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Lucid Air Review: High-tech, engineering tour de force is one of the most interesting cars on the road


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Pros: BIG power; incredible range, efficiency and charging speeds; spacious, functional and high-tech interior

Cons: Software glitches; questionable reliability and build quality as first-time carmaker; it ain't cheap

If you’re the type of person who loves talking about the state-of-the-art (blank) you just brought home, who eagerly answers questions like, “That’s so cool, what is it?” and the stream of inevitable follow-ups, boy are you going to love the Lucid Air. Not only will its classy, futuristic exterior draw attention everywhere you go, but there’s so much about this revolutionary electric car that’s cool, different, game-changing and just plain-old special that you’re bound to have more answers than questions. Indeed, there was too much to share in our Lucid Air first drive review, so we dug even deeper in a separate piece about its impressive engineering.

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So, what exactly is a Lucid? It’s a new, independent car company whose chief engineer previously directed engineering at Tesla, and whose chief designer previously worked at Audi and then Mazda when both were making their best-looking cars. Lucid is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the cars are built in Arizona. So yeah, it’s an American car.

Its most impressive engineering element is its motor unit. It’s shockingly compact, freeing up interior and cargo space. It’s shockingly powerful, with versions ranging from “just” 480 horsepower all the way up to, ahem, 1,234 horsepower in the berserk, limited-production Lucid Air Sapphire.  And yet, it’s shockingly efficient. That same 1,234-hp Sapphire returns an EPA-estimated 32 kWh/100 miles or 105 miles-per-gallon-equivalent, which is roughly the same as a Hyundai Ioniq 6 AWD. The base Air Pure achieves 137 mpg-e, which is considerably better than a humble, 201-hp Kia Niro. Basically, imagine exotic sports car performance with Prius fuel economy. That efficiency, combined with state-of-the-art battery packs (and a lot of them) result in range that doesn’t just beat other EVs, but most gasoline tanks. The worst range estimate is comfortably above 400 miles, while its best crests 500.

Then there’s the adept suspension and steering tuning, the interior that’s richly detailed and elegantly designed, the in-car tech that’s in abundance, yet not the sole focus in design or functionality, and the generous passenger space and twin cargo areas that better the capacity of many SUVs. As we said, we could be here for a while. Basically, the Lucid Air is quite a thing. It's also a very expensive thing, and since it’s so new, don’t be surprised if there are some software glitches, reliability issues and imperfect fit and finish. We’ve experienced them all during multiple test drives. Nothing was what we’d consider serious, but this certainly seems like the peril of buying something from a new carmaker.  Oh, and fielding lots and lots of questions.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Range

What it's like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What's new for 2024?

The model lineup is simplified for 2024. The entry-level Air Pure is now rear-drive/single-motor only, making the Touring the entry point for dual-motor/all-wheel drive. At the same time, equipment availability is now largely equal amongst the Pure, Touring and Grand Touring – this lowers the price of entry for the upper trims, increases options for the Pure, and provides more customer choice. In particular, you can now get the popular heated, ventilated and massaging seat option on all trims, while all now come standard with PurLuxe simulated leather upholstery for those who’d rather not adorn their car with cow. Speaking of upper trim levels, the top-of-the-line Sapphire goes unchanged, but the Grand Touring Performance is being discontinued. We’ve been told the standard Grand Touring will adopt some of the Performance's higher, um, performance elements, but output remains unchanged. If you want an Air that crests 1,000 horsepower, the Sapphire is now your only choice. Oh darn. We can also least report that the Grand Touring’s standard glass roof/windshield combo is now optional, meaning people interested in max power and luxury won’t have to permanently have their heads baked on sunny days.

What are the Lucid Air interior and in-car technology like?

For a car that starts at nearly $80,000, you’d hope a luxury car would have a special interior, and the Lucid Air generally does not disappoint. Materials and build quality have been strong in the four test cars we’ve sampled apart from a squeaky steering wheel in a 2024 Pure, and we very much appreciate the design motifs inspired by different places in California. Now, it should be said that the PurLuxe simulated leather we tested in that Pure trim level (pictured above in gray) doesn’t exactly feel like the real stuff, and it definitely doesn’t smell like it – indeed, the entire cabin’s aroma wasn’t indicative of a luxury car. The leather-lined Touring and Grand Touring (pictured above in black and beige) we’ve previously tested were A-OK in the olfactory department. At the same time, PurLuxe doesn’t require cows to die, and from an aesthetic standpoint, it looks good and everything about the beautiful, accompanying gray cloth distributed liberally elsewhere in the cabin says “expensive!” Maybe the seats should be covered in the stuff, too.

The overall design is clean and modern, yet there are still physical buttons for the climate controls, window switches, gear selector and turn signals. Much of the car’s functions are operated through touchscreen controls, but rather than one jumbo screen as in most cars today, the Lucid splits functions between two interconnected screens integrated beautifully into the dash (rather than just bolting a big TV to the dash). A third touchscreen that controls lights and windshield wipers is located about where they’ve historically been, to the left side of the steering wheel. It’s a system that generally makes sense once you clue into the two center screens being connected, and Lucid has already released over-the-air updates for functionality improvements, so what we’ve experienced thus far isn’t necessarily permanent.

Speaking of which, those OTA updates have also addressed software glitches we experienced in earlier Air test vehicles. For example, the windshield wipers now work at a sufficiently quick clip, and the infotainment system no longer rebooted when it lost cell service going through a tunnel. This is a bit of a glass half-full/empty situation: it’s not great that the issues existed in the first place, but it is a good thing that remedies can so easily be applied. In that spirit, here are some requests: quicker load times for the app-based SiriusXM radio and some way to see the navigation map and radio options at the same time on the two central screens.

How big is the Lucid Air?

This is a big, full-size luxury sedan. However, because of unique packaging advantages of the Lucid’s compact motors and EVs in general, it’s even bigger inside than you might expect. Back seat legroom can be immense, and headroom is more generous than in a Mercedes EQS. We said “can be” because the Grand Touring’s extra battery packs basically fill the backseat footwell. This raises the floor, which leaves backseat occupants’ feet awfully close to the same level as their butts. It’s like sitting in an SUV’s third row, albeit with the front seats ahead miles away. We’d also caution against the optional “Glass Canopy” roof, as the tinting starts too low on the windshield, and there’s no shade to fully block the sun. You shouldn’t need to wear a hat while driving a sedan.

Cargo space is unique, to say the least. The trunk lid is like a great big clamshell on the back of the car that opens to reveal an unusual slot-like space that’s shorter in height than the typical trunk. A lot of bags won’t be able to sit on their sides. Literally dig deeper, though, and you’ll find a huge under-floor compartment big enough to hold a roll-aboard suitcase with room left over. There is then a similarly unique frunk, accessed by the power-operated hood. It first appears to be a wide, shallow space, but it too has a deep under-floor area that when the floor is removed allows for two roll-aboards. All told, we could fit all six bags from our standard luggage test between the two cargo areas, plus have room left over for an extra must-be-checked suitcase. That’s exceptional for a luxury sedan, though to be fair, it is similar to the Mercedes EQS and its hatchback trunk.

We should also point out that storage space is excellent in the cabin, with multiple compartments in the center console and useful door bins.

What are the Lucid Air’s range and performance specs?

Each Lucid Air model lineup has a different combination of power output, driven wheels and range.

The Lucid Air Pure has a single motor powering the rear wheels only. It produces 430 horsepower and hits 60 mph in a Lucid-estimated 4.5 seconds. Its 88-kilowatt-hour battery array (consisting of 16 battery modules/packs) is good for an EPA-estimated 419 miles. Its maximum DC fast-charging rate is 250 kilowatts, which is extremely rapid (few are better), theoretically recouping 200 miles of range in only 15 minutes. The max AC home charging rate of every Lucid is 19.2 kW, which greatly exceeds the capabilities of the typical home charger. The Air can also power your home or recharge another electric car.

The Lucid Air Touring adds a motor to the front axle, thereby providing all-wheel drive and increasing output to 620 hp. The 0-60 time falls to 3.4 seconds. At this point, we should mention that 0-60 times really don’t properly convey the amount of acceleration on tap with these absurd power levels. Ultimately, they are limited by the traction provided by tires. It gets an extra set of battery modules, which helps mitigate the Touring’s increased performance and weight, and keeps range roughly even at 411 miles. That’s with the standard 19-inch wheels, though. You can expect a drop of about 40 miles with 20- or 21-inch wheels.

The 2024 Lucid Air Grand Touring continues to produce 819 hp, but gets some of the enhanced cooling elements of the now-discontinued Performance for enhanced capability when driving enthusiastically for a prolonged manner. The Grand Touring stills get four extra battery modules that should continue to deliver up to 500 miles of range, but exactly figures weren't available at the time of this writing. Maximum DC fast charging also kicks up to 300 kW, which theoretically allows you to recoup 200 miles in 12 minutes.

Finally, there’s the Lucid Air Sapphire. It gets a third motor, attached to the rear axle, that ups output to 1,234 horsepower. Lucid says it’ll hit 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, which is just utterly absurd. EPA-estimated range of 427 miles would also be absurd if it wasn’t for the Grand Touring crossing the 500 threshold.


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What's the Lucid Air like to drive?

Yes, it is fast. And when you engage the “Sprint” driving mode (after agreeing that you acknowledge the inherent risks of doing so), it becomes snap-your-head-back, holy-cow, laugh-out-loud quick. And that’s just the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Touring model. The Grand Touring and Sapphire just get nuttier. That said, the base, single-motor, rear-wheel-drive Air Pure still hits 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which is good enough to smoke the vast majority of cars on the road. It’s also incredibly well behaved despite all its power and torque going to the rear wheels only – we drove it in the rain and didn’t shy away from the go pedal, yet we never noticed a loss of traction or stability control intervention. We wouldn’t hesitate to stick with the Pure and option it up with extra features if so desired.

As for the rest of the driving experience, the Air delivers in droves with a beautifully damped ride that strikes a just-right balance between comfort and response. The steering is precise, though Lucid’s claims that it benchmarked a 911 GT3 and E39 BMW M5 make it sound a lot better than it is. This is a big car with terrific handling for a big car, but we wouldn’t venture to call it a sport sedan, and that’s totally OK. One of the great things about the Lucid Air is how authentic it feels, as in it’s not trying to emulate another car brand. It feels like its own thing, for the better.

What other Lucid Air reviews can I read?

Lucid Air First Drive Review: New kid in town beats everyone up

This is our review of the Grand Touring and Grand Touring Performance, specifically, but features in-depth information about its engineering and design. Some of the performance figures will be out of date.

 

Lucid Air Sapphire First Drive Review

Our only review of the range-topping, totally nutty Air Sapphire.


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Why the Lucid Air is more than the sum of its eye-popping specs

A deeper dive into the Lucid's engineering, design, software and interior. You'll want to read this so you'll have lots to gush about to your friends. (Also, can you spot Top Gear's original Stig, Ben Collins, in the below photo?)

 

Lucid Air Luggage Test: How much trunk (and frunk) space?

The Air doesn't just have a weird trunk, it has a weird frunk, too! We put them both to the test with real-world stuff.

 

What is the Lucid Air price?

The Lucid Air is purchased online, so your best bet for the latest pricing and options is on the Lucid Motors website where you can build the car and reserve one. You can also buy already-built cars. All prices below include the $1,575 destination and documentation fees.

The Pure starts at $78,975, while opting for the all-wheel-drive Touring will set you back $87,475. Equipment has largely been equalized between those two trim levels for 2024, but remember that the Touring gets considerably more power to go with its extra traction. It’s also offered with a few more features. All trim levels, apart from the Sapphire, can now be had in a choice of three interior color motifs named after California locales: Santa Cruz, Tahoe (pictured below with beige carpets) and Mojave. The latter is technically standard since it's the only one that offers PurLuxe simulated leather (pictured below with gray carpet); it costs $3,000 for any of the other options, including a leather-lined Mojave. 

The 2024 Grand Touring turns up the performance and range dials up considerably, but for 2024, its content will be brought down closer to the Pure level. Pricing was not available at the time of this writing, but we've been told it's going to be much cheaper.

Finally, the Air Sapphire starts at $250,575.

What are the Lucid Air safety ratings and driver assistance features?

Every Lucid Air includes the DreamDrive suite of driver assistance systems. This includes forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, front and rear cross-traffic warning, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, automated parking control (parallel and perpendicular), parking sensors, driver inattention warning and adaptive cruise control. The DreamDrive Premium package adds to all that a blind-spot camera and a 3D surround view parking camera system for $2,000. That seems steep, but could be worse. The DreamDrive Pro system is $6,750(!) adds lane-centering steering assist for the adaptive cruise control, and most notably, hardware for an enhanced adaptive cruise control system that will allow for hands-free driving that’ll be available at some point in the future. Vehicle sensors also get an upgrade. It’s common for lane-centering assist to just be included with adaptive cruise control these days, so it’s disappointing you have to pay so much to get it and wait for an even more advanced system that’ll arrive TBD.

The Air has not been crash tested by a third party.

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