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VIDEO: Rivian R1S vs Tesla Model X Plaid Comparison - EV SUV Smackdown!

We find out which three-row EV is the better buy

  • Two three-row electric SUVs face off.
  • One prioritizes utility; the other performance.
  • Both excel at their main objectives but struggle in other areas.
  • Whichever you choose, bring a big wallet.

We've been waiting to test the Rivian R1S for a long time. Now, the fully electric three-row SUV is finally available. Three-row EVs are still quite rare, so we decided to measure the R1S up against the original: the Tesla Model X.

Both of these electric SUVs are fast, powerful and stylish. But the R1S places emphasis on space and utility, while the Model X prioritizes a smooth and athletic driving style. Which one is our preferred method for carting six passengers around, emissions-free? Keep reading to find out.

Tale of the tape

We tested a Rivian R1S Launch Edition. This version of the SUV comes with knobby all-terrain tires, four electric motors and more than 800 horsepower. It also has a similar air suspension to the impressive system inside the R1T pickup truck. That helps it hunker down on the freeway, or increase to nearly 15 inches of ground clearance for off-roading. Our test truck cost $91,075 including the destination fee.

Next up is the Tesla Model X Plaid. This is the ultra-fast version of the SUV, which has three electric motors making a gut-busting 1,020 horsepower. Inside you get the much-maligned steering yoke and a dramatic all-glass roof. This is no off-roader — it can reach 8.9 inches of ground clearance but performance is the main objective. What'll the Model X Plaid cost you? Our test vehicle rang in at $148,440 with destination.

What we learned

As expected, the boxy shape of the R1S comes in handy for passenger space and cargo capacity. The R1S also has a higher maximum towing capacity, at 7,700 pounds compared to 5,000 pounds for the Tesla, and you can install racks or boxes on the roof thanks to rail points that the Model X doesn't have. The biggest downside? Due to production constraints, it's unclear when you'll receive your R1S if you do place an order.

The Model X is at its best when on the road. Yes, it has incredible speed and the yoke steering wheel is certainly a unique selling point. But it's also more responsive to your commands, and it's softer-riding when the pavement gets rough. The all-around driving experience impressed us quite a bit.

Is it enough to make up for the nearly $60,000 premium you'll pay for a Model X Plaid over the R1S Launch Edition? Or is it better to pony up for a Plaid rather than wait in a long line for your Rivian? Watch our full in-depth video above to find out.

Edmunds says

These three-row EVs are impressive. The Rivian stands out with its space and thoughtful features, and the Tesla for its enormous power, style and tech. Both have some rough edges, however. Our advice is to save some money and get the R1S — just be prepared to wait.