We Saw the Tesla Cybertruck Up Close, Panel Gaps and All

We checked out the long-awaited pickup at a Tesla showroom. It’s still not perfect, but it’s good enough to be a success.

byMaddox Kay|
Tesla News photo

It’s officially Tesla Cybertruck week. Customer deliveries are scheduled to begin Thursday, November 30, according to Tesla, and cordoned-off Cybertrucks are popping up at Tesla stores across the country. I headed to one in Manhattan on Tuesday to take our first live look at the long-awaited pickup. While it wasn’t as janky-looking as past “release candidate” prototypes spotted on the road and at car shows, this Cybertruck had a couple odd kinks—as well as some curious design choices. But in the eyes of its beholders, it’s good enough.

A Tesla employee at the Manhattan store said this was not a final production-run truck, but is “pretty much identical” visually to what customers will receive on Thursday. He also cited an 11,000-pound tow rating and 2,500-pound max payload, which were also listed on a sign in the store. The tow rating is a bit off Tesla’s previous claim that the Cybertruck would tow 14,000 pounds, but it’s still competitive with the Ford F-150 Lightning, Rivian R1T, and Silverado EV.

This was my first time seeing any Cybertruck in person, and I have to say, its silhouette is striking, particularly from frontal angles. Credit where credit’s due: this truck doesn’t look like anything else on sale today—or potentially ever, and it has its good sides. The Cybertruck is imposing and futuristic from the front and front three-quarter perspective, but looks bizarre and homemade viewed in profile and from the rear three-quarter. This might have something to do with the lack of side character lines. The giant single windshield wiper is slightly goofy-looking, although perhaps more elegant than the Hummer EV’s triple-wiper setup.

Tesla made some sacrifices to pull off that distinctive styling, too. Those A-pillar blind spots are massive, and that single roof crease that gives the truck its wedge shape has got to cramp rear headroom and visibility. I’m not too bullish on cameras solving the Cybertruck’s visibility woes—remember when Elon said cameras would replace LIDAR in autonomous cars and was wrong? Call me old-school, but I’d rather have the perspective of my eyes when maneuvering something this massive.

Speaking of the interior, the Cybertruck's single-piece front cocoons sure look comfortable and well-bolstered, with plenty of width to accommodate everyone from lanky tech bros to burly farmers. (Okay, maybe farmers buying Cybertrucks is a stretch.) That's all I got to see, because Tesla employees were apparently instructed not to open the truck's doors.

The truck was roped off and its supposedly motorized tonneau cover was in place, so I couldn’t drop the tailgate or inspect the truck’s bed closely. However, I did notice that its upper tailgate panel was crooked, leaving an uneven gap. Looking at these two photos, you can see a relatively normal gap between the left bed surround panel and the lighted center panel of the upper tailgate. On the right side, the gap is significantly larger and appears uneven, with the top closer than the bottom. As we’ve covered, these three panels make up the Cybertruck’s rear light array, so any alignment issues will be even more visible on the road.

As far as build quality is concerned, I didn’t see the same horrendous A-pillar panel gaps that Daniel Golson spotted earlier this month on a matte black Cybertruck prototype driven by Tesla design boss Franz von Holzhausen to a cars-and-coffee event. Apart from the tailgate, the rest of the truck’s fit and finish looked reasonable, with one exception: the matte black plastic material used to cover the truck’s wheel arches and for its side skirts appeared wavy and scratched in some places.

On the left rear wheel arch trim in particular, it seemed to be chipping away. It's possible this damage was sustained during shipping. We can only speculate as to the trim’s long-term durability, but it’s not an encouraging sign to see it deteriorating in the showroom, on the truck Tesla chose to show off at one of its flagship stores the week deliveries supposedly begin.

I’m not here to dunk on or promote the Cybertruck, personal feelings and environmental truths about massive electric pickups aside. Tesla is the highest-valued automaker in the world, and this is its first all-new model in nearly four years. It deserves to be praised for kickstarting the EV movement as well as held accountable when its products flout road safety or fall behind.

Tesla owners are famous for tolerating shortcomings and quality issues most people would balk at—and the Cybertruck is sure to be no different. Whether you’re into its design or not is subjective. But the excitement in the showroom, even at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, was palpable. I didn't hear a single Manhattanite there mention tow ratings, and I doubt any care about its apparent lack of off-road prowess compared to the Lightning.

Even years late to market, having overpromised and underdelivered since the beginning, the Cybertruck looks different, and people are into it. In a world of homogenized blobs, that counts for something.

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