Rivian R2 Live Deep-Dive Impressions: It’s Going To Be A Hit

By automotive-mag.com 7 Min Read

There’s a concept in three-kid families called “middle child syndrome.” The oldest one gets all the glory, the youngest one gets all the attention, and the one in the middle… well, they’re just sort of there, right? We even saw this happen recently with Rivian. The original R1S and R1T turn heads wherever they go, and the surprise debut of the compact R3 and R3X sort of broke the internet. So what about the Rivian R2, which was supposed to be the star of Rivian’s big event a few weeks ago?

After spending some time checking out the R2 in person amid the New York Auto Show this week, I can personally tell you this middle child should not be ignored. And if Rivian can actually deliver this product on time, at the price it’s claimed and with the specs it’s promising, I don’t see how it won’t be a hit. Check out our latest video embedded above to see why. 

In case you’ve been under a rock these past few weeks, the Rivian R2 is the next model coming from the California EV startup. It’s styled very similarly to the bigger (and much more expensive) R1S, but sized and spec’d down to meet an aggressive planned $45,000 starting price before any tax incentives. When it goes into production in 2026, it’s meant to be Rivian’s mass-market, volume-selling electric SUV—the kind of car that can turn this scrappy startup into a stable, profitable concern. It’s a very big deal for the company’s long-term viability. 

When I walked into the Rivian Space in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District the other day, I didn’t even clock the white R2 sitting there at first. The treehouse tent up top—and we’ll get to that in a moment—threw the sizing of it off, so I thought I was looking at an R1S at first. “There it is!”, I quickly realized. And none of that is a bad thing. Rivian’s larger truck and SUV are very handsome vehicles, and Rivian was smart to keep that design language in a smaller package.

Rivian R2 Live Impressions New York City

And it is smaller. Some have compared to a Model Y, but to me, it felt a little longer and less tall than the Tesla—even though the actual dimensions reveal the opposite is true. Chalk that up to the boxier overall shape, which actually reminded me a bit of my old third-generation Toyota 4Runner. I liked that car (minus its abysmal fuel economy) because it was smaller and easier to manage than many modern truck-based SUVs. The more compact size of the R2 is going to be a huge plus here; as cool as they are, the R1S and R1T aren’t much fun to drive in a city or anywhere parking is tight. 

Rivian R2 Live Impressions New York City

But you still get a ton of practicality with the R2. The rear seats fold completely down, making it ideal for sleeping in during camping trips. If you unfurl that treehouse up top—it’s a foldable, hard-shell camper complete with a ladder and a movie projector that runs off the car’s battery—then four adults could easily sleep in and on the R2. 

Rivian R2 Live Impressions New York City

Walking around the car brings a familiar experience. The big standout has to be that Tesla NACS plug on the rear right quarter panel. Rivian officials told us that little flap door may not be what the final production car gets, but it was wild to see that port on a non-Tesla car; and yes, it works here, too. “I have to charge the car somehow,” a Rivian official told me. 

Rivian’s people told us that the R2 we got to experience was technically a concept or a prototype, but one that is very close to what customers will experience. That’s why I was eager to try the new user interface with the “haptic control dials” on the steering wheel.

Rivian R2 Click Wheels

Here, you get two small wheels on the left and right side that roll up and down, click like a mouse’s center wheel would, and also twist slightly from side to side. You use those to navigate the various functions on Rivian’s largely button-free interior (when you aren’t operating the touch screen, anyway.) Basically, they move and click in so many ways that they can do a lot of different things; Rivian tells us those functions will be highly customizable too.

Rivian R2 Live Impressions New York City

I’ll wait for actual on-road time to render a final verdict, but I was impressed by what I got to test here. It’s a novel approach that already feels better than the often-frustrating minimalist button experience on the R1S and R1T.

And yes, it has a glovebox now. Two, in fact. Happy now? 

Overall, while the R2 is smaller than the R1S, the biggest achievement here seems to be that it doesn’t feel cheaper. This is a nice interior with mostly premium-feeling materials throughout, and despite that price tag, it never feels as radically pared down as a Model Y or even a Volvo EX30. You do get examples of cost-cutting in the loss of the air suspension and fewer powered functions like the charging port door (which is fine by me.) There’s still the door-mounted flashlight, the available Bluetooth speaker, the off-road driving modes and all the goodies you’d expect from a company that injects a lot of fun into its EVs.

Rivian R2 Live Impressions New York City

The R2 is expected to go into production in the first half of 2026. When it does, it will be available in single-, dual- and tri-motor versions, the latter being able to do zero to 60 mph in under three seconds. Range is expected to top 300 miles in some variants as well. And if Rivian can really deliver on all of that, and keep its promises on pricing, it’s probably going to make a lot of people go electric for the first time ever.

Contact the author: [email protected]

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *