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First drive in Tesla’s new Cybertruck: it’s like a visit from outer space

This stainless steel tank with its flat panels and almost sharp edges looks like a space cowboy has taken the wrong exit on the Milky Way

First drive in Tesla's new Cybertruck

After a two-year delay, Elon Musk started delivering a few Cybertrucks at the end of last year.

No electric car is as hotly debated as Tesla’s Cybertruck. Yet hardly anyone has ever sat in one. We have – and took off on our maiden voyage in Texas of all places.

Whether out on the ranches, in downtown Austin, or in front of Terry Black’s trendy BBQ joint: Texas is truck country. By our count, every third car is a Ford F-150, a Chevrolet Silverado or a Ram 1500.

And then you spot a Cybertruck.


Elon Musk’s latest model is rolling off the production line just outside the Texas capital, and a handful of customers have been coming to the plant every day since November to take delivery.

One of them was Shaheen Badiyan, who ordered the Cybertruck on the first day the order books were opened five years ago. And while Tesla itself is opposed to all test drives, the software specialist was persuaded to let us have his car for a few hours.

First drive in Tesla's new Cybertruck

So we approach the dazzling eccentric with the same curiosity that everyone here has for it.

Although nobody really turns around to look at a regular pickup truck in Texas, the Cybertruck is sure to attract everyone’s attention.

Passersby stop and knock on the supposedly bulletproof glass window at traffic lights, other drivers on the highway race each other for the best camera position with their mobile phones out. Wherever you get out of this Tesla, you get into a conversation about it.

In reality and on the roads of Texas, at 5.7 meters long the Cybertruck is rather modest compared to its competitors, closer to the Amarok than to the F-150.

But with a front end as high and flat as a bulldozer, it commands everyone’s respect on the road. Among all the regular pickups with their mighty grilles and muscular flanks, the stainless-steel tank, with its flat panels and almost sharp edges, looks like a space cowboy has taken the wrong exit on the Milky Way. Rarely has a name been as appropriate as Cybertruck.

But you can’t look that closely if you don’t want to spoil the fascination: after a week, Badiyan’s truck is still free of the rust stains that are currently causing a furore in the Tesla forums.

But even though the proud owner is constantly polishing it, the steel shimmers in all sorts of different shades and always has spots everywhere. And yes, precision in sheet metal work is different.

First drive in Tesla's new Cybertruck

The differences between the new and old pickup worlds are particularly striking in the interior. Like every Tesla, the Cybertruck is as simply furnished as a monastery cell, whereas Ford, Chevy and similar models, with their plush armchairs and sofas, thick leather and all the chrome trimmings, look more like livingrooms on wheels.

And while the number of screens – one large one in the Tesla, soon half a dozen in the new Ram – may still be debatable, the Cybertruck lacks all the practical virtues that have matured in the others over half a century: a large flatbed and a small frunk alone do not make this pickup a practical commercial vehicle.

It doesn’t matter. At least not for Shaheen Badiyan. After all, he is not a farmer or a cowboy, but makes his money in cybersecurity and bought the Cybertruck because it is so different. And because he is one of the first e-drivers.

The basic model with only one motor on the rear axle and a battery for 400 kilometres will probably not be available until next year at the earliest, while the 845hp Cyberbeast – with its insane sprint time of 2.6 seconds – costs a hefty $99,990 (€92,190) and is only being delivered in tiny numbers so far.

First drive in Tesla's new Cybertruck

So Badiyan is driving the AWD model for $79,990 (€73,734). The vehicle’s registration certificate shows 607hp and the WLTP range is 547 kilometres. Tesla has not told him how big his battery is, and Badiyan estimates it at a good 100 kWh.

In any case, he has not yet driven it empty in his first two weeks, and he has also not yet tested whether the Supercharger really has 250kW in it. “The charging box on the wall at home is enough for me, I don’t drive that far.”

That’s why he decided against the range extender, which isn’t a combustion engine with a generator, but an additional battery pack mounted on the flatbed that gives his car a good 200 kilometres more range.

Badiyan tells me his PIN, which I dutifully enter on the screen as I would on a mobile phone. I then embarrass myself by looking around the steering wheel or anywhere else for a gearshift.

The direction of travel in the Cybertruck is determined on the screen, just as it has been for two years in the Model S and Model X, my laughing passenger instructs me with a shake of his head. So I swipe the car forward in the top left corner and the Cybertruck beams me from what Elon Musk calls the automotive Stone Age into the future.

In an instant, Ben Cartwright from Ponderosa Ranch becomes Captain Kirk on his way through the galaxy.

First drive in Tesla's new Cybertruck

Instead of the babble of an eight-cylinder engine, all you hear is a whirring sound and I’ve reached the Texan speed limit in no time at all. Even with this beast of sheet metal, 4.3 seconds is enough for 0 to 100km/h – and the fascination increases with the mass that is moved so effortlessly here. And the fact that the Cybertruck can reach speeds of up to 180km/h, while the F-150 and the like are usually limited to around 160km/h, is of course not bad either.

But shortly after that, the enthusiasm is over. Because as practical as the air suspension may be for reducing the entry height or increasing the ground clearance to more than 40 centimetres off-road, it struggles to cope with bumps in the road in everyday driving.

And as if the moderate suspension comfort wasn’t enough, the steering also – well – takes some getting used to.

The combination of drive-by-wire technology with variable gear ratios and moderate feedback, a pronounced rear-axle steering, chunky Goodyear tyres on the 20-inch rims and the almost right-angled steering wheel make for some unpleasantly angular driving manoeuvres, especially when manoeuvring and in city traffic.

After half a day in Austin, it’s hard to imagine the silver oddball as a ubiquitous Texan car and as a replacement or at least a serious rival to the F-150, Silverado or Ram 1500.

Of course, the Cybertruck is a fascinating car and, above all, a spectacular statement. And with its radical design, it steals the show from any Lamborghini Urus. But it is more of an accessory for show-offs and avant-gardists than a car for everyday use, even in the land of the pickup. And that means it will have even less relevance on the streets of Dublin or the farms of Ireland.