Rivian R1S Full-Size Electric SUV
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First Drive: Rivian R1S Full-Size Electric SUV Review

Seven-seater SUV sibling for the world’s first mainstream R1T EV pickup, the Rivian R1S is a fresh new alternative with modern styling, impressive power and capability, and a growing charge network. But it’s also expensive at $107,675 in Canada. So, is it worth buying? We put the all-electric, premium off-road SUV to the test and find out.

Key Features: 

  • Unique Styling
  • Off-Road capable
  • 415 km range

Direct Competitors:

If you're researching a used sustaintable SUV right now, view all our electric, hybrid and PHEV sport utility vehicles here. All our pre-owned SUVs come with a 150 Point Inspection, a 7-Day money back return policy, and a no-charge 30 Day / 1,500 km warranty.

By now you’ve probably heard of Rivian, the Irvine California-based EV startup that managed to beat the industry giants to the mark by releasing the world’s first mainstream electric pickup truck, the R1T we look at in our EV truck guide here

Proving they aren’t a one-hit wonder, Rivian quickly followed up with a full-size, seven-seat electric SUV.

2023 Rivian R1S | Photo: Lesley Wimbush 

The R1S rides on the same platform as the pickup truck, and is powered at all four wheels by the same quad-motor, all-wheel drive setup – and while the first vehicles to arrive in Canada boast 835 horsepower and 908 lb.-ft of torque, a lower cost, dual-motor producing 600 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft of torque is slated to arrive by 2024.

Also take a look at our top, gas-powered 7-seater SUVs here.

What does the Rivian R1S cost in Canada?

At time of writing, the first pair of Rivian vehicles has only just arrived in Vancouver, with no word yet when they’ll be available to the rest of Canada. 

Canadian pricing for the Rivian R1S starts at $105,250 for AWD, dual-motor with standard battery. Moving up to the quad-motor is $116,250 (an $11,000 upgrade), and the extended range battery adds another $8,250.

So, right now according to Rivian’s website, the R1S in Canada starts at $107,675 including charges and fees. View more on the Canadian R1S pricing and packages here.

Clean styling for a full-size electric SUV 

2023 Rivian R1S | Photo: Rivian 

Like its pickup sibling, the Rivian R1S is a head-turner. The sleek style is attractive, but it’s the vehicle’s other-worldly, futuristic anime face that turns heads. There’s no sparkly chrome or carved plastic cladding, and the gently-rounded, blunt-bodied sheet metal is finished in rather muted colours. It’s very understated. 

Carried over from the pickup truck, the Rivian’s signature front end is unlike the aggressive, angry look typical of most SUVs and pickups. Instead of a gaping maw-like grille, the blunt front end is just a continuation of the same muted body-colour – a soft canvas for the lozenge-shaped head-lights intersected by a body-width light bar. 

It’s an unusual look, modern, clean, contemporary and a real departure from the menacing bro-dozer image that’s dominated for the last couple of decades. 

Rivian R1S interior features, comfort & cargo

Rivian’s interior design ethos is sophisticated minimalism that’s almost Scandinavian, with clean lines, recycled materials, open pore wood, and stark white media interface. 

2023 Rivian R1S | Photo: Lesley Wimbush 

A translucent UV blocking sunroof casts a soft aqua light into the cabin. Like most pure EVs, the vehicle has no start button – it’s ready to go once you enter the vehicle. In fact, it has no buttons at all. While some may appreciate the streamlined lack of clutter, there’s sure to be some criticism that nearly every function is controlled using the 16-inch Android-based touchscreen. 

Want to adjust your side mirrors, steering wheel, seat, or side mirrors? You’ll need to use the touchscreen. Fortunately these settings can be stored in a driver profile, but it’s distracting – and annoying – to have to use the touchscreen instead of a simple dial to change the heat or air flow. 

But the crisp white 16-inch touchscreen features clean, simple graphics, is ergonomically friendly and responsive. Curiously, Rivian opted not to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Storage solutions & passenger space inside the R1S

  • Front trunk volume: 11.1 cu ft
  • Rear storage bin: 5.1 cu ft
  • Total enclosed storage: up to 105 cu ft

The flat floor architecture has no drivetrain protrusions, and offers up a wealth of storage possibilities. Although the R1S lacks the unique gear tunnel locker of the truck, it does feature a hidden compartment beneath the cargo area, a generous 311 litre frunk (complete with drain for tailgate parties) and drawer compartments beneath the front seats. 

2023 Rivian R1S | Photo: Lesley Wimbush 

Available only in three-row, 7-passenger configuration, the R1S offers generous room for four or five adults in the first and second rows, and a smaller third row for anyone willing to clamber into it. 

Most people will leave the third row flat, increasing the 498 litre trunk space to a more generous 1,322 litres. Drop the second row too, and the R1S provides an astonishing 2,498 litres of flat space – that’s enough to accommodate a twin size bed.

2023 Rivian R1S | Photo: Lesley Wimbush 

Every R1S comes standard with Rivian’s Driver+ Safety Suite, a radar and camera system that includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and lane centring.

Performance & driving impressions

Quick look at R1S specs:

  • Engine: 2 front, and 2 rear permanent magnet electric
  • Transmission: 1-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 415 hp (front), 420 hp (rear), 835 hp (combined)
  • Torque: 413 lb-ft (front), 495 lb-ft (rear), 908 lb-ft (combined)
  • Drivetrain: all-wheel-drive

Though the R1S does share the same chassis and running gear as the R1T, there are a few differences. The wheelbase is 14.8-inches shorter than the truck’s, and overall length is 16.3-inch shorter. 

That’s good news for off-roaders, since a short wheelbase is inherently better on steep trails, and the reduced overhang will deliver better departure and breakover angles.

R1S drive modes

There are myriad drive modes also selected through the touchscreen that range from frugal daily driving to hard-core off roading complete with rock crawl. Depending on which mode you’re in, the independent air suspension adjusts from a low of 7.9 inches up to 15 inches for maximum clearance. 

Here are all the drive modes currently available:

  • All Purpose
  • Sport
  • Off-Road Auto
  • Off-Road Rock Crawl
  • Off-Road Rally
  • Off-Road Drift
  • Conserve
  • Tow Mode

Here's how this Rivian SUV handles & performs

2023 Rivian R1S | Photo: Rivian 

The quad motor drive’s ability to independently adjust torque at each wheel do away with any need for mechanical torque distribution or locking differential. It’s a much more efficient and lightweight system of torque delivery than traditional mechanical choices.

The lack of vulnerable drive train components on the truck’s underbelly gives it a competitive advantage over its off-road competitors, offering more clearance and presenting nothing but smooth tough steel cladding to any obstacles on the trail. And without a traditional air-fed engine, the R1S can ford water up to three feet and not worry about drowning it.

The heavy battery pack located under the floor gives the Rivian R1S a low centre of gravity, an unshakeable solidity on the road with very little body roll. The incredible quick power delivery and massive torque make it very easy to forget that you’re driving a vehicle weighing over 7,000 pounds. It’s quiet and composed, though there is a little more wind noise than in the R1T pickup.

R1S range, charging, towing & other tech

2023 Rivian R1S | Photo: Rivian 

Our quad motor tester was equipped with a 163 kW battery pack with a maximum range of 509 km. Opting for a larger wheel and tire package could reduce that range by as much as 34 kms. Rivian claims the R1S will be able to tow more than 7,700 lbs, which can reduce the range by as much as half. 

Plans for a Rivian charging network across North America

Rivian plans to introduce a multi-layered charging network rivalling Tesla’s, with thousands of DC fast chargers, 240v Level 2 and home chargers. By 2023, Rivian hopes to have at least 600+ fast chargers in the U.S. and Canada, capable of adding up to 225 km in about 20 minutes. 

For now, Rivian vehicles are only capable of quick charging up to 190 kW, which is slower than competitors Tesla, Lucid, and Porsche. According to Rivian, the quick charge speeds will increase from 200 kW and up to 300 kW in future.

Verdict: is Rivian’s large electric SUV worth buying?

The Rivian R1S is expensive, but it offers incredible performance and the cachet of being unusual for the price. While the R1T pickup truck is a niche vehicle with few rivals in the all-electric outdoors adventure segment, the R1S faces stiffer competition against a growing field of premium luxury electric SUVs. 

Though few of them offer the off-road capability of the R1S, that will change once Range Rover releases their EV variant in 2024. The British brand has been the undisputed choice of the glamping set for decades. 

Still, the Rivian R1S is a fresh new alternative with modern styling, impressive power and capability, and a growing charge network. For the buyer searching for an all-electric, premium off-road vehicle with plenty of room for family and gear, the Rivian R1S is worth waiting for. 

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