Tesla’s new Cybertruck is unlike anything the world has seen, and I was one of the first non-employees to get a ride in it at the grand unveiling last night at Tesla’s Design Studio in Hawthorne, California. I’ll share what I thought of it from the inside and up close.
At first glance, the stainless steel wedge that is the Cybertruck makes it clear that it is not only a sharp diversion from the world of pickup trucks, but from anything Tesla has done before. Its stainless steel skin harkens back to the Delorean made popular by the ’80s cult classic Back to the Future. Walking up to the vehicle, the vast expanse of ultra hard rolled stainless steel that comprises the vertical expanse of the broadside of the vehicle grew ever more imposing. From afar, Cybertruck’s wedge-like posture tricks the eyes into believing it is smaller than it really is, but that illusion quickly fell away up close.
The giant rubber donuts that it rolled around on would be more at home on a military vehicle than on any vehicle from an auto dealer in the US, and that’s kind of the point. Its stainless skin will allegedly stop a 9mm bullet and the bulletproof windows should be similarly up to the task, though they were one of the big failings of the vehicle at the unveiling. At Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s urging, lead designer Franz von Holzhausen hurled a large ball of metal at the windows that caused them to fail in grand fashion. They didn’t fully penetrate into the cabin, but left Tesla’s brand new stage baby damaged for the balance of the presentation. It was a risky move and it clearly didn’t go off as planned, but hey, they have two years to figure that out.
Angular door handles popped out to present themselves to us and the massive doors swung open much more like the door of a house than that of a vehicle. Stepping up into the Cybertruck’s front seat, it appeared that there were only two seats up front, split by an oversized center console with three cupholders in it. Closer inspection revealed that this was in fact the back of a center seat that can fold up to accommodate three full-sized humans up front and in the rear.
A 17-inch landscape display carried forward the same interior design ethos of the Model 3, but with a completely revamped user interface that the driver was clearly very familiar with. The vehicle itself only had 261 miles on the odometer, though would be completely reasonable for it to be a simple graphic rather than a fully functional mileage counter at this point. After all, the Cybertruck isn’t due to hit the market until late 2021 or early 2022.
Our driver flipped to a map that showed an overview of the short route he would be taking us on in what felt like an aerial version of what you might see in the Terminator movies. Futuristic, but functional. Elon and Franz are clearly intent on bringing the experiences teased in front of an entire generation of Sci-Fi film viewers into reality. By all accounts, the Cybertruck isn’t a bet-the-farm play for Tesla like the Model 3 was, but it does represent the biggest singular design diversion the company has taken in its 15-year existence.
As we pulled away from the crowd, the large knobby tires could be heard humming along from inside the cabin as really the only noise that indicated we were moving. Looking to my left, the driver felt far removed from me, leaving no doubt that three adults could comfortably fit on each of the front and rear bench seats. Indeed, looking to the rear, the three humans accompanying us on the ride looked very comfortable and not at all cramped.
The juxtaposition of the high-riding suspension of a truck and the elegant power of its electric powertrain were brought together as our pilot dropped the air suspension into low for a quick launch up the street. All occupants let out one form of amazed gasp as Cybertruck attempted to break free of the confines of gravity in a push towards orbit. It tore up the length of the street as its now low-slung mass hurtled us towards an uncertain future.
Thankfully, the brakes were up to the task and quickly quelled the energy down to a more mundane speed as its Hulky frame gently pitched forward in response to our rapid deceleration. It flipped a U-turn and we casually flew back towards the Tesla Design Studio. The variable air suspension shined here as it easily absorbed bumps and driveways along the way.
Its ability to change postures in response to driver input or driving style truly allows it to bring the power and acceleration of Tesla’s Model S into a reimagined truck. Our quick ride was a nice teaser and I’m still overcoming the mental shock of the Cybertruck’s stark departure from Tesla’s design DNA, but one thing is for certain: Tesla is serious about redefining the world’s expectations for what a pickup truck is.
Whether the world is ready for such a drastic change is yet to be determined. With buyers able to reserve a Cybertruck for a measly $100 refundable deposit, we won’t actually know what the demand is for the new vehicle until the masses can actually convert them to real orders of one of its three configurations.
Stay tuned here on CleanTechnica as we continue to unpack the unveiling event experience, compare the Cybertruck to the competition, run some total cost of ownership calculations, and more in the coming hours and days.
All images by Kyle Field | CleanTechnica — feel free to use anywhere with credit