How Rivian is marketing its $45,000 electric R2 SUV

Last week the electric car maker Rivian unveiled the R2, its latest electric SUV. When the vehicle rolls off production lines – in the first half of 2026, Rivian says – the R2 will join the R1S SUV and R1T pickup in the automaker’s lineup.

Crucially, Rivian promises that its latest model will be cheaper: at “about” $45,000, according to Rivian’s press materials, the SUV will cost about $30,000 less than its larger SUV cousin, and will still have a range of about have 480 kilometers.

Delivering the performance to make the new SUV more affordable without sacrificing range or style should not only be critical to making Rivian’s latest ride stand out in an increasingly crowded field of electric vehicles – it could also save the company . How did Rivian make it work? “R1 is designed by addition. It is our premium flagship. We have to say yes to a lot of things,” Jeff Hammoud, the automaker’s chief design officer, said last week at an R2 unveiling event in Laguna Beach, California. “With R2 we really think about: what do we have to say no to to get the price down?”

It’s still early, but the calculation seems to have worked: Rivian reported that more than 68,000 reservations were accepted in the first 24 hours after the SUV’s unveiling.

Rivian R1S drives through a neighborhood street

Rivian’s flagship SUV R1S, pictured above, is larger, more feature-rich and costs $30,000 more than the new R2. However, the R2 dropped the extra cost without making any major sacrifices in range, design or experience.

Photo: Rivia

For the electric carmaker’s design team, the trick to creating what executives called the “more accessible” R2 was to retain the design language of the original SUV — the elements that make it distinctly a Rivian — while cutting production and material costs. lower wherever they could. So the R2 has Rivian’s signature front fascia, complete with smiling headlights, and looks like a shrunken version of the R1S. (The new vehicle seats five instead of seven.) Reducing costs came down to smart engineering.

After a long day of showing off the R2 and its surprise crossover counterpart, the R3, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe spoke with WIRED to discuss the small compromises his engineering and design teams made that help make the new SUV work.

Hanging system

In an effort to turn the R1 line into a sports car/off-roader hybrid, Rivian had to pull out all the stops when it came to the suspension system. Because electric batteries are heavythe vehicle needed air springs to ensure that it could get the ground clearance needed to travel on rough roads, but also to get the stability to make the ride feel comfortable and smooth. An electro-hydraulic roll control system helps the R1 navigate tight corners – the sports car’s part – to absorb terrain shock and maximize wheel articulation so that as many wheels as possible can maintain contact with even the most treacherous terrain. The beautiful system also provided some wonderful benefits. For example, Camp mode uses the suspension system to level the R1’s chassis on uneven terrain, making it more comfortable for sleeping or cooking, or just hanging out in the vehicle or truck bed.

But that complex and expensive suspension system wouldn’t work for the R2, Scaringe says. To reduce production costs, the SUV has a fixed ride height and fixed roll control. Instead of an independent double wishbone front suspension design – which uses two arms to connect each wheel to the chassis – the R2 uses a strut.

The change “was absolutely the right thing to do,” Scaringe says, because it performs well in internal safety tests, saves the automaker “hundreds of dollars” and has the added benefit of giving the R2 more front storage space.

Rear windows

For the R2, Rivian designers wanted to give passengers a classic open-air adventure car experience, like that found on a safari in a Toyota Landcruiser. That’s why the team decided to provide the rear passenger windows with full glass. Easier said than done. Many vehicles, including the R1S, have a fixed side window, separated from the part that rolls down by a strip of metal and rubber called a separation bar. The configuration makes sense for many vehicles because the rear passenger doors overlap the leading edge of the rear wheelbases, meaning the small portion of glass behind the dividing bar has nowhere to go.

So to get that window glass down, Rivian’s design team had to spend a lot of time playing with the size of the R2’s rear doors. “That caused things to grow to crazy proportions for a while,” says Scaringe. Ultimately, the final configuration allows the entire rear windows to fall. It also allows Rivian to save money on glass, separator bars and sealants.

Behind the table

Hammoud, Rivian’s design head, says R1S owners really love the SUV’s split tailgate. It opens like a clamshell, allowing smaller people to access the trunk more easily, and also giving people a seat protected from the elements. But that setup is quite pricey. In the R2, Rivian has ditched the split tailgate, but added a handy table at the back, which can be used inside the car on picnics or camping trips, but can also be folded outside the car to be used as a seat or changing table.

Portable Bluetooth speaker

The R1 line comes with a built-in, removable Bluetooth speaker, which also emits a soft, yellow glow: a nice mood setter at the campsite. But mood setting isn’t free. The R2 does not come with the speaker. Too bad, but necessary to keep costs low.

Frunk

Rivian is happy to talk about its software-first approach. The vehicles continuously collect data. For that reason, the automaker knows that drivers are really using the front trunk, or “frunk,” the storage space that usually houses a gasoline-powered car’s engine. Scaringe credits the popularity of the R1 frunk to its very easy-to-use open-and-close technology, which allows people to open and close the thing by double-tapping a button on the key fob or pressing a button on the front. no need to push or prod.

But that system is expensive. On the R2, the frunk still opens at the push of a button, releasing a latch on the inside. But there is a small strap dangling from the inside of the compartment lid. Drivers only need to give the leash a gentle tug before a cinch takes over and closes the frunk tightly. “It’s exactly the right tradeoff for a $45,000 car,” Scaringe says. Rivian will only really find out whether drivers agree in two years, when the R2 rolls out of the factory and onto American roads.

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