June 16, 2024
Electric & Hybrid Cars

Reaping Rewards: A First Drive of the 2025 Rivian R1T and R1S with Under-the-Skin Changes

SEATTLE — On Nov. 26, 2018, Rivian — a company almost no one had heard of — surprised the L.A. Auto Show audience with the battery-electric R1T pickup. The claims were 400 miles of range or more, a 3-second 0-60 time, and 11,000 pounds of towing capacity. The next day, Rivian did the same with its R1S. Now, that same company is introducing its first round of updates to its flagship models with the 2025 Rivian R1T and R1S.

Remember, the only battery-electric vehicles with more than 200 miles of range in 2018 were Tesla products or the Chevrolet Bolt. A full-size pickup and SUV with real room and traditional interfaces was outlandish.

And huzzah, the hype was real, even when we finally drove the pickup three years later. In 2021, we crowed, “The R1T has us utterly convinced that electric off-roading is the way to go.” In our R1S First Drive in 2022, we said, “The SUV version of Rivian’s off-roading electric vehicle is just as impressive as the truck.”

A line from each of those reviews speaks to what Rivian’s done with the refreshed R1T and R1S. In our R1T piece, that line was, “Overall, it’s hard not to be excited about the Rivian R1T’s fundamentals after spending a long day pushing it on all kinds of terrain.” About the R1S, it was, “While the cost for a 2022 Rivian R1S is high, the range, capability, comfort, and space are worth it, especially if you’re looking for a vehicle from a company that appears to be really trying to both offer unique, thoughtful, functional features in the all-electric space, and inspire people to have more adventures both on and off the beaten path.”

ECUs in the first-gen R1 models have been reduced to seven. A new zone-based electrical architecture localizes tasks into east, west, and south zones, enabling quicker response times. The streamlining eliminated 44 pounds of wiring.

Deeper processing power plus quicker reaction times plus new AI-based vision software make better use of the upgraded sensor suite of 11 cameras with eight times the resolution in megapixels compared to Rivian’s Gen 1 R1 cameras, as well as five radar units. Efficiency gains also reduce draw; we were told that the Gear Guard sentry system now burns through just a single mile of range in 24 hours.

Starting with the battery pack, there are three sizes, all served by a new heat pump. The base Standard pack is now a lithium-ion phosphate chemistry that gets up to an estimated 270 miles of range. This is a less expensive pack to produce but powers the same range as the previous Standard battery.

The Large and Max packs are reengineered. The Samsung-SDI 2170 cells are the same size as before but pack three grams more lithium apiece, translating into more energy: 5.3 amp-hours per cell vs 5.0 Ah previously. Gen 2 pack modules are smaller thanks to refined components like the chill plate between the cell stacks, while the switch to die-casting for the pack enclosure reduces mass and cost.

Service and repairability benefits to owners improve with other changes. The high-voltage distribution box (HVDB), which acts as a hub for disbursing pack energy, is now a single unit instead of two and can be replaced on its own instead of being integral to the pack housing. This advance lowers the cost to manufacture as well as the cost of repair and replacement.

Even though launch trims are on sale now, Rivian wouldn’t get into pack capacities because engineers are still fine-tuning. The Large pack is rated to go an estimated 330 miles, the Max pack gets an estimated 410 miles on the R1S and 420 miles in the R1T. Max charging rates are 200 kW for the new Standard pack and 220 kW for the Large and Max packs. A suitably powered charger can replenish up to 140 miles of range in as little as 20 minutes.

These ranges are achieved without a Conserve Mode (it has been eliminated for 2025), but with a new 22-inch aero wheel. On the Gen 1 vehicles, this mode detached the rear axle shafts, turning an R1 into a front-driver. Another benefit of the snappier electrical architecture and in-house motors is on-demand all-wheel drive in the default All-Purpose driving mode. Biased toward the front, the rear axle shafts hook up seamlessly in a fraction of a second.

Five wheel and tire packages remain on the menu. However, the new standard wheel is a 20-incher on a Goodyear Wrangler tire; the 21-inch option was 86’ed. The new aero wheel on a Pirelli Scorpion MS tire is quite the looker and lowers the drag coefficient of the R1T to its lowest level yet at 0.297. Even better, those who aren’t in love with the aero aspect can remove the cover to reveal a good-looking spoked wheel. The remaining three choices are two 22-inch wheels on 34-inch Pirelli rubber for the All-Terrain Package, and a performance 22-inch wheel on Michelin Pilot Sport 5 S tires reserved for the Quad-Motor.

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