2023 Rivian R1T Review - Got My Chips Cashed In

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2023 Rivian R1T All-Terrain Fast Facts

Powertrain
Four electric motors (835 horsepower, 908 lb-ft of torque)
Transmission/Drive Layout
All-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPGe
68 city / 60 highway / 64 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, Le/100km
3.6 city / 3.9 highway / 3.7 combined (NRCan Rating)
Estimated Range
274 miles / 440 kilometers
Base Price
$74,800 US / $112,020 CAD
As-Tested Price
$96,400 US / $143,620 CAD
Prices include $1,800 destination charge in the United States and $3,020 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

Except when they’re busy hating them, Americans love trucks. Big, brawny, bruising trucks dominate the sales sheets and roadways from coast to coast since we always seem to need to haul something somewhere. The problem is, trucks aren’t fuel efficient, which is one reason the great big mythical THEY are coming for your trucks. Traditional fuels keep getting more scarce and expensive. 


On the other hand, it’s easy to forget about the cost of your electric bill, since you pay it once a month and unless you’re in Texas, electrical service is always right there. Offloading your energy production to a generation plant somewhere else can easily lull you into the idea that an electric-powered vehicle is the right way to minimize your impact on the earth. But traditional automakers have been somewhat slow to market with widely available electric vehicles for a number of reasons, giving upstarts an open window to find their place.


While others have come to market with varying flavors of car-like EVs, Rivian has gone all-in on the most all-American pickup truck - and a related SUV with legitimate off-road ability. This 2023 Rivian R1T is an interesting take on the EV truck idea. Will it plug into your life?


This will be a slightly different review for TTAC than most, since while most readers here will be generally familiar with a number of options available from legacy automakers, there will be a number of technical details I’ll need to discuss here.

First of all, the photos of this truck can be somewhat deceiving, as the adjustable ride height can make it look shorter or taller depending on how it’s arranged. It’s probably easiest to assume the Rivian is in between your typical midsize and full-size half-ton truck, so I did a quick comparo between 4WD quad-cab short-bed versions of Ford’s Ranger and F-150 to illustrate.


All dimensions in inches


Height

R1T 78.2

Ranger 74.4

F-150 77.2

Width

R1T 81.8

Ranger 79.0

F-15079.9

Length

R1T 217.1

Ranger 210.6

F-150 231.7

Wheelbase

R1T 135.8

Ranger 128.7

F-150 145.4

Bed Width (at wheelhouse)

R1T 51.1

Ranger 48.2

F-150 50.6

Bed Length

R1T 54.1

Ranger 59.6

F-150 67.1


Yes, it’s a relatively short bed even compared to the one in the Ranger, so if you’re hauling 4x8 sheets of drywall or plywood on the regular you’ll need to better engineer a platform of some sort. I’d imagine, however, that anyone shopping a nearly six-figure electric pickup truck isn’t the apprentice on the job site who is sent to the store when the job has run out of materials. No, this is a pickup for the homeowner who hauls big stuff on occasion but would prefer to do it without gasoline.

The bed is quite useful, as the wheelhouse doesn’t really interfere with the width of the bed. The spare tire is in a locking, waterproof hatch beneath the bed, which will prove to be a problem if you’ve loaded the bed with a bunch of gravel and find yourself a flat but otherwise works well.

120v power outlets and an onboard air compressor with digital PSI readout give additional utility - I can see this being quite useful if you choose to air down the tires for off-roading. 

Cargo space, even disregarding the bed, is quite good. The frunk seen in pictures here isn’t massive, but a suitcase or two could easily slide down there and remain secure. The cargo tunnel, low and immediately aft of the cab, is a cool addition. Accessible from both sides, I can see keeping a couple of sets of golf clubs in there rather than exposing the expensive stuff to the elements and thieves. The cargo doors are even rated as a step up to 250 pounds, making access to stuff at the front of the bed easy.

There are a number of mechanical variants within the basic R1T pickup. The vehicle you see here is what has been on sale for a year or two, the quad-motor AWD with 835 horsepower and 908 lb-ft of torque, up to 328 miles of range, and a claimed 3.0-second sprint to 60. A newer dual-motor system is just debuting, with 533 or 665 horsepower depending on whether you choose the Performance package, but with more estimated range - up to 400 miles. [correction - with the Performance Dual-Motor, Max-size battery pack, and 21" wheels, the EPA estimated range is up to 410 miles.]

My tester had the $3,850 All-Terrain upgrade package, which replaces the standard 21” or optional 22” alloy wheels and low-profile tires with these 20” alloys and more aggressive Pirelli all-terrain tires. The All-Terrain package also adds additional underbody protection. It does, however, limit the overall range on a full charge to around 274 miles, which requires selecting the “Conserve” mode on the center touchscreen. 

The Conserve mode functionally takes two of the four motors out of the loop, making the R1T a front-drive truck and limiting power and acceleration. It’s still seriously quick, but in this mode, it doesn’t have nearly the neck-breaking zip off the line that it does in other drive modes. It’s also reported to be eating the tires of Rivians in consumer's hands in as little as 6,000 miles. So other than for my 200-mile, time-sensitive drives to and from my home to the Rivian offices near Detroit to retrieve and relinquish the truck for testing where I needed to maximize my range, I left the truck in all-purpose mode for my around-town commuting. Access to the full power is intoxicating.

It drives quite nicely, too, though a gentle rumble likely caused by the knobby tires does make it’s way through the floorpan and into the seat. It’s no worse than any other pickup truck, however, and in a way oddly reminiscent of similar vibrations you’ll experience from a gas-engined truck. The only difference, of course, is the silence at a standstill. Other immediate driving impressions include the occasional squawk from the suspension when driving at low speeds, most noticeable with windows down while encountering a speed bump. A high-pitched whistle was occasionally noticed from the driver’s window over 45-50 mph, too. But the R1T feels otherwise just as comfortable to drive around town or down the highway as any other truck or SUV.

The interior does weird me out a bit, but recall that I’m coming from a lifetime of driving conventionally powered vehicles from traditional automakers. My Tesla-owning neighbor tells me that the user interface of this R1T is substantially similar to his Model S, with virtually every control being managed through the massive center touchscreen. 

That includes the direction the HVAC system vents will blow, which is completely unintuitive. I frequently pawed at the dash vents for a simple lever to no avail. This feature is perhaps the one I dislike the most, as it’s overcomplicating a control that has worked effectively for decades of automotive design and has seemingly been redone just to do so. I can live with - though I will never condone - the elimination of a volume knob. I can accept touch-screen inputs for temperature control. But I fully expect some actuator deep within the bowels of the dash to go kablooie someday, turning the simple act of blowing cold or warm air on one’s face instead of on one’s junk to require 10 hours of dash-removal labor. It might not happen under warranty. It might not happen in the first 15 years. But someday, someone will buy a well-used Rivian and find all kinds of hardware funkiness. I suppose my lifetime of buying well-used vehicles and cursing the previous owner for some hacked-together, half-assed repair biases me in this regard.

I don’t particularly love the absence of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, either. That said, streaming music from one’s phone is simple - and onboard logins to services such as Spotify are available, too. But one thing that automakers don’t do quite as well as phone makers do is navigation - specifically accounting for traffic. On my drive from Detroit, the Rivian navigation kept wanting me to take a different, more rural route through north-central Ohio that I’d imagine would save me some electrons due to lower overall speeds, but would have taken (in my experience having driven this way frequently) an additional 45 minutes to cover. Conversely, upon returning to Detroit, I encountered what appeared to be a massive delay according to the roadside “X Minutes to Whatever Street Via I-75” signs. The onboard navigation did not account for this, so I quickly called up Google Maps and rerouted myself around the delay. When dealing with a vehicle with relatively few public charging options, having all of the data possible when managing a road trip is crucial.

The interior is otherwise quite comfortable for four - maybe five if you should choose. Knee room might be a little tight in the second row, though my passengers reported more comfort otherwise as the seats have a bit more recline to them than other pickups which would be bolt upright against the back wall of the truck cab. The gear tunnel can be accessed through a small, locking passageway behind the folding center armrest, too, though for the life of me, I don’t know how anyone could snake their arm down far enough to actually grab anything.

It’s an easy truck to live with, touchscreen weirdness aside. It’s not going to do everything that some truck owners do with their vehicles - while it is reported to handle 11,000 pounds of towing capacity, simple logic and physics will tell you that it won’t go very far when doing so. But for the average suburban/exurban homeowner with maybe better-than-average income - and, most importantly, better wiring in their home than that of my own that allows for easy 240v overnight charging - it can do most of what they need while offloading the fuel costs to a grid which is evolving to cleaner, more sustainable generation methods.

I’m not quite there yet in my world. After all, being a full-time auto journalist doesn’t pay well enough to afford a vehicle like this. But overall, I’m quite impressed with the 2023 Rivian R1T. It’s capable, comfortable, and well-built, and will be more than enough truck for many, many buyers.

[Images: © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC.com]

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Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Tassos Tassos on Sep 13, 2023

    Question of the day:

    Who was the genius investor who lost, just by himself, $1,500,000,000.00 US,

    shorting TESLA stock, and then apologized to Elon Musk?

    The answer is given in the new, monumental, Musk Bio by the Great Ericsson:

    "...There was one contentious issue that they had to address.

    Gates had shorted Tesla stock, placing a big bet that it would go down in value.

    he turned out to be wrong.

    By the time he arrived in Austin, he had lost $1.5 billion.

    Musk had heard about it and was seething.

    Short-sellers occupied his innermost circle of hell.

    Gates said he was sorry, but that did not placate Musk.

    “I apologized to him,” Gates says. “Once he heard I’d shorted the stock, he was super mean to me, but he’s super mean to so many people, so you can’t take it too personally....”

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Sep 13, 2023

    I've seen a few of these around Northwest Ohio. Taking the thing in for service will demand a full day, including a couple charging stops--the nearest service center is in Cleveland!


    No thanks!

  • TheEndlessEnigma In '98 a guy I worked with came into work pissed, so pissed he was beside himself, so pissed he was beside himself and they were both pissed. He had bought a Seville the year before for his wife, a very buxom empty headed drink of water that was roughly 20 years his junior (she *LIKED* older men and he wasn't about to complain). He had gotten a call the afternoon before, she was broken down in the less than 1 year old Seville on the side of the NY Turnpike at the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga. The car quite on her in traffic and it wouldn't start. They got it towed to a nearby Caddy dealer and they started checking out the problem immediately. As he told it, the car already had a little over 20k miles on it so the service manager was pretty concerned about a warranty engine failure, "These Northstar engines are bulletproof!". After about an hour at the shop the service manager comes to talk with them, "Uh, ma'am, when was the last time you had the oil changed"? "Oil change, don't they come with oil when you buy these cars?". Seems the engine seized up, right around 1 qt of oil, with a tar like consistency and full of sparkles, was found in the oil pan. The late '90s, a NorthStar engine, one year and 20k miles......never saw an oil change. Powertrain warranty claim? Refused. Engine replacement? You bet, $9900 in 1998 dollars.
  • VoGhost Quality review. Thanks!
  • VoGhost Love this collective clutching of pearls over a vehicle name not a single commenter will ever see, drive or buy.
  • 28-Cars-Later "Here's why" edition_cnn_com/2018/06/13/health/falling-iq-scores-study-intl/index.html
  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?
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