Rivian R1S: First Look Review

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The Rivian R1S is a truly capable electric SUV that can not only tackle extreme terrains but also carry seven people. 2024 is the third model year for a family-hauling 4×4 electric SUV, and it’s still the undisputed champion in its league.

Currently, Rivian has a retail presence in Chicago, Denver, Nashville, Laguna, Pasadena, Venice, Atlanta, NYC (Meatpacking District and Brooklyn), and Seattle. Recently, I had a chance to explore the Rivian R1S in person. Here are my first impressions of the electric three-row SUV:

Design

The Rivian R1S features a boxy and rugged body with futuristic design cues, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best-looking electric SUVs on the market. The high-set, flattish hood, upright front and rear sections, exposed tow hooks, large, squarish windows and rear-quarter glass panels, trapezoidal wheel arches, and the clean, continuous body lines give it an authentic American SUV look.

In contrast, I like how the full-width daytime running lights and rear lights lend the R1S its much-needed futuristic styling. Both of them are quite chunky in line with the classic SUV character, not thin like on most other EVs. Vertically stacked, “Stadium” headlights highlight the vehicle’s tall stature, and they intersect the DRL to form a shape that reminds me of an SUV front guard.

If you were to ask me the design element I disliked the most about the R1S, it would be the block-lettered brand inscription at the back, as I think it should’ve been much smaller.

Interior

The Rivian R1S has a futuristic interior with a minimalist theme, bare minimum physical controls, and plenty of digital real estate. When I sat in the R1S, the generous use of premium materials gave me a sense of sitting in a luxury off-road SUV.

Vegan leather upholstery is standard in the R1S, and Rivian allows customers to pair it with dark/warm ash wood accents or vegan leather accents. In configurations specified with ash wood accents, Rivian uses the same material as the structural elements in the dashboard, and I love that generous spread of wood across the cabin. Warm ash wood reminds me of classic SUVs, but if I were to buy an R1S, dark ash wood would be my choice of trim material.

Rivian equips the R1S with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 15.6-inch, horizontally laid touchscreen infotainment system. Both have slick graphics and cool animations, and they perform brilliantly. Unfortunately, the infotainment system doesn’t support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but I’m happy to report that the maps of built-in navigation look pretty dope. It even includes a virtual keyboard, allowing users to type the destination easily. While I was disappointed by the lack of a head-up display, I was happy to learn that the instrument cluster does include a map view.

Most EVs these days tend to have a sleek dashboard, but the R1S gave me a proper truck-like feeling with its tall and chunky dashboard. I noticed that there was no glove compartment in the dashboard, but I’ll have to appreciate that the space under the central armrest is quite deep. Moreover, there is enough space for a small backup in front of this area that separates the occupants.

Rivian designed and engineered the R1S for Americans, so I expected six-foot-tall myself to be very comfortable in it. Thanks to the Roomy entry and exit feature, I felt no need for side running boards to enter it. Both ingress and egress were pretty comfortable for me in the front.

When I sat in the electrically adjustable driver’s seat with four-way lumbar support, heating, cooling, and memory, I noticed that Rivian doesn’t offer a massage function, an extendable cushion for under-thigh support, or adjustable side bolsters. That said, I found the seats comfortable despite the firm cushions. I had lots of legroom and headroom, and I felt that the under-thigh support wasn’t bad either. The pedals are well-designed and spaced out.

Thanks to the large glass panels all around and the optimum pillar angles, I felt that exterior visibility was great. The heated steering was grippy, but I wished it had more buttons for certain functions for easier access. I’d say the biggest con of the interior of the R1S is that it’s almost devoid of buttons, switches, scrollers, etc. Nearly every function requires using the touchscreen, which I found easy to use. However, not everyone who is in the market for a new electric SUV shares that sentiment and some customers prefer the tactile feeling of physical controls for the air conditioning and the audio.

In the second row as well, ingress and egress were a breeze for me. The R1S had a particularly wide second row with a 40/20/40-split bench seat with a heating function. I had lots of legroom, adequate knee room, and tons of headroom. However, under-thigh support could be better, considering this space is often used in a family vehicle. I liked the range of sliding and reclining the bench seat allowed. The middle position offers adequate room, but the lack of seat bottom cushioning and the hardness of the backrest (from the retractable armrest) make this suitable only for short trips. The floor in the second row is completely flat, which also helps when seating an additional passenger and getting out the other side. 

To enter the third row, I pressed one of the two easy access buttons, one each in the shoulder area of the second-row bench seat. That function tilted the seat and slid it forward, but I had to manually push it further to make more space, which still wasn’t a lot. Hopping into the third row was a big step, so I think side steps could’ve made ingress easier. I’d rate ingress and egress as average.

The third row had a 50:50-split bench seat, and it was pretty roomy for someone of my height. I had impressive headroom and good legroom and knee room. I just wish the cushion was a little higher and a little thicker, both for better under-thigh support. These seats don’t offer a heating function, but I have to say that it’s one of the most comfortable third-row seats in vehicles that I have tested in recent times.

Rivian R1S third-row seat live image

The larger quarter-glass panel allowed me to view the surroundings way better than in the Tesla Model X. Rivian offers Individual cupholders, soft-touch armrests, storage areas with a USB-C charge port, and AC vents to ensure that third-row occupants don’t feel a compromise in comfort and convenience.

The R1S features a split tailgate with a powered top part that opens to a height, which allows me to walk under it safely without worrying about bumping my head into it. There’s a decent amount of cargo area behind the third row, 17.6 cu. ft. to be specific, and it’s possible to comfortably keep 24-inch bags vertically, thanks to a 33.6-inch cargo area height.

The R1S has a deep and wide underfloor storage area as well, where Rivian includes a spare tire. Plus, a built-in air compressor allows customers to inflate tires on the go. I think the underfloor storage space is quite big, and I could easily keep a 22-inch bag in place of the spare tire. Folding down all the seats increases the cargo volume to 88.2 cu. ft. Moreover, there’s a big frunk with 11.1 cu. ft. of storage space.

Driving impressions

The Rivian R1S is based on a skateboard platform and has a double wishbone suspension in the front and a multi-link suspension in the rear. It features adaptive dampers along with ride-height adjustable air suspension. It has one or two motors at each end, totaling two or four units, and a 106 kWh/121 kWh/135 kWh/149 kWh battery pack. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph as quickly as three seconds flat and deliver an impressive EPA-estimated range of up to 400 miles.

Gauging from various credible media reviews, it’s clear that the R1S is an EV like no other. It’s extremely capable off the road, while in normal use, it’s crazy-fast from the word go. Even though it’s a mammoth, it shows a fair amount of agility in handling.

Rivian R1S side profile

The ride in the R1S is a bit too stiff at slow speeds, so potholes and bumps can make it uncomfortable sometimes in urban use. However, the EV’s air suspension truly comes to life at higher speeds and does its job well to smoothen the ride. The three-row electric SUV has light steering, but its higher steering ratio means more effort is required to make turns. There’s plenty of stopping power, but the regenerative braking system can be a bit too intense.

Price

The Rivian R1S’ prices start at USD 74,900 and go up to USD 99,000.

TopElectricSUV says

The Rivian R1S scores high on style, utility, performance, and capability. It might not be the best-handling SUV in its class, and I must say that’s not something it’s supposed to be, but it’s a brilliant all-rounder and one hell of an adventure vehicle for big families. No posh European luxury SUV comes any close in road presence, capability, range, or utility.

Rivian R1S FAQs

What is the Rivian R1S release date?

The Rivian R1S is on sale in the U.S.

What is the Rivian R1S price?

The Rivian R1S’ prices start at USD 74,900 and go up to USD 99,000.

Which models are Rivian R1S rivals?

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