Lucid Air: a bonafide Tesla rival — finally

James Raia

In the 15 years since Tesla debuted, several potential competitors have swiftly arrived and departed without any impact. Lucid Motors, less than two years into its luxury electric sedan life, is an exception.

The Lucid Air, designed in Newark, California, built in Casa Grande, Arizona, and majority owned by a Saudi Arabian sovereign investment fund, at least equals the omnipresent Tesla in a dozen criteria. It outdoes the EV stalwart in several ways. It’s new, powerful, industry bending and has limited availability, traits Tesla also had in its infancy.

The Lucid Air debuted as a luxury electric sedan in later 2021. It has a 516-mile range.
The Lucid Air doesn’t have a grille but it does have a “frunk.” All images © Bruce Aldrich/2023.

Unveiled in October 2021 as a 2022 model, Lucid produced 7,180 vehicles last year, about one-third of the original estimate after industry-wide supply chain issues. The 2023 edition is now also available without substantial changes from the debut year. Lucid said it will manufacture 10,000 vehicles this year.

Available in Pure, Touring, Grand Touring, Grand Touring Performance and the new-for-2023 Sapphire trims, the Lucid Air is a high-performance, handsome and the-future-is-now vehicle that provides a new definition of a sedan.

The interior of Lucid Air features Nappa leather and touchscreen functionality.
The modern interior of the Lucid Air includes Nappa leather and touchscreen functionality.

Spacious and wide-bodied, the reviewed Lucid Air (Grand Touring) has 819 horsepower and a 112-kWh battery that provides the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive wonder with a 516-mile range and acceleration from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds.

For performance enthusiasts and the electric vehicle obsessed, the stats are industry-best numbers. For the rest of us, sub-three-second efforts may cause lightheadedness. Conversely, driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles and halfway home isn’t possible in many gasoline-powered vehicles. A recharge isn’t required for long hours behind the racing-styled Lucid wheel.

Further efficient, the Air has regenerative braking, reducing the occasions when a driver has to brake. The system has personal-preference options for the “one-pedal” operation. Also, there’s no ignition. Have the key fob nearby, put the car in drive and accelerate. Likewise, there’s no manual locking. Exit the vehicle in park and the doors lock and the handles recess flush in about 20 seconds.

Handsome and wide-bodied, the Lucid Air Grand Touring has optional 21-inch wheels.
Handsome and wide-bodied, the Lucid Air Grand Touring has optional 21-inch wheels.

The Lucid Air also has a state-of-the-art charging system called the Wunderbox. It has a 900-volt architecture, with fast charging as quick as 20 miles per minute and AC charging of 80 miles per hour. If the Grand Touring trim is purchased before July of 2023, two years of fast charging at Electric America stations and without a charging limit are included. Touring and Pure editions receive one year of complimentary charging.

The Grand Touring trim also includes 21-inch wheels ($2,000), massaging seats, Nappa leather upholstery, a power-opened frunk and truck, soft-close doors and the vehicle’s most unique feature, a glass canopy-style roofline roof. It’s a combined one-piece windshield and glass roof.

Lucid has done a superior job efficiently keeping interior driving components to a minimalist’s rejoice. The result: the overall interior is vast and seemingly even larger with its glass ceiling. Push the “floating” visors to the side and the front view is reminiscing of a bulbous portal. One issue: if the vehicle is parked for long in an exposed area, the expansive glass canopy can become quite hot.

Recessed door handles and glass canopy-style roof are among the Lucid Air design highlights.
Recessed door handles and glass canopy-style roof are among the Lucid Air design highlights.

Safety features, called DreamDrive ($10,000), include: adaptive cruise control, automated parking, blind-spot assist, driver-attention warning and front and rear parking sensors. A front-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane centering, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and traffic sign recognition push the Air to near technology overload. A surround sound audio system adds another $4,000.

A 34-inch touchscreen envelopes most of the dash and is home to gauges and infotainment functions. A smaller standalone vertical touchscreen in the console center houses the climate control, the three drive modes and the touch-only control for the glovebox. Navigation options are available simultaneously on both screens.

With its stealth, horizontally-focused exterior lights, innovative interior design and massive performance capabilities, the Lucid Air has delivered what other EV start-ups touted but didn’t produce.

The Lucid Air also may have the widest price range in the marketplace. The base Pure model starts at $87,400; the top-line Sapphire trim begins at $249,000. The Grand Touring model, with its three options, is price at $155,650.

Tesla has a 15-year head start, but it shouldn’t look in the rear-view mirror.

Article Last Updated: January 23, 2024.

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