2021 Rivian R1T Electric Truck Pros and Cons Review: A New Era

2021 Rivian R1T Electric Truck Pros and Cons Review: A New Era

12/10/2021

Pros

  • Big range
  • Great handling
  • Incredible breadth of capability

 Cons

  • Small bed
  • No physical controls
  • Only one configuration

Upstart automakers have every right to build an incredible vehicle straight off the bat, but few have enough resources or talent to pull it off. Indeed, automotive history is littered with would-be game changers who couldn’t hack it, but we see no indication from the 2022 Rivian R1T that says the company will join that inglorious club. We’ve already called this electric truck “the most remarkable pickup we’ve ever driven,” but now it had to strut its stuff against our criteria at the 2022 MotorTrend Truck of the Year competition.

What impresses most about the 2022 Rivian R1T is its sheer breadth of capability. It’s designed with an outdoorsy lifestyle in mind, but Rivian didn’t let that approach compromise the R1T’s ability to do truck things. Its towing and hauling capacities are on par with larger full-size pickups from legacy automakers, and its enormously powerful electric motors have zero issues dealing with the added weight of an EV.

Take it off road and those same electric motors, one at each wheel, give it unmatched capability on any surface. With the ability to precisely distribute torque to each wheel regardless of what the others are doing, it felt unstoppable on our off-road course, and we know from experience it can tackle far more difficult trails just as easily.

Keep it on the road and the R1T handles better than any other truck on the market, and it rides as well as the best. Rivian’s cross-linked hydraulic anti-roll suspension system works wonders controlling body movements in sharp turns and over bumps—without compromising ride quality one bit.

Credit for both on- and off-road capability goes in large part to the air suspension. With 6.5 inches of vertical adjustment, it can hunker down for easy entry and exit as well as a slippery aerodynamic profile that saves energy. On the other hand, it can pump itself up and climb over rocks with the best of them.

Efficient as it is, a massive battery pack with high-speed charging capability gives the truck the range and turnaround time necessary to be more than a novelty. No matter how good it is for off-road or doing work, it would be useless if it didn’t have the range to go all day, and it does.

Homerun though it may be, the 2022 Rivian R1T is not a grand slam. The near-total lack of physical controls inside is frustrating, especially when basic functions like adjusting the air vents are hidden beneath layers of on-screen menus. The 4.5-foot bed is big enough for the lifestyle crowd but puts some limits on the truck’s ability to haul bulky cargo. It does, however, beget the brilliant Gear Tunnel storage space and innovative fully integrated power tonneau cover. Our pre-production test trucks also ran into several software bugs on the big screens that still need ironing out.

Weighed against everything the 2022 Rivian R1T does right, though, these issues seem small. All the while, it offers a sophisticated and high-quality take on the minimalist interior aesthetic EVs all seem to follow, making it feel worth the price premium at every turn.

“More impressive is the fact the R1T wasn’t built to tow, yet it can tow 11,000 pounds,” said MotorTrend Mexico editor Miguel Cortina. “It wasn’t built to go rock crawling in Moab, yet it can do it.  It wasn’t built to drive like a sports car, yet it does.”

Or as senior editor Aaron Gold put it, the R1T is “annoyingly good. Annoying because it’s so good no one is going to believe us when we say so. It’s just going to hurt our credibility.”

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