2021 Lucid Air First Drive: Color Us Impressed

2021 Lucid Air First Drive: Color Us Impressed

A brief stint behind the wheel left us impressed

  • First vehicle launched by startup automaker Lucid
  • 1,111 horsepower from dual electric motors
  • EPA-estimated 520 miles of range from Dream Edition model
  • Kicks off the first Air generation launched for 2021

What is the Air?

The 2021 Lucid Air is the debut vehicle from American EV startup Lucid Motors. Taking a page out of Tesla's playbook (though the company doesn't love the comparison), Lucid is launching its brand with a high-end luxury sedan boasting eye-popping performance and range numbers that eclipse anything else on sale today, Tesla included. The Air is also equipped with interesting new tech, such as two-way charging that allows you to use the car as a battery for your house. The Dream Edition launch model will hit the first customer hands by the end of October. The Dream Edition is limited to just 520 units, the same as the car's EPA-estimated 520 miles of range.

How does the Air drive?

We recently had a chance to drive the Air. Unfortunately, Lucid limited our drive time to less than 15 minutes. Consider these first impressions and not one of Edmunds' full expert reviews. As with cars like the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan, the battery packs are mounted beneath the Air's floor. The Dream Edition's 112-kWh battery sends power to electric motors at each axle, giving the car all-wheel drive. Other battery options and rear-wheel-drive models on trims such as the Grand Touring and Pure will come later.

Lucid says the Air in the Dream Edition configuration will hit 0-60 mph in just 2.5 seconds and pass the quarter-mile in a hair under 10 seconds. Edmunds recently tested a Tesla Model S Plaid, so we can't wait to verify these claims for ourselves. That said, anyone who's driven another luxury EV like the Model S, Taycan or even the Volvo XC40 Recharge will know that most EVs feel stupid quick. While even small dips of your right toe are hilarious and totally giggle-worthy, the Lucid's performance doesn't feel notably better on public roads than its rivals.

There are multiple drive modes that adjust throttle response, steering effort and the suspension damping, though the Air lacks an adjustable air suspension like you'll find on other luxury EVs. That said, in our short time behind the wheel, the Air felt relatively composed and comfortable, even when equipped with the available 21-inch wheels. The brakes felt smooth and offer adjustable regen for one-pedal driving. 

What's the Air's range like?

Lucid sent shockwaves through the EV world when it announced the Air's range will be 517 miles on a single charge. Color us surprised when the automaker announced the final EPA-estimated figure was 520 miles. In fact, the company increased production of the Dream Edition from 500 to 520 units as a bit of a tie-in. Currently, the longest-range Model S that Tesla offers only has 405 miles of range. Though the base model Air hasn't been tested by the EPA, Lucid says it will offer 406 miles of range.

All EVs with a high-capacity battery pack can tap into the growing network of DC fast-charging stations, and the Air is no different. Because most electric vehicles with DC ports use a 400-volt architecture, they can't take full advantage of the newest generation of chargers. By contrast, the Air uses a 900-volt system, making it one of just a few vehicles that can tap into nearly the full 350-kW charging rate promised by the newest Electrify America stations.

This capability allows the Air to recharge at up to 20 miles per minute using these stations, depending on certain factors such as the car's state of charge. That's great for road trips. For home use, the Air's 19.2-kW onboard AC charger ensures charging at home won't take too long either. Level 2 charging, Lucid says, can add up to 80 miles of range per hour.

The Lucid at-home charging station is unique in that it can also draw power from the Air and pump it back to your house. This essentially turns the car into a battery, so if there's a blackout at your house, you can tap into your car's stored electricity. Lucid also envisions lower bills for owners. The idea is that you charge your car at night when electricity is cheap, then use it to run your house in the afternoon when rates are higher. It's an intriguing concept, though we remain skeptical about how many owners might actually take advantage of it.

How's the Air's interior?

The Air feels much more like a car from a company like Mercedes or Porsche than it does a Tesla. The Air features a steering wheel with a traditional turn-signal stalk and column-mounted shifter. While that might seem obvious and the assumed standard for literally any automobile, the updated Tesla Model S features a yoke instead of a wheel and uses buttons for turn signals and the touchscreen for shifting.

Like many new EVs and luxury vehicles, the Lucid Air has a screen-heavy interior that features few physical controls. A volume knob and basic climate controls are sandwiched between two touchscreens — the upper is the primary infotainment screen that shows things like navigation and media controls and is an extension of the instrument panel cluster. The lower screen offers more in-depth control of the climate system and drive mode menu. You can also swipe information from the upper screen to the lower if you want more real estate to navigate through the menus. Touch-sensitive controls for the lights, door locks and windshield wipers are located on a panel to the left of the gauges.

Lucid is positioning the Air as a midsize car with the interior space of a full-size. From our time with the vehicle, it feels more like the Model S, which strikes a balance between those two classes in terms of room. The back seat isn't as spacious as what you'll find on a Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series, but there's still ample room to stretch out. The sloping roofline cuts into headroom somewhat, but only with particularly tall drivers. The rear seats also feel a little close to the floor — a result of four battery packs that reside below that section of the floor. Future models with less range (and lower price tags) will feature a recessed floor with more vertical room.

The Dream Edition will launch in a five-seat configuration, though later models will be available in a four-seat layout with a control panel in the rear. This is how you'll configure your Air if you want lounging rear seats with power adjustment.

How's the Air's tech?

The Air will come standard with a full suite of advanced driving aids that Lucid calls DreamDrive. It includes such features as adaptive cruise control, lane centering and automatic parking. These are all par for the course for luxury vehicles currently, but Lucid is also equipping the Air with future-proofing hardware including high-resolution lidar. The idea is that once the software is finalized, Lucid will beam over-the-air updates to enhance the car's automated driving capabilities. Lucid is aiming for the Air to achieve Level 3 autonomy during the Air's life cycle. Level 3 means the car can perform automated driving but the driver must be ready, with warning, to take over at all times.

The Lucid Air will be the first production automobile to feature a Dolby Atmos-enabled audio system. While big-budget movies have been Atmos-enabled for years, albums and songs have only recently started to make use of the additional height channels. Unfortunately, our short drive didn't give us an opportunity to test the Air's 21-speaker Surreal Sound system.

How's the Air's storage?

The concept of space maximization extends to the Air's cargo-carrying capabilities. The front trunk is absolutely massive, offering more space than any other EV on sale today. It features a false floor to separate your gear and keep items from rolling around. The traditional trunk is also quite large, though the car's low ride height means you'll likely have to bend over to place items inside.

What are the Air's trim levels?

In 2021, Lucid plans to build 577 Airs, a number calculated based on how fast the company can currently crank out an entire car. Of that total, 520 of those will be $169,000 Dream Edition models and the remainder will be the $139,000 Grand Touring model. The Dream Edition is available in two trims: the 1,111-horsepower Performance model with 471 miles of range and the 933-horsepower Range trim that offers 520 miles of range. The Grand Touring offers an EPA-estimated 516 miles of range. Eventually, Lucid will offer a $95,000 Touring Trim and a $77,400 base-level Pure trim.

Edmunds says

Lucid has a long climb ahead of it to compete with the likes of Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and other established automakers, but our first impressions with the car are promising. We're eager to see if the good vibes continue with even more time in the driver's seat.



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