More than 1,200 horsepower makes the Air Sapphire the world's most powerful production sedan.
On the proverbial electric car playground, it's the Tesla Model S Plaid that's the unbeatable bully. In everything from drag races to hot laps, the high-performance EV absolutely decimates everything in its sight. However, there's a new challenger, looking to square up with the Plaid and get its lunch money back. Say hello to the Lucid Air Sapphire, an electric performer touted as the world's most powerful production sedan.
Everything about the recently teased Air Sapphire is big. Let's start with the figures. Lucid is yet to announce exact power outputs but says the performance variant produces more than 1,200 horsepower from a tri-motor powertrain and can hit 60 mph in less than two seconds.
It's a rather clever system. A single motor sits up front, supported by another two at the rear. For the latter, technological advancements include new heat exchanger technology and a heightened coolant flow rate. This uprated system will come in handy when you glance over the rest of the performance statistics. From a standstill, the Air Sapphire can reach 100 mph in less than four seconds.
Should you decide to hit the drag strip with the svelte luxury sedan, you'll quickly revel in the claimed quarter-mile time of under nine seconds. Cheekily, Lucid quickly points out that these figures are achievable "with no extra-cost equipment upgrades or protracted preconditioning routines." As a reminder, the Model S Plaid can dispatch 60 mph in a claimed 1.99 seconds and has a top speed of 200 mph. Keen to impress, Lucid has said the Sapphire's top speed exceeds the hallowed 200 mph mark.
Curiously, there's no mention of driving range, but if Lucid wants to beat Tesla, the Sapphire must be able to travel more than 400 miles on a single charge.
For Lucid, Sapphire isn't merely a trim level. Think of it as BMW's M or Hyundai's N subsidiaries. Derek Jenkins, SVP of brand and design, explains the choice behind the name. "Sapphire is among the most valued gemstones, prized for their brilliance, color, and hardness. Imperial Blue has long been the de facto national color for American motorsports teams engaged in international competitions."
"As Lucid's dedicated ultra-high-performance brand, Sapphire references this history while setting new standards for innovation and technology," he added.
So, aside from an immense amount of electric muscle, what else has been changed? Plenty, notes David Lickfold, the man in charge of chassis and vehicle dynamics. While it may look like a squishy luxury sedan, it should handle beautifully, thanks to stiffer bushings, bespoke damper settings, and stiffer front and rear springs.
Even the ABS, traction, stability control, and power steering have received model-specific tuning. Stopping power comes courtesy of standard carbon ceramic brakes.
The chassis itself has benefitted from subtle tweaks. No specific details are shared, but Lucid notes the advanced setup has been configured to "maximize the benefits of the torque-vectoring capabilities of the three-motor powertrain." The twin-rear drive unit is capable of torque vectoring which, says Lucid, allows it to surpass the capabilities afforded by a regular all-wheel-drive system.
Lucid claims that the rear-mounted unit can essentially pivot the rear of the Air Sapphire by feeding torque to the back wheels in opposite directions. This, says the automaker, will enhance stability through corners. In particularly tricky corners, the system can utilize regenerative braking on the inside wheel all while powering the outer wheel.
With extra power and handling capabilities come beefed-up wheels and tires. Specially developed Michelin PS4S rubber envelops the staggered Aero Sapphire wheels, which receive removable carbon fiber aero disc wheel covers. Sized 265/35R20 up front and 295/30R21 at the rear, the Michelin tires should provide plenty of grip should you find yourself chasing a Plaid around a race track.
"Our aim with this, our first Sapphire model, is to complement the exceptional powertrain with sharper, more responsive driving dynamics and increased body control," said Lickfold. Despite the sporting aspirations, "it was important to retain the exceptional ride quality for which Lucid Air has come to be known."
One glance at the Air Sapphire confirms that this is still, first and foremost, a luxury car. That's reflected in the graceful design, which has been subtly updated by athletic accouterments. As standard, Sapphire models receive the sinister Stealth Look (a $6,000 optional extra otherwise), which gives the tastefully styled EV a healthy dose of menace. The looks are further enhanced by the delightful wheels and, of course, the Sapphire Blue exterior paint.
At first, all Air Sapphire models will sport this fetching hue in honor of the subsidiary's introduction.
Inside, it's as sumptuous as you'd expect. The dashboard architecture and cabin design remain, but the performance model receives a unique interior theme called Sapphire Mojave. Black leather and Alcantara, replete with Sapphire Blue contrast stitching, cover the bolstered sports seats. Naturally, these are 18-way power-operated and boast heating, cooling, and massaging functions, too.
An ode to California comes from debossed Lucid bear logomarks on the headrests. Many of the touchpoints, such as the steering wheel and roof lining, are trimmed in black Alcantara. A classy touch comes in the form of Mojave darkwood veneers. So, how much will all of this excellence cost you? Well, we hope you're sitting down because the Air Sapphire sports a $249,000 price tag.
If that figure didn't make you lose your lunch, you'll be pleased to know reservations will go live on August 23, 2022. Is the Tesla Model S Plaid still king? Perhaps - but not for long, it seems. At this rate, the Rimac Nevera could even be in danger.