Rivian R1S First Drive: The First True 3-Row Electric SUV is Here. This is What it’s Like to Drive, and What You’ll Find Inside

Rivian R1S Featured Image

You might have heard me shouting from the rooftops last week.

That’s because the Rivian R1S mid-size 3-row electric family SUV is here. FINALLY. I’m so excited to see and drive this SUV. Not just because it’s from Rivian, the US-born electric car company, but because this is a true size 3-row electric SUV with a driving range of 260 – 320 miles and a starting price of  $72,500. And, it’s designed with lots of fun and clever details like pet comfort mode and a hidden camp speaker. Plus, it can do everything that you need your SUV to do. There’s so much to tell, I don’t know where to start, but I’ll try.

Related: How to Decide if an Electric Car Is Right for Your Lifestyle

This Is The Color Combination I Prefer White With Black Details, Which Looks Elegant. Photo: Scotty Reiss

This is the color combination I prefer: white with black details, which looks elegant. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What the Rivian R1S is Not

Let’s start with this; Rivian envisioned this SUV from the ground up. Therefore, it does not have every feature you may find in other SUVs. Even with three rows, it’s not full-sized; it falls in the mid-size category. Some may see the third row better suited for occasional use than daily use—though, with the right-sized passengers, you could use it daily. I’m sure some owners will. 

Related: The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Car Debate In My House

The Inerior Of The R1S Which Has A Panoramic Sun Roof Covering The Entire Cabin. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The inerior of the R1S which has a panoramic sun roof covering the entire cabin. Photo: Scotty Reiss

It has seating for 7, but not 6. There is not a captain’s chair option—yet. My guess is we’ll see that option soon as the company gets feedback from its customers. It also does not have the “gear tunnel,” or linear storage space under the rear seats, which the R1T pickup truck has. The R1T is about 16” longer than the R1S, and my guess is that we’ll see additional versions of the R1S with longer length and a gear tunnel. 

Its tech is the center of this car’s operation, and it does not have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. However, it does offer a lot of features that draw on your phone for operation. You can even sign in to your Amazon Alexa account—or not, if you don’t want your kids ordering Legos while you’re unloading the groceries. 

You can see how all the technology works in this video interview with Nicole Johnson of Rivian:

Related: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto: How to Get the Most Popular In-Car Phone Systems

The Front Seats Fully Recline In The Rivian R1S

The front seats fully recline in the Rivian R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Now, Let Me Tell You What This SUV Is

It is flexible for passengers and gear. The front seat is, as you might expect, roomy and comfortable. Plus, the seats fully recline for napping. The center row has good leg room (36.6”) when you position the adjustable seats fully back. The third row has the least amount of leg room, about 32.7″. However, this is still more than a standard coach airline seat at 31.” Also, passengers can increase legroom by moving the center seats forward.

When I sat in the third row, I found it more comfortable with the center seats positioned forward. I also had plenty of head and shoulder room. The tall, square shape of the cabin is ideally designed for passenger comfort. Comparing overall length (200.8”) and interior seating, it reminds me of the Acura MDX or Cadillac XT6 in size and scale. 

It’s also flexible in its drive mode options. All models, both the dual motor and quad motor versions, are 4-wheel drive and offer multiple drive modes. Conveniently, you can drive in the mode that best suits you at the time. Conserve for maximum energy efficiency or Rock Crawl for when the crossing is a rough one. 

Related: The Ford F-150 Lightning is Finally Here and It’s All It’s Said to Be

Back Seat Of The Rivian R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Back seat of the Rivian R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

How Child Car Seats Fit in the R1S

The R1S accommodates child passenger car seats quite well. In fact, Rivian filled one of the demo models with three car seats across the center row. This is how many owners would install three seats. Here’s how they fit: 

Rivian R1S Child Car Seats

The Rivian R1S with three child car seats installed in the center row. There are 5 sets of LATCHes for installation. Photo: Scotty Reiss

  • 3 child car seats fit across the center row nicely. They can all be installed with LATCHes (which stands for lower anchors and tethers for children).
  • The R1S has 5 sets of LATCHes—three in the center row, two in the third row 
  • The center outboard seats slide and tilt to allow access to the third row
  • The slide and tilt function is mostly obstructed when a car seat is installed, however. I tried this, which you can see in the video
  • Center-row seats recline a bit, but not a lot. It’s enough to get a tight fit when installing child passenger car seats, but not enough for a solid nap on the road
  • You could, put a child in a booster seat in the third row and let him scramble into the seat every day. If he still needs a booster seat, he’s probably small enough that he won’t mind
  • Always check the child passenger car seat manufacturer’s guidelines for weights, LATCH information and more when installing child passenger car seats. Not all seats are designed to be installed the same way
The Cargo Area Fits A Stroller And Wagon With Enough For Antoehr Stroller And Another Wagon. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The cargo area fits a stroller and wagon with enough for another stroller and another wagon. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Lots and Lots of Clever Storage Spaces

The R1S has oodles of smart storage spots. Of course, there is a frunk, which Rivian calls the front trunk. It has 11 cubic feet of space. The rear cargo area has a roomy 17.6 cubic feet behind the third row. This is enough for a stroller or two, some diaper bags and even a tote bag or two. With the third row down, there is 46.7 cubic feet of space. That’s enough for all your camping gear, a bike or a pair of Labrador Retrievers. 

From there, Rivian kept going. There is a large shelf between the front driver’s and passenger’s seats. It was big enough for me to stow my large tote bag while I drove. Smartly, the shelf has a lip that keeps things from rolling out while driving. Then, there are small cargo trays under the front seats. They are small, but you can tuck in charge cords or hide your chewing gum. If you need to hide something larger, use the bin under the rear cargo floor with another 7 cubic feet of space. 

Convenience is Key with all these Pockets and Clever Tailgate

There is also a deep well under the armrest and pockets, lots of pockets. Pockets on the doors pull out for storage (for a paper map, maybe?). The seatback pockets are a great place to hold a tablet. Additionally, the seatbacks have hooks that are ideal for holding a tote, trash bag or coat. 

The Clamshell Tailgate Is Great For Catching The Afternoon View. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The clamshell tailgate is great for catching the afternoon view. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Another clever detail is the adjustable cargo floor. With the third row folded flat, there’s a bit of a lip between the seats and the cargo area. You can reposition the floor panel to create a smooth but angled space. Very clever for times when you need to slide something into the cargo area, like a large piece of furniture.

Oh, and it has a two-piece clamshell tailgate. The top opens up, and the bottom portion opens down, creating an extended load floor. I love this for watching a soccer match or changing a diaper.

I Love The Oversized Touch Screen In The R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

I love the oversized touchscreen in the R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What To Do When You Get Into This SUV

Say “Hey Alexa…” and give a command. Such as, “Hey Alexa, open the front trunk.” Voila, it pops open. Then, spend some time poking around the multimedia screen. You’ll need to do these two things because there is a lot to learn about how this car operates. (Don’t forget, you can see all the details in action in this video.)

Literally, everything is on one screen or another. It can be overwhelming at first. However, it’s easy once you understand the multimedia system. I didn’t have enough time to develop muscle memory for it, but I can see how it’d become second nature in a matter of days.

Still, getting myself set up before heading out and learning the tech was an adjustment. To adjust the side mirrors, I first had to adjust my seat. Then, a prompt popped up on the media screen for mirror adjustment, which is adjusted on the steering wheel scroll button. It’s all very minimalist and IYKYK, and to a degree, the price of being an early adopter to buy the first 3-row electric SUV.

Interior Details Are Elegant, Including This Open Pore Wood Trim

Interior details are elegant, including this open-pore wood trim. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What It’s Like to Drive

This was a surprise, and at the same time, not at all. I drove the Rivian R1S on a 150-mile round-trip excursion. It was comfortable and capable, both in the front and rear seats. All-season tires made the ride more comfortable and quiet than all-terrain tires. All terrains, by their nature, are a bit louder and can be less comfortable. 

Behind the wheel, the Rivian handles with confidence and good visibility. Frankly, the handling, comfort and visibility are things I don’t want to notice, since when you do notice it’s not always for good reasons. 

Once we got to our destination, we had the chance to drive off road. This was a surprise (fast forward to the end of the video if you want to see this). I fully expected a mild off-road experience. Not this time. Our trail had sky-high hills, scary peaks, swift water currents, narrow passages through trees and slippery rocks. I learned that the Rivian, which has a max ground clearance of 15” and multiple 4-wheel drive modes, performs admirably off-road due to its design.

Off-Road Capable Design

First, the underside is flat because it houses the batteries. The batteries are well protected, and there’s less to damage than traditional gas-powered SUVs, which have multiple components that can be nicked by a rock or tree stump. Additionally, they fitted our vehicle with the quad motor system (as it sounds, has four motors). This gives power to every wheel. I was able to pick the solid parts of the trail and hit them with at least one tire to power through. 

A Side View Of The Rivian R1S, With Some Legitimately Earned Mud. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A side view of the Rivian R1S, with some legitimately earned mud. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Furthermore, it was completely silent. We put the windows down and crawled along the trail listening to the birds and breeze in the woods of upstate New York. 

Back on the highway, it was tempting to put the R1S’s full 830 horsepower to work— not worth the ticket, for certain. But it is powerful, confident and exceedingly smooth because of no transmission to lurch you forward as it shifts gears. 

The Main Charge Port On The Front Bumper Of The Rivian R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The main charge port on the front bumper of the Rivian R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Rivian R1S’s Electric Charging and Driving: What You Need to Know

There are two motor types and three battery options. Buyers can choose the high-end quad motor now, or wait for the dual motor option in 2024. The dual motor has a standard battery that generates 600 horsepower and a 260 mile range. This option has a starting price of about $72,500.

The dual motor with the larger battery also generates about 600 HP but has a longer range, about 320 miles. It is priced from $78,500.

The quad motor option, about a $6,000 upgrade at $84,500, generates about 830 horsepower and will go 316 miles on a single charge. Whatever way you slice it, that’s a lot of power underfoot and a decent range to get where you need to go.

The R1S is designed to charge at home or at a level 3 DC fast charger. At a fast charger, it should replenish up to 140 miles of charge in about 20 minutes. At a level 2 charger, similar to a household dryer outlet, it should fully recharge overnight.

The R1S quad motor is rated to tow about 7,700 lbs. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try this out. As the SUV rolls out to customers, it’ll be interesting to see how towing impacts battery range and efficiency. 

Related: Grab A Coffee With Friends While Charging Your Electric Vehicle

The Front End Of The Rivian R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The front end of the Rivian R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Where to Charge? 

This is simple: At home, at a public charging station or when it’s complete, one of Rivian’s exclusive chargers. The Rivian Adventure Network promises 3,500 DC fast chargers at locations around the country, especially at trailheads and national parks where Rivian owners may want to go but might be reluctant because of a lack of power.

Rivian’s chargers are exclusive to Rivian owners. Additionally, they are plug-and-go charging: once plugged in, the system will recognize your account and automatically begin charging. 

Related: Why You Need to Go to Electrify Expo (When It Comes to Your Town): To Shop for an Electric Car

More Clever Details

Phew. I’m tired just trying to remember all the details in this innovative SUV. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes owners some time or a few calls to the helpline to figure it all out. Here are more clever details that make Rivian so innovative:

  • Over-the-air software updates: this isn’t all that unique, most car makers do this, but Rivian is proud of how fast it makes these updates and responds to customer needs. You don’t need to have updates installed. They just show up when you turn on the car. If you see a new drive mode or climate setting, you’re not losing your mind.
  • Pet comfort mode: put the climate system in pet comfort mode, and it’ll keep the cabin at 72 degrees while the car is locked. A message pops up on the screen that tells passersby that your pet is comfortable and cared for.
  • Navigation optimizes for charging, including pointing you to the nearest charge station when you need it
  • Phone as key: your phone can operate the R1S just as the key can; additionally, you can pass permission to someone else without giving them the physical key
  • A wireless phone charge pad on the center console is big enough to hold and charge two phones
  • A built-in flashlight in the door: it’s tucked into the driver’s side door and pops out from its spring-loaded storage spot
  • A rear household outlet and air compressor are tucked into the cargo space wall. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the air compressor. This will come in very handy for off-roading, especially trips to the beach
  • A removable Bluetooth speaker, called a camp speaker, that also has a light on its base. Bring your tunes along to the picnic! 
  • 8 USB ports, including two in the third row hidden in the armrests
  • Fully reclining front seats. They lay nearly flat. Put on your meditation music, set the cabin temperature and get a cat nap while you’re charging the R1S
The Rear Tail Bar On The Riviaqn R1S

The rear tail bar on the Riviaqn R1S. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Get in Line If You Want One 

I’m happy to report that orders for the R1S are outpacing the R1T. Orders. If you want one, you’ll have to place an order for it. With the demand that buyers have shown, hopefully Rivian will be able to increase production capacity. 

A true 3-row electric SUV is important to the march toward more electric cars on the road. Buyers who need a third row need that feature more than they need an electric car. Generally, they are willing to pay for it. Now that there’s an electric option, expect the electric car market to grow a lot faster. Once you sit inside and step on the accelerator, you’ll understand. Electric driving is a delightfully fun way to drive into the future. 

Disclosure: I was Rivian’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.


Have a thought or comment? Share it with us on social media! You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And be sure to sign up for our email newsletter!


Car Shopping

Need a new car? Whether shopping for a new car or a used car we recommend using our car shopping service

Tire Shopping

Need new tires? We recommend Tire Rack

Car Repair

Need to get your car repaired? We recommend Repair Pal. Exclusively just for Girls Guide to Cars readers, call (877) 323-1708 to speak to RepairPal Car Genius for FREE automotive repair advice and if needed to find the right shop for you!

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss