First Ride on a Tesla Cybertruck. Report From the Strangest Car of 2019

Being unattractive in the eyes of many and revolutionary in the eyes of everyone else, the Tesla Cybertruck has turned out to be the most talked about automotive novelty of this year or even maybe of this decade.

The Verge’s journalist has already managed to test this amazing car (even if only as a passenger). Social networks have been buzzing about this truck for more than a week. The memes that it spread cannot be counted.

About an hour after Tesla CEO Elon Musk showed an absurd, futuristic, brutalist Cybertruck to the world, I already found myself in the passenger seat of this car. Along with a Tesla employee and three other guests, we took a short but exciting ride along a temporarily closed-off road on the side of SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

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We were driving a mid-level twin-engine modification of the truck, which is supposed to accelerate from 0-97 km/h in 4.5 seconds and to cost starting from $49.990. Although the prototype was fast, the sense of speed is blunted by its size and (undeclared yet) weight. It did not really provide such a dizzying leap forward that other Teslas are known for.

Instead, the most impressive thing about the ride in the Cybertruck was how big and spacious it was. You can say what you like about its design, but the rear passengers and I noted that there was even more space for a car of this size than we could have imagined, as if Tesla had used some kind of magic trick.

And that seems to be the whole point of the Cybertruck, as far as I could tell by the end of the night. Yes, it looks outrageous with its design, which would look more appropriate on the surface of Mars than in a supermarket parking lot. But if you do not care about this, the rest of the car could have something to boast about when it goes into production in 2021.

For example, it is claimed that the single-engine modification will be able to drive on a single charge 400 km or more with a load of 1.6 tons in the trunk and a trailer weighing 3.4 tons. And this is all at the same price as the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.

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While the price goes up from there, so do the specifications. The top-end variant has a drive range of 800 km, and the maximum weight of the trailer is 6.35 tons. This modification will receive a three-engine power unit, which is being tested at the Nurburgring and Laguna Seca.

Musk promised that the Cybertruck is able to deal with any off-road task thanks to an adaptive air suspension and a 41-cm ground clearance. Tesla has already shown photos of the truck with a cargo trailer and a camping gear on the official website. This may be a hint of what accessories will be produced (however, we must first wait for the production truck itself). Even such familiar options for a modern truck as 220V and 110V outlets and a lockable cargo compartment have already been mentioned, not to mention some original equipment like an onboard air compressor.

All this is hidden inside a stainless steel body or «exoskeleton» (as Musk called it), the design of which allowed creating such a spacious interior. Musk said Tesla used the same cold-rolled steel alloy as SpaceX used for its Mars rocket prototype — another project that was ridiculed for its look, even though the prototype successfully passed flight tests.

Since the pickup still has the status of a prototype, its interior does not look finished. Although the dashboard looks as a piece of marble and feels like a slab of foam (the body is definitely steel and cold). The experimental model is devoid of side-view mirrors, and the role of the rear-view mirror is performed by a display that shows footage from the camera built in the rear end.

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Although the new-generation version of the in-car software was installed on the Cybertruck we met and its image was displayed on a horizontally oriented 17-inch touchscreen, the Tesla employee who was sitting in the driver's seat only tapped through a couple of settings during the ride. Now that the truck has been revealed, we will wait for more information about the software in the coming months.

Tesla has built its entire existence on this: it convinces people to buy something they didn't even think they wanted to buy. Electric cars were derided as clueless golf carts until Tesla came along. If you look at it from this angle, Cybertruck is not as radical a challenge for the company as it might seem. In addition, Elon Musk likes, to put it mildly, to swim upstream.

As far as I can tell from the short ride in this truck, it is not a stretch to say that you forget about the controversial design when you find yourself inside the car. The flat nose peeks out behind the dashboard, but the attention is drawn to the spacious interior and the Model 3-style screen. Among other things, the Cybertruck feels so commanding from the front seats that American buyers will be won over, because it was they who passed the death sentence to sedans, preferring SUVs and pickups instead. With all this in mind, it's time to see the crash test results and talk about crumpled zones.

Good design is ridiculed a lot at first, and then over time it becomes normal,

Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics consulting at JD Power, said after the event.

It’s tough to say whether this is going to fit that mold, though.

Musk spent months telling everyone that Tesla's first electric truck would look like vehicles from “Blade Runner”. Still, for a moment after the truck first appeared on stage, the entire room — filled with customers and Tesla fans from all over the world — froze in silence and was unable to believe their eyes. While Musk was announcing the specifications and features of the model, I had heard a few quiet exclamations of «what the fuck?» before the audience was filled with screams and boos. It was as if the audience wanted to see some other magic trick. For example, it was expected that Musk now, modestly chuckling, would present the true Tesla truck, which would also be able to eat a Ford F-150 for breakfast but look less alien. This feeling was only multiplied when Tesla's chief designer Franz von Holzhausen wanted to demonstrate the strength of the car's windows and broke them as a result.

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It would seem that we were facing a far from launching prototype, which would appear on the roads only in two years, but Tesla immediately started receiving orders (146.000 orders in the first two days). The company collected $100 from each customer, meaning this project has already brought the company $14.6 million. In the following days, the number of orders quickly grew up to 250.000 units, or $25 million. A week after the presentation, the Dubai Police Force announced that they were planning to purchase such cars for their fleet and had already demonstrated a variant of the paint. The cars will be used for service in tourist places.

In truth, everyone who came to the Cybertruck presentation should have expected something like this in terms of design from the very first moments, because the company leaned so hard into the Blade Runner vibe for the event. Musk warned that customers and fans of Tesla should dress in the style of cyberpunk, so they did. Many came in distinctive jackets, colourful LED glasses, homemade outfits and light-up sneakers. Tesla borrowed real props from the move (on loan from the Peterson Automobile Museum) for the event. The company even built a noodle shop, like in the movies, for those who were hungry.

Even though Tesla’s brash CEO is known for breaking deadlines too often and struggles to keep his own promises, the Cybertruck has proved one thing to us: sometimes you need to take Musk at his word.

The Cybertruck, due to its design (or lack of it), has already actually made history. Musk explains that such simple shapes and broken planes are dictated by the limitations imposed by the use of high-strength steel: you cannot make more sophisticated shapes out of it. Allegedly, Tesla initially wanted to use titanium but decided on a more durable steel alloy. But to say that the design turned out to be bold is not to say anything. Let's see if they have the courage to bring such a truck to the market. Or the company will have to pay back tens of millions of dollars.

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