2022 Rivian R1S First Drive Review: An Electric SUV To Rule Them All

Disruption is an often-overused buzzword. We hear it so much these days that it seems we don’t always know what disruptive technology really is anymore. But make no mistake, the Rivian R1S is so good at practically everything it does that it will be a disruptive force in the premium SUV and adventure vehicle segment.

Spend a few days driving hundreds of miles on pavement, as well as a couple of hours on a challenging off-road course (as we did), and most will likely agree. The best way to describe the R1S’s overall performance to someone that hasn’t experienced one yet would be to combine the finest characteristics of a Range Rover, a Mercedes G-Class, and a Lamborghini Urus. And the resulting super SUV might still be inferior to the Rivian R1S. Then realize the cost to fuel and maintain the R1S will be roughly one-third to one-half the cost of traditional luxury SUVs. That’s disruption.

Quick Specs2022 Rivian R1S Launch Edition
Motor4 AC Permanent-Magnet (one per wheel)
Output835 Horsepower / 908 Pound-Feet
Battery135.0 kWh Lithium-Ion
Range316 Miles
As-Tested Price$86,075

Gallery: 2022 Rivian R1S First Drive

Power And Poise

Initially, the R1S will be offered with the same 835-horsepower, 908 pound-feet of torque, quad-motor, all-wheel-drive setup as its sibling, the R1T pickup. As with the R1T, the automaker plans to introduce a lower-cost dual-motor all-wheel-drive configuration in 2024 that Rivian claims will have over 600 hp and 600 lb-ft. 

Having enormous power is one thing, but putting it to the pavement (or dirt) effectively under different driving conditions is another. Rivian’s quad-motor powertrain with independent torque vectoring adjusts instantly, sending the proper amount of power to the proper wheel for maximum traction before the driver even realizes it. 

The independent air suspension with active damping allows for more than six inches of vertical adjustment and was more than up to the challenge in our rain-soaked muddy excursion around the off-road course at Monticello Racetrack in the picturesque Catskills of New York. 

We’ve spent considerable time in a variety of Rivian R1Ts, and as impressed as we are with the brand’s electric pickup truck, we’re convinced the R1S is an even better off-road beast. That’s primarily because it has a shorter wheelbase (121.1 inches compared to 135.8 inches) and overall length (200.8 inches versus  217.1 for the pickup) with the same powertrain and output. The R1S was clearly more maneuverable than the R1T, which makes a big difference in tight situations. 

It poured for hours before and during our time on the off-road course. That gave us the perfect opportunity to fully test out the R1S’s off-road driving modes, which optimize ride height, power distribution, damping, and pedal mapping. Like the R1T, the skateboard platform of the electric powertrain means the underbody isn’t cluttered with components that can be damaged by extreme overlanding. Instead, there’s a protective shield of high-strength steel, alloyed aluminum, and carbon fiber protecting just the battery, which is positioned underneath the passenger cell.

We spent most of the course in the standard off-road mode called “Off Road All-Terrain.” There are also four more off-road driving modes: Rock Crawl, Rally, Drift, and Soft Sand.

When you make your way off the trails, you can use the standard built-in air compressor to air up the tires and carve up some canyon roads. The low center of gravity from the R1S’s large battery pack is a built-in advantage that most electric vehicles have, but Rivian’s engineering team gets high marks for how well the suspension and damping work. The R1S doesn’t feel like a full-size SUV at all. It’s nimble and light on its feet when you want a spirited driving experience, yet soft, smooth, and silent if you want it to be. 

The R1S drives more like a sports sedan than a hulking, 7,000-pound SUV. The All Purpose driving mode is perfect for most daily driving situations. The mode sets the vehicle at the standard ride height, soft suspension, and full stability control, and it employs a moderate amount of lift-off regenerative braking. 

But when curvy roads call and a spirited driving experience is preferable, you can drop the R1S into Sport mode. Sport mode sets the suspension to maximum stiffness and lowers the ride height to its lowest setting. It also sends more power to the rear wheels and limits the stability control system. Mash the throttle in Sport mode and the R1S will accelerate to 60 mph from a standstill in about three seconds. That’s roughly the same time it takes the $230,000 Lamborghini Uris to accomplish the feat. 

Battery, Range, And Charging

The R1S employs the same 135.0-kilowatt-hour (total capacity) battery pack as the R1T and Rivian hasn’t published the actual usable capacity. However, our R1T 70 mph range test uncovered that the usable capacity is approximately 125.0 kWh. 

Rivian calls this its “large” battery pack. At this time, the company is only producing R1S with the large pack, but in the future, the R1S will be offered with a smaller “standard” range battery pack that has a total capacity of 105.0 kWh (260+ miles, estimated) as well as a 180.0 kWh Max pack (400+ miles, estimated). 

The R1S equipped with the Large battery has an EPA range rating of 316 miles per charge, two more than the R1T. Equipped with the Standard pack, Rivian estimates the R1S will be rated at 260 miles per charge.  

The R1S has a 48-amp onboard charger and is capable of charging from a 240-volt level 2 charging source at up to 11.5 kilowatts. When connected to a 48-amp charging station, the R1S will add back up to 25 miles of range per hour. Rivian is making its own 48-amp home charging station that will sync with Rivian Vehicles and the Rivian app, however, the unit is not available for sale just yet. 

All Rivian vehicles come standard with a dual-voltage 32-amp portable charging cable. If you use that to charge the R1S and attach the 240-volt adapter, the vehicle will charge at a rate of approximately 15 miles per hour. 

The R1S uses the CCS (Combo) plug for DC fast charging and can accept a maximum charge rate of 220 kW. The charging characteristics should be the same as with the R1T, and our DC fast charge tests on the R1T produced a 10 to 80 percent charge time of about 40 minutes when plugged into a 350 kW DC fast charger. It takes about 5 minutes longer if you charge from 10% to 80% on a 150 kW unit. That’s important to note because there are more 150 kW chargers available that can deliver 150 kW than 350 kW-capable units.

When the destination set in the navigation system is a DC fast charger, the R1S will automatically begin to precondition the battery with heating or cooling, whichever is needed, to ensure the vehicle will charge at its optimal rate.  

Like Tesla, Rivian is building out its own network of high speed DC fast charging stations called the Rivian Adventure Network, and has committed to installing 3,500 DC fast chargers by 2023 along major corridors and at popular off-road remote destinations. Initially, the network will be available exclusively for Rivian owners, but the company is still undecided if it will open up the network for owners of other brands of EVs at some point in the future. 

Rivian Waypoint Chargers are 240-volt level 2 chargers located near shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, parks, trailheads, and other popular destinations. They are capable of delivering up to 48-amps (11.5 kW) however, some locations may be set to deliver lower rates, based on the electricity available on the site. Rivian is installing more than 10,000 Waypoint Chargers across the United States and Canada. Unlike the Rivian Adventure Network, Waypoints will be open to the public and accessible for owners of any make of electric vehicle. 

Spacious, Comfortable Cabin

Hop inside the R1S and you’re greeted by a well-thought-out interior with comfortable, supportive seats. The seats are both heated and cooled and are only available with vegan leather surfaces. A heated steering wheel is also standard. The layout is mostly conventional with a 15.6” touchscreen center display and 12.3” digital driver’s instrument cluster. 

The R1S is only available in three-row, seven-seat configuration, as the automaker ditched its previous plans to offer the vehicle both five-seat and seven-seat setups. 

Outward visibility is about average for a vehicle of this size and shape, but the 10 exterior cameras including a Bird’s Eye View help fill in the blind spots when needed. 

The 16.0-inch touchscreen center display is bright, clear, and very responsive. It’s the primary control point for navigation, climate control, drive modes, settings, and media. And speaking of media, the R1S doesn’t have Apple Carplay or Android Auto. Rivian is using its own operating system and doesn’t appear to have plans on integrating either in the future and we believe that’s a mistake. 

Owners are familiar with the respective operating system that they have on their personal devices and often prefer to stick with them when they are inside their vehicles. This is one decision we hope to see Rivian reverse in the future. 

The second-row seats fold 40/20/40 and the third row uses a 50/50 split setup and the R1S can accommodate up to five child seats. With both rear rows folded flat, the R1S has plenty of room for an inflatable mattress, and Rivian had a generic one set up for us to try out. Given the option, we’d definitely sleep in there over a tent on a camping trip. The spectacular view of the stars offered by the large panoramic glass roof is just the icing on the cake. 

Assistance, Advanced

The R1S comes standard with a wide array of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The overarching system is called Rivian Driver + and includes adaptive cruise control, Rivian’s lane change assist, as well as lane-keep assistance. For support when reversing and parking, there’s rear cross-traffic warning, park assist, and trailer assist. 

Like General Motor’s Super Cruise and Ford’s BlueCruise, Rivian Highway Assist is a hand’s free system with driver monitoring that includes automatic steering, braking, and acceleration, but can only operate on specific highways that have been pre-mapped. Rivian uses a combination of 3rd-party base maps, plus it collects its own data through the vehicle’s sensor suite.

The system works very well and Rivian has made significant improvements to its effectiveness since our first highway assist experience in the R1T when we found the lane-centering feature lacking. The vehicle bounced back and forth within the lane more than we’d like. However, our experience with the R1S was quite steady, and the vehicle stayed locked in the middle of the lane most of the time.

As Good As The R1T?

We gave the Rivian R1T extremely high marks after spending a few days climbing the Colorado mountains in one so going into this drive it was hard for me to really imagine liking the R1S more, but that’s exactly what happened. 

Both on and off-road the R1S is slightly better at most tasks except towing as the R1T can tow significantly more, 11,000 lbs to 7,700 lbs. If you’re off-roading, the R1S’s considerably shorter wheelbase really makes a huge difference. But the length isn’t the only advantage the R1S holds. The departure angle is 34.3 inches compared to the R1T’s 30 and the breakover is 29.6 inches to the R1T’s 26.4. The R1S It’s an unstoppable force on the trails and makes what should be a difficult trail seem easy, even for those that don’t have much trail experience. 

If you’re off-roading, the R1S’s considerably shorter wheelbase really makes a huge difference.

Even with a starting price of $84,500 for the quad motor, large pack version, the R1S is actually very reasonably priced for the content and the segment. For those that are willing to wait a little longer, the dual-motor AWD R1S with the Large battery pack will start at $78,500, while the Dual Motor AWD R1S with the Standard battery will start at $72,500. 

The R1S isn’t simply an electric SUV, it’s simply a better all-around vehicle than the existing crop of conventionally fueled SUVs, even those that cost more than twice as much. The only remaining question is: Can Rivian scale up and build these in high volume quickly enough before a competitor matches the R1S’s capabilities? If it manages to do so, you can expect to start seeing a lot of R1Ss on the roads, and that’s saying a lot considering the price point.

2022 Rivian R1S Launch Edition

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