The feature gives Rivian's battery-powered off-roaders the ability to perform a 180-degree turn by spinning in place like a tracked vehicle. We first heard of it in July 2019 when a video showing it in action surfaced on YouTube, but the company quickly pointed out it wasn't authorized and had it taken down. This time, it's official; Rivian announced the tank turn on its verified Twitter account.
Performing a tank turn requires simultaneously spinning the left and right wheels in opposite directions, which is why there's not one car sold new in 2019 that's capable of it. Rivian's models can pull it off because the drivetrain they're both powered by assigns each wheel its own electric motor. They're individually controlled, so getting the wheels on the driver's side to spin forward and the ones on the passenger's side to turn backwards requires little more than a few lines of code.
As we previously reported, Rivian trademarked the terms Tank Turn and Tank Steer in October 2018, which hints the feature could wear either name. And while two-wheel drive models don't appear in its product plan, we don't know whether the function will be standard or optional. However, there's a good chance we'll see it on other models, like its upcoming rally-inspired electric car.
Hardcore off-roaders will undoubtedly put the function to good use while exploring the great outdoors. It's far simpler to push the Tank Steer button on the touchscreen (or wherever Rivian places it) than to make a 14-point turn in a relatively big vehicle. It's not called Donut Mode, though, and the company allegedly warned performing a tank turn on dry pavement to burn rubber will "break shit."
The R1T and the R1S are both scheduled to enter production in late 2020. They'll be built in a former Mitsubishi factory located in Normal, Illinois. Rivian has less than a year to reliably start manufacturing cars, so we expect to learn more about both models in the coming months.