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Another Direct Model X vs. Rivian Comparison: My Personal Experience

It is hard to make a direct comparison between these vehicles. They are both good at different things. If you want to offroad or get adventurous in your car, go with a Rivian. If you already drive a truck and want to get into an EV, you should probably go with an R1T. If you want incredible performance in a vehicle that sits up higher than a typical sports car, go with the Model X. There are a variety of other reasons you may choose one over the other. Feel free to read below for details on why I chose the Model X.

I am extremely fortunate to be in a position to be critical of small quirks in cars that cost more than the first house I ever bought. I get it. Also, people can get pretty passionate about their opinions (guilty as charged). That said, I am not trying to change your opinions. I am simply sharing mine, hoping they may be helpful to someone.

Back in the early days of Tesla, I probably qualified as a fanboy. I bought a Model S Performance as the first ever Tesla’s were rolling off the line (not including the Roadster). I evangelized to friends and family and personally compelled a number of people to take a chance on this new electric vehicle company. I bought and leased several Tesla’s over the years and felt well cared for – until the company grew massively. Over time, the customer experience slowly deteriorated for me for a variety of reasons, and I started to feel like a sucker. The icing on the cake was the Model X refresh ordering experience, which was a total fiasco.

I ordered a Model X Plaid in January 2021. Like many others, I got jerked around with terrible and inaccurate information from Tesla, so I started to investigate alternatives. I wanted something larger than a sedan, with EV performance and features. I discovered Rivian and placed an order on an R1S in April 2021.

After waiting about 18 months for my refreshed Model X Plaid, I took delivery in June 2022. I loved certain aspects of the MXP, but there were a number of things that drove me nuts, most notably the yoke, lack of stalks and lack of center horn. A few other things bothered me, and I started to feel like my driving experience was totally dictated by the whims of a single person. Fast forward to January 2023. I switched my R1S reservation to an R1T and within days, I was scheduled to take delivery.

I sold the MXP to a local dealer. I went to Normal, IL, did a factory tour and drove my R1T home. I drove it for several days and realized I made a mistake. My MXP was still on sale at the dealership, so I sold the R1T and bought back my MXP from the dealer at a marked up price. I am officially the dumbest customer ever to grace the parking lot of that dealership. Good news is that I offset the price by making a small profit on the R1T, and I gained an appreciation how incredible the MXP really is. See below for details.

Why I decided to sell the MXP:
There was not one single thing that bothered me about the MXP, but it felt like death by a thousand paper cuts. Probably the biggest of these annoyances was the yoke. And, with the yoke, there were three aspects that bothered me: the shape, the lack of stalks and the lack of a center horn. I considered the yoke shape tolerable, even nice, some of the time. But it was awkward and annoying when turning 90 degrees or maneuvering into a parking spot. The lack of stacks bugged me a lot. It seemed unnatural to find a haptic button every time I wanted to change lanes. But, the absolute most annoying aspect of the yoke, by far, is the lack of a center horn. Why, Tesla??? Why??? You want to make us all look like F1 drivers, fine! But there is no rational reason I can think of to not place something as important as a horn in the middle, where it is on every car you have driven since you were 16 years old! No matter where your wheel/yoke position is, the horn is always there. I literally found the horn situation to be downright dangerous, and this quirk may have been the most annoying nuance that drove me to convert to Rivian.

I also thought the direction selection was a silly repercussion of not having stalks. Having to reach forward to my screen every time I want to reverse direction seemed unnecessary. Again, not a huge issue, but another papercut. The papercuts added up; the customer experience deteriorated, and I got notice my R1T would delivery, so I took a chance. I had the opportunity to drive the R1T enough to be able to directly compare the two vehicles in a number of ways.

For me, the MXP was the undisputed winner by far. Keep in mind that I am not a car enthusiast – just a guy that enjoys driving. So, forgive me if I leave out important details or I don’t use the proper terminology to capture an observation. Also, I suspect that most of the observations here would be obvious to most, so feel free to refer to the TLDR summary above unless you truly are cross shopping between Tesla and Rivian. That said, here’s what I found:

Size and Feel:
  • The R1T feels a lot bigger than the MX
  • The R1T ride height is higher than the MX. This gave great visibility and a feeling of command of the road
  • I absent-mindedly didn’t realize there were no running boards on the R1T. I don’t need them, buy my mother-in-law does. The car will “kneel” for you if you want. It’s just a fancy term for lowering the suspension when you put it into park. Even in kneel mode, the height was too much for my mother-in-law to get in. Strike one for the family….
  • The back seat was adequate for three average adults. But my kids are big (a lot bigger than me) and for the occasional drive to church with the family, it would have been tight. Strike two for the family…
  • Winner: MXP (for the needs of my family and me. For those with other needs, the R1T may be a winner)
  • The R1T had more a more bounce and roll feeling on uneven surfaces. This was OK most of the time, but really annoying on uneven surfaces. A rough parking lot with a lot of potholes tossed my wife around the car so much that she made it obvious she would be limiting her time in my car. Strike three for the family…
  • On flat pavement, the R1T felt great. On uneven terrain, I felt like I got tossed around the cabin a bit. Manipulating the drive modes helped, but only to an extent.
  • The MX is incredibly smooth, and the driving experience is more customizable than the R1T. It sounds really corny, but I feel like I am attached to the car in the MXP and the car feels like it’s attached to the ground. I feel really connected to the road, even cornering at speed
  • Winner: MXP
  • This is a no-brainer. The MXP beats the snot out of the R1T and just about any car on the road.
  • The R1T is no slouch, especially for a car its size. It felt quick off the line from a standstill. But when driving at speed, it felt a lot more sluggish than the MXP. Highway merging and passing is far superior in the MXP
  • The accelerator pedal on the R1T felt like it required more foot pressure than was natural for me for any given speed. I’m sure you get used to it over time.
  • Winner: MXP
General Handling:
  • The MXP is the easy winner. Cornering, merging, passing, slowing down, speeding up. It all just feels better in the MXP
  • If you already drive a truck and you move to an R1T, you will love it. It will feel powerful and nimble compared to most trucks you have driven. But, if you want more of a sports car feel that happens to seat six and/or can do some light chores, you will prefer the MX
  • Winner: MXP
Seat Comfort:
  • This tends to be a personal choice, but I much prefer the MXP. It feels softer and more comfortable to me
  • I actually noted slight back pain after a few days in the R1T. May have absolutely nothing to do with the car, but…
  • Winner: MXP
  • The R1T was the easy winner on this. In all Tesla’s I’ve owned, it feels like I have to crank up the temp and the fans really high to get the heat I want in the winter. The R1T felt very much like an ICE car HVAC system. The heat was very nicely distributed and very customizable with nice touch screen controls. It was easy to heat the cabin and the car didn’t feel drafty, like my MXP can sometimes feel
  • Winner: R1T
Entertainment and UI:
  • This was actually one of the things that really bugged me about the MX. Someone else has an entire thread on how bad the favorites function works in a Tesla. I tend to agree. The UI for listening to XM radio is poorly implemented
  • On the other hand, having driven the Rivian, I learned to appreciate how good the entertainment system is in my MX
    • I listen to Spotify, Apple Music and XM radio – all on a regular basis. The native integration on the MXP is great (except for the favorites implementation – it’s terrible)
    • Rivian has Spotify, but no Apple Music or XM. You can stream these, but I found it incredibly annoying having to grab my phone every time I wanted to change the XM station
  • That said, it simply takes too many button pushes to do something simple like moving from one favorite station to another. It’s actually distracting. If you own a Tesla, you know what I mean
  • The R1T sound system is great. I think it’s really good in the MXP, but probably better in the R1T
  • Tesla has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to entertainment in their vehicles. Since I don’t use 98% of what is offered, I won’t go into it
  • Winner: MXP is the overall winner, but R1T, in my opinion has a better sound system
Driver Area:
  • The space between the front driver seat and the front passenger seat in the refreshed MXP is pretty well thought it. I give the nod to the MX on this
  • The R1T has a large, low area for “stuff”, but it’s just open and in my opinion, not really useful for storage
  • Phone charging is way better in the MX. The wireless area works most of the time and the position of the phone is comfortable and natural in the MX. The R1T has a wireless charging spot, but there is no way for the phone to stay in the sweet spot. It’s basically useless
  • Oddly, the R1T has no glove box. The MXP’s is tiny, but you can fit registration papers and a few small things in it
  • Winner: MXP
Fit and Finish:
  • I’d give a slight nod to the MXP. The design approach is different. Tesla’s tend to me minimalist. The R1T feels a bit warmer than the MXP. But, the MXP has a more refined feel, in my opinion
  • Winner: MXP (but, this is very personal)
Unique Features:
  • MX has falcon wing doors, front and rear high def screens, YouTube, Netflix and gaming. I don’t care about any of these
  • MX has auto- presenting doors and auto closing doors. These can be quirky, and auto-present doesn’t always work. I thought I didn’t care that much about either, but not having them made me realized how much I like this creature comfort
  • R1T has an air compressor. Really cool to be able to fill your own tires
  • R1T has a built-in flashlight in the driver door, with a cool story behind it
  • R1T has a removeable Bluetooth speaker that can be used while hanging out or camping
  • R1T has a gear tunnel for stuff
  • R1T has tons of features that make it useful for off-roading, towing and camping.
  • I’d say this category is a wash because which features you will like best will boil down to what your vehicle and lifestyle needs are
  • Winner: Even
  • MXP wins this easily. I have found Tesla nav to get better over time. In fact, in my opinion, it’s the best nav I have had in any car
  • R1T nav does not look as nice and the screen is smaller.
  • I did not have the R1T long enough to know how accurate or good it is
  • Tesla integrates their vast charging network into nav. It seems to work very well. I have limited experience with it, but when I have used it, I found the whole experience to be great. I feel very confident doing road trips in my MXP.
  • Rivian has a similar feature, but it does not work as well by report. The nav will suggest charging options along your route, but most of the stops are third party options. You don’t get any information on availability of the stations, and from what I hear, the trip planning is not as useful as it should be
  • Winner: MXP
Charging Network and Range:
  • People can be pretty passionate about this, so I will try to keep it simple. The MX is far superior for long road trips. See above comments under Navigation. My Rivian guide (like a Tesla sales advisor) even told me to use a third-party app to help me figure out how and where to charge on a road trip. I don’t do a lot of road trips in my MX, but I have done them, and Tesla makes it incredibly simple to drive long distances.
  • Winner: MXP (just the charging network. I won’t comment on range. It’s complex)
  • I didn’t own the R1T long enough to leverage its offroad or hauling capabilities. But I obsessed a bit over how I was going to load groceries. I am sure if you are a long-time truck driver, you have this figured out, but I had no idea how I was going to put stuff in the bed without it flying around. The front trunk is bigger than the MX and has a powered lift, both of which are awesome. It would be more than good for most grocery runs. BUT most people load from the back based on how they park. Loading from the front would have been a pain in most parking lots
  • The MX is often maligned for not being a real SUV. While there is some truth to this position, there is more than ample room for all grocery runs. If you fold the third row down, you can fit three hockey bags and sticks and still have room for the driver and three passengers. The MX has enough room for all my simple needs, but it’s a road car – not an off-road car. The R1T was designed and built to do things an MX owner would never even consider
  • Winner: Even because it depends on what your needs are. For me, the MXP is way more useful
The Company:
  • This one could be an entire thread. I will try to keep it simple. Rivian currently feels like the way Tesla felt in the beginning. The customer matters. You feel well cared for. Rivian is based around adventure and you feel it during the whole buying process.
  • Rivian (at least currently) will let you drive the car for a week or a 1000 miles and return it if it’s not right for you. That is just awesome. I think I recall Tesla doing this in the beginning, but I could be wrong. It’s a smart move for a company trying to lure people out of their comfort zone and take a pretty big financial risk. On the other hand, I doubt this will be a viable policy over the long term
  • Rivian is building service centers, but not having one near you can be a legitimate concern for the potential buyer
  • I won’t go into too much detail, but the Tesla customer experience has deteriorated a lot for me over the years. I feel duped into buying software and hardware with promises for FSD that may never happen. At this point, I don’t even really believe in FSD. For a variety of other reasons, I have felt really mistreated by Tesla in the past few years that has cost me real money
  • It is harder to get a service appointment than it used to be, but the process is pretty easy – just use your app
  • I have had a variety of bugs, quirks and bad parts worked on with my prior and current MXP. I have to say, Tesla has been incredible at fixing almost everything, and almost always at no cost
  • Tesla has grown a lot. This is great. I just wish they would grow their customer service department in a way that is commensurate with their overall growth.
  • Winner: Undecided. Rivian is nice to work with, but Tesla has a vast service network and experience
  • The MX windshield is awesome if you are not facing the sun. It is pretty terrible if you are, because the visor is an afterthought
  • The Bluetooth phone key works much better on the R1T. On the MX, I have to get my phone to a sweet spot for the car to unlock and recognize it. In the Rivian, the phone car unlocks the doors and pops the handles open at the perfect distance
  • The Rivian has a really cool feature when you unlock the doors. A large Rivian logo flashes on the ground. It helps you see, but it also just looks cool
  • Before I sold the MXP, I didn’t really appreciate the blind spot cameras that turn on when you use your directional. Not having it for a few weeks made me really appreciate this feature when I bought it back
  • Same as above with the directional. It’s really nice that they turn themselves off when you change lanes. Another feature I didn’t think I cared about until I didn’t have it
  • The R1T is a badass looking car. The looks can be polarizing, but I really liked looking at it. The car seemed both sophisticated and rugged at the same time. Pretty unique
  • The small roller wheel on the yoke is pretty annoying when trying to change radio stations. Because of it’s small size, I often accidentally mute the radio instead of changing the station when trying to push the ball right or left
  • Winner: Even. Both cars have interesting features that make them great
Summary: Although selling my MXP and doing a 180 after driving the R1T for a few days has been time consuming, it was a valuable experience. I now realize how incredible the MXP truly is. It feels like a car of that size is defying the laws of physics. It is easy to become complacent when you drive the same car every day. Getting into something else for a bit made me appreciate the power and smoothness of my MXP. Speed on a track sounds great, but having the power for legitimate and simple things like passing or merging on a highway is really useful. All while it feels like you are gliding through butter. I have learned to tolerate most of the MXP quirks. Maybe even appreciate them. While I hated the yoke, I now (kind of) like it most of the time. That said, the lack of a center horn is still terrible in my mind and should absolutely be addressed by Tesla sooner than later. Also, please get the radio favorites figured out!

This review may appear biased. But, I would reiterate what I alluded to above: I no longer consider myself a Tesla fanboy. I have grown frustrated and jaded with the company over the years. That said, I have a new perspective on how great Teslas are. I didn't go into it much, but I have concerns about Rivian's long term viability, and I have gained an appreciation for just how hard it is to pull a car company out of the ground and build amazing cars that keep getting better, while making a profit. I am genuinely rooting for Rivian. I hope they succeed. But, this experience has confirmed that, at this time, Tesla is the right company and right car for me.


"Rivian founder and CEO Robert 'RJ' Scaringe at the debut of the Rivian R1T pickup at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, November 27, 2018" by Richard Truesdell is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
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Tesla has mostly negated my argument above by reducing the pricing of the Model X by nearly $50,000!!!! Rivian is still more unique and offers off-road capabilities with a usable frunk, air compressor and 110 power outlets, but Tesla's advanced technology and features put it back in the lead in this comparison, when price is factored in. I would say charging availability is another plus, and it is at the moment, but by next year, Tesla superchargers will be open to Rivian, Ford, Chevy, Mercedes, among others, so that advantage goes away.

When the above post was written, the Rivian was a no-brainer easy decision for all the reasons noted. While I'd still "probably" choose the Rivian, it's a very tough call, based on my personal preferences. But, could certainly see where now, the Tesla is the better value to at least 75% of those simply seeking a 7 seater SUV.
I purchased the Tesla brand for its infrastructure and lead in the EV tech. Other manufacturers are coming along but no support for their vehicles. Rivian for example, there are no dealers of shops on the northeast. If you have a problem and cannot resolve over the phone, a tech will make arrangement to bring your car to an unknown location and then look at the issue, order the part and then get it installed.
I purchased the Tesla brand for its infrastructure and lead in the EV tech. Other manufacturers are coming along but no support for their vehicles. Rivian for example, there are no dealers of shops on the northeast. If you have a problem and cannot resolve over the phone, a tech will make arrangement to bring your car to an unknown location and then look at the issue, order the part and then get it installed.
That'd hold me back from a Rivian as well. IMO, the potential alternative is the T3 in a couple of years out of BlueOval TN/KY. It'll have NACS and be built ground up for OTA. It'll have numerous Ford dealerships for service.

Maybe Tesla would consider upgrading its hand controls to include some sort of lever to shift and/or operate wipers and turn signals to better compete with 3-rows from other companies, maybe as part of an option package or subscription? Dunno just thinking of things to try, don't even know what those would look like they'd probably have to innovate a whole new control interface from scratch but sometimes when you're at the forefront like Tesla, you gotta lead the way and hope others follow
Tesla model X conforms to car standards. Rivian conforms to Truck standards.
Someone else mentioned this, but to re-emphasize - I added aftermarket power actuators to both of our MXs back in 2020. There were two companies that offered kits back then and I'm not sure if there are more now, but it works seamlessly through the app, screen, or key fob with no hood touching required. We use the frunk all the time now and in particular the wife actually prefers using it when the groceries load is small enough, since they won't roll around like in the back.
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