Behind the Wheel of the Rivian R1S, the World’s Most Hyped Electric SUV

The steepest road in Los Angeles, where I live, it’s 33%. Driving down is something you experience in your stomach — it feels like you’re plummeting down a slide. A few weeks ago, while off-roading in the Catskills, my horse-shooting instructor asked me if I wanted to try something a little steeper: my nose dipped in 45% fresh mud. But there is a change. At the bottom, I needed to break out of the slide in a shot through some trees. And basically do it blindly. All of this in an R1S, Rivian’s new 7,000-pound SUV, which costs around $90,000.

I am not a topographical expert. I’m not an off-road person. The last time I drove into the wilderness, I was 18 miles from a phone signal and needed to drive a tent stake to my window because I had locked the key inside. I did it because my car wasn’t worth $90,000. It certainly doesn’t go from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds on the road, which the R1S can, and it feels, the first time I experienced it, like the geolocation of my organs did. remapped.

The world is getting warmer, thanks to humans burning fossil fuels. Cars run on electricity in the hope that they will burn less fuel. And Rivian wants to get an electric adventure vehicle into your garage as soon as possible, partly to save the world, and in large part to keep the business afloat, with “as soon as possible” being the sticking point. . Rivian has a waiting list of about 90,000 pre-orders. For a variety of reasons – including a shortage of computer chips due to a global supply chain crisis – the company has delivered only about 6,600 vehicles to date, most of which are corporate pickups, and more recently. reported a second-quarter loss of $1.7 billion. Which means the prediction for the R1S, which I drove over a weekend, is high, and there’s also the possibility of total failure, and the margin between the two is not small.

Rivian estimates the R1S will reach customers fairly soon, possibly in August. Before that, the idea was that I would do a small test drive over a few days in the Catskills, with hours of winding, scenic roads. hill and police department forewarned, plus an off-road course in the 300-acre forest. All to take the car through the challenges it was designed to tackle, even if most Rivian customers never did, to see if the hype was worth it.

“You already have this,” said the guide.

Reader, I was funny.

Remember when people switch from cell phone to smartphone, practically overnight? “Once you try a product that completely changes the technology, changes the experience forward, it’s like a diode; it’s hard to go back,” Robert Joseph Scaringe, CEO of Rivian, told me. “We will see a level of change in consumer mindset that is hard to imagine.”

As a car-loving teenager who grew up rebuilding old Porsches, Scaringe realized that fossil fuel-addicted humanity was likely to perish. The solution he came up with was to start a company that makes electric cars, but he knew those vehicles would never be easy to sell. Too sensible, too quiet, too dull. Americans love large SUVs or turbocharged muscle cars. But what if an electric car was built like a Tahoe? What if it accelerated like a Corvette? Scaringe has a vision of an entirely different kind of EV company — one that can excite motorists nationally and politically. In response to that expansion ambition, Rivian, the company he founded in 2009, has its headquarters in Irvine, California, but will manufacture its trucks and SUVs in a refurbished auto plant. in Normal, Illinois — a reimagining of the heartland’s industrial past to create the car of the future. Behind the Wheel of the Rivian R1S, the World’s Most Hyped Electric SUV

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