Tesla Cybertruck First Look: Exterior and Interior Review

While many long-time car enthusiasts know this, it’s worth a quick reminder that Tesla just doesn’t work with the press. Or at least, most of the press. There are a select few outlets Tesla will go to, but generally the auto press doesn’t get any opportunities to sample their vehicles, not without renting or borrowing one from someone, or straight-up purchasing one. So when we were surprised with a Cybertruck on the floor of the Chicago Auto Show, at a Tesla booth, well, we had to check it out up close, and give you some impressions of it inside and out. 

And while this is an interior review, it’s impossible not to say a little bit about the exterior. The slab sides, simple profile and sharp corners are what make it stand out, for better or worse. It was certainly attracting an incredible amount of attention on the show floor. While journalists were showing skepticism, people outside the media were intrigued and excited by the truck. Even getting up close to it. And there’s a reason I specify getting close to it, because that’s where flaws and concerns show up.

Tesla CybertruckTesla Cybertruck

I’m genuinely not one to nitpick panel gaps, in part because I don’t think a lot of average customers are that concerned about them either. But it’s hard to ignore the awkward spots where panels meet. Areas such as the base of the A-pillar have far too tight gaps, and around the hood, the gaps are huge. The mismatch in alignment is a bigger deal, as they stand out on a vehicle where every surface is a perfectly straight line or flat plane. It makes panels that aren’t exactly aligned or bent at the same angle stand out.

The finish on the panel edges is disconcerting, too. Because of the Cybertruck’s ultra hard stainless steel, it makes it difficult to bend panels, which probably contributes to why some of them are a bit off. It also means that each panel has a thin edge, rather than the folded over and slightly rounded edges of conventional cars. What’s distressing is that only a bare minimum of filing or sanding has been done to the edges, leaving them sharp and rough. People are going to tear clothes and scrape skin on these things.

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And of course, there’s keeping it all clean. This example on the floor, undoubtedly gone over carefully to get it clean for the show, still had loads of smears of some kind of dirt or grease. And it was rapidly accumulating greasy fingerprints from people opening doors and generally checking it out. This isn’t news for owners of stainless steel appliances. Now imagine if you used your appliances mainly outside. We’re definitely going to be wondering what ones in the salt belt like Detroit will look like after a winter or two.

But we’ve gone on long enough about the exterior, so let’s step inside, and things get far better (mostly) from there. Entering involves pressing a button along the windows to pop open the quite heavy doors. They open to extremely wide angles, though, making ingress and egress a breeze. The rear doors seem to reach a full 90-degrees at least, and considering the fairly small aperture, the easy entrance is even more impressive.

Tesla CybertruckTesla Cybertruck

Hopping up front, the seats are comfortable and supportive. They have good bolstering and lumbar support. There’s lots of adjustment for both the seats and the wheel, so a comfy position is pretty easy to achieve. There’s loads of head-, leg- and hip room up front, too. Adjusting the steering wheel is a bit annoying, not simply because you have to activate the adjustment mode via the center screen, but because the thumb wheels have detents. As such, you’re at the mercy of each step of adjustment, rather than getting more fine adjustment with traditional manual and power steering adjustment controls. But it’s a minor issue.

As for the dash design, it’s a continuation of the exterior’s minimalism taken to an almost crude extreme. It’s basically a flat slab, and an enormous one to fill the Kansas-like open plain between the front seats and the base of the windshield. And all it is, is flat. Even Kansas has a bit of vegetation now and then. And the occupant-facing part is just a flat vertical panel, broken up by the tablet-like screen in the middle. Yeah, it’s minimal, but it lacks any of the subtle curvature or details that make other minimalist designs successful. It feels like it wasn’t designed. The materials aren’t bad, with soft plastics and some upholstered surfaces, but if you thought the Hummer EV’s interior was a little lackluster for a six-figure pickup, the Tesla is another step down.

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We need to come back to the long dash and A-pillar, too. It results in some severe blind spots, and they’re exacerbated by the monumental thickness of the pillars. The quarter windows aren’t especially large either, so it’s not easy to peek through those to work around the pillars. The rear pillars along the bed create rear blind spots, too. The tonneau cover also blocks the rear window when fully extended, though a rear-view mirror camera does appear on the screen to make up for that.

The steering wheel – or yoke, either probably works – is a vast improvement over the rushed-to-market example in the Plaid cars. It actually has bridging portions on the top and bottom, making it a bit easier to shift hand position, particularly with sharper turns. Ironically, the Cybertruck actually has the extra fast steering ratio that would make a yoke like the Plaid’s work, thanks to the steer-by-wire system, and makes those bridged ends less necessary. But it’s still nice to have. A full-size wheel would be nice, though, for hopping into the relatively high truck, since with the low wheel height, it’s not as useful. There isn’t a grab handle on the A-pillar either for the driver. The wheel’s spokes also have buttons for turn signals, high-beam headlights and windshield washer. With the fast steering ratio, this won’t be too bad, since your hands aren’t likely to move much from the 9 and 3 o’clock positions, though it does feel like another ill-advised move in the quest for maximum minimalism.

Tesla CybertruckTesla Cybertruck

Moving to the back, and the rear seats are seriously comfy. It is a bench, but the outboard seats are sculpted and feel almost like full captain’s chairs with support similar to the front seats. Flipping down the center seat provides armrests and cup holders for the outboard passengers. Another bright and responsive screen handles climate and infotainment functions for the rear seats, too. Leg- and hip room are again excellent, though headroom could be close if you’re 6-foot or more. The glass roof seems to be a necessity for adequate head room in the back. There’s also some space under the seats for storage, and the seat base flips up.

And before we wrap up with the cabin, we need to touch on the, well, touchscreens. While it is annoying that basically every function has to be performed on it, and the instruments are displayed only on the screen (there’s no HUD available), they are darn good screens. They’re among the most responsive I’ve used, and they’re extremely bright and sharp. But again, they darn well better be that good if that’s your primary way of interacting with the car, outside of the wheel and pedals. The shortcuts at the base for frequent functions are useful, too. It’s just silly to have so much stuffed into the screen. Even the glovebox has to be opened via the screen, something derided (and rightfully so) in other cars such as the Cadillac Lyriq.

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And we finally come to storage. The Cybertruck obviously has a truck bed, and it measures 6 feet long at its longest, though it shortens toward the top where the power tonneau retracts. The bed is also tapered from the top to the bottom, with the narrow part at the bottom. There’s no wheel well humps to deal with, but those aren’t necessarily bad, as they can act as sort of platforms that plywood can rest on top of, either for transport or creating a sort of shelf. But with the power tonneau, it can be a giant trunk. Plus, there actually is a trunk, a la Honda Ridgeline and Hyundai Santa Cruz. It’s a good, usable size like the Ridgeline, too. Sadly, Tesla doesn’t split up its cargo space numbers for the in-bed trunk or the frunk on its website. The frunk looks like it might accommodate a single bag of golf clubs, but it could be close. As an extra bit of utility, there’s a variety of off-board power outlets in the back, including a 240-volt outlet.

That’s about as much as we can tell you about the Cybertruck at this point. It’s a massively striking machine with questionable exterior finish, but reasonable interior and some solid utility, barring a few odd choices. Anything more about the Cybertruck will require us to actually drive it. And if you’d like to help us out, be sure to get in touch. We’d be very interested in borrowing or renting one to actually do a road test of it (we promise not to break it).

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