You may have heard about Rivian’s game-changing R1T. The new Rivian electric truck boasts unprecedented off-road prowess. But early reviewers are finding Rivian favors trendy and luxurious features at the cost of overlanding capability.
Every Rivian electric truck is a capable 4×4
Electric vehicles will make better off-roaders than traditional 4x4s. The Rivian’s engineering-forward philosophy puts it at the head of the pack. While the Hummer EV and Tesla Cybertruck offer one, two, or three electric motors, every Rivian boasts quad-motor drive. This means the Rivian is capable of real-time torque vectoring, instantly putting power to the wheel with the most traction.
On-road, quad-motor drive imbues the 800 horsepower Rivian with performance akin to a sports sedan. Off-road, the Rivian is capable of gliding over terrain few stock vehicles can contend with. Overall, the quad-motor Rivian will leave $100K EVs behind.
The Rivian rides an adjustable air suspension with hydraulic damping elements at all four corners. Its skateboard chassis layout keeps its center of gravity lower than an internal combustion vehicle. Without a tailpipe or air intake, the Rivian electric trucks can wade through deep water. With real-time torque vectoring, it can conquer advanced off-roading obstacles such as Moab’s Hell’s Gate. The new electric pickup is a capable off-roader. But its final design favors fashion over extended overlanding capability.
The optional Rivian electric truck off-road features are for show
During fall 2021, Rivian will only be fulfilling R1T Launch Edition preorders. But electric truck enthusiasts can preorder their 2022 R1T now. The Rivian website features a configurator with a dizzying array of Rivian R1T utility features. For example, you can equip a factory R1T or R1S (SUV) with knobby tires, tow hooks, a rooftop tent, and a slide-out camp kitchen. The resulting truck might look like one of most expedition-ready overlanders around. There’s only one problem. It is not.
To sell more $70,000 trucks, the Rivian company offers every highly visible off-road option that will make your R1T the envy of the neighborhood. But they missed several vital features overlanders need.
While Rivian offers its trucks with machined aluminum wheels up to 22″, any rock crawler looking to unleash the torque-vectoring’s full capability will swap those stylish rims out for a set of bead locks.
In addition, Rivian offers a $2,000 skidplate and tow hook option. But any off-roader worried about recovery must remove that entire bumper and find an aftermarket unit with room for a winch. Bead lock rims, a winch-ready bumper, brush guards, and light protectors would make priceless factory options. But Rivian ignored these features that could have set the truck apart.
You can also order your brand new Rivian with the latest and greatest in expensive rooftop tents pre-installed. But as cool as a rooftop tent looks, overlanders know there are many other camping options. If Rivian were serious about extended backcountry overlanding, their truck would be fitted with HVAC outlets for campers, like the Cybertruck is rumored to be.
Motor Trend attempted to take the Rivian off road
When Rivian loaned a pair of R1Ts to Motor Trend, the reviewers decided to go for a world record. So a team of Motor Trend editors and Rivian engineers navigated the trans-America trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Theirs was the first electric-powered transcontinental overland expedition.
The Motor Trend team was astounded by the stock Rivian’s traction and power. Their extended expedition did break some suspension components. But the Rivian engineers used the data to suggest future improvements.
The Motor Trend team spent weeks living out of a pair of Rivian R1T electric pickups. The expedition gave the Motor Trend team unique insight into the vehicle’s overlanding capabilities. The Rivian interior is downright plush and in no way designed for the backcountry.
The Rivian interior is plush, not utilitarian
The first thing the reviewers noted was that the Rivian’s every feature is controlled from a huge dashboard touchscreen. The Rivian steering wheel offers two multi-purpose buttons, but their function changes based on the touchscreen menu selected. This system may be perfect for a Tesla gliding through Silicon Valley. But it is a downright pain while mudding and overlanding. Imagine climbing in and out of the truck to fell trees and attach your winch, but needing to clean your hands if you want to adjust your A/C fan speed.
The second thing the editors commented on was the R1T’s lack of storage space. The plush, vegan leather interior may look nice, but it is decidedly un-utilitarian. For example, the Motor Trend team found their truck only had four cupholders. So when their crew of reviewers and engineers broke camp and climbed into the cab, thermoses of coffee and water bottles in hand, they had nowhere to put their drinks.
While Motortrend’s gripes may seem petty, these shortcomings signal that the Rivian design team built a truck for Beverly Hills, not for taking to the hills.