2018 LA Auto Show: Rivian Strikes Again With Electric SUV

November 27, 2018 by John O'Dell

Startup Rivian Automotive on Tuesday debuted an electric SUV with up to 753 horsepower and 400 miles of range at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show.

The launch comes just a day after the fledgling automaker unveiled an all-electric pickup truck.

The SUV is based off the 5-seat pickup and shares all of its powertrain, suspension and electronics with the crew-cab pickup. It has a full body instead of an open bed, but otherwise shares the same modern, uncluttered design as its stablemate.

Like the pickup, the SUV will come in three trim levels, based on battery size and range. The long-range model will be configured for five occupants; the others will be seven-seaters. Rivian hasn’t released pricing for the SUV, but said the base pickup starts at $69,000.

‘Skateboard’ Platform

Both trucks are built on Rivian’s “skateboard” platform, which packages all the batteries, suspension, motors, braking and thermal-management systems in a flat frame ready for wheels and a body on top.

Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe (Photo: Rivian Automotive)

“We’re reimagining the segments,” with the four-motor, all-wheel drive, outdoor-adventure-oriented electric trucks, R.J. Scaringe, Rivian’s founder and chief executive, told Trucks.com.

Plymouth, Mich.-based Rivian said it will begin delivering the SUV, which it is calling the R1S, in 2021. The R1T pickup is scheduled to begin deliveries in 2020. The company intends to begin with direct sales to customers and move into shared-vehicle programs as that market develops, Scaringe said.

It is taking $1,000 deposits for both vehicles.

Rivian also plans to market its platform to other automakers that want to enter the electric vehicle market without the cost of developing their own powertrain and battery systems.

Analysts say Rivian could face a tight market, though. Tesla, the leading EV maker, has been using a similar system since the 2012 launch of the Model S, and other major automakers are developing their own versions for future electric vehicles.

For the R1S sport utility, the platform carries an independent electric motor for each axle, an air suspension system and large lithium-ion battery packs.

The base SUV will have a 105-kilowatt-hour battery, 240 miles of range and 402 horsepower.

The intermediate model, with a 135-kWh battery, will deliver 310 miles of range and is rated by Rivian at 753 horsepower.

The long-range model, with a 180-kWh battery – the industry’s largest so far – is rated at 410 miles and 700 horsepower.

Torque for the base SUV is rated by Rivian at 413 pound-feet, with the mid- and top-level models jumping to 826 pound-feet. Top speed for all three versions is estimated at 125 mph.

The cockpit of the R1S (Photo: Rivian Automotive)

Front trunk

Like the pickup, the R1S has a large front trunk in place of a standard gas or diesel engine.

Rivian hasn’t disclosed information about cargo capacity inside the SUV, but said it can carry 1,800 pounds of cargo and tow up to 7,700 pounds. The second- and third-row seats fold flat to maximize cargo area.

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  • A. Rivian_R1T_Interior_Front

The SUV has both an electronically operated overhead liftgate and a small tailgate – like a pickup’s – that serves as seating to facilitate donning and removing ski and hiking boots or cleaning wet or sandy feet before entering the vehicle.

Ground clearance is 14.625 inches at full extension of the air suspension system. The SUV has the same short front and rear overhangs as the pickup to maximize off-road and hill-climbing capability and avoid bottoming out on rocks and other obstacles.

Rivian is outfitting an auto-assembly plant in Normal, Ill., to build the two trucks and bare skateboard platforms for future clients, Scaringe said.

The R1S will have the same self-driving hardware as the pickup and will launch with a so-called Level 3 capability. That is a federal designation that permits, when legal, some highway operation with hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. Until then, the trucks will offer driver-assist features such as lane-keeping and active cruise control with automatic stop and start.

The system uses cameras, radar, lidar, ultrasonic sensors and high-precision GPS mapping and is updatable via over-the-air transmissions from Rivian.

The company has its own software and autonomous driving systems operation in San Jose, Calif., as well as headquarters in Michigan, a battery facility in Irvine, Calif, a small advanced engineering lab in London and the factory in Normal, Ill.

Rivian is backed largely by a Saudi Arabian conglomerate that started as the Toyota distributor for that country and remains the largest auto distributor in the Middle East. To date, Scaringe said, Rivian has spent and has spending plans for a total of $450 million.

The company has a long way to go until it can launch market-ready production vehicles, but it is “playing a smart game” and seems to have its act together, Stephanie Brinley, automotive analyst with IHS Markit, told Trucks.com.

“It’s a very tough business to break into, but going for a pickup and an SUV is in line with current trends, “she said.

Read next: 2018 LA Auto Show: Jeep Truck, Range of SUVs will debut

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