The 2023 Lucid Air is the EV that other brands should worry about.
"I won't buy an electric vehicle until it can go 500 miles on a charge." This is a phrase we hear a lot from EV skeptics. It must be an empty statement because anyone who utters those exact words in an online comment section should already have a 2023 Lucid Air in their driveway.
For the completely uninitiated, Lucid Motors is a relatively new American car company that only builds EVs. Its CEO is Peter Rawlinson, the man who served as the chief engineer of the Tesla Model S. Poetic justice, then, that Lucid's first car is a Model S-rivaling sedan called the Air. Beating Tesla in the EV segment is a herculean task, but who has a better shot than the man responsible for that company's segment-defining car?
Early on, buyers of the Air were able to snag a special version of the sedan called the Dream Edition, which has since been replaced by a slightly less powerful Grand Touring Performance trim. Though the Grand Touring is technically less impressive than the sold-out Dream Edition, it still boasts over 1,000 horsepower and over 500 miles of driving range - more than any other EV on sale. CarBuzz had a chance to sample the Air GT for a week, and we are almost ready to crown it as the world's best EV.
Never has a silver sedan drawn so much attention in traffic. Whether onlookers knew what they were gazing at or had never even heard of Lucid Motors, the Air is an attention magnet in a way that Tesla hasn't been for over a decade. A connected light bar at the front gives the car a unique signature, which is even more prominent at night, with a chrome "unibrow" that evokes Battlestar Galactica Cylon vibes to our eyes. It's handsome in a sleek, futuristic way without being over the top.
The rear end is slightly more controversial, thanks to an odd deck lid shape that appears to be a hatchback but opens to a conventional sedan trunk. The connected taillight bar with three-dimensional lighting (like the Lexus LC 500) is frankly gorgeous in dimmer light. We also enjoy the unique roof shape, which stands out due to its silver color and glass canopy-like appearance. A $6,000 Stealth Package is available if you prefer a darker look on the exterior.
19-inch Aero wheels are available on the GT, wrapped in low rolling resistance Pirelli P-Zero AS+ tires for maximum range. Due to size and tires (Michelin Pilot Sport EV and Pirelli P-Zero PZ4, respectively), the larger, optional 20- and 21-inch wheels sacrifice range in the name of style.
Step into the cabin of the Lucid Air, and you are greeted by a host of fabulous material choices. Leather, wood, metal, and suede are abundant, giving the Air a clear luxury advantage over any Tesla vehicle we've driven. As with Tesla, the roof is fully glass, including a windshield that wraps into the roof with no break. We had no issues with it, but some of our passengers wondered whether their motion sickness resulted from the all-glass setup. And driving the car around in Florida, even though the top portion of the glass is tinted, we had to blast the A/C to compensate for the warmth in the cabin. Still, it creates a wonderful, airy feeling.
Lucid offers several interior color combinations with front and rear seats that each rock their own leather hue. These interior options are all named after places in the USA, including Tahoe, Santa Cruz (pictured), and Mojave. We'd think twice about ordering Santa Cruz since the beige floor mats get pretty dirty quite easily. On the plus side, the front massage seats might be the most advanced we've ever used, right up there with Volvo.
For a new automaker, we were most impressed by Lucid's infotainment setup. The 34-inch 5K glass cockpit looks as if it's floating above the dashboard with easy-to-understand controls and a clean design. A lower Pilot Panel controls various vehicle functions, including drive modes and ambient lighting. Thankfully, Lucid still puts physical controls for volume, temperature, and fan speed.
The Air is Lucid's first-ever car, and we didn't think the company would launch without a few teething issues. Lucid only built just over 7,000 cars last year (Porsche sold more Taycans in the US alone), but the company has bold plans to double production in 2023. On our test car, we noted a few minor issues and one that might give us pause. The negligible problems include some less-than-perfectly aligned exterior trim pieces, a slight squeak in the steering wheel when held a certain way, and some lag from the infotainment system - specifically the audio menu.
The bigger issue involved the soft-close doors, which on two occasions failed to latch properly, causing the car to say the driver's door was still open. Both times, we stepped out of the car, locked it, and the problem went away. Let's not forget that Tesla still has major build quality issues despite building cars for over a decade, including steering wheels falling off, so we are willing to cut Lucid some slack if it can solve these relatively minor issues quickly.
When it comes to range and performance, Lucid is untouchable. Even the base Pure trim produces up to 480 horsepower (in dual motor form) with up to 410 miles of range, which is further than any Tesla will go on a charge. Stepping up to the Touring dials up the power to 620 hp with up to 425 miles of range, though both trims use the same 92 kWh battery. The Grand Touring model comes with 819 hp standard or a whopping 1,050 hp in Performance guise. The former includes a 112 kWh battery with up to 516 miles of range, while the latter gets a slightly larger 118 kWh battery and 446 miles of range. With bigger wheels, range across the lineup dips slightly - but even at its worst, it's right on the heels of Tesla's 'better' range figures.
Even without the Performance package, the Air GT hits 60 mph in just three seconds flat, and it will run the quarter-mile in 10.7 seconds at 127 mph. Remember when Brian owed Dom a 10-second car in The Fast and the Furious? He didn't need overnight parts from Japan; he could have just ordered a Lucid straight from the studio. With the Performance pack, the sprint to 60 takes only 2.6 seconds, with the quarter-mile coming in 10.1 seconds.
Let's pretend for a second that these numbers aren't already bonkers. This summer, Lucid will release the Air Sapphire, a high-performance tri-motor version that produces over 1,200 hp. In an independent drag race with a production prototype, the Sapphire destroyed a Model S Plaid (and a Bugatti Chiron), running a 9.1-second quarter-mile in the process.
The Lucid Air is aptly named, in our opinion. When we first hopped in, we could have sworn the car was riding on air suspension because its adaptive dampers are tuned so comfortably. The chassis is brilliant, too, feeling connected to the driver in a way that we've not felt in an EV before. Porsche edges the Lucid in terms of pure driving pleasure and steering feel, but considering the Air is tuned more for comfort than track performance, we are impressed. The steering response is well-calibrated, making the Tesla feel entirely dull by comparison. Our lone complaint would be the lackluster turning radius, which would be improved with rear-wheel steering.
We had limited opportunity to try Lucid's Dream Drive Pro semi-autonomous driving system (a $10,000 option), but it seems to hold the car in its lane well - but the driver needs to keep their hands on the wheel. For that price, we expected hands-free, but Lucid does promise that customers who pay the fee for Dream Drive Pro will receive "future-ready hardware for a semi-autonomous driving system" with Level 3 capability. As of now, Mercedes-Benz is the only company with concrete plans to offer such a system in the US.
The most impressive aspect of the Lucid Air is not (just) the performance; it's the range and charging speed. Our GT tester boasted a 469-mile range on account of its 21-inch wheels, which completely eliminated any notion of range anxiety. We typically have to charge two to three times due to the nature of how our test cars are delivered (and living in an apartment with no charging access) in order to give the press fleets enough range to get the car home. With the Lucid, we never came close to depleting the entire battery during a week of testing, and one charge at the end of the loan provided plenty of miles to return the car. This is a game-changer compared to other EVs we've tested.
With its industry-leading 900-volt charging architecture, the Air charges quicker than pretty much any other EV on sale right now, at least according to Lucid's numbers. Though we didn't have enough time to get the Air into the lower stages of its battery, we noticed the car hover around 150 kW during a charging session on a reliable 350 kW plug, far from Lucid's 300 kW claimed peak. Even so, the car added around 100 miles of range in just 13 minutes in our testing with a preconditioned battery. We'd love another shot with the car to see if we can get closer to Lucid's claim of 20 miles added per minute.
For a car that boasts pretty much the same length as a BMW 5 Series, the Air excels in maximizing space inside. The rear seat is vast, with space that rivals a 7 Series. There's no jaw-dropping media center back there, but rear passengers get sunshades, USB ports, and heated seats.
As for the cargo space, the trunk opening is a bit odd due to the Air's unique design. It opens extremely wide, nearly the width of the entire car, but the short opening would make it difficult to load a tall object that isn't flat. That being said, the trunk is deep, with 22.1 cubic feet, and the seats can fold into the cabin. There's also a massive frunk with an additional ten cubic feet, the most of any electric sedan. Between those two cargo areas and hidden storage under the floors in both, the Air is a pretty practical sedan.
There's one drawback when it comes to the longest-range EV on sale today. And that is its steep price. The base Pure model teeters on the border of affordability at an $87,400 MSRP for the single-motor version, but currently, only the dual-motor AWD version is on sale, which adds $5,500 to the price. We could live with the Pure, since it still offers up to 480 hp and up to 410 miles of range without the full glass roof that left us sweating.
Stepping up to the Touring puts the Air into Model S Plaid territory at $107,400 - but at 'just' 620 hp, the Plaid is much more impressive performance-wise at that price. The Lucid Air Touring does beat the Tesla with a 425-mile range, and we much prefer the exterior design, interior quality, and ride comfort in the Lucid.
Prices for the Air Grand Touring start at $138,000, while the bonkers Performance edition starts at $179k. Our tester rang in at $154,000, including all the bits and pieces. That is significantly more expensive than Tesla, and it's higher than some top-notch luxury cars from BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche. That's before we start talking about the upcoming Sapphire model, which will punch into supercar territory with a $249,000 price tag. Is it worth it, though?
We think it's worth the price asked of it: The Lucid Air is arguably the best EV on sale today. This is a car that will set standards in terms of engineering and performance, and such an insane machine rarely comes cheap. Think of it this way: the Bugatti Veyron was priced way over $1 million when it came out, and the next-generation crop of electric supercars already doubled that cost.
For the sticker price of the Lucid Air - even in base guise - you get a five-passenger sedan with massage seats that can blast down the drag strip faster than a 2JZ Supra with overnight parts from Japan or a seven-figure hypercar. It's hard to put a price tag on that level of hilarity, so we think $150k sounds more than fair. Assuming Lucid can solve its early production issues, the Air shapes up as the best EV we've ever driven.
Join The Discussion