The Rivian R1T pickup is a bit of a puzzle. It is a high-horsepower heavyweight capable of reaching 60 mph in under three seconds and towing up to 11,000 pounds. It’s enough to draw attention to the fact that those mutually incompatible performance metrics exist in the same car EV, no less. The true revelation, though, is that the R1T reflects a similar duality in every aspect of the driving experience, on and off the road.
Electric motors are well-known for their capacity to deliver max torque from a complete stop. They can be programmed to be able to take a gentle step forward or to flatten your eyes. Both extremes, as well as all nuances in between, can be found here. Electric motors, unlike internal combustion engines, are unaffected by thinner air at high elevations, therefore the Rocky Mountains of Colorado were a suitable testing location. After examining the literal highs as well as lows of the very first electric pickup truck to market, from a height of 9600 feet at the starting point in Breckenridge all the way up to a breath-taking elevation of 12,600 feet atop Continental Divide.
Despite its weight of 6950 pounds, R1T accelerates quickly on pavement. It doesn’t take much prodding to awaken the over 800 horsepower and 900 pound-feet of torque when the drive mode is set to Sport. It’s like slamming the throttle in the Bentley Mulsanne, a physics-defying ride that approaches triple digits without making a sound.
A similar dissociative effect occurs when you bend the R1T into a corner. The R1T is somewhat longer than the Mercedes-Maybach S-class at 217.1 inches, yet it still hustles with amazing grace. The lack of the body roll is even more noticeable. The low center of gravity contributes to this poise, but the R1T also has a hydraulic roll-control system instead of anti-roll bars. A hydraulic network connects each corner and axle, keeping the roll under control without compromising the ride.
Off-road, this same arrangement allows for a high level of articulation. The hydraulics are essentially decoupled in this circumstance, and wheel motion solely on a single side of the axle is fully independent of the motion on the other. Researchers also discovered that the technique helped to reduce head toss, which is typical while driving down rocky terrain. They didn’t even come close to hitting a side window.