Last week, the electric automaker Rivian unveiled the R2, its latest electric SUV. When the vehicle starts rolling off production lines—in the first half of 2026, Rivian says—the R2 will join the R1S SUV and the R1T pickup truck in the automaker’s lineup.

Critically, Rivian pledges its newest entry will be cheaper: At “around” $45,000, according Rivian’s press materials, the SUV will cost some $30,000 less than its bigger SUV cousin, and will still come with about 300 miles of range.

Pulling off the feat of making its new SUV more affordable without sacrificing range or style should not only prove critical in making Rivian’s latest ride stand out in an increasingly crowded field of electric vehicles—it also might save the company. How did Rivian make it work? “R1 was designed through addition. It’s our premium flagship. We got to say yes to a lot of things,” Jeff Hammoud, the automaker’s chief design officer, said at an R2 unveiling event in Laguna Beach, California, last week. “With R2, we’re really thinking about, to get the price point down, what do we need to say no to?”

It’s early, but the math seems to have worked: Rivian reported taking more than 68,000 reservations in the first 24 hours after the SUV’s unveiling.

Rivian’s R1S flagship SUV, shown above, is bigger, richer with features, and costs $30,000 more than the new R2. However, the R2 dropped the added cost without big sacrifices in the way of range, design, or experience.

Photograph: Rivian

For the electric automaker’s design team, the trick to creating what executives called the “more accessible” R2 was to maintain the original SUV’s design language—the elements that make it clearly a Rivian—while snipping manufacturing and materials costs wherever they could. So the R2 has Rivian’s signature front, complete with smile headlights, and looks like a shrunken version of the R1S. (The new vehicle seats five people instead of seven.) Cutting more costs came down to smart engineering.

After a long day of showing off the R2 and its surprise crossover counterpart, the R3, Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe sat down with WIRED to discuss his engineering and design teams’ little compromises that help make the new SUV work.

Suspension System

In a bid to make the R1 line into a sports car/off-roader hybrid, Rivian had to go all out with its suspension system. Because electric batteries are heavy, the vehicle needed air springs to ensure it could get the ground clearance required to traverse rough roads but also the stability to make the ride feel comfortable and smooth. An electro-hydraulic roll control system helps the R1 navigate tight corners—the sports car part—absorb off-road shocks and maximize wheel articulation, so as many wheels as possible can maintain contact with even the most treacherous terrain. The fancy system also enabled some delightful perks. Camp mode, for example, uses the suspension system to level out the R1’s chassis while on uneven ground, making it more pleasant to sleep or cook in, or just hang inside the vehicle or in its truck bed.

But that complex and expensive suspension system wouldn’t work for the R2, says Scaringe. To cut down on manufacturing costs, the SUV has a fixed ride height and fixed roll control. Instead of an independent double wishbone front suspension design—using two arms to connect each wheel to the chassis—the R2 uses a strut.

The change “was absolutely the right call,” says Scaringe, because it performs well in internal safety testing, saves the automaker “hundreds of dollars,” and comes with the added advantage of giving the R2 more front storage room.

Rear Windows

For the R2, Rivian designers wanted to give passengers a classic “open-air” adventure car experience, the kind found on a safari inside a Toyota Landcruiser. So the team set out to give the rear passenger windows full-drop glass. Easier said than done. Many vehicles, including the R1S, have a fixed quarter window, separated from the portion that rolls down by a strip of metal and rubber called a division bar. The configuration makes sense for lots of vehicles, because the rear passenger doors overlap with the front of the rear wheelbases, meaning that the small portion of glass behind the division bar has nowhere to go.

So to drop that window glass, Rivian’s design team had to spend lots of time fiddling with the size of the R2’s back doors. “There were some goofy proportions for a while because of it,” says Scaringe. In the end, the final configuration allows the entire back windows to drop. It also allows Rivian to save money on glass, division bars, and sealants.

Rear Table

Hammoud, the Rivian design head, says R1S owners really love the SUV’s split rear tailgate. It opens like a clamshell, which allows easier access to the trunk by shorter humans, and also gives people a place to sit, shielded from the elements. But that setup is pretty pricey. In the R2, Rivian has nixed the split tailgate but added a handy little rear tray table, which can be used inside the car during picnics or camping jaunts but can also flip outside the car to be used as a seat or changing table.

Portable Bluetooth Speaker

The R1 line comes with a built-in, removable bluetooth speaker, which also emits a soft, yellow glow—a lovely campsite mood setter. But mood setting ain’t free. The R2 doesn’t come with the speaker. Sad, but necessary to keep costs down.

Frunk

Rivian likes to talk about its software-first approach. Indeed, its vehicles are constantly collecting data. For that reason, the automaker knows that drivers really use its front trunk, or “frunk”—the storage space where a gas-powered car’s engine usually goes. Scaringe credits the R1 frunk’s popularity to its very easy-to-use open-and-close tech, which allows people to open up and close down the thing by double-tapping a button on the key fob or depressing a button on the front fascia, no pushing or prodding required.

But that system is expensive. For the R2, the frunk still opens with the tap of a button, which releases a latch inside. But a small strap dangles from the inside lid of the compartment. Drivers only have to give the strap a light tug before a cinch takes over, closing the frunk tight. “It’s just the right trade-off for a $45,000 car,” says Scaringe. Rivian will really find out if drivers agree about two years from now when the R2 rolls out of the factory and onto American roads.

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