In a presentation that had the vibe of those “Breaking the Magician’s Code” magic specials Fox used to air in the late ’90s and early 2000s, CEO Elon Musk revealed Tesla’s latest vehicle: the Cybertruck. What was revealed has some damned impressive claimed specs — pretty close to Musk’s boasts that it needs to be better than a Ford F-150 and a Porsche 911 — and a price that made the audience gasp. What was revealed also looks like a 32-bit rendering of that truck you tried to doodle in class before you remembered that you’re bad at drawing. It’s a very interesting mixed bag.
The six-seat Cybertruck was benchmarked against the Ford F-150, and shares similar dimensions: It’s 231.7 inches long, 79.8 inches wide and 75 inches tall with a 6.5-foot bed. That’s within the realm of a crew-cab, full-size pickup truck with a shorter bed. That’s also pretty much the last time you’ll hear that the Cybertruck is within the realm of a normal full-size pickup truck.
Tesla plans to offer the Cybertruck in three flavors: A short-range, single-motor rear-wheel-drive version; a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive medium-range model; and the king-of-the-hill three-motor all-wheel-drive version. That third version of the truck likely supplied the statistics quoted in the presentation: 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds and a 10.8-second quarter-mile run. Every version of the truck has a claimed maximum payload of 3,500 pounds, with towing capacities starting at 7,500 pounds for the single motor before rising to 10,000 for the dual and 14,000 for the triple motor variants. That’s heavy-duty pickup territory.
Range estimates increase as the number of motors increase. The single-motor truck is estimated to have at least 250 miles of range, while the dual-motor’s range estimate is more than 300 miles. The triple-motor? More than 500 miles, according to the presentation. How those ranges are affected by towing and payload remains to be seen.
The standard adjustable air suspension will give the Cybertruck a claimed maximum 16 inches of ground clearance with a 35-degree approach angle and a 28-degree departure angle. Musk said you “could basically run the Baja 1000” in the Cybertruck, which — sure, if there are charging stations along the course. Will the Cybertruck go off-road? Almost certainly. But it’s not small, and it’s likely quite heavy, factors that might limit it off the pavement more than ground clearance or suspension travel.
The cheapest single-motor version will be priced from $39,900, which elicited a gasp from the audience. Adding the second motor and all-wheel drive drives up the price by 10 grand to $49,900. Three motors and the highest towing capacity takes you into loaded Ram 1500 territory and a price of $69,900. None of those prices includes any potential incentives a buyer might be eligible to receive.
Yikes! The internet is already full of memes based on the looks of the Cybertruck, because the internet remains undefeated. Musk’s “armored personnel carrier from the future” looks like what the Ghost of Video Games Past drives.
A first-generation Honda Ridgeline is probably the closest production truck analogue to the Cybertruck’s styling, and that feels mean to the Ridgeline. That’s not to say everything about the Cybertruck’s styling is bad: The pickup bed is hidden by a glass … shutter? Lid? What are we calling that? … that can protect your cargo like a very fancy tonneau cover, and Tesla claims that the “vault” (what it calls the bed), frunk and sail panel storage give the Cybertruck a combined 100 cubic feet of lockable exterior storage space. Also like the current-gen Ridgeline, the Cybertruck has underbed storage, and the wheel wells don’t encroach on the bed space.
Another cool feature? As almost an afterthought, Tesla brought out an electric all-terrain vehicle and used the integrated loading ramp in the Cybertruck’s tailgate to drive the ATV right into the bed … er, vault. Oh, and according to Musk, the Cybertruck is bulletproof. Tesla claims the 30-times cold-rolled steel body can withstand a 9 mm bullet fired from 10 meters away.
Prior to the reveal, Musk had stated that redesigning the body might be under consideration depending on public perception. We’ll see what happens after the dust settles and opinions crystalize, but changing the looks of the Cybertruck is likely under consideration.
We can’t talk about the presentation without talking about the windows. After dropping metal balls from varying heights on sample pieces of traditional car glass (shattered right away) and the Cybertruck’s “armor glass” (never broke), Musk had Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen throw one of the metal balls at the windows of the Cybertruck on stage. Twice. And each time, the window cracked significantly. Musk was quick to point out that nothing broke into the cabin, and joked about fixing it “in post,” but it was an extremely awkward and deeply funny moment that is going to be replayed on TV and online again and again.
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The Cybertruck carries a lot of promise in its weirdly shaped body. Whether Tesla is able to truly deliver on those promises is debatable — we’re still waiting for the new Roadster two years after its reveal — but Musk is correct that, given the popularity of pickup trucks in the U.S., an electric option needs to be available to offer a more environmentally friendly option. The problem is that, by the time Cybertruck deliveries actually happen, the electric Ford F-150, Rivian R1T and possibly additional electric offerings from GM and other manufacturers might be on the market.
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