2023 Rivian R1S Launch Edition Review

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Motor: 4x permanent-magnet synchronous motor
Battery Capacity: 128.9 kWh
Output: 835 hp, 900 lb-ft
Transmission: 1AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPGe): 69/60/64
CAN fuel economy (Le/100KM): 3.6/3.9/3.7
Range: 274 mi / 425 km
Starting Price (USD): $79,800 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $100,150 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $105,250 (w/o dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $139,150 (w/o dest.)

You know what we don’t have whole lot of electric examples of? Convertibles, two-doors, and three-row SUVs.

Now Rivian can’t really help us with those first two categories—at least not currently—but it can offer a three-row SUV for the family with this, the 2023 Rivian R1S Launch Edition.

I recently spent a day with this blocky-chic, all-electric SUV in beautiful British Columbia. In that time the R1S experienced all four seasons, drove up a mountain, and just generally impressed—especially as only the second product from the start-up brand. It was imperfect and pricey, but the R1S’ sense of adventure sure is contagious, and its appeal is undeniable.

Get a Quote on a New 2023 Rivian R1S

What’s new?

As I mentioned above, the R1S is the sophomore vehicle from Rivian. It shares much of its platform and underpinnings with the R1T pickup, however, including in this case the quad-motor powertrain. This is one of the most powerful SUVs you can buy, spitting out a faintly believable 835 horsepower and 900 pound-feet of torque. Despite those figures, with an 128.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack slung under the floor, the EPA estimates the R1S will still do 328 miles (528 kilometers) on a single charge.

While the S shrinks by a little over 16 inches (406 millimeters) from end-to-end compared to the T, the closed bodywork allows it to squeeze in a third row of seats. That squared-off styling can make it hard to judge just how big the Riv is; at 200.8 inches (5,100 mm), it’s smack dab between a Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse.

Judging by the traffic that I passed, the R1S might be the most BC car imaginable. This is an area overflowing with vehicles running around with bike racks or roof racks or some sort of tent camping situation on them. The R1S blends right in: it looks solidly off-road, rugged yet still kind of high-end. That stand-out front lighting signature makes it easily identifiable from 100 yards out, too—and is no doubt one of the reasons I’m approached and asked questions every time I stop somewhere.

Since I’ve driven the R1S, Rivian has added the Performance Dual-Motor AWD option, a new Goldilocks choice for both the R1S and R1T. It adds 100 more hp and lb-ft to the mix over the entry-level two-motor, now totalling 700 each. Both dual-motor options can also be spec’d with the new, larger Max battery pack. Buyers have to give up true, independent torque vectoring—there’s still front-to-rear—but gain even more range at up to 400 miles (644 km).

Four-Season Friend

As I alluded to in the intro, the local weather was particularly eclectic on my day with the R1S. Leaving Vancouver? A typically damp, early Spring day. By the time we’d climbed our way up to Cypress Bowl for photos, it’s a full-on winter wonderland. As I dipped back under the cloud cover for lunch, a summer sun was shining through the Riv’s big, UV-shielding roof.

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My destination is a logging route about an hour north of town, one that has kept the auburn hues of autumn. It’s here where the Rivian’s optional All-Terrain Upgrade pack can really shine. Checking this box swaps in smaller 20-inch alloys shod in, well, all-terrain rubber, along with reinforced underbody guards. Doing this shaves 57 miles (92 km) off the range.

What first gets my attention is that the throttle pedal, or whatever you want to call it—the propulsion pedal?—is really softly damped for when you’re driving off-road, because this thing does have a whole lot of horsepower and you don’t want to be jerky off-road. You want to be able to very evenly and deliberately distribute your power, and that’s what this allows for: smooth sailing as we keep climbing.

The R1S has tons of different driving modes, especially the off-road setting, where you’ve got five other modes in there. Sub-modes? Sub-modes! You’re looking at a choice of All-Terrain, Soft Sand, Rock Crawl, Rally, or Drift. Needless to say I don’t playing around with Drift on this very narrow logging road, but I do partake in Rally.

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Okay but like, how Rally is it? The steering in this mode is noticeably quicker and sharper than in the other modes, and it does mean the R1S is pretty fun to chuck around on this road. The R1S does feel smaller than its actual dimensions, which is a compliment that I would pay to most EVs these days. Having the battery so low does make for a good center of gravity. Like a Raptor, the ride tends to get better as you add speed, too. Move slowly and you’ll catch every single rut. Pick up the pace and the R1S and its air suspension simply float over bumps.

Further up, I play with All-Terrain mode. Here you can unlock the R1S’ most extreme ride height, which offers up 15 inches (38 cm) of ground clearance. Shortly after, I experience snow for the second time of the day. I swap into the appropriate mode and the R1S presses onward like a battleship, unperturbed by these puny drifts.

We do eventually have to turn around. Over a foot of snow, with no tracks, up a steep incline that’s barely wider than the SUV itself, isn’t a smart play this high up and far away from civilization. Final off-road thoughts as I connect back with tarmac? The R1S never feels like it’s having to put in much effort—because the route isn’t super-challenging—but it remains composed and calm, and that means the driver will stay calm, and that’s an important win.

On-Road Manners

As much as I want to pretend every R1S driver is going to be climbing mountains every day of the week, it’s probably important to address how this vehicle drives on tarmac. As I head back to Vancouver, I’ve switched into Conserve mode. Now Conserve mode turns this into—I know, I know, cover your ears enthusiasts—a front-wheel drive SUV.

That’s not a problem.

I’m on dry tarmac going pretty much the same speed, with slight curves here and there. I don’t see a problem with it. In fact, I was in Conserve mode when I first got to the logging road, and didn’t even remember to switch into one of the more appropriate off-road settings until a few kilometers in. So it’s more than good enough for everyday driving.

What I do really enjoy in the Rivian is that the ride stiffness setting overrides drive mode settings. If I chose stiff for Conserve, if I switch to Snow mode, it keeps the stiff suspension setting, so I don’t have to switch it every time I swap drive modes.

Sport mode is good for a laugh, too. This drops the body as low as it’ll go and sends more torque rearwards. Rivian quotes a run to 60 mph (96 km/h) in just 3.0 seconds. I’m, uh, not sure the all-terrain tires really add any time to that…

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Stylish interior

This Launch Edition R1S impresses with a tightly-constructed interior. It comes with really nice vegan leather trimmings just about everywhere, with just a bit of contrast stitching to pop. It’s also got genuine dark gray, open-pore ash wood trim lining the centre console and covering the dashboard—it looks excellent, and very cool. I also appreciate the pop-out cupholders, since they keep the front row open and airy when not in use.

From the driver’s seat, sightlines are good, and seat comfort is excellent: I spent all day behind the wheel and never felt fatigued. The second-row bench seating is also pretty darned accommodating. The third row pair? Not so much. It’s fine, but legroom is tight enough to have adults second-guessing any extended trips in the way-back. There’s some road noise, but I’d have to try the regular tires to know how much the all-terrains are to blame.

Total storage space is up to 104.7 cubic feet (2,966 liters) with the two rear rows folded flat, and there’s and additional 11 cubes (311 L) in the frunk.

2023 Rivian R1S Launch Edition: Quirky tech

Rivian has really gone for an ultra-minimalist tech setup here. There are a handful of touchpoints. You’ve basically got two scroll wheels on the steering wheel, and unmarked buttons on either side of them. Beyond that, everything is taken care of in the wide, very high-res, very sharp-looking touchscreen. Yeah, it looks great, but the fact of the matter is it is a touchscreen, and it does create a bit of a learning curve at first. There are myriad settings that you can adjust in the Rivian, and you’re going to have to dive into some menus to do it. That being said, I don’t think you’re going to be doing that that often on every drive. So you can find your settings, save them, and it will keep them going for a long time.

This is a start-up EV; there’s going to be some changes, some different approaches to some of the more established moves. Something I don’t love, for example: you have to dive into a menu to adjust your side mirrors—I don’t get it either. Also if you’re looking for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: sorry!

I do love the R1S’s adventure-oriented features, from the removable front speaker (don’t worry, there are 23 within the cabin), to the one-touch feature that levels the vehicle for camping.

Another weird design choice: adaptive cruise control. For that, you use the column-mounted shifter, and shift down twice—like going to Drive, but again. That will turn on adaptive cruise. Then you use the scroll wheel to determine your gap from the car in front of you, or you use the left and right buttons to determine your speed.

It’s a little weird at first, but after that initial use it’s a pretty simple system to understand. If you want to get out of adaptive cruise, you just shift up once and you’re back in Drive.

The ACC display in the instrument panel is handy, however, with a pretty accurate representation of where the vehicle is placed in the lane and surrounding traffic. If you move to close to the edge, the lines will go red, and the wheel will gently vibrate and push you back into the lane (if you have that setting turned on, of course).

2023 Rivian R1S Launch Edition: Dollars and sense

Pricing for the R1S kicks off at $78,000 ($105,250 CAD) before destination, for a dual-motor model. Graduating to this quad-motor setup swells the price to $92,000 ($124,500 CAD). As this tester’s name suggests, it’s got all the bells and whistles, which ends up at $98,350 ($139,150 CAD), pre-destination.

The brand’s roll-out in Canada is just starting. Vancouver is the first location, and a brand spokesperson told AutoGuide to expect an Ontario spot before the end of the year.

A lot of cash? Absolutely, especially in Canada. But consider our full-size SUV comparison from late last year. In America, the Riv is within a grand of the GMC Yukon Denali. The Yukon has half the horsepower, less off-road ability, and a more spacious third row. Oh, and it’ll barely go further on a tank of gas—premium, at that.

On the charging front, the R1S is rated up to 220 kW of quick-charge power. The onboard charger is rated to 11.5 kW, which could translate to a full charge in around 11 hours with the right setup.

Verdict: 2023 Rivian R1S Launch Edition Review

Sure, it might not have a whole lot of competition right now, but the 2023 Rivian R1S Launch Edition is a deeply impressive vehicle. This all-electric three-row SUV is comfortable and capable, off-road or on. There are some minor quibbles, namely the do-it-all touchscreen and the road noise. The latter is more a matter of taste than anything; the R1S is decidedly more truck-like than other e-SUVs, and the trade-off there is the ability to go way off the beaten path.

Of course, with all those qualifications, the R1S becomes expensive. But if you want the best, you have to pay.

Discuss this story on our Rivian R1S Forum


How much does the 2023 Rivian R1S cost?

The 2023 Rivian R1S costs from $78,000 ($105,250 CAD) for a dual-motor model.

When can you buy the 2023 Rivian R1S?

Reservations are open now, though new ones in Canada may not see deliveries until 2024.

Is the Rivian R1S the fastest SUV?

It’s one of them, with the 835-horsepower quad-motor model capable of 60 mph (96 km/h) in 3.0 seconds.

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  • Cool looks, inside and out
  • Serious capability, on-road and off
  • Feels like the future


  • Too much reliance on touchscreen
  • All-Terrains demolish range
  • Third row is mostly kid-only
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

More by Kyle Patrick

Join the conversation
  • R1S LE Owner R1S LE Owner on May 18, 2023

    Hmm, the R1S Launch Edition sold out with the 2022. So I suspect you either have a 2022 R1S LE or a 2023 R1S Adventure trim.

  • R1S LE Owner R1S LE Owner on May 18, 2023

    I've had average size adults sit comfortably in the third row seats. Granted you wouldn't want to do a cross-country road trip back there but fine for around town and reasonable distant drives.