It's been years since any new car debut has taken the world by storm the way the Rivian R3 and R3X did this past week. Sure, Rivian's big event was ostensibly to show off the Rivian R2, which is set to be coming sooner. But its two smaller siblings, whose unveilings came as a total surprise, actually stole the show. 

The problem is that it's going to be years before both hit the streets for real. The R2 is said to debut in the first half of 2026, and Rivian has a great many hurdles to overcome before it does, so the R3 and R3X may not even go on sale until closer to the end of the decade.

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Rivian's big moment has arrived

The California-based electric SUV startup has a lot of hype and momentum behind it, especially after this week's debut of the Rivian R2 and surprise R3 models. Now the question is whether it can survive long enough to get these mass-volume cars on the road.

For now, we can dream, and a Utah Rivian Club member who was in the right place at the right time helps us do that. This short clip posted to the club's Instagram yesterday shows an R3X getting loaded into a trailer, so you get a vague idea of its size.

 

The real gem comes in the second video, which shows the silver R3 concept driving around Laguna Beach roads outside the Rivian South Coast Theater where the event was held. CEO RJ Scaringe appears to be driving the R3, and we see it near a Tesla Model Y—the Rivian appears to be a bit smaller overall—before it makes a right turn at a gas station. (Which starts at $5.07 a gallon, because California.) 

It's hard to gauge the size of the R3 from this video alone, but we get a better sense of its dimensions and presence by seeing it on an actual road. I'd say it looks slightly more compact than that white first-generation Mazda CX-5 it passes a little later. 

Overall, both the R3 and R3X look great "in person"—not too small, or Subaru Crosstrek-sized (as many have guessed), but far more compact than the Rivian R1S, R1T and even R2, the latter of whom it shares a platform with. It's also definitely more crossover than hot hatchback, possibly to the disappointment of some, but it seems like it will be in a great size class for small families and people who need to parallel park regularly.

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Beyond the looks and a claim of "over 300 miles of range" on the larger battery pack, we know very little about the R3 and R3X. The R2 is expected to start around $45,000, so the R3 is sure to slot in before that. But again, Rivian has plenty of challenges to overcome before it gets there; it's not uncommon for new EV models from startups and established carmakers alike to come with delays and bigger-than-expected price tags at first.

Still, the more affordable, more compact class is the next great frontier for EVs. Tesla is said to be working on a $25,000-ish model, and Kia, Ford and Volkswagen are all working on smaller cars with lower costs too as they prepare to inevitably fight the Chinese automakers. If Rivian can really get the R3 and R3X out in a timely fashion and with reasonable price tags, it's sure to have a hit on its hands. 

Contact the author: patrick.george@insideevs.com

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