Rivian has been edging into the minds of nearly everyone who pays any attention to the automotive space. Between various press events, attendance at auto shows, and now the advent of customer experiences, they are embracing the newly found brand awareness with their adventure vehicles. We took some time on the Sonoma Raceway grounds to attend their First Mile experience, to see what Rivian is showcasing for future and potential customers.
The visual aesthetics immediately pointed to sustainability and the outdoors. The entire exhibit was on a bed of mulch, with wooden half-shacks put up to feature various components of the Rivian ownership lifestyle. And the lifestyle is what the brand truly wants to highlight. Rivian sees the R1T and future R1S as more than a pickup truck or SUV, but rather a lifestyle adventure vehicle. Rather than the exhibit showcasing solely the vehicle and its features, they highlighted potential environments and peripherals.
Our first stop was actually the merchandise shack, hosting an impressive variety of shirts, hats, water bottles, much of which was First Mile specific branding. Though at the moment, some of their best designs are for children-exclusive sizes. Speaking of children, they had a large tent with snacks, water and other refreshments, with a small play area for children to enjoy. However, we found that most of the kids were actually more interested in playing around and on the Rivian display units themselves.
Walking past the food truck, we came to the Color & Materials section. The front had a QR code to access the online configuration tool, but inside the exhibit were all the color samples and design artifacts Rivian used to design their exact color hues and combinations. The artifacts themselves ranged from outdoor gear, climbing accessories, hats, phone cases, ice axes, and many more.
Another lean-to was built to showcase storage in a very tangible way. Rivian had a large variety of items, including tents, sleeping bags, skis, luggage, even a large stuffed dog, all available to move from the wall. In front of this was a First Edition Green R1T with bicycle and surfboard on the roof. The bed supported two additional gear rails. The items available to interact with were to aid in visualization of actual items in the various storage spaces of the cabin, gear tunnel, front trunk, and bed. Some people even opted to see how their real dogs fit!
The center of the exhibit showed the most intriguing features for most people. A beautiful Forest Green R1T was topped with a yellow tent and the infamous camp kitchen. The camp kitchen was actually being used, as Rivian personnel made homemade popcorn complete with a unique blend of “secret spices”, though I could definitely taste the paprika and pepper. The camp kitchen features a host of high quality titanium utensils, sink, water tanks, and 2-burner electric stove. It sits atop the rail system available for the gear tunnel, plugging straight into the power therein.
Another R1T donned in Rivian Blue was showcasing the new 22” sport wheels, also featuring a Yakima tent topper. Many people tested the tent out for themselves, discovering even full-size adults could lay in it with room to spare, all mounted atop the bed via the specially-designed rails. A wooden table display showed the various type of rails that could be mounted on both the roof and bed of a Rivian to carry additional gear.
The last exhibit we came to was the charging shack, an informational area to show what the charging experience would look like for average people. This showcased their portable charger with J1772 to NEMA 1450 and standard 120V wall outlets. There was also the Rivian wall connector to give optimal charging capability from home.
Though the exhibits and visuals were intriguing and exciting, we were ready for the real show, the first drive. A large tent marked the entrance to the First Mile driving experience, where we checked in for our scheduled drive. The nature of the event is primarily for the public, getting reservation holders or simply curious minds some time behind the wheel. With that in mind, we could not exactly have a full first drive experience, putting it through all of our normal tests. But who would say no to driving a Rivian? Certainly not us.
We started up a simple dirt road, slightly wet from recent rain, and progressed to pavement. Kyle was driving and a Rivian copilot guided him on the course. We started in All-Purpose mode and tested a variety of regen braking scenarios, all of which felt very smooth. We then branched off to a soft-roading trail and engaged off-road mode, which has to be done below 20 mph. Throttle mapping is now elongated, and we drove over rugged wet grass and dirt for this section. I was quite comfortable in the back, and traction control did wonders with sending all necessary power to all four motors, though at low speed we couldn’t push it to our normal limits.
We reached a significant hill, testing its uphill and downhill crawling performance. When cresting the mound, we enabled the cameras to show what was beyond the nose of the truck. The cameras themselves are fairly low quality, one of the items to nitpick at least in this initial launch of R1T. It would be nice to see them improve in future iterations in both quality and resolution. That being said, any camera is better than none, and it helped see what was out of sight in front and below. The downhill showed the immense amount of braking capable, carefully crawling the trail back to level ground.
The last part of the route showcased the acceleration. We reached a station where they stop us, make sure the coast is clear, and send us off. Kyle launched it to 60 mph, throwing all four heads back in the seats. It’s no Model S Plaid, but the incredible power and torque are somewhat surprising in a truck or really any vehicle of this size and weight. Total power figures come out to 835 hp and 908 lb-ft torque, with the weight of over 7,000 pounds. But the way the power is delivered, you feel quick and nimble for nearly any scenario.
The Rivian First Mile events around the country are an excellent showcase of the brand, the truck, and the surrounding lifestyle. The drive itself won’t give you a full representation of its capabilities, but it provides a taste that I reckon will leave most people wanting more. But the exhibits and hands-on exploration and ample Rivian employees to walk you through it allowed for an overall great experience.