Rivian R1S vs Tesla Model X FINAL.plain_text.txt
RYAN ZUMMALLEN: For years now, if you wanted to cart around six or seven people in an electric vehicle, this was your only option. It's the Tesla Model X, and this is the ultimate version-- the Plaid, with over 1,000 horsepower.
Oh my God. Holy shh. I've never gone through that before, that's amazing.
But now, there's a little competition. This is the Rivian R1S. It's also a three-row EV-- just with a more traditional SUV body style. And this one is the launch edition, so that means you get all-terrain tires, four electric motors, and over 800 horsepower. O-M-G, y'all. It's an EV explosion over here.
These EVs are pretty different. After all, one's built more for performance, and one more for utility. Keep in mind-- a lot of the people that work at Rivian now used to work at Tesla. Are we going to see a lot of similarities here? Are they going to drive the same? Are they going to work the same?
That's what we're going to unpack today, and we've already put both of these EVs through our full gauntlet of Edmunds expert testing. That means in this video, we can share with you our full acceleration numbers, our handling figures, and the results from our Edmunds EV real-world range test.
So stick around. This one's going to be fun. EV nation, let us know you're here by leaving us like and hit Subscribe. And if you want to sell your car, go to edmunds.com/sellmycar. You will get a cash offer right now.
Let's start with the Rivian R1S. To help me demonstrate what this SUV is all about, we also brought along this-- our very own Rivian R1T electric pickup truck. Now, this R1T is part of the Edmunds long-term test program. That's where we own vehicles for about a year and put 20,000 miles on them to see how they hold up over time. You can check out the Edmunds long-term test page to follow along on all of our adventures.
Starting with the obvious, the R1S is an SUV with seating for up to seven people. Now, it's about 17 inches longer than the R1T pickup, but you don't get the bed or the cool gear tunnel. The SUV and pickup are the exact same width and virtually the same height. With the R1S, you've got a pretty conventional SUV shape, but it's got a front trunk-- or frunk-- and a cool split-folding tailgate.
The R1S and R1T share one very important thing in common-- the powertrain. That's one giant battery, four electric motors, and 835 horsepower. More on those numbers later.
So what's it going to cost you? The R1S launch edition is priced just over $91,000, including destination. And keep in mind-- that's after Rivian increased the price earlier this year. And even with that increase, it's still a little unclear on exactly when customers can expect to take delivery.
Now, you can also get a cheaper version of the R1S, but again, the launch editions get priority, so I don't know where you're going to get it. And now, to give you some context on the Tesla Model X, we brought in a Cybertruck. Just kidding. No one has a Cybertruck.
This is the Model X that you've gotten familiar with over the last couple of years-- just cranked up all the way. Now, with the Plaid, we're talking three electric motors, 1,020 horsepower, and a 0 to 60 time under three seconds. Oh yeah, and you can do all that with six people in the car-- bonkers.
There isn't much to the Plaid, design-wise. It looks like a standard Model X, with the egg-shaped silhouette and overly-dramatic rear doors. You do get the cool Plaid badge, though. There are also 20-inch wheels on our test car and Michelin Latitude Sport 3 tires, which are built for performance SUVs. Those will come in handy.
You also get a big frunk, and all this in a vehicle the size of an Audi Q7. For reference, the R1S is closer to a Chevy Tahoe, with an extra 4 1/2 inches of wheelbase and 11 inches in height over the Model X. So in some ways, the Model X is downright diminutive by comparison.
What's it going to cost you? Brace yourselves, because the Model X Plaid starts at a little over $140,000, including destination. Now of course, there are cheaper versions of the Model X you can get, but even those start at over 100k. Plus, the Plaid is the king of the Model X lineup, so we wanted to have that here today.
In a nutshell, the R1S has the size and the lower price tag, but the Model X has more power and better availability. This is the yin and yang of three-row EVs right now. Inside the Rivian R1S-- first thing that you notice is all the space. You've got really good head space and lots of room to move around, and pretty good storage as well.
We've also got a nice, tall seating position, and a commanding view of the road. I think Rivian does the best job of interior design out of the new EV companies, and the reason for that is texture. There's lots of cool wood accents in here, nice-looking metals, and a whole lot of vegan leather, which is just plastic, but it's got a nice sense of harmony and design. Like, there's a little bit of emotion in here, and I find that lacking in some of the other EV companies.
In front of the driver, there's a 12-inch screen, and then the center touchscreen is a 15-inch unit. I really like this screen. The maps are really nice and vibrant, and easy to find things. They react pretty quickly, and the search bar is also easy to use.
Another thing that Rivian does really well-- and I appreciate in EVs-- is when they give you information and different options on ways that you can use your power. So there's lots of statistics on how used your energy during the recent driving cycles, summaries on how the charging went. Just like Tesla, there's some neat stuff in here, like lots of different camera views.
Rivian also uses a system called Gear Guard, which is an alarm system to protect your stuff in your car from people that may be approaching it. And there's even a camping mode, which sends the R1S into a bunch of different lighting and auto-leveling modes if you're out at a campsite-- just neat stuff to play around with, and I like that.
But there are a few things that feel lacking. For instance, there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. There is no Sirius XM satellite radio, and there's no real native voice activation. Now, Rivian would say they have all that covered, because you can hook up your phone via Bluetooth and operate it that way, so you don't need CarPlay or Android Auto.
You could hook up your Amazon account and use the Alexa voice activation, but I don't want to have to go through a separate hoop to do that. I want to just be able to use the native system, and there isn't one.
Finally, the HVAC controls. So, to control the air conditioning or climate control-- just like Tesla, Rivian puts everything into the center screen. There are no hard buttons for that. At least it's a little bit easy here to just press that and all of your options come up, but when you're driving, it's really difficult to look down at the screen and figure out what you're trying to press, and where you want to drag everything. It'd be much nicer to just have controls here.
Let's talk about the back of the R1S. So, there are a few different ways you can move this seat around. First of all, you can leave it in this upright position like this, or you can move in a couple of different settings, and even recline pretty far back. Now, if you want to flatten it-- like this one-- you just pull up on this lever and it goes totally flat.
If, however, you want to climb into the third row, you press this button up on top. The seat will move forward, and this shifts forward so it gives you an access point. How is it getting into the third row? Kind of tough.
There's a pretty high step to get on-- first of all-- and then not a whole lot of room to get back here. And I've actually got pretty good leg room, and even room for my feet. I'm 6 feet tall and that doesn't always happen in third rows, but even with this seat all the way reclined back, I can fit back here. Just rest my knees against the seat back, but it's not awful.
I do wish that these second-row seats were more easy to maneuver. They're pretty cumbersome and difficult. It would be nicer-- especially in a luxury car-- to just have a one-press button, and it'll move forward and back. But that's not the case.
Now that I'm back here, I've got really nice room for my head thanks to this cut out for the sunroof, and it's nice that the third row has its own little sunroof section that's separate from the giant, front panoramic sunroof. All in all, there's surprisingly pretty good space back here. Adults should be able to handle it in a pinch, and for kids it'll be a fun adventure.
Let's talk interior of the Model X. This has been out for a few years, but Tesla made some updates recently, so there are some new things to talk about. First of all, materials-- Tesla is kind of the old guard of EVs now, and still feels like they're using some of the same interior design qualities that they started with.
For instance, I just have never got on board with the kind of vegan leather that they use-- plastic. It just doesn't feel as natural or rich to me as other ones. This being a Plaid, there is a lot of carbon fiber all throughout, so just adding to that sporty element. It's pretty nicely integrated, but then, just some regular old fabric here on the door panels. There's just a couple of elements that just don't feel like the full $140,000 experience.
But it is that classic, minimalist Tesla vibe-- and speaking of minimalist, I've got half a steering wheel. It's not really-- it's the new yoke that Tesla is using on certain models, and it's very interesting. It's visually arresting. I can't stop looking at it and trying to figure it out. It definitely gives off the impression that you're not just in a regular car-- you are in a Tesla, and for whatever that's worth, that seems to be a big sticking point with a lot of Tesla fans.
Let's talk about the screens. This is the new, 17-inch center touchscreen. It is very large. I like the maps a lot-- these are really vibrant, quick to move around, and the searching function is great. The voice control function is great. That's a big plus, for me.
Just like the Rivian, you don't get Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. You can hook up to your phone via Bluetooth and play your music, podcasts-- whatever-- that way. Similar situation with the HVAC and air conditioning controls. I can't emphasize this enough-- I would really just prefer regular controls.
The driving position is much more close to the ground, compared to the R1S. So this is much more of a traditional crossover shape. The R1S is more of a traditional, big, family SUV shape-- just something to know if you're cross-shopping the two. On top of that, another important difference is the full extent of this glass roof.
It is vast, and a lot of people find that appealing. I tend to get overwhelmed by the amount of sunlight that can come in. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but I get why it's visually arresting. I understand why people like it.
I don't understand why anyone would ever use this tiny little visor that you can put on here to give a little bit of reprieve from the sun, and by tiny, I mean really tiny. It's not going to do much of anything. You've got the entire sky above your head. Good try.
OK, last thing is power opening and closing doors. I will give you that-- that's pretty cool. Backseat time.
So, we have to talk about these Falcon doors, which are so cool. On this particular Model X, we have the captain's chairs in the second row. Obviously, you can get really good access just by walking through the middle, but I'm going to show you how they move as well.
They're one piece, so these are not going to fold down and collapse, and go flat like in the R1S. But what you do get is some pretty nice movement back and forth-- partly because they're on this really interesting stand. If you take a look at how these are being held up, it's really neat, and that seems like the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that I would like to see from more EVs.
There's a button on the back of the seat here. And give that one press, and the seat moves all on its own, and we'll move forward. That's the kind of interesting, one-touch power solution I was looking for in the R1S and it doesn't have, but the Model X gives it to you.
The Tesla also has a much lower step-in height, because it's so much closer to the ground, so it's really easy to just get in here and climb in. Now that I'm back here, I can press that button again and the seats will come back. So that chair stand creates pretty good room for my feet, but the chair is kind of bulky and it's pressing up against my right knee pretty hard.
Now, I'm 6 feet tall. If you're going to put kids back here, probably won't be a problem. But just for reference, there's definitely less space back here than there was in the R1S. Headroom is helped because of the glass right here, but one thing I'm noticing, immediately, though-- I have to keep my head pressed up against the headrest, because coming forward, I just run straight into the ceiling.
That's not super reassuring, but I could do short trips back here. As long as you're really comfortable getting cozy with a giant, plastic slab right here. All in all, there's definitely less space in the Model X, but accessibility is a little bit easier. Still, these interiors both leave me feeling kind of cold. I don't feel like they're the selling point of either car.
What about cargo space? The R1S is, after all, shaped like a fridge, so let's see what it can hold. Behind the third row, you've got 17.6 cubic feet of space. We got two 38-quart coolers, and what's nice is you can get them both in side-by-side nice and easy.
But let's say you need something bigger than that. Folding down the third row is manual, so you have to reach across and push, but they go down easily. The second row is easier. Just push a button over here-- one, and two.
So now, you've got a much larger space. There is a little bit of a hump, so it's not a completely flat floor all the way from here. But from this point up to the front seats, you do have a nice, big, flat floor, which is great. You've got hidden storage under here. Here's your charging cord, a first-aid kit, and a nice, big, helpful space.
And if you want even more, then under here, this is meant for carrying around a spare tire-- but not everyone's going to do that. You can use this big, old space for whatever else you need to keep hidden under there. These tie-down points-- so you can secure whatever loose items you have rolling around back here, but the cool thing is they move around really easily. So you can position them wherever you need.
Two over here, and two on the rail over there, which is really neat. This built-in air compressor-- you can use the R1S to fill up tires, or-- I don't know-- floaty, inflatable rafts. Whatever you need-- super cool, innovative thinking from Rivian.
So, what's this frunk about? In the initial space, you can get some overhead luggage or a set of golf clubs in here, no problem. But the cool thing is the floor lifts up. There's magnets here, so it can just pin up against there, and now, you've got a much larger space. This is where Rivian keeps the charger cord.
You can also just toss your ice in there, because there's a drain in the bottom. So whether you want to have a tailgate party or wash out your muddy gear, no problem. The floor also pops out. So there's a lot of cool, innovative thinking going on in the frunk.
But what if you need to put something up on the roof? Well, Rivian has that really clean roofline, but there actually are hooks hidden in there, so you can load up crossbars and put a roof cargo box on top. And the last thing is towing. Every R1S is rated up to 7,700 pounds of max towing. You just have to pop off this cover-- the receiver is in there-- and you just throw on your hitch.
So, you can tell Rivian definitely kept utility front of mind with the R1S. To contrast that, let's check out the Tesla.
The trunk of the Tesla has considerably less space. But remember, the trade off is with the Tesla, you get that slippery, sloping roof line for better efficiency on the road. Let's see how much stuff we can fit.
If we got our cooler in here, we can only fit one in and the trunk won't close, so that's kind of a bummer. If you really want to get it in, you can take this lid out. Now it'll fit in there. Quite a bit less space than the Rivian. To fold down the third-row seats, you push this button up here, and then you do have to push them down.
That creates more space, because we've got the captain's chairs. Those do not fold down, so that doesn't turn into usable space. Let's see the frunk. It's not a huge space-- about half the size of the frunk in the Rivian-- but it is really wide, and good for holding anything you don't want rolling around inside the cabin.
So sports equipment-- personally, I like using it for groceries. But that's about it. Keep in mind, with the Model X, you're not going to be able to put anything on the roof. A, there are no connecting points or rails, and B, those falcon doors are just going to get in the way.
But the good news is the Model X Plaid can tow up to 5,000 pounds. You just plug in this guy-- there's your receiver-- and put in whatever ball or rack you want. I've personally put bike racks into the hitch of a Tesla Model X before and it worked great, and at Edmunds, we went on a towing adventure with a teardrop trailer.
So the Tesla is pretty usable, all things considered, but it's clear that Rivian prioritized utility from the jump, with more space and some really cool accessories, as well.
Where to begin? I know-- 835 horsepower, 900-plus-pound feet of torque. Those are mind-boggling numbers. Now, that's coming from a very large battery pack under the floor, and four electric motors-- one at each wheel. That means it can basically send a ton of power to any one individual wheel any time you want it, and you can definitely feel it on the road. It will put you back in the chair real fast. So, what else is it like to drive this car?
Well, there are a couple of important things to know. First of all, there are several drive modes. So you can go into conserve for the most efficient. All-purpose, which is what I prefer to drive in-- it's kind of a nice balance of everything. Sport is where you get the biggest punch. Then there's off road for the highest suspension setting-- up to 15 inches of ground clearance. From a factory SUV, that is nuts. And then, there's a towing mode as well.
Another thing people should know-- and we run into this problem with our very own, long-term R1T pickup truck, as well-- the stock that controls the driver aid controls is right here. It's the same stock that you use for the transmission-- so, to select whatever gear you want to go in.
What we've found is that if you're playing with the stock to adjust your driver aid settings, you can accidentally put this into neutral at speed. We did this once without realizing that was what happened, and thought the car was shutting down and the batteries and motors were dying. Turns out, it was just in neutral.
Here, I'll do it right now. Going 50 miles an hour down the road, and with a very light touch, the car will go into neutral. Accelerator will not work. There's no indication, or warning, or sound that that happened. You have to press it down real hard to go back into drive, and then you're back off. But if you don't know that, and you don't know what's happening, it can be a very frightening situation.
As for the driver aids themselves, I find them pretty effective. It's easy to activate the system for adaptive cruise control, and even the lane-keep assist, which feels pretty nice. And I usually don't like lane-keep assist systems.
The problem I have with it is that it's hard to adjust, and that's because you use these buttons and controls on the steering wheel. But they're not marked, and so it just takes a little bit of mental practice to remember what each one does, and how to operate it.
In total, driving the R1S is an experience. It's not always a good one, but sometimes, it is. There are very strong brakes. There is a lot of power underneath your foot, and those are the things that have been grabbing the headlines. It's just kind of in between where I wish Rivian would spend a little more time.
Now, the big differentiator that separates the R1S from the Model X completely is its off road capability. Of course, it has that off road mode. This model also comes with all-terrain tires, which are going to give you lots of extra capability in the rough stuff.
But on top of that, the R1S has an advantage even over the R1T pickup truck. Even though they have similar ground clearance, the R1S has better angles. You're less likely to hit the front bumper, or the rear bumper, or get high centered over the breakover point under the car. This thing seems pretty battle-ready out of the box.
This is the Plaid. That means you get three electric motors over 1,000 horsepower. It's really difficult to explain just how Earth-shattering that amount of power is in an electric car, where it's basically instantaneous. And I'm not going to demonstrate it out here. OK, I am. Oh, sh--
I was expecting it, and it still caught me off guard. All right. All right, I did it once. I don't need to do it again. Basically, the point is this-- the Model X is a remarkable car to drive. Truly, truly remarkable. The power speaks for itself.
Yes, it's there, but a lot of what makes it good is that this car is much more efficient with its power. It's much lower to the ground. It's much more comfortable. The steering feels direct. I have really been impressed with the suspension.
I expected the Model X to have a pretty stiff suspension and pretty rough feel over crappy roads that I was driving on this morning, and it was smooth as butter. This is also much lighter than the R1S, so it's carrying massive amounts of power like the R1S is, but a lot less weight.
And it just gets going so quickly. It's really incredible, especially for a three-row car. What else is there to say? Well, a lot, actually. There are several things I don't like about it.
For one, let's talk about the yoke. I get that it's cool. I get that Tesla is all about vibes. Sometimes, while I was driving this morning, I felt like I was piloting a submarine instead of driving a car. It's definitely different and distinct, and I always say I like things that stand out. However, this just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
It feels fine going in a straight line. It even feels fine moving side to side, but Aleister has already demonstrated, on our Model S Plaid test from about a year ago, just how little sense this makes if you're doing any kind of sporty driving. What I've found is that maneuvering in a parking lot is really difficult.
You are constantly searching for parts of the wheel that just aren't there. You can trick yourself into thinking that it's fine to use. You'll figure out different ways to maneuver your hands and all that, but it would just be so much nicer to have a regular steering wheel. There are other things, though.
Tesla has decided that we don't need turn signal stocks anymore. Instead, we put them up here on these buttons. Hey, at least they're labeling their buttons now. That wasn't always a thing, but I would just prefer to have a stock instead of making sure I'm hitting the right turn signal button.
It should be mentioned that any time you hit the turn signals, the Model X will give you a picture-in-picture, blind spot camera view in the center screen. I don't think you should rely on it all the time-- think, please use your mirrors and look over your shoulder as much as possible-- but it's a really cool backup feature to have.
On top of that, changing your gear is an ordeal. For one thing, when you get into the car, the Model X tries to guess whether you want to go forward or backward. It's usually right, but what if it's wrong? It's just not something I want my car to be guessing. There's also no stock for that.
There are a couple of things you can do. You can swipe up or down on the touch screen to put it in the gear that you want, or you can press down here to make these gear selector lights light up, which is really just how it should be anyway. Why can't that just be the default way to do it? If you're going to put that there as a backup, just make that the way you do it. But, alas.
The point is, in the Tesla Model X, the vibes are immaculate. The functionality is not. The one area where the Model X obviously does not live up to the R1S is in its off road ability. The cool thing is you can set the suspension height you want in the Model X-- I think there are five levels-- you can go from low all the way up to very high, and at its highest point, it's about 9 inches of ground clearance, which is not bad at all. But you won't be taking this rock crawling anytime soon.
That's not what this car is about, though. This car is about speed, and performance, and, in a lot of ways, fancy tech. Speaking of high tech-- let's talk about driver aids. So, I used autopilot quite a bit on the freeway here. Autopilot is, of course, Tesla's advanced, semi-automated driving system, where the car itself will handle your acceleration and braking to keep a safe distance from the car in front of you, and it'll also handle some of the steering, though you should keep your hands on the wheel at all times.
I found it really nice. It's smooth, no jerkiness, nice safe distance-- very nice system to use. We've had some issues with it in the past, but today, I have no issue. I'm a little bit concerned moving forward, though, because Tesla has announced that they are moving away from incorporating radar and LiDAR as a backup or safety net for these systems. Instead, they're just going to use cameras positioned on the outside of the car.
Rivian has the same problem, by the way. Basically, every other automaker uses some form of radar or LiDAR as a backup plan, and there's a reason for that. The Rivian R1S and the Tesla Model X Plaid both do very different things, and they're both extremely good at what they do. They also need a lot of refinement and some polishing around the edges, and I look forward to both automakers hopefully addressing those issues.
But man, they're both a hell of a lot of fun to drive. Holy, crap. When it came time to test these electric SUVs, we got them up on the scales and the Rivian R1S is no lightweight. It clocked in at over 7,000 pounds. Now, that's a lot more than the Model X Plaid, but it's actually less than the R1T pickup truck. And on top of that, the R1S outperformed the R1T on our Edmunds EV test loop, as well.
It got 330 miles of total range on a full charge, while the R1T maxed out at 317. Then, we headed to test acceleration. When it came to acceleration, the R1S nearly blew us away with a time of 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds. Wow. But the Model X was more than a full second faster, getting to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds. My goodness.
To illustrate the point even further, the R1S completed the quarter mile in a blazing 11.8 seconds at over 110 miles per hour, but the Model X finished in 9.9 seconds at over 144 miles per hour. Both SUVs exhibited extreme performance, but there was a runaway winner-- it's the Tesla, with true athleticism and tons of power to spare. It's a no-brainer here.
There are so many cool things going on in these vehicles, but in many ways, they both feel half-baked. The Tesla's yoke is clearly a gimmick, and its gear selectors are infuriating, but the Rivian is just as inconsistent. It has unrefined driving characteristics, and pretty frustrating software. Now, I want very badly to recommend the R1S.
Right now, the Model X Plaid is the better car. It's got more speed, it's more smooth, and on top of that, it's more efficient. It is just so, so expensive. I hesitate to recommend anything over 100k, and the price on this one is stratospheric.
I do find the R1S more handy. I like where it's going. I like its intention. I just can't say, with any confidence, when you'll get one, if you order it. Still, this is a more functional, versatile vehicle, at a much better price. That's what puts it over the top, and that's why it's our choice today.
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