I Saw The Tesla Cybertruck Up Close. My Jaw’s Still On The Floor

I’ve been covering the auto industry for more than a decade now. I may not be as much of a hardened veteran as some, but I am at the point where not a lot truly surprises me anymore. Today, I can safely say that’s changed because I have seen the Tesla Cybertruck up close and in person for myself. Let’s just say that the photos and videos you’ve seen so far don’t really do it justice—the Cybertruck looks like nothing else on the road. 

Now, do I mean that in a good way, or a bad way? I’m still making my mind up on that. 

This week marks the first deliveries and, presumably, the unveiling of the full and final specs of the Cybertruck. Whether you’ve got 10 of them on order or think it’s a rolling design disaster, you can’t ignore the fact that it—or really any all-new Tesla—is a major electric vehicle debut. The Cybertruck is getting attention in a way that’s unlike almost any EV that’s come before it, and it’s either going to print money for Tesla at a crucial time or be a stainless-steel boat anchor dragging it down for years to come. Either way, it’s a hype machine, and it’s not even on the road yet. 

That hype machine isn’t on the road yet, but it is in Tesla’s own stores right now. Earlier today, InsideEVs featured some videos and takes from several journalists and creators who have seen the few Cybertrucks deployed to various Tesla showrooms and galleries around the U.S.

But when I realized, thanks to the Cybertruck Locator tool, that there was one here in Manhattan at the Tesla Gallery in the Meatpacking District, I had to see it with my own eyes for the first time ever. 

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first: yes, the build quality does appear to be vastly better than the cringe-worthy example that InsideEVs contributor (now Jalopnik Senior Editor) Daniel Golson caught in California a few weeks ago. That Cybertruck—a matte black example driven by Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen—must’ve been an earlier build because it had glaring quality issues, wide and uneven panel gaps and obvious fitment issues. 

By comparison, the truck I saw in Manhattan looked tight, dialed-in and ready to drive away. It looked better than any early-build Tesla I’ve ever seen, like the 2018-era Model 3s you still see on the roads today that have noticeable issues. Then again, these trucks were destined for showrooms—for public consumption especially. I don’t doubt they could be ringers, trucks flagged for exceptional quality and polished up ahead of time. Nor do I doubt that their placement in these showrooms was a response to the quality-related backlash from just a few weeks ago. I’d ask Tesla, but it dissolved its PR department years ago, so all we’re left with until Thursday is speculation. 

IMG_6142

When I went inside the Tesla showroom, I gave my personal info to a representative who asked if I was there for a test drive—I was not—and then I was free to gawk at the truck as I pleased. There were a few other folks doing the exact same thing, and another Tesla rep said the truck has drawn big crowds and lots of attention when it arrived last week.

Beyond that, these guys had no other specs or info about the truck (I asked) and said that it was placed there. Nobody from the store is allowed to drive it. Those folks are as in the dark as any of us. And save for a sign that confirms the 2,500-pound payload and 11,000-pound tow ratings we saw recently, no new information is on display at any of these stores. 

But we can still learn a lot from seeing them in person; I certainly did. Let’s take a virtual tour.

IMG_6131

The first thing that struck me was how big the Cybertruck seems. Technically, it’s smaller than a Ford F-150, but those imposing, brutal angles just make it look huge. Bigger than the Ford, even. (Granted, Manhattan’s generally tight spaces didn’t help here, but I was still astounded at the size of it.) It just absolutely dwarfed any of the other Teslas parked nearby.  

IMG_6133

I’m still not convinced that rear trapezoid-thing is going to be viable as an actual truck bed, but we’ll see; the example in the store had the tailgate up and the rear compartment closed. But it’s enough to make you wonder where all that mass actually went. The cabin, perhaps? The truck’s bed and front compartment certainly aren’t all that big. 

IMG_6155

Also, mind the tiny compartment on the plastic fender flare (I’d call it a wheel arch, but it’s another triangle) that hides the charging port. That’s a big change from the original concept version. That truck had a charging flap built into the stainless steel body itself, which must’ve presented some challenges for Tesla’s engineers when working with that notoriously difficult material. (The Wall Street Journal has a whole story about this today.) 

IMG_6134

I’ll give credit to Tesla for fixing the very obvious fitment issues with the rear taillights we saw on von Holzhausen’s truck. That was one of the worst problems we saw with that vehicle, and while the components aren’t exactly flush against one another, they do look better here. (I also like what appears to be the exterior touch panel to operate the bed’s functions; that’s a nice touch.) 

IMG_6136

As ostentatious as the entire Cybertruck is, it’s the little things that truly remind you it’s unlike any other vehicle on the road. Just check out that bumper. I’ve never seen anything like that outside of a concept vehicle. 

IMG_6137

Panel gaps? Yes, I found a few, and they’re both tighter than I expected but also wider than perhaps they should be for a production truck. As a reminder, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has demanded “sub-10-micron” accuracy, and that means 0.0004 inches; needless to say, that isn’t how tight these panels will end up being. Having said that, perhaps my biggest concern was how this thing would hold up in a crash—or how cheap it would be to fix after one happens. 

IMG_6144
IMG_6146

The truck had a few more flaws with panel fitment, as well as some other issues I first noticed after more closely examining some of these photos. That rubber trim around the rear window doesn’t quite line up perfectly, does it? 

IMG_6158

That face is really something else. Another thing that stands out just how huge and sweeping that windshield is. It takes up a ton of the truck’s overall real estate. And yes, the windshield wiper does appear to be one gigantic piece. It’s very big. 

IMG_6147
IMG_6161

I’m sad to say I couldn’t glean much about the truck’s interior at all, especially since it was roped off and nobody was allowed inside. But the standard Tesla playbook clearly applies here: it’s sparse, there’s a screen and the Model S-style yoke sits in front of the driver. We’ve seen this interior before, so I don’t have much to add.   

IMG_6153

Last but not least, let’s talk smudges. Some have speculated that the stainless steel body is going to be a fingerprint magnet; anyone who’s owned a home appliance made of the stuff has experienced this. And, yes, this Cybertruck did have marks all over the door panels. Tesla’s either going to make a killing selling cleaning products or everyone who owns this thing will need a giant “NO TOUCHING” sign every time they park.  

IMG_6164

In the end, I’m still not sure what to make of the Cybertruck. I remember being largely impressed when the Model 3 was unveiled and just thinking “They’re gonna print so much money with that thing” when I first saw the Model Y. (I was right, too.) 

But my main reaction after seeing the Cybertruck in person was one of stunned amazement; I still can’t believe this thing exists in the form that it does, that it actually went to production like this. As I said before, it looks like nothing else on the road, and I truly mean that. There is nothing else like the Cybertruck at all. Even the old DeLorean DMC-12, rare as those are now, was a more conventional car than this is. Its design is still not my cup of tea, personally, and I say that as someone who thinks the Model S is one of the best-looking American cars ever made. 

It’s also truly hard to know how this truck will do for Tesla. I think Musk and co. will sell every single one of these that they manage to build, at least early on. I’m far more skeptical of its ability to be this mass-volume, legitimate F-150-killer that so many Tesla fans have believed it to be. It almost feels more like a modern supercar or halo car—a low-volume, expensive niche vehicle for the superfans.

IMG_6138

Even Musk seems to be aiming the public sentiment in that direction. While he’s called it Tesla’s “best vehicle ever,” he also warned that prospective buyers and investors alike should “temper expectations” around the truck. The road to profitable mass production is going to be difficult, even for the world’s largest EV manufacturer. And there’s every possibility it could end up like the Model X’s Falcon Doors, but an entire car version of that—something Musk pushed for as a flight of fancy, only to regret later.

Ultimately, a lot of those questions will come down to the Cybertruck’s price. And we should know more about that come Thursday. If you know more in the meantime, get in touch. 

Contact the author: [email protected]