It’s only a few months since Rivian started (slowly) delivering the R1T car to customers, but the company is not wasting time launching its next adventure car: the R1S SUV.
I recently spent the day with a few early production R1Ss at a ripping media event, and it came out as an impressively skilled and useful family vehicle – something it should be, considering it starts at $ 72,500 and quickly options up to $ 90,000 But Rivian is a brand new company that has not yet increased production on any of its cars. The total goal is only 25,000 cars a year, of which 1[ads1]0,000 will be Amazon vans, so actually getting an R1S can be the biggest adventure of all.
From the front door onwards, the R1S is exactly the same truck as the R1T. The only differences, according to Rivian communications manager Shaheen Karimian, are a little extra silver edge on the outside, and the addition of a button on the wiper bar to control the rear window wiper. The transmission and suspension are the same, the 12.3-inch instrument panel and 15.6-inch infotainment display are the same, the funk is the same – you see.
The most important shared part between R1T and R1T is Rivians built from the ground up of hardware and software architecture. Most car companies – with the notable exception of Tesla – operate much like Android and Windows hardware vendors: they buy ready-made components and subsystems from vendors and assemble them into finished cars, with differentiating features and flourishing added on top. But just as Dell and Samsung rely on Google and Microsoft for most software updates, most automakers are at the mercy of vendors for updating the software in their cars – an addiction many traditional car companies have identified as an existential threat to competition. (You can listen to almost anyone Decoder Interview with the driver to understand how much they all think about this.)
But Rivian is a brand new company, with none of the existing relationships or dependencies, and the ability to build a team with the necessary software expertise from the start. If a traditional carmaker is roughly analogous to a Windows laptop maker, the Rivian (and, yes, Tesla) is much more like Apple: in total control of hardware and software.
Rivian’s vice president of software development, Wassym Bensaid, told me that his 600-person software team had written almost all the code in the R1 vehicles, all the way down to the bootloaders for various microcontrollers. The vertical integration means that the R1S and R1T share a common software platform that can be updated over the air extremely quickly, both to solve problems detected by customers – the tolerances for frunk closure were not fully set – and add features such as “pet comfort mode”. , ”Which allows the trucks to maintain the temperature if you need to leave a pet in the car for a while. Other features are coming soon, including scheduled updates that will add four-zone climate controls and other features to the rear touch screen.
I take up all this because even though the R1S is a very nice three-row electric SUV with the possibility of accommodating five car seats in it, the software experience is what really sets it apart. The graphics are handled by Epic’s Unreal Engine, which allows various photorealistic renditions of the truck to appear on the screens, and virtually anything you can think of can be controlled from the touch screen. To a mistake, actually: touch screen HVAC controls are never fun, and especially Rivian’s ventilation controls are software overkill: changing where the air blows requires you to bring up a full screen rendering of the car’s interior as you move the ventilation icons around. It is flashy, but in no way better than having regular old valves that you can just move around with your hands.
All that software needs to run on powerful hardware, and although Rivian steadfastly refuses to specify which chips or vendors it uses, Vice President of Hardware Engineer Vidya Rajagopalan told me that the current software was nowhere near maximizing the available computing power of R1 vehicles. , which has been specified to provide seven to ten years of usable performance as updates roll in. In a new nod to the benefits of the Rivian’s clean design, Rajagopolan and I spent several minutes talking about the car’s internal Ethernet network with a couple. architecture, something traditional carmakers have been slowly moving towards for a decade now.
Rivian had planned a two-hour drive down a winding mountain highway in an R1S with 21-inch wheels to an off-road track where several R1Ss equipped with 20-inch off-road wheels and tires awaited as our test loop for the day.
Off-road, the R1S was a marvel; it has a shorter wheelbase than the R1T and was easier to navigate through the course Rivian had set up. Compared to traditional off-roaders, who generally require control of the gearbox and differentials through various four-wheel drive modes to ensure that the power from the engine reaches the right wheel at the right time, the R1S was fun and easy to drive. The four independent engines with torque weighting, aggressive regenerative braking, advanced air suspension and a dedicated rock crawl mode with a maximum speed of 39 km / h made it almost too easy to drive through muddy ruts, small streams and up rocky slopes: you can solve any problem by depressing the accelerator pedal, and R1S finds out. In truth Verge fashion, I managed to make our device suffer: I hit some sharp rocks in the creek and put a tire. (Rivian had a van full of spare parts, don’t worry.)
No one on the Rivian seemed to have any illusions about how many R1S owners would actually take these $ 90,000 SUVs off-road; Like the Land Rover and Jeep, off-road capability is part of the appeal, but rarely part of the experience. On the highway and some small town streets where most Rivian owners want to spend their time, the R1S was complex and confident. The four-engine drive offers 835 horsepower and the wonderful, instant EV torque made it easy to cross the highway. An SUV that is larger than a BMW X5 that does 0-60 in well under four seconds is not a normal thing to experience, but the R1S can do it without drama at any time.
Rivian’s Driver + advanced driver assistance system allows for hands-free driving on selected motorways, but it was not available on the roads we traveled, and instead offers only adaptive cruise control with lane departure warning. It’s strange that the Rivian offers a hands-free driving mode, but does not offer the combination of adaptive cruise control and automatic lane centering that systems such as Ford’s BlueCruise have as a nice spare half step on motorways that have not been mapped for hands – free driving.
R1S configured with standard battery pack and dual motors is rated at 260 miles range; $ 6,000 extended package shock up to 320 miles. The extended package is required if you choose four-wheel drive engines, a combination that provides 316 miles of range. (You will get less range if you find yourself using the four-wheel drive engines for good use in the overtaking lane as often as I did, which is a valuable and wonderful trade-off.) We did not have the opportunity to hunt for charging stations or try out any charging options at home, but Rivian is expanding its own charging network and using the standard CCS combo connector (J1772 charging inlet with two extra pins underneath), with support for “over 200kW” charging speeds, although these speeds have been difficult to obtain in R1T so far. (Rivian has promised speeds of up to 300kW with a software update in the future.)
The R1S is very nice inside, but does not feel quite like a luxury SUV, although the most natural competitors in this price range are from Land Rover, BMW and Mercedes. The materials are well chosen, things are nicely laid out, and nothing feels cheap, but you obviously pay the money for the drivetrain and the fancy software. You will not see family-friendly features such as electrically folding seats in the third row or built-in window screens in the doors. (And there is no shade for the glass roof either, which is the worst trend in modern electric cars: Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model 3 and Y do not have either.) And where R1T has some clever package tricks like “gear tunnel” between the rear seats and pickup- the bed, R1S is far more usualfor lack of a better word.
But well-known packaging with an extraordinary driveline and a potentially industry-changing hardware and software stack is not a bad combination, especially since it is smaller, um, chaos around Rivian than Tesla, which is the only other car company to play in mainstream categories with similar benefits. A day of driving under the watchful eyes of Rivian employees is not enough to say that the R1S is a challenger, but it feels like one.
The problem, of course, is that fighting in the car market requires having cars to sell, and Rivian wants precious few R1S units available. Production has started – the R1S units we drove were actual early production models with VIN numbers that will eventually go to Rivian employees – but apart from saying that some customers will take delivery sometime between August and September with more units to follow, there is no more timeline information in the face of reported delays, and reserving an R1S online right now only results in a promise of delivery in “late 2023.”
There are many question marks, but spending the day with Rivian’s team and their products makes it clear that there is enormous potential here. Just please – please – add some physical buttons to these HVAC controls.
Update July 6 09:32 AM ET: Updated to make it clear that the Rivian R1S uses the CCS combo charging plug.