2023 Rivian R1T Dual Motor First Drive: Technically Less, But Still Capable

– Normal, Illinois

If you haven’t been paying that close attention to the Rivian lineup, it’s hard to understand why its new dual-motor setup is so important. After all, the R1T pickup and R1S SUV are already all-wheel drive, but until now, they’ve been powered by four sophisticated motors, one at each wheel.

So as I got my marching papers to Normal, Illinois, the home of Illinois State University, the Rivian manufacturing plant (and not much else) I thought to myself, “Will the less-powerful Rivian R1T be just as good?” A quick drive of the older quad-motor variant alongside Rivian’s new self-developed dual-motor model revealed that the answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Quick Specs 2023 Rivian R1T Dual Motor Performance
Motors Dual Permanent-Magnet Synchronous
Output 665 Horsepower / 829 Pound-Feet
Battery 135.0-Kilowatt-Hours (est.)
Range 352 Miles (w/21-Inch Wheels)
Base Price $73,000 + $1,800 Destination
On-Sale Date Now

Fewer Motors, More Range

The good news here is that the dual-motor Rivian R1S and R1T have a modest increase in range – and for a few reasons. Firstly, the new “Enduro” AWD system is developed in-house by Rivian. The setup is made in the same manufacturing plant, just a few steps away from where the R1T and R1S are assembled. The Enduro drive unit may just now start to trickle into the R1 trucks, but it is already seeing service (albeit in single-motor, front-wheel-drive form) in the Amazon delivery vans. Compared to the Bosch-developed one-motor-per-wheel AWD system (called “Origin”), Rivian says the Enduro is 35 percent less costly to implement, which is a pretty big deal.

The Enduro was developed after Rivian observed how current owners were using their quad-motor trucks. It has more of an on-road focus; the drive unit drops right into the same space as the quad-motor setup, but an oil-cooled stator and housing wick away heat far better than the water-cooled, Bosch-based quad-motor design. Rivian engineers say that this better thermal efficiency directly contributes to the increased range of the dual-motor variants.

Then, all dual-motor Rivians will shut off their rear axle while cruising to save energy, by default. True, the quad-motor vehicles do this too, but only in the “conserve” mode. Those two features contribute to the increased range, bringing the dual-motor R1’s EPA range to 352 miles with the 21-inch wheels equipped (341 miles with the bigger wheels) – up from the quad-motor R1’s 328-mile range. Also, the arrival of the simpler powertrain introduces the Max Pack battery, a dual-motor exclusive promising 400 miles of range.

Naturally, two fewer motors does mean that the Enduro system doesn’t have as much power as its older Origin brother. The new setup only generates 533 horsepower in base form and up to 665 hp and 829 pound-feet of torque on the Performance model, compared to the staggering 835 horsepower of the older Origin trucks. Yet, I seriously doubt that Enduro-equipped Rivian owners will have problems coaxing their trucks through traffic.

Two To Tango

I got a chance to drive the Enduro (dual-motor) and Origin (quad-motor) models back-to-back on Rivian’s test course at its factory. I also participated in a ride-along towing demonstration of the Rivian R1T, also in Enduro form. Although my time behind the wheel was limited to maybe ten minutes with each truck, I was able to get the gist that Rivian’s new in-house system is just as good as the more complicated quad-motor setup.

The Performance model still scoots to 60 in a claimed 3.5 seconds, only a half second slower than the more powerful Origin variant. In real-world driving, those differences are nigh imperceptible. The two variants feel equally as swift, and most pertinently, quicker than nearly everything else on the road. Even while pulling 9,800 pounds, the R1 Enduro had more than enough power.

The way these two powertrains manage their immense power, though, is very different. Both designs use torque vectoring, in which power can be managed from side to side. However, the Enduro’s technical limitations means it uses a brake-based torque vectoring setup, where brake pressure is applied to increase torque on one wheel. By comparison, the Origin’s individual wheel motors can apply torque with pedal demand.

We ambled around Rivian’s short off-road test track first in an Enduro-equipped truck, then in the Origin quad-motor truck. At first, I couldn’t tell too many distinctions between them; the two trucks felt nearly the same around most of the track. In other words, both of them were exceptionally capable. But, the real differences didn’t show up until the rock-crawling segment of the track.

The two variants feel equally as swift, and most pertinently, quicker than nearly everything else on the road.

I came to a stop near the top of the hill, with all four wheels articulated in vastly different positions on the rocky surface. The Origin motor system made quick work of the rocks, shuffling power to the correct wheel and helping the truck assert its way to the top. The Enduro dual-motor took a little more effort for its brake-based system to get power and traction to the correct wheel; there was more drama and a little more slippage. For the hardcore offroader, the quad-motor truck is clearly the superior of the two.

But in general, the dual-motor does everything just as well as the quad-motor truck. It goes farther and is nearly as fast, and it’s cheaper to buy, cheaper to make, and less complicated. They don’t even look any different; the only visual signifier between the two trucks are the demure silver brake calipers on the Enduro, compared to the bright yellow ones on the Origin.

Why Buy The Quad-Motor?

As I toured the Rivian plant that once made such duds as the Mitsubishi Endeavor, I couldn’t help but wonder what the point of the quad-motor truck was. Outside of the powertrain, the Enduro and Origin trucks were basically the same; the same design, the same generous approach and departure angles, and even the same height-adjustable air suspension.

While the quad-motor model did perform slightly better off-road (in this initial test), that’s not to say that the dual-motor is bad on the dirt – the base Rivian R1 will still spank practically every other off-road EV south of a Hummer. It’s just that the quad-motor is a better truck off-road than the already very good dual-motor truck.

But does that matter to the average consumer? Probably not. Rivian says the dual-motor model has enough capability for 98 percent of its clientele, and I agree. I’m not particularly inclined to off-road performance driving, if I were, I can’t picture using an electric luxury truck that costs $74,800 (with destination) to tackle highly technical off-road courses – plus an extra $5,000 if you want the more powerful Performance package. The quad-motor is even less enticing for serious off-roading at $92,650, but I suppose the GMC Hummer would be even more ostentatious still, and that’s a nearly $100,000 truck.

On the customer-facing side, the Rivian R1 Enduro is a bit basic, but not in the way you’d think. The new variant doesn’t bring anything new to the table here, instead, it offers the same Rivian experience at a lower price point. There’s no real loss with the shift to the dual-motor layout, but behind the scenes, this is an important breakthrough for the brand. When the smallest battery finally makes its way from the Amazon vans to the R1 trucks, Rivian’s entire promised model line will finally be complete.

Photo Credit: Kevin Williams For Motor1, Rivian

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What Is The Dual-Motor Rivian?

The dual-motor Rivian R1T and R1S are the two newest models to the Rivian lineup, following the quad-motor trucks that debuted at launch. These versions use a single motor on the front and rear axle.

What Is The Range Of The Rivian Dual Motor Performance?

The Rivian dual-motor Performance model has up to 352 miles of range with the larger battery pack and the smaller 21-inch wheels equipped. The dual-motor model with the bigger 22-inch wheels has 341 miles of range. 

How Much Is The Rivian R1T Dual Motor?

The Rivian R1T dual motor starts at $74,800 with the $1,800 destination fee included, and the Performance pack is a $5,000 option.

2023 Rivian R1T Dual Motor Performance

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