What's an old-school guy like me doing with a Tesla Cybertruck?


What’s an old-school guy like me doing with a Tesla Cybertruck?

I’m analog in a digital landscape; carburetion in a fuel-injected world. The Costco gas pumps love me because my collection includes a 1969 Mustang, 1967 F-100, 1977 F-250, 1966 F-100 in the middle of a restomod, and, stepping boldly into Y2K, a 2003 Corvette coupe.

And now, a new Cybertruck.

Like my kids, I won’t pick a favorite. The Vette accelerates, brakes and corners like a performance car should yet glides comfortably over the back roads. The F-250 sits high, rides as smoothly as the old twin I-beam suspension will allow, and I’m not afraid to fill the bed with a load of gravel.

Yet the Cybertruck combines all of that and more.

It’s a big rig, no doubt, at 6,800 pounds and more than 18.5 feet long, but it behaves like a performance vehicle. After about 350 miles and nearly two weeks driving this bizarre-looking creation, I’m smitten. And that’s from a guy who never seriously thought about owning an EV, much less this EV.

That changed in December when I came home after a day on the golf course and my wife greeted me with, “Guess what we’re buying!?” She and our son, a Model Y owner and Tesla fanatic, had been texting throughout the afternoon after he had received an invitation to buy a Foundation Series Cybertruck – a supposedly limited-run model that includes dual motor (600 horsepower) or tri motor (845 hp) all-wheel drive, special interior trim, lifetime connectivity, Tesla’s “Full-Self Driving” hands-free driving system when it becomes available, Foundation Series badging, and a few other add-ons like all-weather floor mats, tie-downs, etc.

Our son had been among the first to place a pre-order when those became available in 2019, and that got him an invite in December. At his stage in life with a growing family, he wasn’t in a position to drop $100,000 on the Foundation Series. But we are and we did after our son reminded us, “You’re not getting younger.”

Technically, he and my wife are owners because his name was on the reservation and Tesla wouldn’t allow more than one other name on the registration. But it’s in my garage, I’ve been driving it, and here are some thoughts after 350 miles:

Order/delivery process

The lack of effective communication with Tesla is my biggest peeve. The information was either wrong, inconsistent, or non-existent. At no time between placing the order in December and receiving the delivery date of May 1 did we have a clear idea of the truck’s status. With an expected delivery of January-March, would we get it early in that window or late? It would have been nice to have an approximate timetable because, you know, we’d like to make plans.

Calls to Tesla and even a visit to the local service center didn’t help. The most common answer was, “They don’t tell us anything.” One day we were told it’s “one stop away” from the service center. A few days after that, “It’s still in Texas.”

You can order a pizza and know what stage of creation and delivery it’s in. I had a vehicle shipped from Arizona to Seattle a few weeks ago and knew its location throughout the journey, including a stop south of Vegas when the driver took a leak. And yet, one of the most technologically advanced companies in the world was having difficulty tracking where our Cybertruck was during the build/transport/delivery process.

When we picked up the Cybertruck on May 1, I was pleasantly surprised that it was clean. I’d seen a few Cybertrucks fresh off the transporters and they looked as if they’d been off-roading, with dirt everywhere on the exterior. Thankfully, my only delivery-day nit was that nobody had touched the dirt-splattered wheel wells.

We inspected it closely for fit/finish and found two burrs on the edges of the stainless steel panels, plus a small scratch on the right quarter panel that, hopefully, will be smoothed out at a service appointment soon. The accelerator pedal cover, subject of a recall in April, had been temporarily secured with a rivet but also sported a couple of unsightly creases from where (I assume) someone put a clamp on it during the recall repair. That cover will be replaced.

 

What it’s like to drive the Cybertruck

It takes a while to get comfortable with any new car, but the Cybertruck learning curve has been steep, especially for someone driving an EV for the first time.

How do you start it? (Depress the brake pedal.)

How do you shift? (Swipe up to go forward and down for reverse on the left side of the 18½-inch touchscreen. There’s another set of shifter controls overhead.)

Turn it off? (Press P, between forward and reverse, on the screen and get out.)

Buttons on the steering wheel activate the turn signals, wiper (singular – there’s one 4-foot-long arm that sweeps the massive windshield), headlight high beam, cameras, audio volume, voice commands, and cruise control.

And the rest of the controls – heat and air, suspension and performance settings, audio, video, and a whole lot more – are in the touchscreen. I’m not technologically ignorant, but it took a few days to get comfortable with the basics, and I’m learning something new with each drive.

Visibility is great out the windshield, and that’s about it. The tiny rear-view mirror inside the cabin is useless when the tonneau cover is extended over the bed. Side mirrors are adequate, but the front, rear and side cameras offer the best views from multiple angles, and they continue to display at speed. One huge irritation: The thick A-pillar makes it difficult to see out the front, particularly to the left, and I find myself double and triple checking around that blind spot.

The Cybertruck accelerates impressively even in “chill mode,” and it’s hold-my-stomach fast in “sport mode.”

The ride in “chill mode” is ultra smooth. It glides over the open road and handles bumps and potholes like they were small ripples in the road. My wife has pain issues and needs cushions on her seat (and under her feet when she’s a passenger) to soften the bumps and vibrations that can make her feel miserable. Yet, during our first weekend with the Cybertruck, she felt fine after riding on freeways as well as curvy, bumpy roads. The suspension is that good; the seats that supportive and comfortable.

The unique steering may be the most impressive part of the driving experience. The variable-ratio, steer-by-wire system is so responsive and, with lock-to-lock in less than a full turn of the wheel, it takes some getting used to. It initially felt like I was doing tank slappers when turning. Now, I feel like an IndyCar driver.

While the Cybertruck doesn’t drive like a big rig, it’s still huge – just over 18.5 feet long and nearly 8 feet wide. So far, I’ve avoided curb rash or a brush with anything inside my garage. I never worried that the garage was big enough because it’s actually housed something bigger: I once owned a ’77 Lincoln Mark V and all 19-plus feet of that land yacht fit. Barely.

We haven’t driven it enough to test its range but recharging it to 80% gives it just more than 250 miles, so the estimated 300ish miles seems accurate.

 

The look

I wasn’t a fan when the Cybertruck concept was unveiled in 2019. But I couldn’t keep my eyes off it.

The exterior looked like a badly folded paper airplane with wheels, something I probably doodled in fifth grade while I should have paid attention in math class. But I applaud out-of-the-box thinking, and the Cybertruck styling slaps the idea of how a pickup should look. You can walk five laps around this thing and find a new angle that works with all the other angles and triangles. It refracts light a dozen ways depending on how you look at it.

It draws a crowd wherever it’s parked. Kids love it, 35-year-olds think it looks amazing, and older people wonder what just fell out of the sky. Most have no idea what it is, and some aren’t afraid to say how hideous it looks.

“That’s the ugliest thing I’ve seen in my life!” said a neighbor.

“Hope you can get your money back,” said an older man, who added, “You aren’t going to haul gravel in that thing are you?”

My reply: “Of course not. I’ve got another truck just like yours that I haul gravel with.”

Some owners have wrapped their Cybertrucks in assorted colors and patterns. Ours will stay stainless because I like originality and there’s a rawness to the steel that I appreciate. If anything, I’ll add a small Holley carburetor sticker because I like messing with people.

And, because I’m old school.

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