Rivian R2 unveiled: a $45,000 electric off-roader for the masses

Rivian unveiled its next electric vehicle, the R2, a cheaper SUV that the company expects will have much broader appeal than its stylish – and expensive – R1T trucks and R1S SUVs.

The R2 won’t go into production until the first half of 2026, but when it does it will have an estimated range of more than 300 miles, a 0-60 mph time of three seconds and a starting price of 45,000 dollars. below the current average sales price for a new combustion engine vehicle. The price could be even lower if it qualifies for the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.

Interested buyers can pre-order an R2 starting today for $100, with deliveries expected to begin in the first half of 2026. Whether Rivian can stick to that schedule will be a central challenge for the EV company. For example, for the R1T truck, some of the first customers had to endure long wait times before receiving their EV.

Making an electric vehicle that is affordable to a broader group of people is crucial to Rivian’s long-term viability. The company’s R1T truck starts at $70,000, while the R1S SUV starts at $76,000 and can go up to $88,000. Rivian needs a cheaper vehicle if it wants to successfully compete with Tesla and other legacy automakers that currently dominate the sales chart.

Since emerging from stealth mode in 2018, the company has positioned itself as a maker of adventure vehicles ideal for camping and off-road antics. Sure, Rivian’s vehicles are mainly used for more mundane excursions, like trips to Home Depot and football practices. But Rivian knows that some of the most popular vehicles on the road today are off-road and towing-capable trucks and SUVs.

Many details were leaked ahead of today’s launch, including specs, event location, and even a blurry image of the R2 itself. But Rivian still had a lot to add during the event.

The Rivian R2 comes in variants with one, two and three engines. The vehicle comes with Tesla’s NACS port built into the vehicle as standard. Interestingly, the charging ports are located at the rear of the vehicle, compared to the front like the R1T and R1S. This is likely because Tesla is placing its ports on the back for better access to the company’s Superchargers.

The R2 will feature Rivian’s new 4695 cylindrical battery cells

The R2 will feature Rivian’s new 4695 cylindrical battery cells, which are 15mm larger than Tesla’s 4680 cells. And the company promises a more powerful computer, supplemented with a sensor suite with eleven cameras and five radars. The R2 will have “dramatically improved autonomous capabilities,” although the company did not specify what level of automation it was aiming for.

It measures 185.6 inches long, which is less than two inches shorter than a Tesla Model Y or about 6 inches less than an R1S. The width is 75 inches, or 84.4 inches with the mirrors, and the height is 66.9 inches. The wheelbase is 115.6 centimeters long.

There’s a good-sized frunk (front truck) – Rivian described it as “spacious” – that can fit a carry-on suitcase and a backpack, or up to six reusable shopping bags. In keeping with its ‘adventure’ ethos, the R2 will also feature a convenient bike mounting system that easily connects to the accessory ports on the rear of the vehicle.

The interior of the R2 is a big change compared to the R1 series. Noting that they have been criticized for failing to include a glovebox in the R1T and R1S, Scaringe said they have “overdelivered” with the R2, which will have two gloveboxes. Both seem quite massive and seem ready to take whatever gloves you have.

The steering wheel also has a new feature: two giant scroll wheels. The wheels will have dynamic haptic feedback, but Scaringe says they need to be used to be truly appreciated. “It takes our existing scroll wheel and really takes it to a level that’s hard to appreciate unless you’re in the car,” he said.

The rear seats can be folded for extra space — And the front seats also fold down. Scaringe said this would be an ideal configuration for anyone interested in spending the night in their Rivian R2.

The rest of the interior seems simplified, which makes sense for a mass car. The infotainment system will run on Rivian’s own operating system and, like Tesla, does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. And the door still has a built-in flashlight on the side, a feature carried over from the R1 vehicles.

In addition to the R2, the company also announced the R3, a sportier compact SUV, and its performance variant, the R3X. Rivian said the R3 would be even cheaper than the R2, but did not reveal the exact price. Reservations for the R3 will go live at a later date.

“These represent our future,” Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said at the event. “These represent what we’ve been building… with the R1 products and in positioning Rivian to take that further and make that more accessible to more people.”

In unveiling its plans to put its next vehicle into production, Rivian faces an existential test. The company reported a loss of $1.58 billion in the last three months of 2023, bringing its net annual losses to $5.4 billion. It also announced plans to lay off 10 percent of its employees, the third round of layoffs in the past two years. It plans to close its plant in Normal, Illinois, for several weeks to make improvements to the R1 line. And construction of a new $5 billion factory in Georgia will soon take place.

The R2 cannot save Rivian alone. But it will certainly play a big role in keeping the company afloat.

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