Road tests

New Lucid Air 2022 review

Lucid's first model intends to make a lasting mark on the luxury EV market

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Verdict

Lucid’s self-confidence is enormous, and with good reason from our first taste of its Air in high-power, high-spec trim. A genuine rival to the likes of the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan, the Air drives well and backs this up with impressive tech and performance. Here’s hoping it arrives in the UK soon.

My first taste of the Lucid Air elicits a stream of expletives sustained for as long as I dare to keep the car’s accelerator pedal pressed to the floor. It’s simply astonishing how this machine will bludgeon its way from around 40mph to 140mph - just a twitch of your right foot and in the blink of an eye you’re there.

I’ve driven hundreds of very fast cars over the last 35 years, but none has quite wowed me in a straight line like the Lucid Air Dream Edition Performance.

It packs an electric motor on each axle for a total of 1,111bhp and a 0-60mph time of 2.5 seconds. That makes this electric family saloon car as fast as a Bugatti Veyron.

With that ridiculous power output and performance, you might expect range to be pitiful, but a 118kWh battery means that Lucid claims the Air will travel up to 471 miles on a full charge. Go for the less powerful (a relative term, as it still packs 933bhp) Air Dream Edition Range model and maximum range stands at 520 miles.

In fact, everything about the car has been designed to extract every last drop from every area and to challenge the established competition, as Lucid’s boss Peter Rawlinson tells us: “The Mercedes EQXX study [the car recently completed a 621-mile journey on one charge] only exists because of us. Everything about the Air is designed for efficiency: the drive, the battery, the aerodynamics.

Joining Brit Rawlinson – considered to be the father of the Tesla Model S – at the top of the company is design chief Derek Jenkins, who penned the Mazda MX-5; German chief engineer Eric Bach, who learned his trade at VW; and production manager Peter Hochholdinger, also a former Tesla employee.

Lucid’s first model shows that the company really means business and that it’s clearly targeting targeting Tesla at the top of the EV tree. And it’s not just in the performance and range stakes that the Air has the measure if its arch-rival.

In the Smooth driving mode the steering lacks a little feedback, but it is light, making the car feel easy to place and manoeuvrable. Switch to the Swift setting and the Air is more engaging, but it’s only in Sprint mode do you get the full 1,111bhp hit, when the Air really does feel Bugatti-fast, powerful but effortless.

This five-metre-long saloon takes on some other elements of a sports car’s persona, feeling like its wheelbase has shrunk and it’s shed a few hundred kilograms in the process. It handles sweetly in tight corners but offers comfort like a premium saloon. There’s some wind noise from around the windscreen pillars, but apart from this refinement is good.

So is the tech. Inside, there’s a gently curved 34-inch panel for the instruments and infotainment, which works well, offering fast and reliable responses that means you never miss a function.

Charging capability is up to the cutting-edge standard too, with a rate of 300kW possible; the car’s 900-volt electrical architecture can accept enough charge to add up to 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes, so the Air is an EV that delivers flexibility when it comes to both range and charging. 

The driver assistance systems are as advanced as the car’s charging tech, with the Dream Drive Pro set-up featuring Lidar, radar and cameras, with a total of 32 sensors for autonomous driving capability.

Practicality is also good, with plenty of space inside, while a 626-litre boot is complemented by a 283-litre storage area in the nose.

Rawlinson says that “Today we challenge Mercedes,” before adding that his vision is that, “from 2025, when we have finished our much cheaper mid-size sedan after the Gravity SUV, then we will attack Tesla."

On this basis, Lucid’s first showing bodes well for an extended product line-up in the future, and the Air is the disrupter that will challenge the likes of Tesla. Our first impressions highlight a car that boasts massive performance, plenty of technical capability and a strong mix of practicality and refinement. 

Only the price could be a factor for some, as at $169,000 in America (£138,413 at today’s exchange rate. Although a Tesla Model S is just shy of £120,000 in the UK) this top-spec Lucid Air Dream Edition Performance is a pricey machine. Of course, that’ll only be a problem if you can actually buy one on Britain. That said, company says it will start offering cars in Europe from July, so sales here could start in 2023.

Model:Lucid Air Dream Edition Performance
Price:$169,000 (£138,450)
Powertrain:2x e-motors/118kWh
Power/torque:1,111bhp/1,390Nm
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive 
0-60mph:2.5 seconds
Top speed:168mph
Range:471 miles
 Charging:300kW (300 miles – 20min)
On  saleLate 2023

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