Electric cars

I am a Pickup Man. A drive in a Rivian almost turned me electric

I am a Pickup Man.  A drive in a Rivian almost turned me electric

Will dead-in-the-wool pickup owners consider an all-electric truck like the Rivian R1T? I took a ride in one to find out.

I love pickup trucks. In the campy words of Joe Diffie’s 90s country standard “Pickup Man,” “You can set my truck on fire, roll it up a hill, bBut I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coupe DeVille.

Over the past 20 years I’ve owned three mics in a row, two Ford RangersAnd one F-150. I transport camping equipment, hunting equipment and bicycles. I tow gear and campers or load the bed with mulch or horse manure for fertilizer. And maybe better, I spend a lot of nights sleeping in bed under the cover of my topper.

Pickups are also a powerful symbol of Americana. Just look at these 48 pages of lyrics mentioning vans in country songs. While arguably flawed in many ways, pickups represent a rugged ideal of country living for many people.

Maybe that’s why you find them wandering around mall parking lots. Perhaps that’s why, even for us who live in cities like Denver, pickup trucks are a valuable tool and something we cling to as part of our identity.

So I’ve been incredibly curious about the Rivian R1T ever since I saw it for the first time at Outdoor Retailer 2019. Could this new brand of electric origin really sway diesel-loving van drivers? Could the rush of electric acceleration replace the iconic growl of a V8?

Test drive of the Rivian R1T I, parked along Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado; (photos/Sean McCoy)

Then, last week, I got a chance to get behind the wheel and take it for an hour around Denver and Golden, Colorado. Although I couldn’t get it off the pavement, the initial ride was an eye opener.

I won’t go into all the features and specs. You can find all those online here and a myriad of other reports and reviews. But for my truck-loving friends, from one to another, this was my impression of the Rivian R1T.

Rivian R1T review: Everything but the specs

Pull in the Rivian Service Center in Denver, I was shocked to see a line of about 30 brand new Rivians lined up side by side. Although these have been slowly spreading over the past few months, I have only seen one in the wild so far. The parking lot was full of them, and they looked, well, really adorable.

Rivian R1T-6
A fleet of Rivians stationed in Denver.

I pulled up next to a pointed white loaded with a roof top tent on a rack. That would be my race.

The initial visit reminded me of all the things I had heard but forgotten. Look at those 34 inches Tires! Whoa, look at the bottom of the truck! There is no differential to lock, just a smooth skid plate running the full length of the undercarriage.

And of course, let’s not forget the storage – a 4.5ft bed, a “frunk” under the hood and a gear tunnel the length of alpine skis between cabin and bed.

Rivian R1T-7
Rivian has equipped the R1T with many thoughtful features such as sockets and lighting in the bed.

I walked around and marveled; there were 110-volt electrical outlets in the bed and storage areas, a built-in pressurized air source, even a rechargeable flashlight and a Bluetooth speaker built into the truck for recharging on the go. This thing was made up for campers.

But could it really compete with my F-150? It’s time to get on board and find out.

Driving the Rivian R1T: It’ll Smoke Your Sports Car

When riding the Rivian R1T, reset your baseline. Driving a Rivian is very different from an internal combustion engine vehicle.

First of all, it’s incredibly fast. With all-wheel drive and around 800 horsepower on tap, the acceleration will crush you in the seat. The only other car I drove that was faster than this truck was the Nissan GTR. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

2022 Rivian R1T
(Photo/Sean McCoy)

To drive a Rivian, you don’t really use the brake in the traditional sense. The R1T uses aggressive regenerative braking to slow the vehicle and collect every drop of energy possible to extend range. So when you release the accelerator, the car immediately starts to slow down – a lot.

For most drivers, that means one foot driving most of the time. You really only touch the brake for an emergency stop.

It took me a few minutes to get used to this style of driving. But once I got the hang of it, I found driving the Rivian very intuitive. I’m sure the brand would hate the comparison, but it was like driving a golf cart. You just don’t need the brake.

But that’s where the “golf cart” comparisons end. Hit the highway, and the Rivian’s driver-assist tech portends a future that’s very bright indeed.

Rivian R1T: an autonomous future

To be clear, the Rivian R1T is not an autonomous vehicle. But that’s about as close as you can get without being able to take a nap while driving.

Once on the highway, you have to keep one hand on the wheel for its adaptive cruise control to work. But the fact that driver assistance is the fault clearly shows that Rivian believes this style of riding is the future.

Rivian R1T-5

Basically, once you hit highway speeds, the truck takes over with cruise control. Push a lever and it will even take control of the steering. It’s incredibly intuitive.

As you drive, all vehicles, and even pedestrians, around your vehicle also appear on the dashboard display. This should significantly reduce stress when driving.

Although I didn’t have time to do a ton of testing, I want to convey one important impression while driving this truck. This Is feel like a truck. The driver sits high, with a commanding view. The vehicle feels capable, as in, it won’t mind hitting a curb or crawling over rough roads.

And while yes, it’s electric, along the way it inspires a lot of confidence as a big heavy-duty truck rocking big off-road tires. And with up to 15 inches of ground clearance, it should!

Rivian R1T specs: A monster truck for the masses

In many ways, the R1T is a next-level vehicle. For those who live in a city who want a weekend adventure vehicle that won’t cost a fortune in fuel for commuting, the truck makes a lot of sense.

From the start, it was clear that Rivian had designed this truck for adventurous, outdoor-loving recreational users. He even picked up Alex Honnold as Ambassador all the way back in 2018. And for this market, the truck is pretty amazing.

At 217.1 inches in length, it sits just between a long Toyota Tacoma and a short Ford F-150. Inside the luxurious (and yes, it’s really nice) interior, the Rivian R1T looks like a full-size truck. But thanks to all the electronic assistants, it is easy to park in the small squares of the city.

Is the Rivian R1T a van?

So here’s the hang-up for me: the Rivian isn’t really a pickup. Yes, it is a very capable all-terrain vehicle. And yes, it has enough storage space for the vast majority of users and even a 4.5ft bed.

But yes, it has a 4.5ft bed. Even though it stretches to 83.6 inches with the tailgate down, it’s still a 4.5-foot bed. Let’s talk about it for a second, shall we?

Rivian R1T-4

Last week I participated in GearJunkie’s Ski Trials Week. To complete our test, I had to haul about 20 pairs of skis, plus a stack of ski jackets, helmets, goggles, gloves, boots, and computer gear, plus one other person, from Denver to Crested Butte, Colorado.

My Ford F-150’s 6.5ft bed was loaded onto the roof of my mattress topper. I just couldn’t have done that in the Rivian. Not only is the bed too short for 4.5 foot skis, but the gear tunnel and frunk wouldn’t be enough to carry skis or other gear.

I’m sure I could have found a solution, probably a trailer. But long story short, the Rivian R1T, while an impressive all-terrain vehicle, isn’t quite what I would call a “pickup” yet.

The question I have is: will the brand offer a real van design in the future, with a bigger bed? Because for now, that’s what I’m holding back. I want my truck to have a bed big enough for me to lay down and sleep in. I want to load skis or bikes or plywood directly into the bed if needed.

The Rivian R1T is a marvel of a vehicle. It will change the world of all-terrain vehicles. Those considering jeeps, 4Runnersor Land Rovers should 100% consider Rivian a viable electric alternative.

Driving one was an amazing experience. I liked it. And I think that has its place in the country songs of the future.

Like I told my buddies, he just needs a bigger bed and maybe a little longer litter. Then this pickup will be ready to go electric. But in 2022, it’s not yet, not quite, a van.

Rivian Specifications

Quad-engine AWD

  • 800+ horsepower combined
  • 900+ ft-lbs. torque
  • Front axle: 415 hp, 413 lb-ft.
  • Rear axle: 420 hp, 495 lb-ft.
  • 0-60 mph in 3 seconds (estimated), depending on tires
  • 11,000 pounds. Towing capacity

Dual Motor AWD1

  • 600+ horsepower combined
  • 600+ ft-lbs. torque
  • 0-60mph in 4 seconds
  • 11,000 pounds. Towing capacity

All Terrain

  • Approach angle 34.0 degrees
  • Departure angle 29.3 degrees
  • Breakover 25.7 degrees
  • Fording 42.7″ max
  • Max ground clearance 15 in.


Quad-engine AWD2

MPGe: 70 combined city/highway (74 city/66 highway)

  • Maximum package: 400+ mi. (East.)

Dual Motor AWD1

  • Standard package: 260+ miles. (East.)
  • Large package: 314 mi.
  • Maximum package: 400+ mi. (East.)

Vehicle dimensions3

  • Length 217.1 in.
  • Width: 87.1″ exterior mirrors, 81.8″ interior mirrors
  • Height (with antenna): 78.3″ max in off-road mode
  • 73.1″ min. in sports mode
  • 72.1″ in kneeling park mode

Ground clearance

  • 15″ max in off-road mode
  • 9.7″ min. in sports mode
  • 8.7″ in kneeling parking mode