see if Rivian also offers over-the-air upgrades like Tesla to boost performance even more.

2020 Rivian R1S battery lineup
Entry Range Mid-Range Long Range
Capacity 105kWh 135kWh 180kWh
Power 402 HP 753 HP 750HP
Torque 413 LB-FT 826 LB-FT 826 LB-FT
Range 240 miles 310 miles 410 miles
Top speed 125mph 125mph 125mph
0-60 mph 4.9s 3s 3.2s
Payload 1800 lbs 1800 lbs 1800 lbs
Trailer rating 7700 lbs 7700 lbs 7700 lbs

Do the R1S and R1T Have the Same Options

2020 Rivian R1S Interior
- image 807517

For some reason, Rivian is giving the R1S a step-brotherly treatment. Agreed that pickup trucks are the market to tap into, but Rivian is essentially selling the same product in SUV form. The R1T is already a vehicle with a cool quotient, but to further cement its desirability and credibility factors, Rivian also announced a camper for it, including a pull-out kitchen. Now, you can’t expect that for the SUV, but stuff like the roof rack-mounted Maxtrax recovery boards, a built-in air compressor, and a shovel need to be offered. Rivian will also be offering a 12V refrigerator in the front trunk on the R1T, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be offered on the R1S.

How Much Does The Rivian R1S Cost?

2020 Rivian R1S Exterior
- image 879603

The Rivian R1S starts at about $72,500 before the federal tax credits. It is eligible for a full tax credit of $7,500. The higher trims, however, with accessories and stuff could get dangerously close to the six-digit figure.

What Does The Rivian R1S Look Like?

  • LED Bars For Headlights and Taillights
  • Slim Air Dam On The Front Bumper To Let Air Pass
  • Impressive Approach and Departure Angles
  • 20-inch wheels
  • Square-Wheel Arches
  • Black Plastic Cladding All Around The Body
  • No Moniker Badge Anywhere
  • No Transverse Storage Space That’s Present In The R1T
2020 Rivian R1S Exterior
- image 879596

The Rivian R1S may draw polarizing opinions – just like most of the EVs on sale today. However, that doesn’t mean it looks quirky.

It is proportionate from all angles and is almost identical to the Tesla Model X in terms of length and width.

The design is rather plain and simple with minimal cuts and creases all around. Upfront, the Rivian R1S doesn’t feature conventional headlights. There is a thick, long horizontal LED strip running from one end to the other. This also doubles up as a charging indicator light. There are two capsule-like clusters which are the primary headlights. They might look odd in pictures when lit up, but look quite okay in person. There is no grille – as it should be in an EV – but there is inward indent on the face; perhaps to break the monotony of the plain-Jane look. In the initial prototypes, the charging point was placed on the passenger’s side. However, an R1T was spotted sometime back in the real world with the charging port on the driver’s side. There’s no word if it’s the same with the R1S as well.

Rivian R1S designers have played a little bit with the bumpers and you can see a lot of elements here. There is a slim air dam with a mesh design in the middle to let the air pass to cool the batteries. On either side of this vent are slim fog lamps which are slightly tilted downwards. They have a fantastic throw and light up the roads right under the nose quite well. There is a thick strip below this finished in piano black. This should help in avoiding slush sticking to this part of the vehicle, and also avoid fading in the long run. The bottom features a skid plate in the middle with two tow hooks. As for the hood, it is as plain as it can get. The only element here is the Rivian logo, which is also quite small in size. For a company that’s just starting off, it needs to have bigger logos for brand identification. I guess, the team believes that the looks will play that part anyway.

2020 Rivian R1S Exterior
- image 807518

The side profile of the SUV looks a little unorthodox because of the near-flat rear. It has a very Land Rover-ish vibe to it. The A-, B-, and D-pillars are blackened out along with the whole roof. Only the think C-pillar is painted in the body shade. The doors are massive in size and the wheels are placed almost on their respective ends. The front doors feature “RIVIAN” in el-cheapo looking badges. The door handles sit flush with the body. We even saw the Fisker Ocean with a similar setup. Rivian has used 20-inch wheels on the R1S, but they look a lot bigger because of the sporty-looking square wheel arches. The wheels fill up arches very well. The standard wheel design looks quite funky.

The rear is quite flat and looks weird. My biggest gripe here is the missing transverse storage space in front of the rear wheels. The R1T gets it, but the R1S misses out. Such a bummer! Anyway, just like the front, the rear also features a long LED strip that acts taillight as well as the charging indicator light. There is an XL-sized ‘RIVIAN’ badge on the tailgate, but no R1S branding. The license plate sits quite high on this SUV; just under the badge. The bumper is not integrated very well and it feels like an afterthought! It features a strip finished in silver that houses two reflectors on either end. From this angle, the R1S looks to sit quite high from the floor and is enough to show that it boasts an impressive departure angle. There is protection underneath to protect it from underbody hits. Overall, the derriere is the most unappealing aspect of the Rivian R1S.

2020 Rivian R1S dimensions
Length 200.7 inches
Width 79.3 inches
Wheelbase 121.1 inches
Approach Angle 34.8 degrees
Departure Angle 34.3 degrees
Breakover Angle 28.9 degrees
Maximum Ground Clearance 14.5 inches
Water Fording 42.7 inches
Rear Cargo Space 7.1 cubic-feet
Frunk Space 11.1 cubic-feet

Rivian R1S Interior And Technology

  • Flat-Bottomed Steering Wheel
  • Wooden Inserts On The Dash
  • 12.3-inch Digital Instrument Cluster
  • 15.6-inch Touchscreen Infotainment System
  • Level 3 Autonomy
  • Amazon Alexa Integration
2020 Rivian R1S Interior
- image 807516
The Rivian R1S comes with a smart-looking cabin that looks at par with the likes of technology-heavy Tesla.

The large flat-bottomed steering wheel with the wooden inserts looks classy and is shared with the R1T. However, an R1T was spotted recently, in what seemed to be the production form, and it featured a completely different steering wheel. The concept steering wheels came with two scroll wheels, a square center design, and it represented a very minimalist design. However, Rivian seems to have replaced it with a full black unit that comes with a round center and numerous spoke controls that look like its borrowed from a regular sedan. To make things worse, carbon fiber inserts between the concept wheels’ spokes have also been eliminated. Will the R1S go through something similar? We hope not. But, if it’s of any consolation, the interior on the R1T showed off the Black Mountain color scheme in black and gray. This theme will be offered along with the other two interior themes - Forrest Edge and Lunar Rock. I hope the R1S also comes with both the themes.

Rivian has installed a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster instead of a conventional design that looks functional but lacks the simplicity of classy dials.

A leather wrap runs all across the simple, flat dash. The center console houses nothing but a huge 15.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The touchscreen is the control house of everything in the Rivian R1S. There are no knobs, buttons, or dials whatsoever.

2020 Rivian R1S Interior
- image 879599

We are yet to hear about the technical specs, but we do know a couple of things – One, that it will come with Level 3 Autonomy, and the second, that the R1S will feature Amazon Alexa integrated into the system. This integration will also allow access to all standard Alexa features and capabilities, including playing music, getting directions, placing calls, turning on the air conditioner, etc. The best part about this integration is that some features will be accessible even when the vehicle if offline. Not just this, you will also be able to control the functions of your house if you have Alexa at home, such as turning off the lights you forgot before leaving, or check out the rearview camera footage of your vehicle on your TV, and many such functions.

Since there is no transmission tunnel, the area below the center console is flat and there is an abundance of legroom available. Rivian has left the area as it is below the console, thus giving you more space to dump a few more knick-knacks. Usually, we don’t recommend storing anything on the floor as it could roll behind the pedals and limiting your access. But, Rivian uses an organ-type pedal and the chances of anything getting stuck behind are minimal. The R1S looks to be extremely spacious and comfortable in all the rows. In standard form, the Rivian R1S is a five-seater, but you can add a third row as an option to make it a seven-seater.

Rivian R1S Competition

Tesla Model X

2016 Tesla Model X
- image 830893

The Model X is the undisputed leader of this segment right now. There are not a lot of luxury electric SUVs in the market right now, but the Tesla has still managed to draw the attention of a lot of potential combustion-engined customers. Although the Falcon-wing doors seem like a selling point, owners find it very cumbersome to use. But, on the other hand, it is a strong performer, comes with a spacious interior, and is a dreamland for tech-heads. The best you can get from the SUV’s battery is a range of 328 miles, which is a lot lesser than Rivian’s. However, it can charge 115 miles in 15 minutes, and this is something that Rivian is still working on. The Model X, just like the R1S, sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in less than three seconds; 2.7 seconds to be precise. The Model X starts from $84,990 and is not eligible for federal tax credits anymore.

Read our full review on the 2020 Tesla Model X

Jaguar I-PACE

2019 Jaguar I-Pace Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 771201

Jaguar took everyone by surprise by making the I-PACE such a well-rounded package. It’s got the looks, the cabin feels in-line with the current conventional cars and will please the knob-lovers. The I-PACE handles well, is quick off the line, comfortable ride, but it is not the one for tech-heads. The EV’s strongest suit is its road mannerism. It is a good corner-carver and comes with an adaptive suspension that makes things even better. It was even the 2019 World Car of the Year. However, the 240 mile-range is a bummer when you compare it to Rivian’s biggest battery pack. And, when revved hard, the I-PACE reportedly exhausts the range faster than other EVs in the same situation. The I-PACE starts at $69,850 before federal tax credits.

Read our full review on the 2020 Jaguar I-PACE

Final Thoughts

2020 Rivian R1S Exterior
- image 879595

The Rivian R1S is a well-rounded package that offers a comfortable cabin, great range, strong performance specs, and a lot of tech features. The 410-mile range from the 180 kWh battery is clearly the highlight here. The SUV will be launched at the end of 2020 and deliveries will begin from 2021. It is priced at a premium, considering that the starting price of the R1T pickup truck is almost $3,000 lesser and that is a more accomplished vehicle. The top-trim could be well over $90,000. But, count the $7,500 federal tax benefit and all of a sudden, the R1S feels like a value for money proposition against the Model X. We’ll have to wait and watch how Tesla will counter Rivian’s entry into the market in the SUV, as well as the pickup truck market.

  • Leave it
    • The R1T pickup truck offers more bang for the buck
    • Top-trim will cost over $90,000
    • Rumors of cost-cutting like redesigned steering wheel

Rivian’s Background

Rivian has actually been around for more than the decade now. The company forayed into the supercar market, but quickly corrected its mistake to not end up following the Fisker Karma’s path. It wisely shifted its focus onto the segments that have a lot more potential. If to be seen, Rivian came out of the blue and surprised the auto community with its products and plans. Companies these days announce even the smallest news in an exaggerated manner and make bold claims to create some hype, but Rivian did exactly the opposite. It has over 750 people working currently, including hotshots from Ford, Faraday Future, Tesla, and McLaren. Although Rivian revealed the products over a year ago, the products have not lost the hype. The company has constantly been in the news for various things. The highlights amongst a lot of other things are:

  • Purchasing Mitsubishi’s factory in Normal, Illinois
  • Bagged a contract of 100,000 electric delivery trucks from Amazon
  • Huge investments from Ford and Amazon
  • The Tank Turn feature
  • In 2019, it raised over $2.85 billion in investments

With such a strong and rich foundation - as per EV market standards - there are very few reasons for Rivian products to fail.

Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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