Rivian R2 Vs. Tesla Model Y: Can the R2 Come Out on Top? | Digital Trends

Rivian

Rivian has finally introduced the new Rivian R2 SUV, the long-awaited, cheaper variant of an electric SUV. The vehicle isn’t quite as big or impressive as the R1S – but it represents a compelling option for those who want a large utility vehicle without paying more than $70,000.

But of course the vehicle has to face serious competition. The Tesla Model Y, for example, may not be an SUV, but it is a crossover-sized car, and it is not only the best-selling electric car, but also the best-selling car in the world in 2023.

How do the Rivian R2 and Tesla Model Y compare? Here’s a look at the two in direct comparison.

design

The overall designs of the Tesla Model Y and the Rivian R2 are fundamentally different, and that starts with the size of the cars.

The Tesla Model Y isn’t a real SUV – despite what some brands might have you believe. It’s more of a crossover with a hatchback trunk and a high roofline. It features slanted front headlights, flush door handles and a minimalist, elegant overall look. Some may feel that the Tesla Model Y’s design is a bit dated, and perhaps it is, but it’s hard to argue against the fact that the car is stylish overall.

Tesla Model Y
Tesla Inc

The Rivian R2 is also pretty stylish – and unlike the Model Y, it’s an SUV. The blockier, boxier design means there’s a little more space available inside. The Model Y looks like a Tesla and the R2 looks like a Rivian. It offers the same oval headlights up front as the R1S and R1T, with a long light bar extending across the rear. It’s also a good-looking vehicle and looks a bit sturdier than the Model Y.

We won’t claim that the Model Y or R2 looks better than the others. The fact is that the designs are quite different, so you have to decide for yourself which one you prefer.

Interior and technology

The interior design of the cars is also quite different. The Model Y is designed to offer a minimalist and understated look, and it achieves that. The car has a simple interior with a relatively large infotainment display at the front. In its basic form, the Model Y has two rows of seats with the option of a third row of seats.

Interior of the Rivian R2
Rivian

The Rivian R2 offers more interior space, but a third row of seats is not possible. Rivian allows drivers to use that space in other ways. For example, both the second and first row of seats can be folded down, leaving enough space for an air mattress, making it ideal for camping. The interior of the R2 is also a little more robust than that of the Model Y and also offers a large infotainment display at the front.

Neither the R2 nor the Model Y support technologies like CarPlay or Android Auto, but both have decently designed software and infotainment systems. Both also offer some self-driving features. By default, the Tesla Model Y comes with Tesla Autopilot, which includes adaptive cruise control and lane centering. As with other Tesla cars, drivers can pay to upgrade to Enhanced Autopilot or the poorly-titled “Full Self-Driving Capability.” The Rivian R2 offers an array of 11 cameras and five radar sensors to support an enhanced self-driving system that Rivian says will enable hands-free, eyes-off-the-road self-driving on highways.

Performance

Both the R2 and Model Y are high-performance vehicles. In its current version, the Tesla Model Y is available in single-engine or dual-engine variants. The single-motor base model features rear-wheel drive and can reach 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. If you upgrade to the Long Range model, you’ll hit 60 in 4.8 seconds, or 3.5 seconds on the Performance model. This happens pretty quickly.

A Tesla Model 3 rendering shows it driving down a desert road.
Tesla

The Rivian R2 will also be pretty fast, although we still know a lot about the car’s performance. Rivian has said it won’t launch until 2026, and we don’t know what the different trims and models will offer in terms of performance. We know the Rivian R2 will be available in single-motor, dual-motor, and three-motor models, with the three-motor model capable of 0-60 mph in “less than 3 seconds.”

That’s true for the top-of-the-line model – so we’ll have to wait and see how the lower-end models perform.

Range and charging

Range is an important factor to consider, and both the Tesla Model Y and Rivian R2 at least offer options for reasonable range.

The base model of the Tesla Model Y has a slightly shorter range, at 260 miles. The Long Range model with its larger battery increases the range to 310 miles, while the Performance model reaches 279 miles. These numbers aren’t exactly impressive, so hopefully the Model Y will be a little higher in this regard by 2026, when the R2 hits the market. The Model Y can be charged with up to 250 kilowatts using a compatible Tesla Supercharger.

Ford electric vehicles at a Tesla Supercharger station.
ford

Of course, we don’t yet know the range of all R2 models. While we know the R2 will have a range of “over 300 miles,” that apparently applies to the larger battery models. The base R2 may be slightly lower.

The R2’s charging speed is expected to be similar to the R1S, which is around 220 kW. Hopefully Rivian will increase charging speeds a bit by 2026, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Both the Model Y and R2 will have a North American Charging Standard (NACS) charging port.

Prices and availability

The Tesla Model Y has been available for some time and can be ordered now. Pricing starts at $43,990 for the base Model Y and is eligible for the full $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit, which can be applied toward the purchase of the vehicle.

The R2’s pricing and availability are a little less clear. Rivian says the R2 will be available in the “first half of 2026” with a starting price of $45,000, but we’ll have to see if that stays the case as the release date gets closer. Rivian claims the vehicle is also eligible for the full $7,500 federal electric vehicle tax credit. You can “reserve” an R2 now, which essentially just requires paying a refundable $100 deposit to secure your spot.

Conclusions

The Tesla Model Y and the Rivian R2 are quite different vehicles. The Model Y is a crossover while the R2 is an SUV. The R2 is sturdy and large, while the Model Y is slightly slimmer and more curved. And of course, the Model Y is actually available, while the R2 won’t be available for some time.

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