Lucid Air review
Created by a former Tesla engineer, can the new Lucid Air climb to the top of the luxury electric-car class?
- Drives well
- Impressive technology
- 300kW ultra-rapid charging
- Will be expensive
- Not on sale in the UK yet
- Some rivals are even faster
|Model||Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Pure||406 miles||13hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||16mins (10-80%, 300kW)|
|Touring||406 miles||13hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||16mins (10-80%, 300kW)|
|Grand Touring||446-516 miles||16hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||19mins (10-80%, 300kW)|
|Dream Edition||471-520 miles||16hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||19mins (10-80%, 300kW)|
|Sapphire||TBC||16hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||19mins (10-80%, 300kW)|
Audi, Mercedes and Porsche have all taken a swing at the Tesla Model S with their flagship electric saloons. While each has its merits, the Model S is still hard to beat a decade after it went on sale. But if anything is going to steal the crown from the luxury EV that started it all, it’s the Lucid Air.
It’s understandable if you’ve never heard of Lucid until very recently. The California-based startup has been around for more than a decade developing EV battery technology, but it was only in 2016 that it declared its ambition to produce an electric car. At the helm is CEO Peter Rawlinson, who was the chief engineer for the Model S, while the Air’s designer was responsible for the latest Mazda MX-5, among others. This is far from an inexperienced band of amateurs.
We’ve confirmed that a right-hand-drive version of the luxury electric saloon will go on sale in the UK at some point, but exactly when that’ll happen has yet to be determined. So far, deliveries of the luxury electric saloon have started in the US and Canada, while order books are open for customers in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.
The first models in Europe will be the limited-run Dream Edition Performance and Dream Edition Range. Both come with a 118kWh battery, 300kW ultra-rapid charging and dual electric motors for all-wheel drive, but as the names suggest, they have their own specialties.
The Dream Edition Range made headlines after the American EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recorded an official range of 520 miles in testing – the longest of any production electric car on sale. The only other EV that comes close is the Mercedes EQS, but that can only manage 453 miles before it runs out of juice. And that doesn’t mean the Dream Edition R is a slouch; with 933bhp on tap, it accelerates from 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds.
The Dream Edition Performance on the other hand spits out 1,096bhp and 1,390Nm of torque from its pair of electric motors for a 0-62mph time of just 2.7 seconds. If that’s hard to wrap your head around, that’s because this big luxury saloon is faster to 62mph than Ferrari’s latest supercars. It still has a range of 471 miles on the US test cycle, and we expect figures from European testing will be even higher.
There are four more versions on the Air to come – including Lucid’s answer to the Tesla Model S Plaid – but for now let’s dive into our time behind the wheel of the 1,100bhp-plus Dream Edition Performance. In ‘Smooth’ driving mode, the steering lacks a little feedback, but it’s light, making the car feel easy to place and manoeuvrable. Switch to ‘Swift’ and the Air becomes more engaging, but it’s only in full-fat ‘Sprint’ mode that you get that 1,111bhp hit. This is where the two-tonne saloon feels Bugatti-fast: powerful but effortless.
The Air is five metres long, with a wheelbase of just under three metres, but it doesn’t feel like that on the road. It has some other elements of a sports car’s persona, handling sweetly in tight corners, all while offering the comfort you’d expect from a premium saloon. There’s some wind noise from around the windscreen pillars, but apart from this refinement is good. So is the technology.
There’s no 56-inch wide Hyperscreen here, but the driver does get a gently curved 34-inch 5K panel for the instruments and infotainment – much like the Porsche Taycan. There’s also a row of physical shortcut buttons for essentials like climate control, while the second retractable ‘Pilot Panel’ on the centre console is there if you need to adjust settings. The setup works well, offering fast and reliable responses that mean you never miss a function.
Then there's what’s under the striking bodywork. The Lucid Air uses a bespoke platform and a 900-volt charging system, making it the first production model capable of charging at more than 300kW. Plug the Air into a 350kW ultra-rapid point and you can add up to 300 miles of range in 20 minutes. This is one of the few EVs that delivers flexibility when it comes to both range and charging.
Lucid also offers its own take on Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’, which it calls ‘DreamDrive Pro’. It uses a total of 32 sensors, including Lidar, radar and cameras dotted around the car, to allow for autonomous driving capability. Lucid’s suite of driver-assistance systems includes highway assist, incorporating adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring with blind-spot display and automatic parking. The Air can also accept over-the-air (OTA) software updates.
Practicality is good, too, with plenty of space inside and 626 litres of rear boot capacity, complemented by a 283-litre storage area in the nose – something the Mercedes EQS and BMW i7 both lack. But of course, the Lucid Air’s incredible capabilities come at an incredible price. In Germany both Dream Edition models start at €218,000 (roughly £186,000 at the time of writing), which is a lot in isolation, but seems even more expensive when you realise that’s £30,000 more than Mercedes is charging for the AMG-tuned EQS 53 and over £40,000 more than what you’ll pay for the range-topping Porsche Taycan Turbo S.
Thankfully, there are three more versions of the Lucid Air with far less hefty price tags still to come. Specifically, the entry-level Lucid Air Pure, which the brand expects will start from around €100,000. That’s roughly £85,700 at the time of writing – a full £16,000 less than the cheapest Mercedes EQS. It’ll still have plenty of poke, with 480bhp on tap from a single motor, and a range of over 400 miles.
Above that will be the Lucid Air Touring, which gets all-wheel drive and a healthy 620bhp power output. Like the entry-level Pure, it uses a 92kWh battery for over 400 miles’ range. Next up is the Air Grand Touring, with its 516-mile EPA range. It’ll also be available in performance-orientated form, boosting power output from 808 to 1,035bhp, but also reducing range to 446 miles.
The final model still to come is the Air Sapphire, which uses a tri-motor setup – one motor on the front axle, and two at the rear. Lucid hasn’t shared exact power output or performance figures for its Tesla Model S Plaid fighter just yet, but says it’ll produce over 1,200bhp, have a top speed exceeding 200mph and will be capable of 0-62mph in less than two seconds. The high-performance flagship also features a set of carbon ceramic brakes and track-tuned suspension, with prices in the US starting from just shy of $250,000 (roughly £212,000). Exactly when the Lucid Air Sapphire will come to Europe is also unclear for the time being.
We’re excited to experience the different versions of the Air, as our first taste of the luxury electric saloon in Dream Edition form revealed it to be a genuine Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan rival. The US startup’s first car not only drives well, but features hugely impressive technology and performance that others in this class can’t touch. Its UK debut can’t come soon enough.