The Sports Sedan You Overlooked Is Actually an Electric Pickup Truck
If you are comparing sports sedans, you most certainly overlooked one. That’s because one of the most compelling sports sedans on the market right now isn’t a BMW or Dodge, but is Rivian’s electric pickup truck. Here’s how the first electric truck to market can go toe-to-toe with a sports sedan—for half the price.
The electric Rivian is reinventing what a truck can be
Rivian released its R1T at the end of the 2023 model year, making it the first electric pickup truck available. MotorTrend completed an early test, driving the Rivian across the country. The publication concluded that the midsize pickup drives like a sports sedan, and has a theory as to why.
Rivian built its powertrain around a separate motor for each wheel. The result is over 800 horsepower. The Rivian R1T is easily the fastest production pickup truck. But its impressive straight-line speed is not enough to put it in the same category as a modern sports sedan.
Two technologies contribute to the Rivian electric truck’s handling: the aggressive torque vectoring its quad-motor drive allows and the adjustable hydraulic dampers in its suspension system.
Torque vectoring simply means putting power to the wheel that needs it the most. The Rivian electric truck is engineered to use its outside wheels to pull itself through a corner. The result is less lateral g-force than a BMW i7, while accelerating through a series of twisties.
The Rivian R1T comes with adjustable air suspension. This system allows it to drop down at highway speeds for maximum efficiency and maneuverability, while also lifting up to offer more ground clearance than any other production pickup truck. Other air ride suspension systems have shock absorbers tuned for a single height. But the hydraulic dampers the Rivian uses can adjust to any air suspension setting, nearly eliminating body roll on the trail or the track.
Electric sports sedans are still playing catchup
To build tha aforementioned i7, BMW hung about 1,000 pounds of lithium ion batteries off of its existing 7-series sedan. The result is much slower than the Rivian truck in a straight line. But it also struggles to keep up in the twisties. The driver of an i7 will experience about 10% more lateral g-force while trying to hang with a Rivian—according to Car and Driver.
One of the Rivian’s main strengths is that its engineers started with an electric skateboard chassis: an in-frame battery pack and four motors. Then they built the most advanced vehicle they could around this powertrain. The result is reinventing what a pickup truck—or any vehicle—can be.
Unlike the i7, which starts at $120k, the Rivian truck starts at $70k and is built in a factory in Illinois. So does this electric truck have downsides? Absolutely. For drivers who take the occasional long roadtrip, one major downside of the Rivian is that it is electric.
Is a range-extended Rivian on the horizon?
A range-extended electric vehicle is a form of hybrid. But instead of a gasoline motor driving its wheels when its battery pack runs low, a range-extended EV has a gasoline motor that just recharges its battery. Because these motors can be generators, tuned for maximum efficiency, they offer better mpg than regular vehicles—even in gasoline mode.
Both Ford and Ram are working on range extenders for their upcoming electric pickup trucks. Aftermarket companies may soon also offer range extenders engineered to fit into an electric pickup truck’s bed or front trunk. Whether or not Rivian offers its own range extender, you may soon be able to upgrade any truck with one, giving it infinite gasoline-powered range.
Next, read the details of how the Rivian R1T and electric BMW i7 stack up.