Rivian’s electric truck is a cutie and a beast

The dreaded Rivian R1T, the first crusher in an upcoming wave of electric pickup trucks, can hover unscathed over gnarled rocks, harness an 11,000-pound load, and burn to 60 mph in about 3.5 seconds. The truck brings everything and the kitchen sink, with outdoor options like a rooftop tent and rail-mounted camp kitchen, which allows homeowners to whip up a trail side omelet and wash up afterward. And after its hot IPO, Rivian is already valued at nearly $ 100 billion, more than behemoths such as Ford Motor and General Motors.

All is well so far, for the company’s cross-shareholders, stakeholders (including Amazon and Ford) and 9,500 employees. Some consumers may still have a question: what is a Rivian in the world?

The R1T, which now rolls out of a former Mitsubishi factory in Illinois, must go through this difficult stage of discovery, just as a then-obscure Tesla did with its Roadster in 2008 and its Model S in 2012. Unlike Tesla, which created the electric vehicle market and once had it primarily for himself, Rivian faces immediate competition from GM’s 1,000-horsepower GMC Hummer EV pickup and a Ford F-150 Lightning – based on the best-selling vehicle in the United States for 39 consecutive years – is expected to arrive in the spring. Tesla pushed the Texan production of its outraged Cyber ​​truck at some point in 2022.

Rivian, based in Irvine, Calif., Took 12 years to hit the market, but his timing seems ideal. Vans continued to gain market share as the pandemic hammered traditional car sales. Residential theft from major cities, such as the New York exodus to the upstate, may have played a role. (Hospitality project, meet a pickup truck.) One in five vehicles sold in America is now a full or mid-size pickup truck, well over three million sales in a typical year.

While Ford’s Lightning appears to be a more conventional, task-oriented truck, the shorter 16-inch Rivian is a born adventurer. A pioneer too, proof that an electric 4×4 can face the most difficult backcountry. This summer, an R1T successfully completed the TransAmerica Trail, a melting pot of approximately 5,000 miles from North Carolina to the Oregon coast. While most buyers are happy with a dirt road leading to a cottage or campground, they can still dream.

Starting at $ 68,575, the Rivian becomes the first electric vehicle on the market to integrate four independent electric motors, each spinning up to 18,500 rpm. While barely making a sound. “Ride light” is the mantra of the conscientious off-roader, and the Rivian eliminates a noisy internal combustion engine and its hissing exhaust.

“You can hear the stream flowing as you walk down the trail – and the birds,” said Brian Gase, Rivian’s director of special projects.

Still, little will stand against the R1T or its sport utility derivative, the R1S. Adjustable air suspension and four off-road modes – Auto, Rock, Rally and Drift – allow up to 15 inches of ground clearance. It’s a stunning 4.2 inches taller than a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, a touchstone of earth ability.

Move over more urban surfaces and this 835 horsepower beast will overtake or dance around any petroleum pickup I’ve tested, claiming a 3.0 second dash at 60 mph. That’s despite an empty weight of nearly 7,150 pounds, about a ton more than a typical full-size gasoline pickup. This truck does not defy physics so much as an open revolt.

The Rivian never quite feels this fast, and automotive publications find that 3.5 seconds at 60 mph is more like it. Even that is ridiculous acceleration for any true four-by-four, not to mention one that weighs as much as two BMW 330i sedans, and could tow three Bimmers at highway speeds. Like most whispering electric vehicles, the Rivian plays tricks with its somatic system. Without beeps and frenzied pistons, a more reliable calculation for moving forward is watching small cars turn into tiny specks in the mirror.

On the hilly roads surrounding New York’s tanks, the Rivian chopped up those BMWs and Benzes as if they were vacation turkeys, its clever hydraulic anti-roll system keeping the truck’s body as flat as a flatbed. A roughly 135 kilowatt-hour battery, shielded by composite underbody armor, provides up to 314 miles of range, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimate – reasonable, given all that mass and drag. Switching to Conserve mode lowers the ride height and operates only the front axle motors to save juice.

For $ 10,000 more, a battery of about 180 kilowatt hours extends the range beyond 400 miles. That beats the $ 112,595 Hummer EV, which is expected to travel around 350 miles with its approximately 200 kilowatt-hour pack, the largest ever installed on an electric vehicle. Rivian also plans to offer a more affordable 105 kilowatt-hour pack with a range of around 230 miles.

The R1T’s brake pedal is a bit soft for my taste, but there’s no denying the truck’s incredible ability to lose speed. In objective tests, Edmunds.com found the Rivian Set new pickup records for stopping distance, acceleration and road grip. Owners in less of a rush can drive for hours, or even days, without ever touching the brake pedal: a carefully chosen and adjustable regeneration function by the driver allows for effortless ‘one-pedal’ driving to bring the truck to a smooth stop. lifting the accelerator.

Despite all of his overwhelming strength, the Rivian is a cutie. Today’s pickup vogue, embodied by the Hummer or the Cybertruck, must look like a Mechagodzilla, quite a threat spitting fire. The Rivian’s oval and translucent LED eyes, clean lines, and cheerful look are more Iron Giant: rated for all ages, genders, and personalities, not just for Costco cosplayers in trucker caps.

The interior takes a safe path with the Apple-like minimalism that is in vogue for electric vehicles. Slightly longer than midsize trucks, much shorter than full-size trucks, the R1T offers a comfortable back seat for two or three adults. Most traditional switches are truncated in favor of controls on a central 16-inch touchscreen, not always for the better.

Company representatives believe the cloud-based navigation system will handle directional tasks, and an 18-speaker Meridian audio system will work well with in-car apps like Spotify, or connect smartphones via Bluetooth. But the lack of available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – standard fare on most economy cars – may require heading correction.

Still, the design, materials (including vegan leather and genuine ash wood), and craftsmanship are compelling luxury. And ingenuity reigns. A portable Bluetooth speaker tears off the center console, ready for campfires, along with a 1,000 lumen flashlight in the driver’s door. USB ports and 110-volt outlets are scattered throughout the cabin and cargo area. This bed has an electric tailgate and optional air compressor to “air” the tires for off-road exploration and refill them for the ride home. There’s no need to bring light: a large storage funk sits under the hood and another under the 4.5-foot cargo bed, with a drain plug that doubles as a cooler for the. tailgating.

The so-called Gear Tunnel will pierce the hearts of outdoor enthusiasts. This door-to-door abdominal cavity behind the passenger cabin, made possible by the lack of an internal combustion drive shaft, swallows cargo or extras such as the optional $ 5,000 camp kitchen. This à la carte item doesn’t come cheap. But deployed from the Rivian, the industry’s first unit will stop traffic at any tailgate or bonfire, featuring a two-burner convection cooktop, collapsible sink with spray faucet, and water tank. , and a 30-piece Snow Peak kitchen set.

Now all Rivian has to do is set up sales. Like a Tesla baby, the company expects to spend a few billion dollars before it can generate positive returns. Amazon has a 20 percent stake – currently worth around $ 20 billion, more than five times its initial investment – and has ordered 100,000 Rivian last mile delivery vans until 2030. We’ll see if these vans become Rivian’s side business or the main job.

Whatever the choice of the first users of electric trucks, it is better to get a place in the queue. Ford says it has 160,000 customer reservations for its Lightning, but expects to build only 15,000 next year before rapidly ramping up production. Rivian, in a federal filing, cited a backlog of 55,400 orders for the R1T and R1S.

Ford slashed the Lightning’s starting price to around $ 42,000, but for a working version with a modest 230-mile range. Good luck finding one at dealerships. A higher volume Lightning XLT will start closer to $ 55,000, with a Platinum Edition loaded at $ 90,000.

Ford (along with GM) boasts massive scale, dealer networks, and manufacturing experience, albeit in fossil fuel trucks. Like Tesla, Rivian plans to forgo traditional showrooms in favor of direct selling in all 50 states. The company plans to open dozens of service centers across North America, but also relies on remote diagnostics, live updates, and mobile technicians who can service Rivians from home, even when owners are away. .

Either way, Ford can win: it owns 12% of Rivian, even if it has just abandoned a project to develop an EV in partnership with Rivian. Founded by RJ Scaringe, Rivian hopes to fulfill its existing orders by the end of 2023, from a factory that can build 150,000 units per year.

Whatever happens, Rivian can claim to be the first in the electric truck space. From this electric David, the R1T takes an impressive first shot. Let’s see what the Goliaths do when they step off the mat.

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