Will Rivian Get a Pass for Putting 100 HP Behind a Paywall?

Rivian R1T 10 photos
Photo: Rivian on Twitter/kysondana
Rivian R1T and R1SRivian R1T and R1SRivian R1SRivian R1TRivian R1TRivian R1TRivian R1T and R1S InteriorRivian Skateboard PlatformRivian Skateboard Platform
Rivian is one of the most promising young American automakers out there. Its EVs are cool, practical, and ready to move off the beaten path without much hassle. But should you be ok with the company's decision to artificially limit the power output of its vehicles? Let's dig in.
Last year, Rivian was in a bit of a pickle. It figured out that parts were getting more expensive with each new acquisition, and the cost of churning out the quad-motor R1T and R1S units was not letting much room for sustainable profit margins. So, it decided to hike prices for everyone, including pre-order holders. That, understandably, angered many who believed they were going to drive all-electric pickup trucks or SUVs coming from Normal, Illinois.

With no bells and whistles on, the R1T used to cost $67,500 and the R1S $70,000. These were deemed as incredible price points for what both Rivian units were capable of. They have impressed nearly everyone lately, apart from some unlucky customers who went through some problems with charging or software issues.

But Rivian quickly came to its senses after the backlash, apologized for the rash decision, and even allowed those who canceled their pre-orders to reinstate them at the original price. However, the shenanigans weren't about to stop there. A couple of months later, the automaker announced everybody that something had to change.

Rivian R1T and R1S
Photo: Rivian Automotive LLC
So, Rivian decided to cut the entry-level Explore Package altogether in August 2022. And it did so for everybody - even the early backers. R1T and R1S pre-order holders had to go back online and reconfigure their vehicles. They had to pick the better-equipped Adventure Package, which added a minimum of $5,500 to their vehicle’s price.

Very good products, poor planning, tough market

At the time of writing, the cheapest R1T (Adventure Pack, Dual Motor, and Standard Battery) costs $73,000, while the R1S is $78,000. So, you can even get the EV tax credit for the automaker’s vehicles which makes the idea of buying one today pretty enticing. Most of those who got their hands on Rivian's products are not disappointed. That alone is enough to convince prospective buyers of the startup's seriousness.

But before jumping on the criticism bandwagon, you shouldn’t forget that Rivian was struggling with everything related to production (and the last two years were a true struggle!) while some lucky early owners were flipping their R1Ts for over $135,000. Some asked for even more than that. So, you can see why the young automaker was dealing with a frustrating issue.

Still, the company had $17 billion to burn in 2022, so things weren't that gloomy. They weren’t about to go bankrupt. For investors and the future of the company, however, the decision to hike prices was the right one to make.

But pricing wasn’t the only issue. Rivian also announced that it won't deliver the R1T with the mega-cool camp kitchen cleverly hidden in the pickup truck's gear tunnel. It's going to be available eventually, but nobody knows exactly when. Besides that, according to customer reports from last year, some of those who gave up on the nifty add-on managed to scoop up a unit faster. This came as a disappointment because the EV maker already gave up on including the tank-turn capability, something that's left for the new EQG to debut next year.

Rivian R1T
Photo: Rivian Automotive LLC
Then, the power tonneau cover issue appeared. Those installed from the factory broke down for thousands of owners, so Rivian decided to stop offering them and announced it's preparing a redesign. To this day, a replacement has not been offered.

On top of all this, Rivian decided to change its plans and hurried up the cheaper dual-motor units that were initially scheduled to debut in 2024. To add salt to the wound, it removed the option to buy the quad-motor versions of its vehicles together with the biggest battery pack. If customers want the longest range, they must now pick the Dual-Motor AWD variant.

But now, the carmaker decided to pull a Tesla- or Mercedes-like move and added a middle option for the drivetrain.

Make way for the Enhanced Dual-Motor

Today, you can either pick an all-electric Dual-Motor R1T/R1S or a Quad-Motor pickup truck or SUV. For both vehicles, the upgrade from two motors for each axle to four motors with one for each wheel costs $8,000. The Irvine-based manufacturer thought this wasn’t enough.

Rivian R1S
Photo: Rivian Automotive LLC
So, it debuted the Enhanced Dual-Motor option, which sits between the Dual-Motor and the Quad-Motor Rivian vehicles. It’s only a software change, and, per the company, it should go live this month.

Right now, the situation regarding the drivetrain options is as follows:
  • dual-motor all-wheel drive – over 600 hp (608 ps), 600 lb-ft (813 Nm) of torque, zero to 60 mph (97 kph) in 4.5 seconds;
  • enhanced dual-motor all-wheel drive – around 700 hp (710 ps), 700 lb-ft (949 Nm) of torque, zero to 60 mph (97 kph) in 3.5 seconds;
  • quad-motor all-wheel drive – over 800 hp (811 ps), 900 lb-ft (1,220 Nm) of torque, zero to 60 mph (97 kph) in 3 seconds.

Keep in mind that this is data submitted by the manufacturer. Actual figures might vary depending on the spec of the vehicle, the tires, and the state of charge.

In an email sent to a couple of existing and prospective customers, Rivian said that the upcoming enhanced dual-motor all-wheel drive option is just a software upgrade. Besides changing the horsepower and torque figures, nothing else is different. " Off-road driving dynamics, including front-to-rear torque vectoring and independent brake actuation at each wheel, are identical between Dual-Motor and Enhanced Dual-Motor options,” added the company in that message.

So, customers will be able to pick the middle drivetrain option straight from the factory or pay for it separately since it just adjusts the settings via a software change that can be done over the air. Right now, pricing has not been disclosed. We will soon learn how much Rivian will charge for giving its customers the right to use their cars' drivetrain to the maximum.

Now, should Rivian be left off the hook with this new change? Well, I would dare to say yes. A pickup truck or an SUV with 600 hp is great for almost everything you might want to do. Nobody needs that one second shaved off of the naught to 60 mph time in real life. If what you are after is zero-tailpipe emission and offroad capability, then the quad-motor is the best drivetrain option for the R1T or R1S.

Finally, if a dual-motor customer may want to unlock their vehicle’s maximum potential for whatever reason, they can pay for it. Arguably, this can still be a little upsetting. Knowing that you can’t make use of your car’s entire power output unless you spend some more might nag some people. But let’s hope this feature won’t be locked away under a yearly subscription for those who didn’t pick the Enhanced version from the factory. In such a scenario, my opinion would do a 180.

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About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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