Off-Roading 101: Ford and Jeep Compete & Whither Rivian

Coast2Coast

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I'm not an off-roader though I did on occasion take my Land Cruiser into the wilds of BC and Washington State when I worked in Vancouver years ago.

We've seen videos showing the R1T in off-road testing - trail running, rock climbing, drifting and the like. Ford just unveiled its Bronco revamp and Jeep introduced a new Wrangler last year. Here's a detailed examination of these two off-road beasts, and the choices Ford and Jeep made to give them beast levels of capability.
https://jalopnik.com/an-extremely-detailed-look-into-the-ford-broncos-engine-1844389830

I don't think Rivian aims to be an off-road beast. Camping, overlanding and remote trail exploring seem to be more where it's aiming, but the arrival of the Bronco and Wrangler make me wonder exactly what off-road markets Rivian is targeting? If we categorize off-roading as mild, moderate and extreme, the first two seem to be the target. That's fine as long as large numbers of Rivian owners aren't interested in heavy off-roading.

But I raise the issue as a matter of market positioning. Two years ago, when Rivian brought its prototypes to the LA Auto Show, there wasn't any competition, either in terms of BEV trucks or modern, general purpose adventure vehicles. Now, the two categories are filling up. If they are combined, there's only Rivian at present, but that leaves me wondering how off-road capable the CT will be and when the off-road versions of BEV Ford F-150s and GM Hummers will arrive.

I guess I'm stuck. Is it better to be first and potentially define what a market might be or be a late comer/fast follower and benefit from early bird mistakes? The conventional wisdom has been in capital intensive industries that don't change a lot technically, the auto industry, as a classic example, it's better to be a first mover. But the alternative energy, truck market is not classic and battery, battery management and AV technologies are moving pretty fast.

I still feel Rivian's doing it right and there's an awful lot to getting it right, but I am getting antsy. I wish the configurator was here and the lines in Normal were ready to roll. Is anyone else worried about how the market is filling up and potentially filling in? The silver lining is the Amazon order and investment, but I don't think Rivian wants to be known as the BEV commercial van pioneer.
 
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There is plenty of competition for adventure vehicles in the ICE space. Land Rover and Jeep come to mind, before worrying about the new Ford Bronco. Rivian was the first to announce a pickup truck as a Bev (discounting the old electric Ford Ranger), but there are now many Bev pickup trucks that have been announced. The question is, when are those pickup trucks going to be available? Tesla says late 2021 for cybertruck, but I doubt it will be out in 2021. They still need to complete goverment approvals to buy the land, build a factory and set up manufacturing for a completely new vehicle. Lordstown just delayed (it was never going to be available this year) their pickup truck to summer 2021 and I sincerely doubt it will be available then. Most of the other pickups are going to be available in 2022 or 2023. The question for Rivian is exactly when in 2021 are they going to start production, how quickly can they ramp up production, and how much demand is there? Rivian has achieved incredible excitement in the ev space and everyone, reporters and consumers alike, is eagerly awaiting an opportunity to get behind the wheel.

We are all getting antsy, but that just comes with the territory (Also, the pandemic has reduced our other outlets, so we have more time to fret about Rivian). Rivian, Tesla and all of the other startups have to run as fast as they can, because monsters are chasing them.
 

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Ford just unveiled its Bronco revamp and Jeep introduced a new Wrangler last year. Here's a detailed examination of these two off-road beasts, and the choices Ford and Jeep made to give them beast levels of capability.
https://jalopnik.com/an-extremely-detailed-look-into-the-ford-broncos-engine-1844389830
...
That was a nice detailed examination. I'd love to read an engineering level review of the Rivian platform, even (or maybe especially) if it was written by an engineer working on it.
 

BillArnett

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For serious off-roading the Rivian doesn’t really match up to either the Bronco or certainly not the Wrangler. But it wouldn’t take much to fix that. As the quoted review says, the most important thing is geometry. Rivian is actually a bit better on breakover angle but it falls down badly on approach and departure. I suspect this isn’t that hard to fix: just get rid of the plastic s**t under the bumpers. Or at least beef it up so that. If you scrap a rock it won’t damage anything more than paint. But IMHO even more important is tires. When I went from 35s on my old Jeep to 37s it made a HUGE difference on anything bumpier than gravel or smooth packed dirt. If the wheel arches were. Just a couple of inches taller 37s would fit. Also, Rivian’s huge rims make the sidewalls so short that airing down is going to be iffy. And as every off-reader knows airing down is the first and most important thing you can do to improve almost everything. I usually run 15psi when off road. (Yes, I know shorter sidewall are an advantage on the highway. But give me the ability to do my own trade offs in that respect.)

The 4 motor design and huge horsepower give Rivian a big advantage. And it will be much nicer on the highway than a. Jeep. But with just a few little tweaks it could be a serious off-reader, too.
 

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With precise torque & traction control at each wheel, and low center of gravity, the Rivians should be incredible offroad machines.

I wouldn't take one hardcore rock crawling... that's what Jeeps (and buggies) are for, but Rivian should handle everything that 95% of people will throw at them.
 

skyote

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Also, Rivian’s huge rims make the sidewalls so short that airing down is going to be iffy. And as every off-reader knows airing down is the first and most important thing you can do to improve almost everything. I usually run 15psi when off road. (Yes, I know shorter sidewall are an advantage on the highway. But give me the ability to do my own trade offs in that respect.)
I think the 20" wheels w/ ~34" tires are a decent tradeoff. Should handle well enough on the road, and have enough sidewall for aired-down traction. That will be my config on my R1S, which will spend most of the time on road but still spend plenty of time off the pavement too (but not in the serious rocks).
 

BillArnett

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I agree on your 95%. But I'm in the other 5%. What people mean by "hardcore rock crawling" depends greatly on where you're coming from. To me "hardcore" is trails like Pritchett Canyon in Moab or Fordyce Creek in Tahoe. That's not me. But I've done the Rubicon a couple of times once on 35s and again on 37s. It took 1/2 as long with the 37s and it was much more enjoyable. The Rivian's 34s and poor angles are going to make it much more difficult (and hence less enjoyable, IMHO). Another example is the Poison Spider Mesa trail in Moab. It's beautiful and fun but there are a few spots that would be very difficult if not impossible in a Rivian.
 
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BillArnett

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With my 37s I have about 14" under the transfer case, less under the diffs. With the 35s it was a bit less. (My Jeep also has a 2.5" lift.) Rivian is very good in ground clearance. And that's good. But the deal with the tires is not so much to get more clearance but to get better traction. More rubber on the rocks is always good. My 37s are also very wide, 13.5" which also helps. (37x13.5R17 Cooper STT Pros) I don't expect the Rivian to have much difficulty with respect to ground clearance. But that doesn't do much good if you can't even start up the obstacle because the bumper hits or you can't get any traction with the little tires.

It will be nice on the highway. And easy dirt roads. But if that's all I wanted to do I would just take my Tesla.
 

BillArnett

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Nice rig. Those rock rails are another thing that Rivian needs to think about.
 

jarross

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Much of what is being discussed are serious niche applications. And the points above may be spot on. I suspect that many of the fears will be unfounded in application. I also suspect that after market modifications will address any shortcomings. In particular the tires. Most people aren't considering how well armored that undercarriage really is. The engineers make it sound bomb-proof and certainly more durable than conventional undercarriages. Running with much larger tires will decrease range significantly.
 
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