- I got to drive the Rivian R1T both on-road and off.
- It’s the first modern electric pickup truck to hit the US market, beating even Tesla.
- Packing tons of cool features and exceptional capability, the R1T redefines what a pickup can be.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Ask someone what defines the quintessential American pickup truck and a handful of qualities may spring to mind: big, loud, unwieldy, and – if we’re really committing to the stereotype – slurping gas as it belches clouds of black smoke.
The 2022 Rivian R1T is none of those things.
As the first fully electric pickup to go on sale in the modern EV era, beating out Ford’s familiar F-150 Lightning and Tesla’s otherworldly Cybertruck, the R1T completely flips the script on what a pickup can be. And at a time when practically every car company is transitioning away from fossil fuels and battery-powered trucks are becoming the new rage, Rivian has somehow beaten everyone else to the punch.
Not only is Rivian’s truck the first of its kind – it’s good. Really good.
I know this because Rivian invited me out to Colorado earlier in September to spend a few days getting to know the R1T inside and out. I scrambled up mountain passes, cruised sweeping highways, and got up close to the myriad of thoughtful features the truck has to offer.
More on all of that soon. But first, some background.
The 2022 Rivian R1T: A groundbreaking electric pickup
For the uninitiated, the R1T is the debut vehicle from Rivian, a California startup, backed by Amazon, that’s been working toward its first street-ready model since 2009. No US upstart since Tesla has succeeded in selling consumer electric vehicles at any sort of scale, making the R1T a big deal for Rivian and the global movement toward greener cars.
The R1T is medium-sized as far as pickups go. It’s a little bigger than a Toyota Tacoma or Ford Ranger but a good deal smaller than full-size models like the Tundra or F-150. It’s more luxe than any of those trucks, though, and carries a starting price of $US67,500 ($AU94,035).
Those basic R1Ts will be available in January 2022. The first trucks getting shipped to customers this month are Launch Edition versions of the fancier Adventure trim, which starts at $US73,000 ($AU101,697). Opt for accessories like a roof rack, a bed-mounted tent, a slide-out camping kitchen, and a swankier interior, and you’re looking at a price tag closer to $US100,000 ($AU139,310).
It crawls and cruises like a champ
The bulk of my experience in the R1T happened off-road, so let’s start there. Rivian bills its vehicles as being for outdoorsy people who like skiing, camping, and the like, so the ability to confidently venture off the beaten path is central to Rivian’s entire ethos.
Powered by four torquey motors – one driving each wheel – the R1T made light work of any obstacle and steep grade I threw at it during a day of off-roading (on trails Rivian hand-picked to showcase the model’s strengths). The R1T promises to put out more than 800 horsepower and over 900 pound (408kg)-feet of torque between the front and rear wheels.
But the truck offers a lot more than just four-wheel drive and a ton of power.
Since its motors operate independently, the R1T can instantly deliver more or less power to any wheel at any moment, a huge asset for tackling uneven terrain. Plus, you can toggle between drive modes that change the R1T’s ride height, suspension settings, and throttle response for different types of off-roading.
The truck’s air suspension allows for 14.9 inches (38cm) of ground clearance in its highest setting, plenty enough to straddle sizable boulders without getting beached. Like many EVs, the R1T has a regenerative braking system that lets you speed up and slow down using just one pedal.
The instant you start letting off the accelerator, the motors start braking and feeding energy back to the battery pack. This is especially helpful for off-roading, which requires lots of careful stopping and starting.
All of this made the Rivian perform spectacularly well over all sorts of terrain, even in the hands of a novice off-roader like myself. All I had to do was select the suitable drive mode, keep steady pressure on the accelerator, and aim the truck at what I planned to go through or over. Simple as that.
Transitioning to paved roads was as easy as tapping into All-Purpose mode in the central touchscreen and airing up the tires using the R1T’s onboard compressor.
On the highway, the R1T drives unlike any other pickup. First off, it’s ridiculously quick for its size, especially in Sport mode. The R1T takes off from a stop with epic force, effortlessly makes passes at highway speeds, and always seems to have more power on tap. Rivian quotes a blistering 0-to-60-mph time of three seconds.
Carving around sharp bends, the R1T feels remarkably planted and doesn’t experience any of the body roll you’d expect from a high-riding truck. That’s mainly thanks to the gigantic battery pack underneath its floor, which lowers the pickup’s center of gravity and helps with handling while promising 314 miles (505km) of range for base models.
All in all, the R1T is so agile that it’s easy to forget you’re driving something bigger than an Escalade.
It’s brimming with smart features
The R1T offers a dazzling variety of thoughtful touches that have nothing to do with how it drives.
There’s a big front trunk under the hood and a cavernous Gear Tunnel that runs the width of the truck behind its rear seats. The 65-inch (165cm) vestibule provides a ton of clever storage space and can be optioned with a $US5,000 ($AU6,966) slide-out camping kitchen. Rivian says it’s working on a bunch of other slide-out accessories, too.
The Gear Guard system keeps an eye on the truck’s surroundings using several external cameras and records when it thinks someone is messing with your truck or your stuff. There’s an included cable for securing bikes and other gear in the bed. Plus, the truck includes a bluetooth speaker and an LED flashlight that both have their own little homes in the center console and door, respectively, where they’re always charging.
The whole idea of a pickup is utility, and plenty of other trucks have that. But many of the features in the R1T can’t be found anywhere else, partly because it’s the first EV pickup on the American market and partly because to make a splash in a space with longtime heavyweights like Ford and General Motors, you have to go all-out.
And even though the R1T models are primarily aimed at sporty people, their utility can easily expand beyond camping and kayaking.
A great sign for our electric future
The 2022 Rivian R1T redefines what a truck can be. It offers a glimpse at the new-age features and capabilities coming our way as electricity sweeps the pickup segment and the auto market at large.
All Rivian has to do is build a ton of them, handle service and repairs, and not run out of money. As Tesla has demonstrated through its periods of production hell and its multiple brushes with financial calamity, that’s no easy feat.
But for now, we know one thing: If there’s an electric pickup that can unite buyers from across the spectrum – from truck fans, to early EV adopters, to nature-loving Subaru owners – the R1T could be it.