Could Tesla be entering the pickup truck game?

It was back in January of 2016 that Elon Musk admitted in an on-camera interview that Tesla is “quite likely” to build a truck in the future. Pressed for an explanation, the CEO simply remarked, “it’s sort of a logical thing for us to do in the future.”

Well, we decided to play with the idea of a Tesla pickup and what it might look like. Of course, no one outside of Tesla has any solid proof or knowledge of the pickup’s specifics, so this is pure speculation. Still, it’s a fun topic to throw around.

Tesla is currently working to fulfill orders for the Model X SUV while preparing the upcoming Model 3 sedan for its official launch. Aside from expanding its Supercharger network throughout the country, Tesla’s agenda seems free after the Model 3 hits driveways sometime in 2017. That leaves room for the all-electric automaker to take on the pickup truck segment. But why a pickup, you ask? Well the segment is experiencing impressive growth, especially in the mid-size class. Jumping into the fray could spell big profits for Tesla.

Obviously producing a pickup presents a slew of engineering challenges not faced with the sedans or crossover. In order to be competitive, the Tesla pickup will have to offer respectable towing and hauling capacities while maintaining a decent battery range, have the ability to traverse rough terrain, and yet maintain a similar battery range as the Model X when unloaded. Tesla engineers will undoubtedly be put to the test.

So let’s dive into what we foresee as the Tesla pickup.

Continue reading to learn more about the upcoming Tesla Pickup.

Exterior

The Tesla pickup will likely share parts with the Model X – it only makes sense. However, we’re not expecting Tesla to pull an old-school GM and simply slap a pickup bed in place of the cargo area of its SUV. Rather, Tesla would be wise to give its pickup a familiar yet distinctive look, separating it from the Model X, yet still being undeniably Tesla. When compared side by side, the pickup and Model X share a similar overall shape ahead of the B-pillars, but the pickup has a taller stance with more pronounced fenders and a more rugged lower fascia. It’s these cues that help define the vehicle’s “truckness.”

"When compared side by side, the pickup and Model X share a similar overall shape ahead of the B-pillars, but the pickup has a taller stance with more pronounced fenders and a more rugged lower fascia"

Behind the B-pillar, the rear doors drop the Falcon Wings in favor of a more conventional style. The C-pillar then blends nicely from the roof down into the cargo bed, making the transition between cab and bed more stylistic. In fact, the Honda Ridgeline’s design influenced our decision for this styling feature. Both trucks would ride on a reinforced unibody chassis, after all.

Chrome trim around the windows and Tesla’s signature door handles will help brighten the truck’s side profile. Black trim around the lower portion of the truck will help protect paint from rocks and mud, while perpetuating that rugged appearance. Wheel choices may look familiar, as the fan-style rollers in our rendering. Tire choices will be more aggressive than those found elsewhere in the Tesla lineup.

There’s no telling what sort of innovations Tesla has planned for the cargo bed. We’d bet the Ridgeline will serve as a guide for Tesla’s designers, though. Expect to see clever ways of managing smaller cargo, modular tie-downs, and even a variety of power outlets. Tesla will likely offer a Tonneau cover as standard equipment, helping improve the truck’s aerodynamic efficiency.

Interior

2016 Tesla Model X - image 644073

Note: Model X interior shown

We’d expect nothing less than Tesla’s high-caliber interior, perhaps a slightly modified version of the Model X’s cabin. Sporty bucket seats, a minimalistic dashboard with a massive touchscreen, and a fully digital gauge cluster for the driver are highly probable. Tesla might pull a surprise with a folding rear bench seat, or perhaps bucket seats attached to the rear bulkhead with open storage underneath. Those bucket seats could also fold up flat against the rear wall for hauling larger items.

Like the Model X, the Tesla pickup will likely feature a large windscreen that pulls back like a receding hairline.

Drivetrain

2016 Tesla Model X - image 558888

Note: Tesla Model X drivetrain pictured here.

Tesla will surely give its truck customers options when choosing an electric powertrain. The Model X offers four choices, which include the 60D, 75D, 90D, and the outlandish P90D. For truck duty, however, we’d bet the base 60D will be skipped. That leaves three possible choices if Tesla follows the Model X as an example.

"Tesla will surely give its truck customers options when choosing an electric powertrain."

The Model X 75D offers 237 miles of electric driving range with a 0-to-60 mph time of six seconds. Maximum horsepower is rated at 328 and torque comes in at 387 pound-feet. Those are similar numbers to the Chevrolet Silverado’s when equipped with the 5.3-liter V-8.

The 90D has an increased range, totaling 257 miles. Its 0-to-60 mph time happens in just 4.8 seconds thanks to a maximum of 417 horsepower and 485 pound-feet of torque. Opting for the P90D brings an impressive 532 horsepower in Ludicrous mode with a whopping 713 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to push the Model X to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds. Top speed is listed at 155 mph for both the P90D and the 90D, while the 75D tops out at 130 mph.

What’s more, each battery option comes standard with all-wheel drive. This will be invaluable in the pickup market, allowing customers the confidence to tackle a slippery boat ramp or a snow-covered dirt road in wintertime.

Speaking of towing, the Tesla pickup will surely build off the Model X’s 5,000-pound towing capacity. Perhaps with suspension tuning and an integrated trailer brake system, the pickup could pull upwards of 7,000 pounds.

Prices

Pricing will be interesting to follow. Will Tesla push the pickup upmarket, making it a luxury item comparable to the Model X, or will it reduce the price more in line with the current crop of mid-size pickups? Only time will tell, but we’d be on a slight reduction in cost over the Model X. The pickup won’t be Model 3 money, but Tesla can’t price itself out of a customer base.

That suggests the Tesla pickup will carry a starting price around $50,000. That’s $18,000 less expensive than the Model X yet well above the estimated $35,000 starting price for the Model 3. Of course, the price will increase accordingly with the more powerful battery choices.

Competition

Mercedes-Benz GLT Pickup

2020 Mercedes-Benz Pickup Truck: EXCLUSIVE! - image 625562

Yet another mid-size pickup floating in the rumor mill is Mercedes’ offering. This is our rendering of it. We know for sure the pickup will find its way into countries around the world, but it’s still undetermined if Mercedes will offer the pickup in the U.S. If so, we expect the pickup to be the most premium pickup in the mid-size segment, offering Mercedes styling and comfort with the utility of a conventional pickup.

The GLT – our guess at what Mercedes will call the truck – will come with several engine options, including both gasoline and diesel powerplants. Expect Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic to be the gearbox of choice. AWD will likely be standard.

Pricing will be tricky, but if Mercedes does go the premium route, expect the GLT to start around $45,000.

Read our full review on the Mercedes-Benz GLT Pickup here.

GMC Canyon Denali

2017 GMC Canyon Denali - image 655844

GMC added the Denali trim option to the Canyon mid-sized pickup for 2017, making it the most premium mid-size offering currently available. A long list of features, higher-end interior materials, and a slew of chrome make the Canyon Denali a solid choice for well-to-do truck buyers.

The 3.6-liter V-6 comes standard in the Denali, but customers can upgrade to the 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel. A six-speed automatic backs both engines. A choice of 2WD or 4WD is also available.

Prices for the 2017 GMC Canyon Denali hasn’t been released as of this writing, but it’s suspected the truck will start around $42,000.

Read our full review on the GMC Canyon Denali here.

Conclusion

2020 Tesla Pickup - image 682271

The Tesla pickup seems like a fantastic next step for Musk’s adventurous company. I mean, why not? Pickup sales are booming, the “active lifestyle” is trendy, and there’s no telling what gas prices will be in two years. Perhaps even mid-sized trucks with four-cylinder engines will be too expensive to refuel, leaving the Tesla pickup the unchallenged winner of the segment. It could happen.

More likely, however, is Tesla will target the upcoming Mercedes pickup and its luxury-loving audience. Other mid-size pickups like the GMC Canyon Denali and Ford Ranger (if they build it and offer a luxo trim level, that is) simply won’t have the clout as the Tesla and Mercedes. This will create a new sub-segment in the mid-size category for premium mid-size options. Obviously that could be completely off base and wrong, so until time proves the theory one way or another, enjoy our rendering of the Tesla pickup.

If Tesla does move forward with a pickup, don’t expect it before 2018.

  • Leave it
    • Far from confirmed
    • Likely expensive
    • It’ll be years before it debuts, if ever

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