Will dyed-in-the-wool pickup owners consider a fully electric truck like the Rivian R1T? I took a spin in one to find out.
I love pickup trucks. In the campy words of Joe Diffie’s ’90s country standard “Pickup Man,” “You can set my truck on fire, roll it down a hill, but I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coupe DeVille.”
Over the past 20 years, I’ve owned three pickups in a row, two Ford Rangers, and an F-150. I haul camping gear and hunting gear and bikes. I tow equipment and campers or load the bed with mulch or horse manure for fertilizer. And maybe best, I spend a lot of nights sleeping in the bed under the shelter of my topper.
Pickups are also a powerful symbol of Americana. Just look at these 48 pages of lyrics mentioning pickup trucks in country songs. While arguably flawed in many ways, pickups represent a rugged ideal of country living to many people.
Maybe that’s why you find them cruising around mall parking lots. Maybe that’s why, even for us living in cities like Denver, pickups are a treasured tool and something we latch onto as a part of our identity.
So, I’ve been incredibly curious about the Rivian R1T since I first laid eyes on it at the 2019 Outdoor Retailer tradeshow. Could this new, electric-native brand really sway diesel-loving pickup drivers? Could the rush of electric acceleration replace the iconic rumble of a V8?
Then, last week, I had the chance to actually hop behind the wheel and take one for an hour-long spin around Denver and Golden, Colorado. While I didn’t get to take it off the pavement, the initial drive was eye-opening.
I’m not going to go into every feature and spec. You can find all those online here and at myriad other news stories and reviews. But for my fellow pickup lovers, from one to another, this was my impression of the Rivian R1T.
Rivian R1T Review: Everything but the Specs
Pulling into the Rivian Service Center in Denver, I was shocked to see a line of about 30 brand-new Rivians lined up side by side. While these have been slowly trickling out over the last few months, I have only seen one in the wild so far. The parking lot was full of them, and they looked, well, really sweet.
I pulled up next to a sharp white one loaded with a rooftop tent on a rack. That would be my ride.
The initial walkaround reminded me of all the things I’d heard but forgotten. Look at those 34-inch AT tires! Whoa, check out the bottom of the truck! There’s no differential to get stuck, just a smooth skid plate the entire length of the undercarriage.
And of course, let’s not forget the storage — a 4.5-foot bed, a “frunk” under the hood, and a gear tunnel the length of downhill skis between the cab and the bed.
I wandered around and marveled; there were 110-volt electrical outlets in the bed and storage areas, a built-in pressurized air source, even a rechargeable flashlight, and a Bluetooth speaker built into the truck to charge on the go. This thing was dialed for campers.
But could it really compete with my F-150? Time to hop aboard and find out.
Driving the Rivian R1T: It Will Smoke Your Sportscar
When you drive the Rivian R1T, reset your baseline. Driving a Rivian is very different from an internal combustion engine vehicle.
First, it’s mind-bendingly fast. With all-wheel drive and about 800 horsepower on tap, the acceleration will crush you into the seat. The only other car I’ve driven that was faster than this truck was the Nissan GTR. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
To drive a Rivian, you don’t really use the brake in a traditional sense. The R1T uses aggressive regenerative braking to slow the vehicle and collect every possible drop of energy to extend range. So when you let off the accelerator, the car immediately begins slowing — a lot.
For most drivers, this means one foot driving most of the time. You really only touch the brake for an emergency stop.
It took me a few minutes to get used to that driving style. But once I figured it out, I found driving the Rivian very intuitive. I’m sure the brand would hate the comparison, but it was like driving a golf cart. You just don’t need the brake.
But that is where the “golf cart” comparisons end. Hit the interstate, and the Rivian’s driver assist technology hints at a future that is very bright indeed.
Rivian R1T: A Self-Driving Future
To be clear, the Rivian R1T is not a self-driving vehicle. But it’s about as close as you can get without, well, being able to take a nap while driving.
Once on the interstate, you have to keep one hand on the wheel for its adaptive cruise control to function. But the fact that driver assistance is the default mode makes it clear that Rivian thinks this style of driving is the future.
Basically, once you reach highway speeds, the truck kind of takes over with cruise control. Tap one lever and it will even take over steering. It’s incredibly intuitive.
As you drive, all the vehicles, and even pedestrians, around your vehicle also show up on the screen on the dashboard. It should result in a lot lower stress when driving.
While I didn’t have time to do a ton of testing, I do want to call out one important impression when driving this truck. It does feel like a truck. The driver sits up high, with a commanding view. The vehicle feels capable, as in, it won’t mind hitting a curb or crawling over rough roads.
And while yes, it is electric, while underway, it very much instills the confidence of a big, heavy vehicle rocking large all-terrain tires. And with up to 15 inches of ground clearance, it should!
Rivian R1T Specs: A Monster Truck for the Masses
In many ways, the R1T is a next-level vehicle. For those living in a city who want an adventure vehicle for the weekends that won’t cost a fortune to fuel for commutes, the truck makes a ton of sense.
From the beginning, it was clear that Rivian designed this truck for adventurous, outdoor-loving, recreational users. It even picked up Alex Honnold as an ambassador all the way back in 2018. And for that market, the truck is rather amazing.
At 217.1 inches in length, it sits right between a long Toyota Tacoma and a short Ford F-150. Inside the luxurious interior (and yes, it’s really nice), the Rivian R1T feels like a full-size truck. But thanks to all the electronic helpers, it’s easy to park in smallish city spaces.
Is the Rivian R1T a Pickup Truck?
So, here’s the hangup for me: The Rivian isn’t really a pickup. Yes, it’s a very capable offroad vehicle. And yes, it has ample storage for the vast majority of users and even a 4.5-foot bed.
But yeah, it has a 4.5-foot bed. Even though it extends to 83.6 inches with the tailgate down, it’s still a 4.5-foot bed. Let’s discuss that for a second, shall we?
Last week, I took part in GearJunkie’s ski testing week. To accomplish our test, I needed to haul about 20 pairs of skis, plus a pile of ski jackets, helmets, goggles, gloves, boots, and computer gear, plus another person, from Denver to Crested Butte, Colorado.
The 6.5-foot bed on my Ford F-150 was loaded to the roof of my topper. I simply could not have done this in the Rivian. Not only is the bed too short for skis at 4.5 feet, but the gear tunnel and frunk would not suffice to carry the skis or the rest of the gear.
I’m sure I could have come up with a solution, probably a trailer. But long story short, the Rivian R1T, while an impressive offroad vehicle, isn’t quite what I’d qualify as a “pickup” just yet.
The question I have is, will the brand offer a true pickup design, with a larger bed, in the future? Because for now, that’s what I’m holding out for. I want my truck to have a big enough bed for me to lie down and sleep in. I want to load skis or bikes or plywood right in the bed if needed.
The Rivian R1T is a marvel of a vehicle. It will change the world of off-road capable vehicles. Those considering Jeeps, 4Runners, or Land Rovers should 100% look at Rivian as a viable, electric alternative.
Driving one was an amazing experience. I loved it. And I think it has a place in the country songs of the future.
As I told my buddies, it just needs a bigger bed, and maybe a little longer range. Then, this pickup guy will be ready to make the leap to electric. But in 2022, it’s not yet, not quite, a pickup truck.
- 800+ combined horsepower
- 900+ ft.-lbs. of torque
- Front axle: 415 hp, 413 ft.-lbs.
- Rear axle: 420 hp, 495 ft.-lbs.
- 0-60 mph in 3 seconds (estimated), depending on tires
- 11,000-lb. towing capacity
- 600+ combined horsepower
- 600+ ft.-lbs. of torque
- 0-60 mph in 4 seconds
- 11,000-lb. towing capacity
- Approach angle 34.0 degrees
- Departure angle 29.3 degrees
- Breakover 25.7 degrees
- Water fording 42.7 in. max
- Max ground clearance 15 in.
- Large pack: 314 mi.
MPGe: 70 combined city/highway (74 city/66 highway)
- Max Pack: 400+ mi. (est.)
- Standard Pack: 260+ mi. (est.)
- Large Pack: 314 mi.
- Max Pack: 400+ mi. (est.)
- Length 217.1 in.
- Width: 87.1 in. mirrors out, 81.8 in. mirrors in
- Height (w/antenna): 78.3 in. max in off-road mode
- 73.1 in. min. in sport mode
- 72.1 in. in park-in-kneel mode
- 15 in. max in off-road mode
- 9.7 in. min. in sport mode
- 8.7 in. in park-in-kneel mode