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2024 Tesla Cybertruck Beast Tested: Space Truckin'

2024 tesla cybertruck
2024 Tesla Cybertruck Beast Tested: Space Truckin'Greg Pajo - Car and Driver

"Is that real?" A woman is standing next to the 2024 Tesla Cybertruck outside a hotel in Venice, California, and she's pretty certain she's looking at an escaped movie prop. "Like, is there a car underneath that?" she asks. We inform her that yes, it is real, but if any vehicle will cause you to question objective reality, it's this one. To those of us who are into cars, it seems like the Cybertruck has been around forever—it was announced in November 2019 and has seemingly been in the news every day since—but for a sizable segment of the population, this may as well be an alien lander or an escaped military project. It looks like it drove out of the Home Depot Andromeda in the year 3000 carrying a pallet of nanoarmor for the ol' fusion recombiner back at the gorgon ranch. When the door opens, you half expect to see the driver's seat occupied by a hologram. The Cybertruck is the craziest production car of the century, and second place isn't even close.

Whether you exclaim "I can't believe they built that!" with a sense of wonder or disdain depends almost entirely on an aesthetic judgment. Either you dig the Cybertruck's 32-bit polygon form factor and naked stainless-steel skin or you don't, and there really is no in between. Driving it around Los Angeles, you need only roll down the windows to get an earful of public sentiment. One guy on a bike rides past and yells, singsongy, "Cybertruck... LAME!" Another says, "I don't know why that gets so much hate. It looks cool." And yet another calls out, "Is that made of wood?" We told you, a significant percentage of the population can't accept that a real car company actually built this to sell to the general public. We're still grappling with that ourselves.

2024 tesla cybertruck
Greg Pajo - Car and Driver

Consider that this tri-motor Beast model—or Cyberbeast, if you will—is a 6901-pound electric pickup truck that can tow 11,000 pounds and also hits 60 mph in 2.6 seconds, which matches the time we recorded from the Lamborghini Huracan STO. It has steer-by-wire and brake-by-wire, and its low-voltage architecture is bumped up to 48 volts from the typical 12. The truck's various sensors and controllers communicate over an internal "etherloop" network that Tesla claims dramatically reduces the amount of wiring needed for communication among the various subsystems in the truck. The power tonneau cover for the bed is lockable and strong enough to stand on. And then there's that stainless-steel skin, which is dent-resistant and strong enough that the doors have no internal side-impact beams because they don't need them. The Cybertruck represents a thorough rethinking of how to build a car—much of it self-imposed, but progress can come in strange forms.

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For instance, that steer-by-wire system is essentially a byproduct of Tesla's determination that yokes are cooler than steering wheels, which means you absolutely need a variable steering ratio to avoid multiple turns lock to lock. (The Cybertruck's tiller is rectangular, essentially a yoke with a top bar.) While variable-ratio steering can be accomplished mechanically, it's more elegant to handle electronically. And so the uninitiated inevitably pull away in the Cybertruck tracing a spaghetti path because it's easy to apply too much steering input. Your brain quickly adapts to the new normal, your hands quieting down because you don't need to issue small corrections to follow a straight line, and the total range of steering is less than one turn lock to lock. The rear-axle steering plays a role, too, enhancing agility, to the point that the Beast's dual rear motors don't do any torque vectoring across the axle because the truck is nimble enough already. At one intersection, we had to wait for the Ford F-250 ahead of us to execute a two-point U-turn that the Tesla dispatched in a single arc.

2024 tesla cybertruck
Greg Pajo - Car and Driver

If you're worried about steer-by-wire with no mechanical backup, the backup is basically more steer-by-wire. There are two steering motors, each of which uses a separate controller and power supply, with various sensors on each to sniff out any issues. If one of the motors fails, the truck will go into a limp mode with a five-minute countdown to pull over. The "loop" part of the etherloop points to more redundancy, since the truck can lose any component on its network and reroute communication to keep all other systems online. Even the electronically controlled dampers were designed with the what-if of failure in mind. If the dampers lose power, they default to firm valving, so a driver who's towing or hauling a heavy load won't be stuck with a wallowing truck.

Tesla's thinking on worst-case scenarios and their aftermath extended to crashes too. Thanks to the Cybertruck's snub nose, there isn't as much crush space as you'd enjoy with a traditional long-hood pickup. For the first time, Tesla incorporated the collapsible crush tubes into the single giant front casting that dissipates energy by, essentially, exploding into tiny pieces. But a crash doesn't mean the entire casting has to be replaced—the casting can be reconstructed ahead of the demolished parts. As for the body itself, a rogue grocery-store shopping cart will not be a problem. But if you do manage to mangle a panel, just bolt on a new one.

About those panels: Tesla formulated its stainless-steel alloy to prioritize hardness and corrosion resistance. Much has already been made of Cybertrucks wearing grimy orange rust stains, which result when iron particles in the air alight on the truck and begin oxidizing. You can wipe them off (we used an ammonia-free glass cleaner), but the Cybertruck definitely makes you acutely aware of how much airborne iron is apparently floating around out there. You can also give it a scour with Bar Keepers Friend, after which the metal will "repassivate," forming its own protective haze. Since this consumes maybe a few microns of metal thickness, you could theoretically clean a hole in your truck, but with 1.8-mm thick door panels, that would take a lot of scrubbings. One thing that Tesla says won't put a hole in your door: subsonic ammunition. We did not test that claim.

2024 tesla cybertruck
Greg Pajo - Car and Driver

But we did test the metal itself, by heading to C & M Metals, a recycler in Los Angeles. Tesla hasn't specified the Cybertruck's alloy formulation, but metal recyclers make it their business to know exactly what they're paying for. At C & M, co-owner Todd Monroe points his XRF spectrometer at the Tesla's front end and gets immediate confirmation that this is, metallurgically speaking, good stuff, sort of like a 301 or 303 alloy but not exactly either one. "It's got a lot of nickel, lot of chromium. This is what you'd call an industrial stainless steel," Monroe says. Okay, so what's the bottom line? "I'd give you 50 cents a pound for it," he says.