With a massive 135-kwh battery pack powering four independent motors for each wheel, an independent air suspension with 6.5 inches of travel, and five drive modes with nearly 50 different drive settings, the Rivian R1T is the most versatile vehicle we’ve ever driven. It twists through hairpin turns with agility and composure, clambers up deeply rutted rock trails, accelerates quicker than most sports cars, and does it all in near silence. It’s a 9 for its excellent powertrain, composed handling, and outstanding off-road capability and towing capacity.
How fast is the R1T?
Rivian claims a 0-60 mph time in 3.0 seconds and we have every reason to believe it. Yet, it doesn’t feel like it’s cornering on rails or slamming you into the seat back. The reason, more so than the multitude of suspension and ride quality settings, is that its big battery pack of 7,776 small 2170-format Samsung SDI cells contributes to a whopping curb weight of nearly 7,000 lb, which is as much as most heavy duty pickup trucks. But no pickup, from the Ford F-150 Raptor to the Ram TRX to anything by Hennessey, has this kind of pick up.
Is the R1T 4WD?
Yes, the R1T’s quad-motor drive system has two drive units on each axle, with two motors per drive unit controlling either half shaft. The motors work independently to make 415 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque to the front axle, and 420 hp and 495 lb-ft to the rear axle; together, the output exceeds 800 hp and 900 lb-ft. The quad motor set up enables torque vectoring at each corner of the truck to both maximize grip on pavement and climb over obstacles off-road at low speeds.
Five drive settings with five different suspension heights give the R1T a variability unmatched by other vehicles. The air suspension can drop to 7.9 inches when parked and tops out at 14.4 inches in Offroad mode. Above 50 mph, the suspension automatically lowers to 10.1 inches for better aero and efficiency, and that is also the standard ride height for Sport mode. Depending on the mode, the system sets the adaptive damping, regenerative braking, and traction control between three settings each that can be overridden by the driver. For instance, Sport mode utilizes more front axle torque and switches the dampers from Soft to Stiffer that, along with the lowered ride height, lets it hug the road more.
One of the few drive systems to remain fixed is the electronically assisted steering. The suspension changes might make it seem like it adds steering heft, but the ratio remains the same. On-center feel is good, and the steering response is never too loose nor too firm, though drivers used to performance cars might want more resistance and road feel.
With a vehicle this weight and height, Rivian employed a hydraulic roll control system instead of anti-roll bars to keep the large SUV from leaning into turns.
If you plan to go off-roading in any terrain, from old fire and mining roads to slickrock in Moab, get the Off-Road package. Instead of 21- or 22-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli tires, it comes with 20-inch wheels wrapped in 34-inch Pirelli Scorpion 275/65/R20 all-terrain tires. The underbody shield that protects the battery pack gets reinforced with a layer of steel, carbon fiber, and a layer of aluminum honeycomb for energy absorption.
The geometry helps, with an approach angle of 34.0 degrees, a departure angle of 29.3 degrees, and a breakover of 25.7 degrees. Those split the difference between Rivian’s off-road benchmarks, with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4-door having 44/37/22.6-degree approach/departure/breakover angles and the Ford F-150 Raptor’s 33.1/24.9/24.4 degrees with 37-inch tires. Neither of the benchmarks can match the ground clearance provided by the R1T’s air suspension, but that’s not the only competitive advantage.
There’s no pumpkin, no giant rear differential to scrape, no fuel lines or transmission cases to cover, so instead of aiming a wheel for a rock to crawl over, you can straddle obstacles and easily clear them with the 14.9-inch clearance (it’s higher due to the larger tires with the off-road package). Cameras on the side mirrors projecting back and forth, as well as front and rear cameras, give extra eyes where needed. The most remarkable thing is how quiet it is, with the traditional grinding and cranking of lockers and revving of the engine replaced by the crush of rock and the burbling of a creek.
Descending down a slope or pausing while climbing in Rock Crawl is different than in traditional off-roaders. There’s no “Hold” so two-foot driving is key to hold the brake on a slope and gently accelerate so you don’t roll back into the R1T behind you, say. For now, there’s no hill descent control, but the Max regen braking setting fills that void, except when the wheels slip and shuttle you ahead.
The difference between Max, High, and Standard regen is not that pronounced, and learning how to modulate the accelerator for one-pedal driving for smooth stops into stoplights comes relatively easy.
Towing capacity maxes out at 11,000 lb, but we did not test Tow mode. The air suspension automatically levels the ride height when towing, and the various drive settings automatically adjust to suit the load.
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