The 2022 Rivian R1T Brings Fun and Ease Even to the Mundane
The Rivian R1T electric pickup truck has proven to be a capable off-roader. However, it’s an extremely agreeable daily driver, too.
Near or far, looking at the 2022 Rivian R1T will always be an event. It has a face like nothing else on the road, and I think that will be the case for at least the next few years. In the wake of The Great Aggressioning of automotive design, Rivian’s friendly and rounded shapes are a refreshing splash of cool water. The fact that it’s also a big toy of a daily driveable electric pickup truck just makes it all the more delightful.
No one has translated a skateboard-style EV chassis more successfully into usable cabin space better than the R1T has. Just as I expect will happen when I finally move out of my shoebox apartment and into a real house, I felt me, myself, and all my stuff spreading out to make homes in the truck’s various nooks and crannies. It’s an easy vehicle to move in to.
The distinguished James Gilboy already brought you a very detailed first drive of the R1T from last year, so I borrowed one recently to round out the experience. It was time to see what this thing was like to live with and juice up via a public charger and wall outlet.
2022 Rivian R1T Review Specs
- Base price (Launch Edition with Adventure Package and quad-motor AWD as tested): $73,000 est. ($94,250)
- Powertrain: 135-kWh lithium-ion battery | 1-speed transmission | all-wheel-drive
- Horsepower: 835
- Torque: 908 lb-ft
- 0-60 mph: 3 seconds (est.)
- Seating capacity: 5
- Bed length: 54 inches
- Curb weight: 7,200 pounds
- Max towing capacity: 11,000 pounds
- Max payload capacity: 1,764 pounds
- Max ground clearance: 15 inches
- Water fording: 3+ feet
- Off-road angles: 35.5° approach | 26.4° breakover | 30° departure
- EPA estimated range: 314 miles
- DC charge rate: 140 miles in 20 minutes at 200 kW
- Quick take: The coolest automotive toy on sale today, the R1T is extremely easy to live with and enjoy as a normal vehicle. I could do without the infotainment screen-controlled HVAC vents, though.
- Score: 8.5/10
The R1T marks the first vehicle from all-new EV manufacturer Rivian. News of the truck and its SUV sibling, the R1S, has been tooling around since the end of 2017, but to finally see them on the road and in consumer hands is a neat thing. I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of startups as companies that build dumb juicers and sell lies, but here’s one that went and built a whole damn pickup that, you know, works and runs and everything.
Outside, the truck exudes cute happiness, and if were the size of a Honda Acty, I believe I would simply just die. But it’s not. At 18 feet long, 6.6 feet wide, and 6.5 feet tall, the R1T is sized right in between full-size pickups like the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, and Toyota Tundra and mid-sizers such as the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, and Chevy Colorado. The 4.5-foot bed is relatively short and the ground clearance, depending on drive mode, can vary between 9.5 to 15 inches. Also, weighing in at 7,200 pounds, the R1T is too heavy to bring onto the Brooklyn Bridge.
This particular test car was fitted with a truly beautiful Forest Edge interior color palette which I hope to decorate my own home with one day: warm, natural-grain ash wood trims and olive-green seat upholstery. And because it was a Launch Edition, special yellow detailing could be found throughout. There’s a 16-inch iPad of an infotainment screen which was both easy to get used to and infuriating to operate at the same time. Two other interior details to note: Rivian is super good at sneaking its logo into the most unlikely places, and also nothing on the steering wheel lights up at night. After driving so many cars with armies of buttons lighting up their steering wheels, this was quite different.
A 135-kWh battery produces 835 horsepower and 908 lb-ft of torque. The Standard battery pack, Large pack (fitted here), and Max pack return an estimated 260 miles, 314 miles, and 400 miles of range, respectively. Underneath, the truck uses hydraulic roll control, independent air suspension, a reinforced underbody shield, and active damping for on-road comfort and off-road prowess. There’s either Quad-Motor AWD (each motor powers its own wheel) or Dual-Motor AWD (one motor for the front axle and one for the rear), but Dual-Motor R1Ts “only” make 600 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque and won’t be available until 2024.
Driving the Rivian R1T
I expected the R1T to drive and feel like a big vehicle, and it did! But unlike the larger Toyota Tundra I drove earlier this year, it’s relatively easy to see out of. The frankly insane acceleration is a nice party trick—60 mph arrives in an estimated three seconds—but after spending a week with the truck, I found myself flooring it very rarely. Acceleration is tied very linearly to the pedal and there was more than enough power on tap to gap slow drivers and merge. Steering was surprisingly well-weighted, making the big truck intuitive to maneuver, and the regenerative braking was quite powerful in its most aggressive setting. One-pedal driving comes very easily, even if you haven’t tried it out before.
Ride quality was certainly that of a pickup—a little harsher over big bumps—especially when the truck was hunkered down in its most efficient Conserve driving mode, but things smoothed out a bit when the suspension was lifted higher. Overall, the seats were very comfortable, and there was ample leg- and headroom in the back, though I did have some trouble raising the driver’s seat high enough so I could balance good visibility with pedal access. (I’m short.) But despite being a headline-grabbing, 800-hp pickup, the R1T proved to be an extremely easy, intuitive, and agreeable thing to live with.
Seeing as I spent most of my miles with the truck cruising on I-87, I also got to try out its adaptive cruise control. There are two variations of it: Highway Assist, which works on select highways and provides assisted steering, braking, and acceleration and requires you to keep your hands on the wheel; and Adaptive Cruise Control, which is straightforward cruise control where you can set a follow distance. No steering assistance here.
Both worked as advertised and reduced a ton of fatigue on those long stints, but I do have one chief complaint. Highway Assist doesn’t change lanes for you, which is fine, but it also doesn’t temporarily pause its lane-follow function when you put your blinker on to manually change lanes like systems in other cars do. So you force the system off by changing lanes, and then you have to manually reactivate it again. It’s just a matter of double-tapping down on the right-hand stalk, but I’ve driven plenty of other (more affordable) cars that pause their systems when you’re changing lanes and automatically resume them once you turn your blinker off. It’s a very small detail to omit, but one that makes a world of difference on long rides. The upside is that this can likely be corrected via an over-the-air update.
Charging the Rivian R1T
The R1T comes with a portable charger to plug into a wall outlet. In total, I put 683 miles on the truck—most of them driven in the hunkered-down, front-wheel-drive-only Conserve mode—over the course of this test and used a combination of public chargers and a 120-volt wall outlet.
Here’s a chart detailing my entire charge experience:
From a road trip perspective, I put nearly 200 miles on the R1T in one go and didn’t feel any kind of range panic. I found a public fast charger, plugged in the truck for two hours, had a nice meal, and came back to finish my journey. Door-to-door, the first leg of the trip was around 300 miles and we needed to stop only once. Plugged into a standard wall outlet, it took about three days to fully charge. But save for a couple of errands, my schedule did not require me to drive for long distances every day.
The Highs and Lows
The gear tunnel—a storage cubby located between the truck’s cabin and bed—was easily the R1T’s most standout and amazing feature. At 65 inches long, it’s way more convenient than storing quick-access things in the back seat, its doors can function as stools, and yours truly fits neatly inside it with both ends shut. If you do get stuck in there, by the way, there are quick-release buttons located on the tunnel’s roof near the doors. This gear tunnel is singularly the best use of space I’ve ever seen on any vehicle, hands down. Automakers, if you’re utilizing a skateboard design and you’ve got the room, we want more storage solutions like these. We’ll use the shit out of ’em.
I feel like a broken record at this point—harping on a modern car’s screens—but in other cars at least, I can see owners getting used to them. My gripes with the R1T’s all-screen controls range from annoying to deal-breaking. First, there’s a pop-up every time the driver changes their seating position that blocks all other menu functions for a few seconds. Annoying. Second, like in a Tesla Model 3, you must use a combination of the screen and steering wheel controls to adjust your wing mirrors and steering wheel position. Also annoying. Thirdly—and this is my dealbreaker—the HVAC fan direction controls are also handled via the screen. You must look at the screen to change the direction of the vent. There are no physical tabs. You must pull up the on-screen climate controls, touch the image of the vent you want, and drag to change its direction. A little corresponding motor in the vent carries out the command. Teslas and the Porsche Taycan do this, too, so I kind of see why Rivian felt the urge to follow suit, but just like it is in those cars, screen-controlled air vents are dumb, distracting, and overengineered—and the Rivian’s back row had normal vents! So Rivian knows how to build a physical fan control, it just refused to do so for the front passengers.
Finally—and this is a very small complaint—there was no glovebox.
Rivian R1T Features, Options, and Competition
The Launch Edition truck Rivian loaned me was fitted with the Adventure Package, Quad-Motor AWD, the Large battery pack, 20-inch all-terrain wheels, the Forest Edge interior, tow hooks, and was painted in Limestone. Rivian said this tester was $94,250.
By contrast, a bog-standard R1T starts at an estimated $73,000 and includes the Adventure Package—a truck that packs Dual-Motor AWD, the Standard battery pack, air compressor, Meridian audio system, ash wood interior trims, vegan leather seats, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, 21-inch wheels, a standard suite of driver safety assists, the flashlight, and the detachable speaker. The R1T comes pretty loaded up, even if you do go skinny on the options.
In the all-electric pickup segment, the R1T finds itself without many competitors. For now. The GMC Hummer EV and Ford F-150 Lightning are both available for purchase, but the former isn’t a pickup so much as it is an even more gigantic toy, and the latter is aimed more at mass appeal and utility. The Rivian itself definitely skews more plaything; I’m sure some people will use it to tow and haul, but most people will probably use it as a daily driver that takes them and their fun stuff (boats, ATVs, kayaks, tents) to the play area instead of as a dedicated work truck. Think of it like a Jeep Gladiator.
As you can see from the EPA ratings below, the R1T’s mileage is pretty on par with the F-150 Lightning’s. The Hummer EV has yet to be rated by the EPA, so we’ll have to wait a bit longer for those figures.
But in terms of slightly less guilty car ownership, the Rivian’s sustainability claims extend beyond what’s not coming out of the tailpipes it doesn’t have. Its cabin materials include vegan leather seats and a microfiber headliner that Rivian says is made completely from recycled materials. But before you run off thinking electric pickups such as these will singlehandedly cancel out decades of vehicle tailpipe emissions, consider all the emissions that go into building them in the first place.
Value and Verdict
In his first drive review, James said the R1T was like “if REI made a truck” and it is so accurate. The thing oozes such powerful tactical outdoor adventure energy it might as well be rocking Tevas and crunching on a Nature Valley bar. Nobody needs this truck, just like nobody who’s in the market for a $70,000-plus electric truck needs to go camping. But as a camping-adjacent accessory, it’s pretty damn sweet.
If it were me? Besides a couple of neck-snapping acceleration pulls to entertain friends and family, I found myself only rarely digging into all of the truck’s torque during my week with it. I don’t need the big power. Gimme the big range.
Despite the hype, though, the R1T cheerfully settles into its daily duties with little drama and offers a nearly compromise-free experience. It’ll do both the on- and off-road stuff with aplomb. I road-tripped and ran errands in it, and each time, it brought an extra degree of pizzazz to the mundane. It sat silently in traffic as the rest of the cars huffed and puffed smelly exhaust and heat. Charging it meant we got to explore a downtown we've never visited before. The gear tunnel is perfect for picking up pizza. Everywhere it went, it seemed to genuinely delight people.
The business of automotive toy buying has never been a cheap one, and with a price tag that confidently approaches six figures, the Rivian R1T is positioned exactly there. But what you get is a statement piece that’ll turn heads and draw onlookers wherever you go. It’s a recreational take on what a pickup in 2022 can offer (along with additional ingenious storage options) and doesn’t rely on something archaic and tacky like fossil fuel to run. Get it in yellow. Pretend it’s a giant electric Tonka trunk. Because that’s kind of what it is.
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