Rivian R2 vs Tesla Model Y: Can the R2 challenge the Model Y’s dominance?

Rivian R2
Rivian

Rivian has finally unveiled the new Rivian R2 SUV, it’s long-awaited, more affordable take on an electric SUV. The vehicle isn’t quite as big, or as impressive, as the R1S — but it does represent a compelling option for those who want a large utility EV without paying more than $70,000.

But, of course, the vehicle goes up against some seriously tough competition. The Tesla Model Y, for example, may not be an SUV, but it is a crossover-size car, and it is not only the bestselling EV, but it was the bestselling car in the world in 2023.

How do the Rivian R2 and the Tesla Model Y compare? Here’s a look at the two, head-to-head.

Design

The overall designs of the Tesla Model Y and the Rivian R2 are radically different, and it all starts with the size of the cars.

The Tesla Model Y isn’t quite an SUV — despite what some branding might have you believe. It’s more of a crossover, with a hatchback trunk and a tall roofline. It has slanted headlights at the front, flush door handles, and a minimalistic, sleek overall look. Some might feel that the Tesla Model Y’s design is getting a little tired, and perhaps it is, however it’s hard to argue against the car being stylish overall.

Tesla Model Y
Tesla Inc

The Rivian R2 is also pretty stylish—and unlike the Model Y, it is an SUV. It has a blockier, boxier design, ensuring that it has a little more space on the interior. The Model Y looks like a Tesla and the R2 looks like a Rivian. It offers the same oval headlights on the front as the R1S and R1T, with a long light bar that extends across the rear. It’s also a good-looking vehicle and a little more rugged-looking than the Model Y.

We’re not going to argue that the Model Y or R2 is better-looking than the other. The fact is that the designs are quite different, so you’ll have to decide for yourself which you prefer.

Interior and tech

The interiors of the cars are pretty different, too. The Model Y is built to offer a minimalistic and stripped-back look and feel, and it achieves that. The car has a stark interior, with a relatively large infotainment display at the front. In its base form, the Model Y has two rows of seats with and option for a third row of seats.

Interior of the Rivian R2
Rivian

The Rivian R2 has more space on the inside, but you can’t add a third row of seats. Rivian does allow drivers to take advantage of that space in other ways. For example, you can fold down both the second and first row of seats, meaning there’s enough room for an air mattress, making it perfect for camping. The interior of the R2 is also a little more rugged than that of the Model Y, and it also offers a large infotainment display at the front.

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

Performance

The R2 and the Model Y are both high-performing vehicles. In its current iteration, the Tesla Model Y is available in single-motor or dual-motor variants. The base single-motor model is rear-wheel-drive and can reach 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds. Upgrade to the Long Range model, and you’ll reach 60 in 4.8 seconds, or 3.5 seconds for the Performance model. That’s pretty quick.

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

The Rivian R2 will be pretty fast, too, though there’s still a lot we don’t know about the car’s performance. Rivian has announced it won’t be shipping until 2026, and we don’t know what the different trims and models will offer in terms of performance. We do know that the Rivian R2 will be available in single-motor, dual-motor, and tri-model variants, with the tri-motor model getting from 0 to 60 miles per hour in “less than 3 seconds.”

That is for the top-performance 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 the Rivian R2 at least have options for decent range.

The base model of the Tesla Model Y has a slightly lower range, sitting in at 260 miles. The Long Range model, with its larger battery, steps up range to 310 miles, while the Performance model has 279 miles. These figures aren’t all that impressive, so hopefully, by 2026, when the R2 ships, the Model Y will be a little higher in this regard. The Model Y can charge at up to 250 kilowatts at a compatible Tesla Supercharger.

Ford EVs at a Tesla Supercharger station.
Ford

Of course, we don’t know the range of all the R2 models just yet. We do know that the R2 will be “over 300 miles” in range, but that seems to be for the larger battery models. The base R2 may be a little lower.

The charging speed on the R2 is expected to be similar to the R1S, which sits in at around 220kW. Hopefully, Rivian will step up charging speed a little by 2026, though we’ll have to wait and see.

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

Pricing and availability

The Tesla Model Y has been available for some time now and can be ordered right now. It starts at $43,990 for the base Model Y, and it qualifies for the full $7,500 federal EV tax credit, which can be applied when you purchase the vehicle.

The pricing and availability of the R2 is a little less clear. Rivian says that 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 remains the case as we get closer to the release date. Rivian claims the vehicle will also qualify for the full $7,500 federal EV tax credit. You can “reserve” an R2 right now, which basically just involves paying a refundable $100 deposit to get your place in line.

Conclusions

The Tesla Model Y and Rivian R2 are pretty different vehicles. The Model Y is a crossover, while the R2 is an SUV. The R2 is rugged and big, while the Model Y is a little more sleek and curved. And, of course, the Model Y is actually available, while the R2 won’t be for some time.

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