What it's like to drive a Tesla Cybertruck in L.A.

What it's like to drive a Tesla Cybertruck in L.A.

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Originally published on Bloomberg, written by Hannah Elliott

For the sake of this review, let’s suspend whatever we think of Elon Musk.

A truck this unusual deserves attention unencumbered by the distractions of its creator. The vehicle itself needs no introduction: Tesla has been collecting deposits since 2019 and started delivering the trucks in November. The company hasn’t said how many are out there, but we know that Serena Williams’ husband owns one, as does Pharrell Williams.

Contrary to the standard practice for most automakers, Tesla has not lent out the truck for mainstream press reviews. So I rented one from James Van Crofton, a real estate agent who listed his on Turo, the car-rental platform. Twenty-four hours and $1,391 later, I can report that Tesla’s paean to Brutalism surprised and delighted me in a drive around Los Angeles. While I kept the slab-sided Cybertruck in admittedly coddled conditions — I didn’t take it to a construction site or tow a boat —  its nimble performance and thoughtful interior were a fascinating juxtaposition to its crude design.


Read More: Cybertruck first look: Interior and exterior review

The setup

James dropped off the $76,390 AWD version of the pickup on a Friday morning. I expected it to look futuristic in real life, considering its sci-fi-obsessed creator. But it actually looked nostalgic, reminding me of the stainless-steel wedge-shaped DeLorean featured in the 1985 film "Back to the Future" and the apocalyptic Spinners in Ridley Scott’s 1982 "Blade Runner." It looks a like a cross between a Tonka toy and an adolescent video gamer’s ultimate fantasy machine — not necessarily amateur, but a bit ridiculous.

I liked how the bands of lights at the front and rear matched the minimalistic design language of the body and, oddly, that the thing rolled on 20-inch wheels. So many expensive vehicles these days rock 22- and 23-inch variants, but the smaller wheels on the Cybertruck worked. Bigger wheels, if you choose them, could make it look even sillier than it already does; also, their extra size and weight will reduce driving range.

To open the door, you have to press an undetectable button hidden shoulder height on the B pillar (James had to show me where). Once inside, I encountered a serene environment. As in other Teslas, there are no knobs on the dashboard that spans the width of the cabin, punctuated only by a 18.5-inch control screen and the oblong but elegant steering wheel. First impression? Not bad. Sure, the cabin of anything from Mercedes-Benz, for instance, feels far more luxurious, and the Cybertruck lacks the Napa leather typically found in a vehicle at this price. But the interior’s clean, modern design goes a long way toward making it feel well done.

The console between the front seats doubles as storage and armrest, but since things like the climate and audio controls, as well as the shifter, are embedded in the computer screen, and the ceiling is a massive glass top, the cabin feels capacious. The glovebox glides out and offers enough space for a laptop; the two cupholders are the bare minimum for a truck. I wished there were a real button to push to engage the vehicle; using a screen without even the benefit of haptic feedback for shifting is neither the quickest nor the most intuitive way to get a vehicle to move. James pointed out that if I didn’t like screen-shifting, there are some selector icons located overhead near the rear-view mirror to shift, but he hadn’t figured out how to use them yet. I stabbed them a couple of times but got no result. Also, stabbing a finger overhead seemed more awkward than the alternative.

James handed over the black credit card-like key that Teslas use, which I placed in the front of the center console. That started the vehicle. Foot on the brake, sliding a cursor on the dashboard screen from N to D, and gently pressing the accelerator pedal: Liftoff! Such a big beast moving elegantly forward without a sound felt very cool.

The day

The plan was to use the Cybertruck for a stereotypical L.A. day: morning coffee, photo shoot, lunch in West Hollywood, afternoon chores and a Friday night double date.

I’d hardly left Hollywood before learning the first rule of Cybertruck: If you’re feeling shy, don’t drive it. You’ll be forced to discuss it with myriad strangers. The thing incites fervor to the point of recklessness. Multiple grown men on Hollywood Boulevard ran into traffic to take its picture.

The truck glided through downtown traffic in a buffer of silence that felt downright elitist. The steering felt light, and there was an unexpected smoothness to the regenerative braking. That steering wheel, shaped like an oval that has been squared off at the edges, felt ergonomic, like a natural extension of the rest of the truck. (It’s no accident that F1 cars also have rectangular steering wheels — the design works). The placement of the controls for indicators and things like the single wiper blade were not obvious. I had to hunt for them. It was annoying.

The Cybertruck is 70.5 inches tall and 223.7 inches long, with more than 17 inches of total ground clearance. People gawked. It was fun to see them measuring their own ride height against the towering Cybertruck. At nearly 6 feet tall when fully extended at its highest, it’s not quite as big as a UPS van, but it is as tall as as your average seven-passenger SUV. I scanned the horizon like Charlize Theron as Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road." Stop me if I start talking about shaving my head….