The Lucid Air Pulls No Punches: Brings GT-R Handling and Over 500 Miles of Range

By Sevan Shahijanian | August 27th, 2021
lucid air driving on canyon road

A challenger approaches

Think “electric car,” and Tesla is likely the first name to pop into your mind. That may soon change as Lucid Motors, founded by Peter Rawlinson, an ex-chief Tesla Model S engineer (and former Lotus chief engineer – more on why this is important in a bit), brings a heavy hitter into the luxury electric car segment. Their first offering, the Lucid Air, ranges from about $70,000 to over $161,000 and makes 4-digit horsepower numbers in the top trim (1,080 hp to be exact) – but what’s the big deal about yet another electric car startup? Well, the devil is in the details, and Lucid seems to have an exorcist on their team.

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lucid air interior dash view

Uncompromised luxury

One of the most common complaints I hear about Teslas is their inconsistent build quality and “unfinished” feeling interior. In all fairness, mass manufacturing automobiles is an art that usually takes decades to conquer, and Tesla’s quick rise to fame has brought along no shortage of production gremlins. Difficulties in mass production and the costs associated with creating bespoke parts have shaped Tesla’s interior design, resulting in a rather uninspiring look and the loss of tactile controls in the way of a large all-encompassing screen.

As a technologist and overall nerd, I loved the idea of Tesla’s interior… until I sat in one. The controls felt unintuitive, materials quality lacking, and the screen overall was a distraction compared to traditional car interiors. Lucid, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach with a design that doesn’t require excuses. Large screens ever-present, they don’t dominate the cabin in the Lucid Air. Physical infotainment and HVAC controls remove the need to look down or navigate through on-screen menus to change volume, fan speed, and interior lighting (an annoying task in the Tesla). The interior is laden with premium fabrics, metal, leather, and even wood; and MotorTrend’s Jonny Lieberman calls it “one of the nicest interiors in the car world.”

I know it sounds like Lucid is paying me to be anti-Tesla (they’re not), but as a huge fan of Elon Musk and Tesla, I think it’s important to point out flaws so that they may be fixed in the future. Although there’s limited press access to the new Lucid Air, it’s obvious that they’ve spent the time chiseling away at the details. Whether that translates to mass production is yet to be seen, but things look promising so far.

lucid air charging

The fabled 500 miles of range 

Let’s be real, and I know I’m going to get some flak for this, but most people don’t need 500 miles of range. The average commute here in the US is about 16 miles one way, and even a trip from Southern California to Northern California is about 360 miles. That being said, it is a huge milestone and marketing point for EV manufacturers, and Lucid is fighting tooth and nail to get to the top.

With modern fast-charging networks in place, the Air has a built in “Wunderbox boost charger” (Lucid’s name, not mine) that enables the car to fill up to 300 miles of charge in about 20 minutes… wunderful! (Sorry, I had to.) If you reserve an Air in 2021, you’ll even get three years of complimentary access to Electrify America’s network of ultrafast public charging stations nationwide. The Air Pure and Touring trims have a range of about 406 miles, while the Grand Touring and Dream Edition shoot over the 500 mile mark.

Lucid Air Front Night Driving Through Forest

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee 

Remember that bit about Rawlinson being a former Lotus chief engineer? Lotus specializes in visceral and driver-focused sports cars, and it looks like Lucid aims to bring some of those same qualities to their lineup.

If you haven’t yet read my thoughts on what happens to sports cars when speed is no longer a factor, the basic idea is that electric cars are insanely fast but lack the involvement and theatrics traditionally found in their internal combustion counterparts. Driver involvement and handling dynamics will be key differentiating factors in the future of lightning-fast EVs, and Lucid has pooled their resources to focus on just that. They’ve situated the battery pack to improve handling (and thus safety), claiming that “the best case scenario is avoiding accidents in the first place” (by maneuvering around them).

The motor itself has been painstakingly engineered for efficiency in both power-to-weight and range, with each unit generating up to 670 hp. Lucid claims the motor is so small you could fit it in an airplane carry-on – though we suspect it’ll do better for you and your back installed in the car (it’s 168 lbs). MotorTrend compared the Air’s handling to the NISMO GT-R, saying “it leaps and bounds out of corners” and is like a “four door, five passenger luxury GT-R.”

Much like the GT-R, the Air utilizes powerful processors in their intelligent all-wheel drive system to rocket the car off the line (0-60mph in 2.5 sec) and keep it planted through tight corners. This is especially impressive, given that the Air weighs over 5,000 lbs!

Release date is up in the Air 

Lucid’s PR department is hesitant to give an exact date as to when customers can get their hands on the new Air. We do know that they’re shooting to start deliveries before the end of 2021 for those with reservations, but the effects of chip shortages and delays from COVID have left things up in the air for many automakers. Dream Edition reservations are fully booked, but remain open for the Pure, Touring, and Grand Touring trims.