After months and months of bated breath, Tesla finally revealed its Cybertruck to the world Thursday night in Los Angeles. It’s something CEO Elon Musk said would look nothing like what we previously thought, and he’s certainly right about that. In fact, TFLtruck’s managing editor Andre Smirnov pointed out it sort of looks like the 1980 Wingho Concordia II used in the film Black Moon Rising. Normally it’s something we would exclusively cover on TFLtruck — and we are — but there’s more room for discussion beyond the truck world.
Mainly, is this Tesla Cybertruck really even a truck? It looks nothing like any of its supposed competition, and I know that’s done by design. Tesla put out some figures that we can peruse, but is it really something you would consider against, say, a Ford F-150, a Rivian R1T, or any other truck that’s currently on the market or in the pipeline?
Before I put my opinions on the Tesla Cybertruck out there, let’s cover the numbers Tesla provided. You can order the Cybertruck in three configurations, from a Single Motor rear-wheel drive model to a Dual Motor or Tri Motor all-wheel drive variant. Tesla gave a pricing structure starting from $39,900 for the entry-level model:
- Single Motor RWD: $39,900
- Dual Motor AWD: $49,900
- Tri Motor AWD: $69,900
Self-driving is listed as a $7,000 option on the pre-order page, with Tesla saying it will increase in the future. Single and Dual Motor versions are expected to enter production in late 2021, while Tri Motor versions won’t go into production until late 2022, according to Tesla.
Until it actually reaches production, people can lay down a meager $100 refundable deposit to secure their place in line for a Cybertruck.
Range, speed and towing
The Tesla Cybertruck Tri Motor is the model making headlines with an unbelievable range number: 500 miles. By current standards, that would be earth shattering, although Tesla did not specifically mention the differences in battery capacity between models. Each model does up the ante in terms of speed and towing capacity, which makes sense. Here’s how that breaks down:
|Single Motor RWD||<6.5 secs.||7,500+ pounds|
|Dual Motor AWD||<4.5 secs.||10,000+ pounds|
|Tri Motor AWD||<2.9 secs.||14,000+ pounds|
Payload is listed at 3,500 pounds for all models. On its face, the Tesla Cybertruck also seems well-prepared for off-roading, with 16 inches of ground clearance. Beyond that, it supposedly has a 35 degree approach angle and 28 degree departure angle. That would make it competitive against much of the full-size truck segment.
It’s a car
Despite the Tesla Cybertruck’s name and its ability, its form factor looks more like an SUV. Musk repeatedly referred to this Tesla as a car during the reveal event, and you would think of it more as an SUV seeing it coming or going.
The Cybertruck’s interior does look fairly utilitarian, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. It has six-passenger seating capability, as well as a marble-looking dashboard and steering wheel that’s straight out of science fiction. The large tablet is a hallmark of Tesla’s other models, and I’m sure it will display a fair amount of information. But here’s one issue with the Cybertruck as a truck: It’s missing many of the easily accessible controls you’d want when you’re using it for work. There’s no trailer brake controller switch, nor are there easily accessible mirror controls or useful trailering features like Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist.
It also doesn’t have something like extendable mirrors, or any mirrors at all for that matter. I’m sure the production model will have mirrors, but still…you’d want to be able to see what you’re towing.
While it does look capable on paper, the overall form factor and interior control layout mirror something like a Model X. Beyond that, the built-in rear tonneau cover encloses the usable space as a “vault”, rather than a conventional truck bed. Tesla says the vault offers 100 cubic feet of space with the tonneau cover closed, but the high walls look like they would restrict usable space depending on what you’re hauling, so you lose some flexibility over a normal truck.
It’s a truck
On the other hand, it does offer more truck-like usability with the tonneau cover open. You can fit an ATV in the back, as Tesla showed with an ATV its apparently developing. It does have cargo tie-downs in the cargo area, as well as a ramp integrated into the tailgate for easier loading and unloading.
Circling back to towing, the electric motors on board will offer tremendous towing capability, I’m sure. While Tesla did not mention horsepower or torque, its likely the all-electric truck will have mountains of instant torque on hand to handle light to moderate towing. Although, it’s worth mentioning that heavy towing seriously impacts range, as we discovered using our Tesla Model X below:
Style is a subjective matter as well, but the Tesla Cybertruck, for its contentious styling, does look rugged. Its stainless steel exoskeleton and all-angular design doesn’t scream “car” by any stretch of the imagination. Against the floating lines of the Tesla Model 3, Model S and Model X, this is totally different, just as Musk wanted.
You could argue this Tesla Cybertruck is really the best of both worlds, too. It has the capability of a truck, with the drivability of Tesla’s other electric cars. You can use it for some tough tasks, then drive it to the office each day. On that basis, it is more like other “lifestyle” trucks, like the Honda Ridgeline or the upcoming Rivian R1T.
Ultimately, where you land in the discussion depends on your notions of what a “truck” really are going in. I prefer straight practicality over speed, handling or styling, and the Tesla Cybertruck doesn’t float my boat as an actual truck. It’s an interesting lifestyle vehicle, but it doesn’t seem Tesla has its finger on the pulse of what truck customers want here. Musk said today’s half-ton trucks all look the same, and indeed trucks have more or less been the same for 100 years. You may agree or disagree, but trucks are becoming more and more popular in modern life as all-around everyday vehicles, in part because of their approachable features and practicality.
On the other hand, if you’re already part of the Tesla community and you want something that suits a more rugged, outdoorsy lifestyle, this could be right up your alley. It looks striking, it will surely have Tesla’s full suite of driver assistance tech, and it will have Supercharging capability up to 250 kW and competitive range.