The Rivian R3 and R3X took everybody by surprise when they entered the stage during what was only supposed to be the unveiling of the R2–the company’s Tesla Model Y-rivaling model.

The R2 is slated to go into production in 2026 and will potentially make or break the California-based startup that made a name for itself with the adventure-oriented R1T and R1S EVs. The R2 seems to be a great product, but somehow the show was stolen by its smaller R3 and R3X siblings which should go into production in 2027.

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Rivian called on the 80s for inspiration

The Rivian R3 hatchback/crossover stole the show when it was unveiled alongside its larger R2 brother. Its retro looks won over the internet, and now we know why: Rivian used the legendary Lancia Delta Integrale and Audi Quattro coupe as inspiration for its entry-level EV.

The R3’s smaller size and hatchback-like retro shape made people on the internet–including us–kind of forget about the R2. It also led some design-savvy voices linking the R3’s design to legendary rally-bred names like the 1980s Lancia Delta Integrale and the Audi Quattro coupe.

And, as it turns out, Rivian looked at exactly those two models when deciding what shape its most affordable EV would take. Speaking with Road & Track during the R2’s launch event, Rivian design boss Jeff Hammoud said that the brief he gave to the design team “was like, we need this to be our Solo Rally Car.”

“So on our image boards, we had the Delta Integrale and the Audi Quattro from that era,” Hammoud added. But simply slapping a retro shell on top of the company’s new mid-size platform wouldn’t make the cut. The car needed to have “more of that nostalgic feeling where it looks modern, but where it looks like it’s from the future, and the past, at the same time,” he added.

Rivian R3X

Rivian R3X

Lancia Delta Integrale

Lancia Delta Integrale

Audi quattro coupe

Audi quattro coupe

In this writer’s humble opinion, the team pulled it off. The R3 looks like a modern mashup of great names like the Delta Integrale, Quattro, and even the shortlived Volkswagen Golf Mk2 Country which didn’t see any rallying.

Rivian’s smallest model, which is still at least three years away from going into production, was conceived as a global product. It’s about the same size as an Audi Q3, as Hammoud told Road & Track, which puts it in the sub-$40,000 price category, whereas the bigger R2 is advertised to start at around $45,000 when it hits the market in 2026.

What's your take on the Rivian R3's design? Let us know in the comments.

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