2023 Rivian R1S: Electric SUV Looks to Dominate

The R1S had a slow start in 2022 with a limited number of Launch Editions ($91,500) available before the initial batch was discontinued. Now there’s the Adventure package with a quad-motor and a large battery pack available as the top of the line option ($92,000) or a simplified dual-motor Adventure trim ($78,000).

Versus its pickup brother, the sleek-lined Rivian R1S is nearly 17 inches shorter, at 200.8 inches. Its wheelbase is 14.7 inches shorter, making for a shorter turning circle and improved maneuverability. The R1S can be viewed as half of an R1T pickup, from the front bumper to the center post between the doors. Then things diverge. It doesn’t have the pickup’s “gear tunnel” behind the rear seats because that’s where the rear wheels sit.

This R1S delivers a one-two punch of performance and innovation, whether on pavement or the gnarliest terrain, that similar luxury electric SUVs (Mercedes’ EQS SUVBMW’s iX and Tesla’s Model X) can’t quite match.

That breadth of capability includes a ridiculous, 3.0-second rocket launch to 60 mph; a McLaren-style electro-hydraulic anti-roll system to encourage flat, confident handling; and up to 15 inches of rock-conquering ground clearance from an adjustable air suspension. On-road or off, the R1S is sensational, including handling that feels closer to a sports sedan than an SUV that weighs about 7,000 pounds.

Rivian R1S
 Illinois-built Rivian R1S is a three-row, seven-passenger electric SUV, closely related to the coveted R1T pickup.  Elliot Ross/Rivian


Among technical innovations, the Rivian’s “Quad-Motor” propulsion system has one electric motor for each wheel. That allows precise applications of power to individual wheels to improve handling or boost efficiency. Those motors crank up 845 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque, with up to 316 miles of driving range with a “large” 128.9 kWh skateboard battery pack ($92,000). Recent upgrades let the Rivian replenish its battery at a nearly  200-kW rate at a fast DC public station for a 10-to-80% charge in about an hour. A more-affordable dual-motor Adventure trim with roughly 600 horsepower and smaller battery pack for about 260 miles of range starts from $78,000. A pricier version is planned with a “Max” battery pack lifting range to at least 400 miles. 

The excellent electric packaging makes the Rivian impressively roomy inside, with three rows and space for seven adult passengers. First-rate cargo space easily tops most competitors, including the EQS SUV. The interior beckons with luxurious yet enviro-conscious materials, such as recycled timber and animal-free faux leather. A pair of upright displays operate in mostly intuitive fashion, though screen-based controls for vents, the steering wheel and exterior mirrors seem a bit gimmicky. 

A camera-and-sensor heavy Driver+ driver assistance system comes standard with interior cameras enabling hands-free driving in certain conditions. As Rivian strives to boost production—it managed to deliver about 5,700 R1Ts in the first half of 2022 with R1S deliveries only starting in August—the R1S is also notable for long waiting lists. Some things are worth the wait, and the R1S is one of them. 

Rivian R1S
With a bountiful 845 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque, the R1S can scamper to 60 mph in 3 seconds; agile handling defies a 7,000-pound curb weight. Elliot Ross/Rivian


The Rivian R1S redefines the meaning of “performance” in a three-row, all-road SUV, sending a monstrous 845 horsepower and 908 pound-feet of torque through four wheels and four electric motors on the top trim. That includes a warp-speed launch to 60 mph in 3 seconds, on par with some supercars. The Model X gets there in 2.5 seconds but only with the pricy Plaid format. The Mercedes is a slower (and more expected) 5.8 to 6.5 seconds. Handling is equally impressive, between a battery-aided center of gravity and an electro-hydraulic anti-roll system that makes this 7,000-pound hauler drive more like a luxury sports sedan. 

Regenerative braking is smartly tuned, including a more-robust setting that allows one-pedal driving. The “stiff” setting for the air suspension is truth in advertising, firming up the handling at some expense to ride quality. Off-road capability is extreme, including multiple settings for various surfaces—a new “Sand” mode allows more wheelspin to get through the soft stuff—and ground clearance that can raise it as high as 15 inches. Switching to “Conserve” mode lets the R1S operate exclusively in front-wheel drive to save energy. 

Range, Energy Use & Charging: 12/15

The battery-powered R1S manages a modest 73 MPGe in city, 65 MPGe highway and 69 MPGe combined. The latter trails the R1T pickup by 1 MPGe . Range maxes out at 316 miles (until the arrival of a version with a larger, roughly 400-mile “Max” battery pack), though some testers report the Rivian is struggling to reach that figure in real-world driving. The standard pack available with the dual-motor configuration promises 260-mile range, trailing behind the standard Tesla Model X’s 348. The high-performance Model X Plaid manages 333. It churns through a hefty 49 kWh per 100 miles compared to the Tesla’s 33 kWh. 

While Rivian doesn’t have the enviable Tesla Supercharger network, it is building out its own (the Rivian Adventure Network, or RAN) and offers 200-kW rate at fast DC public stations for a 10-to-80% charge in about an hour. That translates to up to 140 miles of range added in 20 minutes.

Safety & Driver Assistance Tech:

Rivian’s standard Driver+ system includes adaptive cruise control, highway assist (with automated steering, braking and acceleration), assisted lane changes and automated high beams. Active safety features include forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; lane-keep assist and warnings for lane departure, blind spots and rear cross-traffic.

The system includes 10 exterior cameras and an 11th interior camera that monitors driver attention for hands-free driving in certain conditions. Five radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors enable more automated driving features.

The R1S has not yet been evaluated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which costs it some points in our evaluation.

Rivian R1S
A contemporary, inviting interior features reclaimed timber—here in “Black Mountain” treatment with black ash wood —and a pair of useful display screens and room for seven adults. Elliot Ross/Rivian

Comfort & Room:

The Rivian R1S first-rate packaging makes genuine room for seven adults. That includes two reasonably comfy seats in the third row, albeit with a somewhat low cushion and knees-up seating position. There’s only 36.7 inches of legroom in the second row, 32.6 in the third. The iX has 38.9 inches of rear legroom, while the Model X is spacious at 39.8 inches. The way back is tight like any third row but is the best of its competitors with 32.6 inches. A one-button arrangement makes it easy to pivot and slide second-row seats to access the way back. As with the Mercedes EQS, the lack of a power-folding third row is a letdown at these prices; switches in the cargo area also merely drop the second-row seats flat, and don’t allow them to be raised electrically. 

But all told, the Rivian is a delightfully accommodating SUV for a family or plenty of friends. The R1S rolls in blissful near-silence, with remarkable composure and dead-flat handling—even at a rapid pace—that avoids folks getting tossed around. Once settled in, “Camp Mode” can adjust the air suspension to make the R1S billiard-table-flat on lumpy ground, for more comfortable sleep, including in an optional rooftop tent. 


The R1S’ generously sized, dual upright 15.6- and 12.3-inch screens are the nerve center for a solid infotainment system, mapping, graphics and voice controls. The downside for some buyers is that the custom, integrated system doesn’t allow Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and probably won’t for some time. Some consolation comes from an excellent Meridian audio system with 22 strategically placed speakers and a powerful 1,100-watt amplifier. Some drivers may also be bummed by how the R1S manages some very basic functions—vents, the steering wheel and exterior mirrors—via screen controls and steering-wheel thumbwheels, rather than traditional buttons. 

Rivian R1S
A roomy, two-part divided “frunk” holds 11 cubic-feet of gear. With all seats folded and the storage frunk full, the Rivian can swallow 105 cubic-feet of gear, more than similar-sized rivals.  Elliot Ross/Rivian 

Cargo Space & Storage:

The Rivian R1S will swallow a breathtaking load of gear for its size, with 105 cubic-feet of total enclosed storage: That’s within sight of a Cadillac Escalade, an SUV that’s nearly a foot longer.

That includes 17.6 cubic-feet behind its third row, versus a scrawny 6.8 cubes for the electric Mercedes EQS SUV. 

Folding the 40/20/40 second row opens up about 47 cubic-feet, which grows to 88.2 cubes with all seats folded—again beating the Mercedes, or a long-wheelbase Range Rover.

The hatch’s standard air compressor underlines Rivian’s innovative style, with 5.0 cubic-feet of additional storage below the floor. A split-folding tailgate can support 1,000 pounds worth of gear, or happy tailgaters. There’s a cool, small hidden cubby below the driver’s seat cushion. 

Because there’s no transmission tunnel, a flat front floor brings a useful cargo receptacle below the clamshell-size center console. Metal-trimmed storage pockets behind the front seats are a nice touch. Lidded armrests for third row passengers reveal USB-C ports and storage. And the coup de grâce is a big, divided front trunk, or frunk, below the hood, with 11 cubic-feet big enough for a decent cart of groceries.

Style & Design:

The Rivian’s signature styling element is a friendly, round-eyed face lit by ghostly LEDs, countering the visual aggression of many SUVs, though the rounded-headlight look doesn’t come without detractors. From there, the Rivian R1S seems to take clear inspiration from Range Rover with a smooth silhouette, a clamshell-style tailgate and a floating roof, here tinged with chrome trim.

The progressive interior is just as successful, with striking low-gloss wood from reclaimed timber, handsomely sculpted seats and a pair of display screens. Wheels range from 21-inch alloys with all-season tires for maximum driving range; buyers can choose 22-inch sport wheels and tires, or 20-inchers with all-terrain rubber.  

The R1S’ four electric motors boost performance and response either on-road or off, with a sophisticated air suspension allowing up to 15 inches of ground clearance.  Elliot Ross/Rivian


1.Is the 2023 Rivian R1S Worth it? Which R1S is the Best Value? 

The Rivian isn’t cheap by any means. But the $92,000 price for the R1S Adventure with a large battery is nearly $36,000 less than a Mercedes EQS SUV with decidedly less power, performance, cargo space and off-road ability. The $79,500 R1S Adventure with two electric motors instead of four, with roughly 600 horsepower and a 260-mile driving range will appeal to more buyers. A dual-motor combo with a $6,000 large battery pack ($84,000 total) seems too much to not splurge for the top quad trim. Sometime soon, free spenders will be able to secure a “Max Pack” battery version with a claimed 400-plus miles of range, but pricing isn’t out yet.

2.How Much Does it Cost to Insure the 2023 Rivian R1S?

As a new EV from a new manufacturer, it’s hard to get a solid idea of how much it will cost to insure the R1S. Based on the similar R1T and similar vehicle rates, our research suggests that a typical 30-year-old female driver with clean record can expect an average annual premium closer to $4,000, though this averages all 50 states. That’s similar to estimates for the new Mercedes EQS SUV. A Tesla Model X owner might pay up to $4,310 (or $5,741 for a Plaid) per year, while the BMW iX M60 costs $3,784. For a more accurate picture of your potential insurance expenses, visit our car insurance calculator.

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