Pop Car Quiz: What Do Ford, General Motors, Ram and Tesla Have in Common? Besides building four-wheeled things, of course.
Answer: None of them will go down in history as the American brand that put the first consumer electric pickup into production.
That distinction will now and forever belong to start-up automaker Rivian, which began building the R1T pickup at its Normal, Ill. Plant and shipping them to customers within three years of revealing the first. prototype.
It is a remarkable achievement. Starting a new auto business is difficult, especially in the midst of a pandemic that is making semiconductor chips hard to find and slowing down supply chains across various industries.
The truck is also quite remarkable. I confidently call it a “truck” in the face of the strictures because the mid-size R1T has a body attached to a frame in the traditional sense, even if it’s far from traditional.
In this case, the frame houses a 135 kilowatt-hour battery that provides a range of 314 miles; four electric motors with a combined power of over 800 horsepower that allow the R1T to accelerate to 60 mph in three seconds and tow 11,000 pounds; and a fully independent air suspension that can raise or lower it to provide eight to 14 inches of ground clearance, give or take.
The first R1Ts in the lineup are the limited Launch Edition, priced at $ 73,000, but already sold out. Latecomers to the party can order the Equipped and similarly priced Adventure or the entry-level Explore which starts at $ 67,500, with first shipments slated for January. All are eligible for the full federal tax credit of $ 7,500, which brings the base price down to $ 60,000. Models with a larger Max Pack battery that are expected to be rated at over 400 miles per charge will be available next year for an additional $ 10,000. Sales of the vehicle are direct from Rivian, which plans to have only a small number of showrooms and a nationwide network of field service technicians who can come to your home to handle most repairs.
The R1T is roughly the same size as a Jeep Gladiator, so it’s big for a mid-size pickup and has a roomier cabin than a Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma that’s impeccably dressed longer along the way. from the line of a Land Rover. The interior of the Launch Edition is trimmed with reclaimed wood inserts, vegan leather from the top shelf, and houses a digital instrument cluster and a large touchscreen that controls just about everything.
The skateboard-style layout of the R1T’s platform leaves room for a front trunk or “frunk” under its power-opening hood as well as an under-bed compartment large enough for a full-size spare tire. and the off-roaders of the Launch edition. are a very tall 34 inches tall.
The bed itself is 4.5 feet long, but the tailgate has a gooseneck hinge that extends the composite floor to 6.9 feet when lowered and is wide enough between the wheel arches to accommodate the reference 4×8 plywood sheet. A built-in roll-up cover is included on Explore models and powered by Adventure and Launch Edition, but the R1T’s most unique storage feature lies further.
It’s called the Gear Tunnel and goes straight through the middle of the truck between the cab and the bed. It has 11.9 cubic feet of storage space, and its drop-down doors are sturdy enough to stand or sit on. There is a power outlet and lights inside and it can be ordered with an optional $ 1,500 pull-out rack for easy loading and unloading of items, or a $ 5,000 pull-out electric camping kitchen with a sink and induction cooker that drains from the battery, plus custom cookware and catering service. Both can be incorporated into the financing of R1T and Rivian said orders for the kitchen far exceed expected demand.
Other smart keys that take advantage of the electrical power of the R1T include a set of four 110-volt outlets, a built-in air compressor, a removable and rechargeable speaker that stows in the center console between the seats. front and a flashlight coming out of the driver’s side door pillar which brings the total number of Samsung-supplied battery cells in the R1T to 7,777.
Rivian chose the mountains outside of Breckenridge, Colo., To show off the on-road and off-road capabilities of the R1Ts, not to mention the big advantage electric vehicles have over their internal combustion engine counterparts. Since they do not need oxygen, there is no loss of power at altitude. That’s more than what I can say about the rental car I drove in to get there, which worked as hard as I did to deal with the thin air.
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The R1T pulls with all the force you’d expect from over 800 horsepower backed by over 900 lb-ft of torque and you would never guess that the aluminum-bodied vehicle weighs nearly 7,000 pounds. Batteries are a burden, but the R1T handles it well.
Sitting low in Sport mode, the R1T made its way along the winding Loveland Pass more like a sports car than a pickup in the kind of silence you’d expect from an electric vehicle, despite the quartet of engines at work, and there was no squeaking or clicking sound to be heard.
The regenerative braking system, which turns these motors into generators to slow it down when they charge the batteries, has three settings and the most powerful is efficient enough that the disc brakes are an afterthought most of the time.
Choosing one of the off-road modes via the touchscreen lifts the truck and adjusts traction control and throttle response for rough surfaces. Maximum ground clearance is greater than that of a Jeep Wrangler, and the R1T can travel over three feet of water. Unlike a conventional 4×4, there’s no need to move a transfer case into low range, the electric motors are always ready to give you a big growl.
However, using the screen on the go can be tricky as your finger bounces, and the R1T relies heavily on it. Its only physical controls are window switches, turn signals, and transmission throttles, as well as a pair of rockers and scroll wheels on the steering wheel hub that are used for a variety of functions that you need to call up first. on the screen, including adjusting the mirrors. and the wheel itself.
The infotainment system offers Amazon Alexa voice commands for certain features. It doesn’t have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, but Rivian’s unique user interface is comprehensive and responds quickly to input. It can also accommodate live updates, so more features will be added over time.
This also applies to electronic driving aids. The R1T initially ships with adaptive cruise control and a lane-centering feature, but comes with the necessary cameras, sensors, and facial recognition gear to enable future hands-free capability like GM’s Super Cruise when the software is ready.
Rivian engineers are also taking advantage of having four unconnected electric motors to play with by developing a Tank Turn feature that will allow the R1T to spin in place on soft surfaces, which they will release when they are convinced it won’t work. that in complete safety. conditions. He doesn’t need someone to try to do it for Grammar in a school parking lot.
Driving in a straight line, the R1T has a proven track record of scaling the steep trails to the top of Wise Mountain as easily as the goats that barely looked at us a second time as we passed them silently. It might be an effort, but it sure doesn’t seem like it, which is a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors.
The road we took was harder than you’d want to try in all of the most extreme off-road factory truck models, but the R1T walked without missing a step. It ignored rocky obstacles and 30-degree inclines as the computer-controlled suspension soaked up everything and its 360-degree camera system helped guide the way through tough things.
The perfectly flat bottom took a few hits, but its metal and composite armor was designed to withstand 15 inch drops to sharp rocks without breaking and I couldn’t find a bump when we rested. at the top. Nonetheless, Rivian does not encourage skipping the R1T as the equally powerful Ram 1500 TRX is often described,
On the way down, regenerative braking added 10 miles of range to use on the way back to base. The system operates at a maximum rate of 150 kilowatts, which is just below the R1T’s highest 200 kilowatt rate when you plug it into a DC fast charging station.
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Rivian is building an exclusive network of these, much like Tesla did, to ensure its owners have a consistent experience they can count on to deliver 140 miles of range in 20 minutes. Public stations often operate for less than their highest advertised rate, which can add unexpected hours to a long trip.
You’ll want to take a lot of it into the game-changing R1T, which will alert other automakers when they begin their transition to electric power. It does just about anything and does it all better than anything like that. Of course, it will be years before we know how reliable it is, but it certainly makes an amazing first impression. I suggest you don’t bother trying it out if you can’t afford it, as you’ll never look at a pickup the same way again.