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Can the Tesla Cybertruck Go Off-Roading?
Let's do some virtual off-roading with the Cybertruck


Nov 22, 2019

Much will be written about the Tesla Cybertruck, but we wanted to focus like a laser here, specifically regarding its off-roading credibility. Much of what we know so far is admittedly superficial, and plenty of time will be needed behind the wheel to really know how this truck performs.

With that said, at first glance, we're optimistic.

First off, we like that Musk has gone on record stating base price Cybertrucks will cost around $50,000. Certainly, that's not cheap, but it could be much worse (it's also bang-on the median transaction price for a full-size pickup). Our first look at the truck spotted there are appropriately sized 35x12.50 all-terrain tires under the fenderwells—certainly a good first step toward solid off-road capability. That puts the new truck in the same ballpark as Ford Raptor, Ram Power Wagon, and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon—all good and credible rivals.

Although we don't know all the details and capabilities of the four-corner air suspension, we do know it has massive amounts of tire travel (possibly as much as 14 inches from full droop to full compression), with up to 6 inches of air-ride adjustability—from kneel to full 4x4 extension. Depending on how well the engine and traction control software is tuned, this could be more impressive than anything we've seen in a long time. In many ways, we're reminded of the long-gone military-styled Hummer H1, with its impressive wide-body stance, heavy-duty construction, and form-over-function styling. (Still, we'd love to see the Cybertruck get a central tire inflation system.)

From a powertrain point of view, off-road enthusiasts know that getting as much torque as possible as close to idle as possible is always a good thing, and since electric motors have essentially 100 percent of all available torque at 0 rpm, that bodes well, to say the least, for superior trail performance.

In regard to its exterior look, we also like that designers included a functional wraparound rock rail, protecting the passenger doors and the exposed rear quarter panels. These rails also act as an access step for passengers, as well as those needing to get into the bed or wipe down the roof. Underneath, there's a completely flat belly (where the battery packs are kept) and a long-A-arm independent suspension at each corner; it would be quite easy to envision a dedicated setting to allow for a rock-crawl mode below a certain speed. Naturally, we'd also hope there's some kind of high-speed desert wash setting. No doubt there should also be a dedicated traction screen to allow the driver (and passengers) to monitor things like wheel angle, tire pressures, suspension compression/extension, and which tire has the most/best traction. Of course, we'd also want a big icon to keep track of how quickly we're losing battery power as we play in the desert heat.

A key issue working against the Cybertruck in four-wheel-drive situations is its size and weight. We've been told designers worked hard to keep the overall length close to a crew cab long-bed half-ton pickup, which translates to a wheelbase of just under 150 inches. That's pretty long—this is a big truck.

Track width, as well, is wider than any of the non-Raptor set; we wouldn't be surprised if federal regulations require rooftop running lights (like one-ton duallys have to have). Of course, the advantage of the extra track width is that it will be more likely to stay out of those Jeep-sized holes and ruts on the more popular trails, as well as offer more cargo area inside the truck bed—there are no intruding fenderwells in the bed. Finally, depending on which electric motors you select and the size of your battery pack, this vehicle won't be light. Right now, we don't know exactly how much it will weigh, but it's a safe bet you can think about the heaviest truck in the half-ton segment, then add close to 1,000 pounds.

We'd imagine it won't take too long for Tesla's accessories arm to start making accommodations for things like a front winch, some recovery gear storage boxes, and even rooftop luggage racks. Whether they come before a dedicated Expedition special edition package, complete with electronic push-button front and rear locking differentials (it should be simple software programming), we'll have to wait and see. And we wouldn't be surprised to see more integrated bed and side-panel hidden storage, as well.

In the meantime, it looks like the Cybertruck designers have included all the right foundational designs to make a pretty good off-roading platform. We have no doubt we'll be seeing some of these trucks (once they go on sale next year) at the next set of Overland Expo shows and maybe even one of the SCORE Baja races (we're assuming they'll get a few Superchargers set up in Mexico by then). Until then, you can bet we have our route planned. When we get tossed the keys, we'll know exactly which Rocky Mountain and Sierra Nevada 4x4 trails we'll be headed to for our initial tests. More to come.