Why is the Rivian R1S the best off-road electric SUV?

Why is the Rivian R1S the best off-road electric SUV?


  • The Rivian R1S is an electric SUV that can handle rough off-road use, making it one of the most capable electric off-roaders on the market.
  • With its four-motor all-wheel drive system and terrain modes, the R1S provides excellent off-road grip and can navigate low-traction situations.
  • Not only is the R1S a capable off-road vehicle, but it also offers a luxurious and utilitarian interior, making it a good vehicle for daily driving and outdoor adventures.

One could argue that there is a gap in the electric vehicle market. That gap is electric cars that can also handle rough off-road use. As of now, the only electric SUVs that can handle off-roading are the Rivian R1S and perhaps the GMC Hummer EV.

The Rivian R1S is the SUV sibling to the Rivian R1T and features the same underpinnings as its truck counterpart. By using intelligent traction control and suspension technology, Rivian has created two of the most powerful electric off-roaders the market has seen to date. And let’s not forget that with the power available, the R1S is not only a good off-roader, but it could also put many supercars to shame in straight-line racing.

But how exactly did Rivian manage to do this? Well, there’s a lot of technology that helps keep this SUV going, and here’s everything you need to know.

In order to provide you with the most current and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was obtained from Rivian and other trusted sources such as MotorTrend.

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Rivian has all the bases covered with the R1S

Rivian is headquartered in Irvine, California. Rivian’s main goal is to reduce our carbon footprint. Rivian’s preferred way to do this is electric propulsion. As mentioned above, the company offers two cars, the R1T and the R1S. As the name suggests, the R1T is a truck while the R1S is an SUV.

Comfortable three-row family electric SUV

The R1S offers three rows of seating and a cabin that is luxurious but also utilitarian, like the new Defender. The materials inside are great thanks to the leather upholstery and great design. Meanwhile, the R1S offers tie-down points, a power socket in the trunk, and even a useful air compressor for airing up your tires after off-roading. Of course, like most electric cars, the dashboard and overall interior design are simple with most of the controls located within the infotainment screen.

RELATED: Why the Toyota Land Cruiser Hybrid Is the Standard for Off-Road SUVs

The four-motor setup delivers on-road grip and off-road performance

Now, what moves the R1S forward is the four-motor all-wheel drive system. Here, each wheel is powered by its own electric motor that delivers torque precisely where you want it to go. Torque is split via the help of Terrain modes that adjust the vehicle’s performance parameters for different types of surfaces, from rocks to mud and sand. The on-board computer analyzes wheel speed and applies power to the wheels that need it most or cuts power to the wheels that are spinning. This motor-based traction system is more controllable and therefore more effective than conventional brake-based traction systems. Now, pair the above with factory-equipped all-terrain tires, and you’ll end up with a vehicle that can find grip in incredibly low-traction situations.

Let’s also not forget that off-roading usually means driving through deep water, which can seem a bit scary in an electric car. However, the R1S has you covered. The fully enclosed battery system provides a wading depth of up to three feet, allowing it to cross shallow rivers or ponds without any problems.

Available driving modes

  • For all purposes
  • snow
  • All terrain
  • sports
  • Fine sand
  • gathering
  • the point
  • Rock crawling
  • save

Not all versions of the Rivian R1S are created equal. For example, the dual-motor all-wheel drive model has only the first three driving modes of this list. The Performance Dual-Motor R1S model rounds out the top five on the list, while the range-topping All-Motor 4WD model features all driving modes.

Also, like most electric cars, the R1S is extremely fast. With 800 horsepower, 0 to 60 mph takes just 3.0 seconds, which is ridiculous for such a large and heavy car. So, simply put, the R1S is a luxury SUV that performs well on the road but is also utilitarian and great off-road. But how is this possible?

Performance specifications

Dual drive four wheel drive

Dual-motor four-wheel drive performance

Four-wheel drive with four-wheel drive

Horse power

533 hp

665 hp

835 hp


610 lb-ft

829 lb-ft

908 lb-ft

Batteries available

Standard | big | the above

big | the above


Estimated range

260-400 miles

352-400 miles

321 miles

0-60 mph

4.5 seconds

3.5 seconds

3.0 seconds

Towing capacity

5,000-7,000 pounds

5,000-7,000 pounds

5,000-7,000 pounds

Number of driving models




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R1S foundations


Before we dive into the R1S’s powertrain, let’s discuss its platform first. The R1S is based on a Unibody design with independent air suspension front and rear. This is the only way to make a car this tough on the road while also being able to handle it off-road. Essentially, the uniform design means that the vehicle body also provides structure. Therefore, there is no physical separation between the frame and the body as there is with body-on-frame vehicles. Some of the benefits of this design include a stiffer structure, a safer vehicle, less weight, and better road manners.

Off-road specifications

Rivian R1S

The Rivian R1S features independent suspension front and rear. Independent suspension basically means that each wheel moves independently of the other. This isn’t the best off-road design, but it offers better on-road manners and more differential clearance. In the case of Rivian, the independent suspension is also complemented by air suspension. The air suspension system has the ability to raise and lower the vehicle depending on the driver’s needs. At its highest setting, the Rivian R1S offers 14.4 inches of ground clearance, which is a really impressive number. Oh, and let’s not forget the high-quality air suspension that’s as supple and soft as it is on and off-road. Finally, the Rivian R1S offers skid plates that protect the underside of the car if you run out of clearance. These aren’t the thickest skid plates on the market, but it’s a good thing Rivian included them from the factory.

Approach angle

34 degrees

Departure angle

30 degrees

Penetration angle

28 degrees

Land clearance

Up to 14.4 inches

Wading depth

Up to 3 feet

RELATED: 10 Things Automakers Should Learn from the Rivian R1T’s Off-Road Capability

The Rivian R1S is also a comfortable daily driver with a bright future

2024 Red Rivian R1S

One thing that doesn’t often get mentioned about capable off-road drivers, is the fact that off-road ability tends to sacrifice off-road manners. For example, a modified Jeep Wrangler has amazing off-road capabilities, but can be tiring on the road. However, the Rivian R1S manages to strike a perfect compromise. On the road, its electric transmission is silent and incredibly powerful. This means you can commute daily without sacrificing comfort. Of course, the Rivian R1S doesn’t have the adjustability of the Wrangler, but if you don’t plan on taking on particularly tough trails, this is one of the most well-rounded vehicles out there.

While electricity is not necessarily the mode of propulsion of the future (hydrogen and other alternative fuels are also being developed), cars like Rivian certainly have a bright future. You see, in big cities like Los Angeles, where emissions regulations are becoming stricter by the day, electric cars make sense for the consumer. The recent surge in interest in outdoor activities such as off-roading and camping also makes the combination of an electric powertrain and an off-road vehicle ideal for large cities located near national parks.

So, other than being the most capable electric SUV on the market, the Rvian R1S also enables electric vehicle buyers to explore nature and discover places that ordinary vehicles cannot reach.

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