Second-Gen Rivians Are Quicker, Go Farther, Add New Features

BEV maker substantially improves existing vehicles’ powertrains, electrical architecture, ADAS platform, battery technology and more.

Doug Newcomb

June 24, 2024

5 Min Read
Second-gen Rivians' propulsion systems designed, engineered, built in-house.

SEATTLE – The list of cars that can rocket from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in under 3 seconds is extensive and naturally consists of high-performance vehicles. Atop the very short list of pickups that can hit 60 mph in less than 3 seconds is the all-electric Rivian R1T with the automaker’s latest Quad Motor powertrain. We found this out firsthand at Pacific Raceways here, achieving a 2.96-second 0-60 run.

That’s close to the R1T’s claimed 0-60 speed of 2.5 seconds when equipped with the 1,025-hp Quad Motor that produces 1,198 lb.-ft. (1,624 Nm) of torque that just nips the Tesla Cybertruck’s 2.6-second time.

With a top 2.6-second 0-60 time, the Rivian R1S SUV is not far behind. It’s more than enough power for the Seattle freeways and surface streets we drove during a two-day media program Rivian hosted to showcase the second-generation R1 vehicles. And plenty to crown the R1T and R1S the world’s quickest all-electric pickup and SUV.


New powertrains and other gen-two improvements also allowed the vehicles to effortlessly traverse an off-road course at the DirtFish Rally School near here. Several passes through foot-deep water, up and down steep embankments and over large rocks on a soggy Seattle day in the R1T and R1S proved how ultra-capable the vehicles are off-road. And whether at the track, on the freeway or in the mud, the gen-two improvements provide impressive power and poise with equal parts confidence and comfort.

More Than 600 Parts Replaced

The second-generation Rivian R1 vehicles don’t appear appreciably different from their predecessors, except for subtle changes to several design elements and new tire choices. But Rivian replaced more than 600 parts on the vehicles, says Wassym Bensaid, Rivian’s chief software officer.. “We not only improved the performance but almost everything about the user experience,” he adds. The upgrades range from completely new electric drive systems to revised battery technology, from a substantially streamlined electrical architecture to a more powerful autonomy platform.

New Quad-Motor and Tri-Motor configurations are the first entirely designed, engineered and built from scratch by Rivian, and the company also brought development of its Dual-Motor system in-house. “This allows everything to be vertically integrated and improves manufacturing efficiency,” says Mason Verbridge, principal drive unit engineer.

Last year Rivian introduced a single motor propulsion system (also used in Amazon’s electric delivery vans) that helps reduce vehicle cost and increases powertrain flexibility. “The single motor gets us to a lower price,” Verbridge says. “We’re able to offer a Tri-Motor that’s a sweet spot from a product standpoint: You get the range of the Dual-Motor but acceleration of the outgoing Quad.”

New Battery Packs for Better Range

Rivian’s new Large and Max battery packs feature redesigned modules and more efficient packaging that expand capacity. As part of the upgrade, Rivian switched from 50 amp-hour cells to 52-amp-hour cells. “We get more capacity out of the same volume, which enables the 420-mile (676-km) range with the Dual-Motor on the range tires,” says Max Koff, Rivian’s director of new technologies. Rivian also now makes a lower-cost lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery pack available for entry-level models.  

A completely new electrical architecture reduces the number of ECUs from 17 in gen-one vehicles to seven in gen two and eliminates 1.6 miles (2.6 km) of wiring and 44 lbs. (19.9 kg) of copper. Gen one was a domain-based architecture with specific ECUs for specific functions all over the vehicles, with wires run in an octopus configuration,” says Kyle Lobo, director, electrical systems.

The new architecture places multifunction ECUs in locations for the shortest possible wire runs. “We were able to put things like vehicle dynamics, body control and thermal management on one processor,” Lobo adds. “The result is a massive reduction in complexity with less parts to install on the assembly line and fewer connections that can fail.”  

The Most Powerful Computer People Will Own

ADAS functions exponentially improve by using 11 cameras, five radar sensors, a larger computer and machine-learning technology. The second-generation camera system is 10 times more powerful and the compute system can perform 250 trillion operations per second (TOPS), notes James Philbin, vice president of autonomy. By comparison, the latest iPhone’s compute power is about 35 TOPS and a brand-new laptop is around 50 TOPS, while the Rivian Autonomy Platform’s computer can run 250 TOPS.  “A Rivian is the most powerful computer most people will own,” Philbin adds.

While the ADAS system is standard on all Rivian vehicles, and a premium version that adds automatic lane change and enhanced lane-centering will be available later this year, they’re not compatible with first-generation vehicles. “We built the perception stack from the ground up,” Philbin says. “The computer and sensors are so advanced that gen two is a 10X improvement.”

Other upgrades include a re-engineered suspension for better handling and new lighting features such as programmable hazard lights and headlights that dynamically react to oncoming traffic. Two new premium Ascend trims are offered along with new Storm Blue exterior paint and blackout-trim options.  

Screens inside get newly designed user interfaces created in partnership with Epic Games using the videogame company’s Real Engine graphics, while interior lighting can be customized and new interior color schemes are available. A Rivian-developed premium audio system offers Dolby Atmos surround sound and Apple Music integration, while a new Connect+ subscription service provides streaming video via Google Cast and access to more than 3,000 apps.

The second-generation R1S starts at $75,900 and R1T starts at $69,900, with deliveries available immediately, although some of the new features will be available later through over-the-air software updates. Production is based in Normal, IL.

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