There’s no shortage of tech startups with ambitious plans to build electric vehicles, with varying degrees of hype and flakiness. Lucid Motors is one of these emerging young brands, and while its first product, the 2022 Air luxury sedan, features its fair share of gadgetry and design dazzle, it’s also an impressive example of what can result when tech dweebs and car nerds collaborate.
The Lucid Air made its debut as the limited-production Dream Edition, which has since sold out, and now is in the process of fleshing out the lineup. We sampled the now-top-spec Grand Touring Performance near Lucid’s headquarters in Newark, California, and tested the next-rung-down Grand Touring back home in Michigan. Lower-cost Touring and Pure trims are set to join the lineup by the end of the year, but for now the $140,500 Grand Touring is the most affordable variant.
For that six-figure outlay, you get a four-door EV sedan with a luxuriously trimmed cabin, 819 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and an EPA-estimated driving range that’s far and away the most generous among EVs. The special sauce is Lucid’s innovative battery pack (112.0-kWh capacity in the Grand Touring) and its super-aerodynamic design, which allows it to achieve up to an estimated 516 miles per charge when equipped with the standard 19-inch wheels. (The optional 21-inch wheels reduce that to 469 miles.) In our 75-mph highway range test, our Grand Touring test car (on 19s) managed 410 miles—considerably less than the EPA number, but still the best result of any EV we’ve ever tested, and the first to top 400 miles.
The $180,500 Grand Touring Performance entices with 1050 horsepower, but even with its slightly larger 118.0-kWh battery pack, its EPA range estimate is lower at 446 miles. Twenty-one-inch wheels wearing summer tires are standard here, which contributes to the reduced range, but the additional power potential from the electric motors is also partially to blame.
Charging is quick in both Grand Touring models, and Lucid estimates that on a DC fast-charging connection, 300 miles can be added to the battery in just 21 minutes. When we did our fast-charging test from 10 to 90 percent charge on an Air Dream, it took 46 minutes at an average rate of 135 kW, the fastest we had ever measured. Home charging is slower, naturally, but the Air can accept the highest rate of Level 2 charging, 19.2 kW, assuming your house is wired to give at that rate, which can add about 75 miles for every hour the car is plugged in.
Both models are powered by a dual electric motor powertrain, and Lucid claims the more powerful Performance version can hit 60 mph in 2.6 seconds. (The slightly more powerful Dream Edition Performance model did exactly that when we tested it earlier this year.) The 819-hp Grand Touring, meanwhile, hit 60 mph in 3.0 seconds flat at our test track.
Merely feathering the accelerator pedal moves either Lucid forward without delay, but the Performance is noticeably punchier. A launch-control feature allows the driver to easily unlock the car’s maximum capability for straight-line performance: First select Sprint mode, then simply hold your left foot on the brake and mat the go pedal until the telltale blue-bear logo appears on the gauge display. Release the brake, and the car rockets forward with a whoosh and virtually no wheelspin.
The Air’s road manners are refined and borderline athletic. It’s not as sharp as the Porsche Taycan, and its width makes it feel less nimble than an Audi e-tron GT. The 0.82 g of grip on the 19-inch all-season range tire also falls well short of those cars, whereas the previous Dream Edition we tested on the summer 21s did 0.92 g. But the Grand Touring nonetheless offers a compelling blend of comfort and sport. Three driving modes alter the car’s suspension, steering, and powertrain to a surprising degree. Smooth mode, the Air’s most comfortable setting, sets the dampers to soak up bumps as much as possible and limits the horsepower to help preserve range. Swift and Sprint modes are where things get more interesting, with the latter unlocking the maximum horsepower. The dampers are firmed up in these settings for better handling, and the steering dials in a bit more heft as well as some road feel that’s largely absent in the default Smooth mode.
No matter the setting, the Air’s brake pedal feels squishy through the initial bit of travel before firming up as the pads bite at the rotors. Luckily, the Air’s two regenerative braking modes—Standard and High—both are aggressive enough so that drivers can avoid touching the brakes the majority of the time, although some drivers might welcome a less regenerative coast mode. The Air Grand Touring’s 193-foot stop from 70 mph, though, is a disappointing performance, some 30 feet longer than that from the summer-tire-equipped Dream.
The Air’s design to a large degree is both aesthetically pleasing and thoughtful. The front- and rear-seat passenger compartments are more spacious than expected, and interior materials are both premium and contemporary, with soft nappa-leather upholstery and textile-covered dash panels. Cleverly located storage bins, including one hidden beneath the lower infotainment display screen, provide ample places to stash smaller items, and the Air’s cargo capacity is adequate thanks to a deep well under the car’s hood and a wide-mouthed, if somewhat awkwardly accessed, trunk.
Missteps are few, but they include a wireless charging pad that could accommodate an iPhone 13 Pro Max only when the phone was inserted caseless and upside down. Similar to the Tesla Model X SUV, the Lucid Air’s windshield runs uninterrupted up and over the roof, creating a wide-open view for everyone inside. This type of vehicular showmanship is sure to impress prospective buyers when they first slide behind the wheel, but the wow factor quickly becomes a sweat-on-the-brow factor when the car sits in the sun.
To match the Air’s cutting-edge electric powertrain, Lucid has installed an equally impressive infotainment system, but its software is still a work in progress. The curved 34.0-inch display and onscreen graphics give the interface a high-end look, but the software occasionally lags, and accessing simple features sometimes requires wading through submenus. Lucid assures us that enhancements are on the way via over-the-air updates and says that as many as 17 updates have already been pushed out to customer cars since the Air’s launch. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on the list to be added to the infotainment system but haven’t yet been enabled. The unfinished nature of the infotainment software combined with some body creaks and squeaks remind us that this is an early-build car from a brand-new automaker.
Still, as a first stab at luxury EV motoring, the Lucid Air is a mighty impressive piece with many traits both car enthusiasts and technology aficionados will appreciate. Lucid, for the most part, has avoided the temptation of stunt engineering and instead focused on creating a groundbreaking electric car with excellence rooted in performance and efficiency.
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