I knew the Rivian R1T was special from the moment I held its key fob – an oval-shaped clicker with a carabiner clip to attach to a key ring or a belt loop. Double press the right button to activate the power frunk and the left button to drop the tailgate. Hit the lock button and the truck chirps like a songbird. Almost every function on the key fob, including the design itself, offers something different from the automotive norm. And that’s just the key.

Rivian’s all-electric pickup is a fresh take on a concept that’s been an American staple for decades. With its quad motors, premium interior, and sophisticated battery tech, the R1T’s cost of entry makes it attainable to only a select group of truck buyers. And yet somehow even with an as-tested price of $95,900, this Rivian offers enough practicality and thrills to justify that price tag. 

As the age of the EV truck is finally upon us, with Ford, Chevy, and others joining the fray, there is no better vehicle to break ground with than the R1T.

Pretty And Practical

Let’s dive right in with something completely subjective. I think this particular truck is specced to perfection. Rocking Rivian Blue paint, Adventure Trim gold accents, and the 20-inch wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires, this thing turns more heads than a high-speed police chase.

It features the only configuration available in the first model year: the “Large” 128.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack and quad-motor all-wheel drive. Ticking those two options costs $12,000 (six grand a piece) and a few smaller items like a full-size spare tire ($900), power tonneau cover ($3,000), and extra skid plates ($2,000) brought the as-tested price to $95,900 before any incentives. Cheaper configurations with dual motors and a smaller battery pack will eventually be offered, but opting for either will move your reservation to 2024, at the earliest.

From a few steps back, the R1T has unmistakable presence. The mid-size truck category doesn’t always take bold chances with the design, but Rivian made a genuine effort and it shows. Beyond the cool lighting signatures and pop-out door handles, it’s the creative use of space that impressed me most. With the 4-foot, 6-inch bed, plus gear tunnel and frunk with a combined 24 cubic feet of space, the R1T is insanely functional.

The cabin is also a huge win. Vegan-friendly materials and the gorgeous matte wood trim make for an interior that feels elevated, but not pretentious. The seats are super comfy with support in all the right places and heating and ventilation functions. Space is abundant in both rows for passengers of all ages and sizes.

Much like Tesla, pretty much everything is baked into the huge 16.0-inch central touchscreen, though there is an additional 12.0-inch driver display for important information like speed and cruise control data. The software is (almost) flawless – it’s intuitively laid out with lightning-quick reaction time. My only complaint is having to move the air vents via the screen, which is a gimmick that should’ve started and ended with the Model 3.

Split Personality

With its four motors, the R1T is a legitimate maniac when it comes to sheer power. Rivian quotes 835 horsepower, meaning a pickup that can hit 60 miles per hour in less than 3.5 seconds. And when you’re not hammering it, the range is decent, too. The EPA rates the truck at 304 miles, although Rivian says the all-terrain tires reduce that number to 274. Our in-house range test expert Tom Molougnhey managed 253.7 miles during an official InsideEVs 70 MPH highway drive. 

For everyday use, the All-Purpose driving mode is the default. In this setting, the R1T feels lively, with a fairly firm ride and stunning acceleration. Switching to Sport Mode tightens the steering feel and lowers the air suspension to make the 7,200-pound truck more aerodynamic. In my experience, the Sport suspension setting was far too harsh for even smooth tarmac, so keeping the standard mode active is the way to go.

During filming, I put the R1T through its paces on some of Malibu’s best canyon roads where it delivered incredible agility. Cornering grip is impressive for a vehicle this size, and with stickier rubber, we could’ve picked up the pace even more. However, when it’s time to decelerate you get a split-second physics lesson. This much weight moving along quickly requires time to slow down, and while the brakes lived up to the task, it’s not unimaginable that things could get very wrong with a late reaction.

My time on the trail felt more familiar and truck-appropriate. Here the Rivian showed off its substantial torque, climbing huge grades without having to work hard at all. It was equally fun to use the brake regen as a de facto hill-descent control to keep the truck steady on the way down. It also has the side benefit of adding a little juice back into the batteries. When attempting to switch back to all-purpose mode after some time in the dirt, the truck refused to lower the suspension and gave a compressor overheating warning. After a few minutes of cool-off time and turning the Rivian off to reset the system, everything went back to normal.

Hurry Up Or Wait

As the first all-electric to hit the market, the Rivian R1T sets an incredibly high bar. Spending $95,000 on a truck is a big ask, but for that money, you’re getting an overall package unlike anything else on the road today. 

If high horsepower and a Tesla-like tech experience are at the top of your list, then this is the pickup for you. On the flip side, if you’re planning on using your electric truck for more traditional purposes, then the more conventional F-150 Lightning is likely the best option. 

The electric pickup market is off and running, with Rivian planting the first flag in the ground. Soon to be surrounded by a robust list of competitors, the R1T’s outside-the-box thinking will ultimately make it a success.

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