2022 Rivian R1T Review:Driving Impressions

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Nov 09, 2021

Arriving just in time for the transition of full-size pickups from fossil-fueled internal combustion to electric power, the well-sorted, 800-horsepower Rivian R1T makes the case that personal-use trucks can be both fun to drive and kinder for the environment.

Is Rivian Legit?

Rivian who? The R1T is an all-new, electrically powered pickup truck from Rivian, a well-funded startup automaker with deep pockets courtesy of big-company investments running in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Investors include Amazon (yes, the one with all those trucks bringing boxes of stuff to your house), Ford Motor Company (which has quite a few electric vehicles (EVs) of its own on the way, including the F-150 Lightning pickup), and Cox Automotive (a large company with a considerable automotive retail presence as well as Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader media companies). So, yeah, Wall Street seems to be betting that there's an upside to Rivian. Amazon's even backing up its bet with a 100,000-unit order for an as-yet-unseen Rivian delivery van for, you know, all those packages.

Tesla has been a major disruptor in the automotive scene, capturing vast chunks of the premium-car EV sedan and crossover market. However, after a splashy showing of its Pinewood Derby-shaped Cybertruck a couple of years back, the darling automotive brand of Silicon Valley has been slow to follow up with a production-ready version.

With Tesla seemingly late to the full-size electric pickup party with its adventurously styled Cybertruck, other automakers have jumped into the fray. And why not? Historically, the revenue generated by full-size pickup trucks has kept the lights on for brands such as FordChevroletGMC, and Ram, each capturing unit sales in the hundreds of thousands with profit margins typically running five figures on every one sold. Chevrolet just announced it would offer an EV version of its Silverado full-size pickup, built on the same new Ultium platform as the upcoming GMC Hummer EV pickup.

Along the lines of Tesla, Rivian, the upstart most new-truck buyers never heard of, is jumping headfirst into the full-size EV pickup game with a business model of selling direct to consumers. There is no dealer network, although Rivian is setting up some service centers and an extensive fast-charging network.

In fact, the Rivian R1T is the only full-size electric truck currently in production, using a repurposed former Mitsubishi production facility in Normal, Illinois. Following closely on the heels of the 5-passenger, crew-cab R1T pickup will be the 7-passenger R1S, a 7-passenger SUV to take on the likes of the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.

2022 Rivian R1T Price and Release Date

The Rivian truck will be available in three series: Launch Edition, Explore, and Adventure. Rivian R1T prices range from $67,500 for the "base" Explore package to $73,000 for the well-equipped Launch Edition and Adventure packages. The destination charge is $1,145.

Reservations for the Launch Edition—on sale since June 2021—are already sold out. Rivian says the release date for the R1T Explore and Adventure packages is January 2022.

For this review, I drove a $73,000 R1T Launch Edition.

Independent Expert Opinion: Interior Design, Comfort, and Utility

2022 Rivian R1T Blue Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Getting into the Rivian R1T does not involve the steep climb up of most other full-size trucks, courtesy of its standard independent air suspension with 6 inches of vertical adjustment.

Once inside, the buyer is greeted with a cheery, airy cabin with a panoramic glass moonroof, offering upscale appointments and plenty of spread-out space. The power-operated and heated front bucket seats are generously proportioned but also provide good support. They feature vegan, perforated faux-leather coverings that look like they should wear well. Launch Edition and Adventure versions add the warmth of real Ash wood trim to the dash and door panels in stark contrast to the minimalist dash designs of many Tesla models.

The driver grips a standard heated steering wheel and interacts with a 16-inch center touchscreen and smaller, secondary 12.3-inch driver display. Most of the R1T's controls are accessed via the large center screen, although some functions, such as steering wheel tilt and telescope and side mirror adjustments, are accomplished via steering-wheel buttons.

The rear bench seat will accommodate three full-grown adults and offer about the same amount of space as in the Chevy Silverado 1500 Double Cab.

Storage is plentiful in the R1T. In addition to the open space of the 4.5-foot-long structural composite bed available with either a manual or power-operated and lockable tonneau cover, there's a huge, 11.1-cubic-foot frunk in the nose deep enough to hold several airport roller bags. There's also an innovative gear tunnel that runs the entire width of the truck between the cab and bed, capable of swallowing another 11.7 cubic feet of stuff. The 250-pound-rated gear tunnel doors flip down to create steps for accessing the sides of the bed. And the gear tunnel houses perhaps the neatest R1T feature of all: an optional slide-out electric (of course) cookstove and portable wash sink.

The excellent storage story continues into the cabin with a large center console and more hidden stash space under the flip-up rear seat-bottom cushions.

Even the under-bed full-size spare tire compartment sans spare tire offers tailgate party possibilities with a deep tub for ice with a drain at the bottom.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety

2022 Rivian R1T Blue Interior Dashboard Front Seats

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Rivian R1T comes standard with a 16-inch landscape-format color center infotainment screen, one of the largest in the business. It's the window for most activities in the truck, including cloud-based navigation, climate control, media, drive modes, charging, and brake regeneration. The Launch Edition test truck had a premium Meridian audio system that delivered clear, sonorous fidelity in the otherwise whisper-quiet truck. It includes a detachable Bluetooth speaker for tailgate parties and such.

Also available is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot and wireless inductive phone charger.

Although AM radio and SiriusXM satellite radio are not available, the R1T offers several music-streaming services. The R1T is not, however, equipped with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, instead using Rivian's system. Amazon Alexa capability is, however, on board for voice commands.

On the advanced driving assistance systems front, the Rivian R1T is pretty much up to date with a standard forward-collision warning system with automatic emergency brakinglane-departure warning, automatic high-beam headlight control, a driver-alertness monitor, 360-degree surround sensors, and blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems.

The R1T also comes standard with a Super Cruise-like Driver+ system that offers hands-free assistance with steering, cruise control following distance, and lane changes (with turn-signal activation) on major limited-access highways. However, my brief 20 minutes behind the wheel—most of it on small secondary roads—didn't provide the opportunity to check it out.

In total, the R1T scans the driving environment with 11 cameras, five radar sensors, and 12 ultrasonic sensors.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2022 Rivian R1T

2022 Rivian R1T Blue Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

It's become cliché to say that some large vehicles drive smaller than they are, but the Rivian R1T does just that. Part of it is the whisper-quiet electric propulsion from the 4-wheel-mounted electric motors. The other part is the excellent ride quality and wheel control delivered by the all-independent air suspension with active damping and load-leveling. A hydraulic roll-control system helps the big truck corner flat in sharp turns but without the head toss associated with stiff mechanical anti-roll bars.

Then there's the acceleration: zero-to-60 mph in 3 seconds, courtesy of the four electric motors and all-wheel drive with up to 415 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque delivered to the front wheels and 420 hp and 495 pound-feet of torque sent to the rears.

Rivian R1T towing capacity is a healthy 11,000 pounds.

Braking is another R1T strong point with driver-selectable regenerative braking allowing one-pedal driving in most instances.

Although Rivian limited our time in the R1T to pavement-only driving, it's notable that the truck's off-road capability is aided by the adjustable air suspension with 6 inches of vertical adjustment that can provide up to 14.9 inches of ground clearance and 3 feet of water-fording ability.

As for the Rivian R1T driving range, the Launch Edition's specs include a standard 135-kWh (kilowatt/hour) battery capable of going up to 314 miles on a single charge, according to EPA estimates. Starting in January 2022, Rivian says a 180-kWh battery capable of extending the driving range to 400 miles will be available for another $10,000.

The Tesla-like Rivian Adventure Network of 3,500 200-kilowatt DC fast chargers now under construction at 600 locations across the continental U.S. and Canada will be able to provide up to 140 miles of range for the R1T in 20 minutes.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2022 Rivian R1T

Arriving just in time for the transition of full-size pickups from fossil-fueled internal combustion to electric power, the well-sorted, 800-hp Rivian R1T makes the case that personal-use trucks can be both fun to drive and kinder for the environment. With plenty of backing from large investors such as Amazon, Ford, and Cox Automotive, Rivian has the feature set to move the needle in full-size trucks in much the same way that Tesla has with electric-powered passenger cars and crossovers. And where else are you going to be able to buy a full-size pickup complete with a slide-out kitchen sink and electric stove?

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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