Here’s How the Tesla Cybertruck’s Big Off-Road Update Compares to Rivian R1T

Armed with long-awaited trail-centric features like locking diffs, the Cybertruck can finally take it to its archrival.

byJames Gilboy|
Tesla Cybertruck midair
Top Gear


The Tesla Cybertruck wasn't much of an off-roader at launch, with even the Ford F-150 Lightning upstaging the supposedly revolutionary pickup. Now though, Tesla has done a No Man's Sky and added some features that should've been in at launch: Those crucial off-road modes. Now, the Cybertruck can finally prove what it's made of, and that it's pretty hand off-road. With a couple caveats, of course.

The Cybertruck's off-road functionality has been added in a patch detailed in a post on X, which appears to be how Tesla addresses the public nowadays. The update, "installing on wave 1 vehicles right now" per lead engineer Wes Morrill, introduces driving modes for various terrains, locking differentials, adjustable torque split, crawl control, "Tent Mode," and more. In theory, they're what Tesla's truck needs to compete with the electric pickups that beat it to market, like the Rivian R1T, on their turf. In practice, it seems it's now a close contender as evidenced by a test filmed by Top Gear.

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The Top Gear crew took both trucks, including a Cybertruck that appears to have the new software, to California's off-road Mecca, Johnson Valley, for a test over terrain ranging from dunes to a rocky trail. They prepared by airing down both trucks' tires, as well as removing the wheel covers from the Cybertruck. Mainly, it was to avoid breaking them, though not rubbing through the sidewalls was also a plus.

The two trucks performed about equally in a crawling test, with neither getting stuck or struggling for traction. On a fast, bumpy trail though, the pair diverged some, with the stiffer Cybertruck visibly bouncing around more at speed. Not only did the hosts report hearing unusual noises as it drove (which turned out to be the tonneau cover jarring out of place), but the Cybertruck ended up finishing the two-and-a-half-minute course some 20 seconds slower than the competition. That may be chalked up to the Tesla's driver encouraging the Rivian's to go faster (the R1T tackled the course second), though the more pliable Rivian also seems to be more stable at speed.

Though the test of Baja and Rally modes in the Tesla and Rivian, respectively, suggested an advantage for the R1T, the hosts fairly pointed to the Rivian's tires doing much of the heavy lifting. They wrapped up their experiment by sending both trucks over a jump, which went mostly well. The Rivian's bed-spanning tent bars bent on impact, their dynamic load limit having presumably been exceeded. The Cybertruck, meanwhile, suffered no apparent damage.

On the whole, the Cybertruck performed noticeably better in Top Gear's gauntlet than we'd seen previously. With its new software, Tesla's pickup is starting to realize its off-road potential, even if the stiffness of its chassis clearly limited it in some scenarios. The gap between it and the Rivian could reopen though, as rumors suggest a higher-performing R1T could be on its way this year. Surely it'll be only a matter of time before Tesla tries to answer with a Cyberbeast Plaid—though hopefully it'll have a better name than that.

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