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2022 Rivian R1T: A really cool pickup truck that’s also electric [First Drive]

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The 2022 Rivian R1T might be one of the most interesting pickup trucks ever released, but perhaps the least interesting thing about it is that it’s electric. 

Let me explain.Yes, it has instant torque and astonishing acceleration numbers (think 0-to-60-MPH in 3 seconds). It even boasts a max driving range of 400 miles and has the distinction of being the first electric pickup truck to market

And none of that is the interesting part. 

The Rivian R1T also does all the pickup truck things that pickup trucks do. It has drive modes and impressive off-road stats — such as the ability to ford up to 42.7 inches of water. It can tow up to 11,000 pounds, and it has a midsize truck bed that can fit your things from your trip to Home Depot — but it would be better suited to stowing your outdoor adventure lifestyle gear under the powered, lockable, weatherproof tonneau cover.

That’s still not the good stuff. So, let’s dive into what makes this truck truly unique.

A glampers dream

Imagine having a fully equipped kitchen magically appear, as if conjured out of thin air, for your next camping trip. Rivian’s optional Camp Kitchen ($5,000) on the R1T does that.

It’s equipped with a dual-burner induction cooktop (powered by the car), a four-gallon water tank and collapsible sink, as well as space to prep, cook, and serve food. Rivian says using both induction cooktops for an hour uses less than 3 miles worth of range. Also included is a fully-equipped kitchen utensil set from Japanese luxury outdoors brand Snow Peak.

The 30-piece set includes everything you need to whip up a gourmet meal on the go:

  • Nylon Spatula
  • Bamboo Spatula
  • BBQ Pitts Tongs 
  • Nylon Ladle
  • Medium Knife 
  • Large Knife 
  • Cork Screw 
  • Can Opener 
  • Peeler
  • Titanium Cutlery Set: knife, fork, spoon (set of 4)
  • Tableware Set Family: plates, bowls (set of 4)
  • Stacking Mug Set (set of 6) 
  • Home & Camp Cookset 
  • Water Kettle
  • Charcuterie / Cutting Board 
  • Coffee Drip (2)
  • Coffee Grinder

It’s absolutely amazing, and perhaps the cleverest thing I’ve ever seen installed on an automobile from the factory. If you’re going to take your Rivian R1T camping or tailgating, the Camp Kitchen is a must-have.

Another must-have if you’re going to explore the wilderness: the custom three-person tent from Yakima. It’s a version of the Skyrise HD Medium Rooftop Tent that mounts to the cargo crossbars over the bed or on the roof of the cab (there’s an extendable ladder that makes getting into either one a snap). The tent, which is probably more a roomy two-person than a three-, includes a 2.5-inch thick foam mattress and costs $2,650 including the crossbars.

But the best part of both the Camp Kitchen and the tent is that you can order the car equipped with both — and that means you can roll those prices into your financing. Between them, the Rivian R1T is a ready-to-roll glamping machine from the moment it gets delivered to your house.

Rivian R1T

Tech-forward interior

The cabin of the Rivian R1T is very glamping-lux, featuring washable floor mats from Chilewich and vegan leather on the Adventure trim. The front seats are heated and, on the higher trim, ventilated. The left and right rear seats are heated, too, as is the steering wheel. The unmarked buttons on the wheel — two scroll wheels and two left and right buttons — control a wide variety of functions, including changing the volume of the radio (the only physical button to do so, annoyingly).

To adjust the side mirrors or the placement of the steering wheel, you use the enormous 16-inch center screen to get into the driver profiles and then adjust them to your liking. You can set up multiple driver profiles and connect them to certain physical keyfobs or the digital smartphone key, and it will save all your individual preferences and settings.

The keys themselves are pretty neat, too. There are four different ways to unlock and start your Rivian: A traditional (ish) keyfob that has a carabiner built in; a waterproof rubber bracelet that’s designed for active, outdoor pursuits and can open the door with a touch; a credit card-sized plastic card that can live in your wallet and also opens the door with a touch; or a digital key on a smartphone. The digital key can open the car if you’re standing next to it, or even remotely if you need to give someone emergency access to your vehicle.

That’s all good and well, but I wish the Rivian didn’t put so much focus on the digital screens. I would like a physical volume knob aside from the steering wheel, and it would be nice to change the direction of air blowing out of the vents — as is, you have to use the screen to adjust the blowers, which is a neat trick but a little annoying to do while you’re driving down the road.

Rivian R1T

Marie Kondo levels of simplicity & organization

The interior is very well-designed. If you like Scandinavian furniture or the Eames Chair, you’ll like it in there. The open-pore wood and microfiber headliner made from recycled materials feel luxurious and durable. The enormous glass roof is gorgeous and, Rivian says, blocks out 99.9% of UV light — though I do wish it had a sliding cover to block out light.

There are a couple other neat bits here, too. Built into the bottom of the center console is a removable Bluetooth speaker. It has a lantern light built-in and can be used to charge your phone, and can also play music from the car’s stereo or from your phone. If you’re at a campsite (or anywhere else, for that matter) you won’t be short of tunes because the Camp Speaker recharges when it’s in the storage dock.

In the driver’s door Rivian has stored a 1,000-lumen flashlight, in the same way that Rolls-Royce hides away umbrellas for a rainy day. You’ll never have to get out of your car in complete darkness anymore, and, like with the speaker, the flashlight automatically charges when it’s put away. Both of these should come standard in every car.

There is a 12-volt power outlet under the front dash, two USB-C ports in the center console, two more USB-C ports in the back of the center console… and then two more USB-C ports, one in each of the front headrests. There’s a 120-volt AC outlet in the back, too.

Cleverness abounds on the outside, too. Since there is already an air compressor for the air suspension, Rivian decided to install a second compressor with a digital interface in the truck bed. It’s good up to 150 PSI and a 20-foot hose is included (hidden away in yet another secret storage compartment) to fill up all four wheels or bicycle tires, rafts or whatever else you might need to pump with air.

Also in the truck bed are two 120-volt AC power outlets, four cargo tie-downs and four more tie-downs that double as cargo crossbar mounting points on top of the bed rails. In the bottom of the bed is a storage compartment that holds the optional full-size spare tire. If you don’t have the spare tire, you can use it to store whatever you like, including using it as a tailgate ice chest since there’s a drain plug in the bottom.

Rivian R1T

Storage galore

The storage continues under the hood of the Rivian R1T with a front trunk that’s big enough for groceries or small coolers. There’s a cargo net and lighting in there, too, as well as a 12-volt power outlet to keep your gear charged up. The frunk is power opening and closing, and can be controlled via the key fob or with a hidden button under the front grille.

But my favorite thing is the Gear Tunnel. It’s a large, enclosed storage space between the rear seats and the truck bed. It can be accessed via doors on either side of the truck, and includes 120-volt AC and 12-volt power outlets inside. The doors double as seats or steps to access the roof (they are rated to 300 pounds), and there’s even a roll-up door between the rear seats that gives on-the-go access to the Gear Tunnel from the cabin. If you place your snacks in the right spot, you can grab ‘em right from the back seats. Or just use it as a mobile trash can for your empty water bottles.

The Gear Tunnel has much more functionality than just a storage space for your junk. There’s something called the Gear Shuttle, which is a Rivian-installed sliding shelf equipped with power ports (120-volt AC and 12-volt) and a T-lock system for mounting gear. It holds 200 pounds and can fully extend out of the truck, using a fold down leg for stability. The Shuttle is a $1,500 option.

But how does the Rivian R1T drive?

We tested the truck on some tricky off-road trails near Breckenridge, Colorado, and came away hugely impressed. Rivian has definitely been sandbagging its truck’s abilities a bit, and between the four-corner independent air suspension, active damping, and electro-hydraulic roll control system, the R1T is far more capable than most of its buyers will ever need.

The suspension allows for 6.5 inches of adjustment, from 7.9-inches of clearance all the way up to 14.4 inches, depending on your drive mode. Activating the street-focused Sport mode will have the truck hunker down a bit, while opting into Off Road will have the truck rise in preparation for some rock-crawling adventures.

The active damping makes significant changes to the suspension, stiffer for sporty on-road driving and softer for punishing off-road trails — or whatever you prefer based on your driving styles. The roll control system replaces a traditional anti-roll bar, increasing pressure in the hydraulic when needed to minimize body roll, or reducing pressure to replicate the effect of disconnecting a sway bar for maximum wheel articulation and rider comfort on punishing off-road trails.

Off-road, the R1T is wildly capable. I expected it to hit the trails like the Ford Explorer hits the trails — as something for weekenders looking to make it to a campsite, not an off-road beast that can be compared to the Jeep Wrangler or Ford Raptor. But between all the clever hardware — the quad-motor drive, the air suspension, active damping, and the roll control system, the R1T is ready to hit the trail.

Rivian R1T

Unless you’re an avid off-roader — like the type who buys a Wrangler Rubicon and then adds a lift kit — you’ll probably find the Rivian’s abilities far exceed your driving skill. With nearly 15 inches of ground clearance and a perfectly flat, armored undercarriage, it’s perfectly happy to navigate obstacles with aplomb. The 34 inch Pirelli Scorpion tires are excellent, and ride comfort is superb.

Activate the Off Road drive mode and it rises up, tweaks the throttle map and suspension settings, and gets ready to explore. We drove over significant rock obstacles; through tight, off-camber sections that tested wheel articulation to the max; and through water crossings and it never wavered. Of course, this was a first drive program so they had been testing and retesting the route for months, but they weren’t holding us back. This was a tricky trail and the R1T did great.

On-road, it’s even more impressive. Yes, it’s 7,000 pounds, but because the battery pack is so low in the car, the center of gravity remains low and performance remains high. With the sporty 22 inch wheels fitted, Rivian says the truck will make 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds, which is wild for a truck this big. Then again, it does have four electric motors — one for each wheel — and the combined power output is 835 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque.

Put your foot down and off it goes, with a quiet electric whirr as all the celebration it needs. Merge onto the highway and you might find yourself going far faster than the surrounding traffic before you’re halfway down the on-ramp.

It took corners of Loveland Pass at prudent and reasonable speeds for the conditions without any noticeable body roll. It would have been impressive in a sports car, never mind an off-road truck weighing more than a herd of elephants. 

It’s alarmingly good.

Rivian R1T

Pricing & trims

The worst part about the Rivian R1T is undoubtedly how long it’ll take to get one if you order it today. It can be reserved and configured on Rivian.com with a $1,000 refundable deposit, but deliveries won’t take place until well into next year — if not longer. The company has a long list of pre-orders, including for the sold out Launch Edition, and it remains to be seen how long the production ramp up will take.

The base Explore R1T is $67,500, though it is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit (as are all Rivian vehicles currently) and any state credits you might be eligible for. Opting for the Adventure trim bumps the price by $5,500 to $73,000 and adds a powered tonneau cover instead of a manual one, a nicer interior, improved stereo, ventilated front seats and a few other niceties. Range is an estimated 314 miles with the standard 21-inch wheels.

A larger, 400-mile range battery is $10,000, but it won’t be available until next year. The $2,000 off-road upgrade package adds a significantly reinforced underbody shield and dual front bumper tow hooks. A full-size spare is $600 to $800, depending on which of the three wheel options you go for.

The R1T comes with a 5-year/60,000 mile comprehensive warranty, plus a 8-year/175,000 mile battery pack and drivetrain warranty. Service is handled with mobile service vans and new service centers opening up around the country, depending on the type of repair that’s needed. Over-the-air updates will add new features and fix bugs in the vehicle systems, and most everything is controlled or set up through the Rivian smartphone app.

The bottom line on the Rivian R1T

The problem with electric cars in the US has been that there haven’t been any vehicles Americans really want to drive. We love big pickups and SUVs, and all the EVs are smaller crossovers or smaller cars. But now we have the Rivian R1T and the upcoming R1S, the GMC Hummer EV (which is crazy) and the Ford F-150 Lightning.

Finally, instead of needing to sacrifice what we really want — to haul our families and all our stuff around — to buy an EV, we’ll be able to go out and buy a pickup or big SUV that happens to be electric.

Editor’s note: Driving impressions in this “First Drive” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Rivian covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.

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