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Rivian R1S Electric SUV: First Look

  • 400-mile range estimate, 0-to-60 miles per hour in 3 seconds.
  • Electric motors at each wheel with 754 total horsepower.
  • Adaptive air suspension and Kevlar-inclusive under-body protection.
  • To be built in Illinois with a target on-sale date of late 2020.

If any vehicles have a chance to truly steal Tesla’s spotlight, this could be it. The Rivian R1S recently turned heads at the Los Angeles Auto Show and is an all-electric 3-row SUV from a start-up car company with ample financing, a factory in Illinois and a target on-sale date of late 2020. Unlike other electric car startups, Rivian seems like the real deal with the R1S prototype and its R1T pickup truck sibling looking far closer to production than the typical start-up concept vehicle.

What Are Its EV Specs?

Like Tesla, Rivian will offer three different versions tied to battery capacity. The 105 kilowatt-hour (kWh) versions will travel an estimated 240 miles, the 135 kWh promises 310 miles and the top-of-the-line 180 kWh will get an estimated 410 miles. That in particular is massively long for an electric vehicle. It’s also the version that Rivian says will go from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it three seconds.

Power is put to the road through electric motors in all four wheels, resulting in a total output of 754 horsepower and 826 lb-ft of torque. That is absolutely as outrageous as it sounds. Having separate motors in each wheel also provides torque vectoring (the ability to send differing power outputs to different wheels), which is a benefit when cornering in dry conditions. Off road, being able to differ power is also helpful when trying to escape from low-traction situations or if one wheel is off the ground.

Rivian says the R1S will be able to tow more than 7,700 pounds, which is about what you can do in a V8-powered Dodge Durango. This falls short of the R1T truck that can manage 11,000 pounds, which is comparable to some full-size trucks.

How Big Is It?

The R1S is a full-size 3-row SUV. We weren’t able to climb aboard the prototype, but given its flat floor and tall cabin, we’re guessing full-sized adults will be able to fit in every row. Cargo capacity will be immense, because in addition to the large, boxy cargo area aft of the front seats, there’s an 11.6-cu ft. front trunk where an engine would normally be.

In terms of exterior dimensions, the Rivian R1S is pretty much the same length as a Ford Explorer or a Subaru Ascent. Full-size luxury SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class and the new BMW X7 are about four to five inches longer.

Rivian didn’t indicate curb weight, but given its giant battery and giant size, it certainly won’t be light. Nevertheless, its aluminum body and Kevlar-intensive composite under-body protection help keep the weight down. Plus, with that battery weight located under the floor, the center of gravity should be extremely low, which is a benefit for handling. The R1S should feel quite sporty behind the wheel.

Can It Go Off-Road?

The R1S has adaptive air spring suspension. It can raise this full-size SUV to provide as much as 14.4 inches of ground clearance. By comparison, a Mercedes-Benz G-Class has 9.5 inches, while the similarly air-sprung Land Rover Range Rover can only climb as high as 11.7 inches. Now, besides the air springs, part of this clearance is the result of the Rivian’s perfectly flat underbody. This is great for aerodynamics, and therefore electric range, but as it’s the result of the battery pack, you do run the risk of puncturingthe battery when navigating off-road obstacles. That’s why it needs that Kevlar-intensive composite protection mentioned earlier.

This clearance, plus the unique four-wheel motors, should provide ample off-road capability.

What’s The Interior Like?

Quite simply, the Rivian R1S concept’s interior looks far more complete and production-ready than an actual production Tesla Model 3. There are production-looking buttons and switches, a large functioning center console screen and rich materials used throughout. The seats look meticulously finished in soft leather and the open pore wood trim looks top drawer. If the production R1S interior looks this good, it would legitimately put to shame that of the Tesla Model X and ably hold its own against top-end luxury competitors like the Range Rover, BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS.

How Much?

Rivian says pricing for the R1S will start at about $72,500 for the base battery version, while the large battery versions will rise to about $90,000. This puts it in the range of the SUVs mentioned above. You can now put in a $1,000 refundable deposit for one.

When Can You Get It?

Rivian says it expects the R1S to arrive at customers in late 2020. We’re inherently a bit skeptical of any startup car company’s ability to deliver cars as promised on-time (just look at Tesla), however, we would at least have greater hope given just how complete a product the R1S already seems to be. The company itself is also reportedly well-funded and is currently retooling the old Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, to build both the R1S and R1T. That’s right, they’ll be American-made as Rivian is an American company with its headquarters and engineering facility in Michigan, with technology centers in California and the United Kingdom.

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