Ever since Tesla burst onto the scene, Silicon Valley investors and Wall Street financiers have dumped tens of billions of dollars into the emerging EV market. So far, only a handful of battery-car startups have actually delivered any meaningful products. Most have failed to get past the vaporware stage and are unlikely to survive.
One of the notable exceptions is Lucid Motors which introduced its first all-electric model, the Air sedan, at the start of the 2022 model year. It might seem odd to debut with a four-door passenger car in a market centered around SUVs and CUVs. But, with its distinctive design and incredible performance, Lucid planners are convinced Air is the right sort of introductory model that will put a halo around products yet to come.
It’s certainly an impressive vehicle and were all else equal, it would kick the Tesla Model S off to the corner. No surprise, in fact, because Lucid founder, CEO and Chief Technical Officer Peter Rawlinson was the chief engineer on the Model S and the Air shows he had a clear vision of where to go were he asked to develop an all-new version of the Tesla flagship.
The Lucid Air is the first product from California-based Lucid Motors. The automaker introduced two super-premium versions a year ago, the Air Dream Range edition setting a benchmark of 520 miles per charge, while the Dream Performance package is one of the fastest production vehicles ever brought to market, launching from 0 to 60 in just over 2 seconds.
The Air Grand Touring adds a third option that is a wee bit more affordable — if that term can be used for a vehicle starting at $154,000. It’s a classic grand tourer, distinctive, lavishly executed and precisely the sort of sedan you’d want to drive on an extended trip. And its estimated 469 miles per charge means range anxiety won’t be weighing on you should you plan a run from, say, Los Angeles to San Francisco.
While not quite as quick as the Dream Performance model, the Air Grand Touring package I spent a week in is still blisteringly quick, even in its most comfortable “Smooth” mode. For a bit more spritely drive, you can also opt for the upgraded Grand Touring Performance package.
At a time when the roads are dominated by largely look-alike SUVs, the Lucid Air Grand Touring sedan is a refreshing standout.
While aggressively streamlined — critical to maximizing range and performance — it’s no Prius. The Air is handsome and elegant, clearly declaring you’ve arrived, much like classic premium sedans such as the Mercedes-Benz Model S.
As with most new EVs, it abandons the conventional grille. There’s no need for one since the drivetrain, including motors and batteries have been moved into the sedan’s skateboard-like platform. Under the power-operated hood there’s a modest-sized front trunk, or frunk. Instead of a grille, there’s an LED light bar stretching corner-to-corner, with slit-like LED head, turn and running lamps underneath.
The sedan boasts a coke bottle sweep to its silhouette, and the flowing roofline adopts a distinctive silver tone to contrast with the body’s paint scheme. The roof flows well into the back deck but does create a bit of a compromise by limiting access to the deep trunk.
The low and flowing roofline does result in another compromise. You’ll have to duck a bit to climb into the cabin, especially if you’re over 6 foot in height. Surprisingly, once you’re sitting inside you discover a cavernous amount of space, both front and back. Even though the Lucid Air (in its various versions) is more than 5 inches shorter than the Mercedes-Benz EQS battery flagship, it offers substantially more head and leg room. That’s all the more apparent in the cavernous back seat.
One of the Air’s most distinctive design features is a windshield that flows well into the roof. And one of the quirkier details is the way that required the sun visors to be glued directly to the glass. The upper portion of the windshield has a UV and infrared coating that helps prevent glare.
There’s a decidedly high-tech feel to the cabin, underscored by the assortment of screens that take over most of the instrument panel. The Air sedan’s DreamDrive infotainment system eliminates all but a handful of conventional controls, though there is a requisite volume knob and the front seats have manual controls for basic movements. (But you’ll have to dive into the main infotainment screen for things like seat heaters, and to activate their massage function.)
In distinct contrast to the Tesla Model S, the Lucid Air Grand Touring’s cabin has a refined appearance, with elegant materials and well executed color combinations that help justify the hefty price tag.
For all the praise that the Lucid Air Grand Touring model deserves, what really makes the all-electric sedan shine is its powertrain. The twin-motor all-wheel-drive system was developed entirely in-house, the project led by CEO and Chief Technical Officer Peter Rawlinson. As the former chief engineer for Tesla he knew exactly where to start from and has taken things an impressive step forward.
Each of the motors is surprisingly compact, especially when you consider the power they punch out. In the Grand Touring model I spent my time in they deliver a combined 819 horsepower and 885 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to launch you to 60 in a mere 3 seconds if you switch to Sprint mode — which also hunkers down the sedan’s active suspension, tightens up steering and backs off on “nanny” systems.
Should you opt for the Grand Touring Performance package, however, the numbers jump to 1,050 hp and 921 lb-ft, cutting your 0-60 times down to around 2.6 seconds.
Equally impressive, the Lucid Air, in its various configurations, is the current EV mileage champ. The Air Dream Range model has an EPA rating of 520 miles. The Grand Touring comes in at 469 per charge which still tops the best any Tesla can muster by about 8 percent. During my time behind the wheel I didn’t have the chance to “burn” completely through a full charge but found the range gauge to be reliable. As with any vehicle, EV or gas, energy efficiency drops when you’ve got a lead foot — as I do. But I expected to still get something close to 400 miles on a charge despite repeated jack rabbit starts and extra-legal freeway speeds.
Once you need to plug in, meanwhile, Lucid claims some of the fastest charge times, as well, thanks to the sedan’s 900-volt electrical architecture. Using a 350 kilowatt public quick charger will get you an additional 300 miles in as little as 21 minutes, the automaker states. Using a Level 2 charger, it adds, will get an additional 75 miles in as little as an hour.
Safety and Technology
As you might expect, the Lucid Air Grand Touring is a high-tech tour de force. And it all comes together through the DreamDrive system operating the sedan’s various digital screens. One, to the left corner of the instrument panel, controls critical functions like headlights and windshield wipers. Twin touchscreens dominate the center stack, controlling virtually all other vehicle functions, from audio to navigation, as well seating and even the sideview mirrors and steering wheel.
There are a few manual controls, including front power seat adjustments and cruise control. And, I was grateful for a manual volume roller. But, to be honest, it can all be a bit overwhelming and, at times, a little bit cumbersome trying to figure it all out. In some instances, such as adjusting seat heaters, you have to dig through more screens than I’d like — and when your butt is starting to overheat, you want instant relief.
The operating system proved at times a little slow, as well. And I occasionally had to wait for the car’s proximity sensor to recognize I had approached the vehicle, triggering the pop-out door handles. Likewise, it occasionally required a few seconds to get the trunk to pop open.
Okay, that’s the downside. The good news is that once you start figuring out how to manage it all the system starts to become intuitive. Think about the first few times you had to maneuver through your smartphone.
Lucid is promising a major software upgrade before year-end. I’m hoping this will address some of my biggest concerns. Since the DreamDrive system is entirely reprogrammable, the update should make it easier to get where you want to go much quicker and more simply.
I’d also strongly request a more conventional keyfob with real buttons for the trunk, frunk and doors.
While the Lucid Air Grand Touring delivers the sort of acceleration only a handful of conventionally powered sports cars can match, it really is more of a classic tourer. In “Smooth” mode, it is quiet and comfortable and soaks up virtually every bump in the road — something I came to quickly appreciate considering the horrendous condition of Michigan roads.
With its comfortable seats and roomy interior, this is the sort of EV that I could enjoy taking on extended trips, all the more so considering its significant range.
Switching to “Swift” I immediately noticed a difference in throttle responsiveness, steering feel and the way the sedan maneuvered on curvy roads like those that cut through the appropriately named Hell, Michigan. Despite its hefty 5,236 pounds, the Grand Touring model handled corners smoothly and precisely. It helps, of course, to have the batteries and motors housed in a skateboard-like platform that yields a lower center of gravity than many a Ferrari or Lamborghini.
If you’re looking for maximum performance you switch to “Sprint” mode — which flashes up a warning screen and asks for your consent before going into effect. For good reason. Much like the Track modes found on some high-performance gas models, it either disables or limits nanny features.
For less experienced drivers, frankly, this could get out of hand in a hurry. For those who have the experience and skill, however, it’s the real deal. At just 3 seconds 0-60, (2.6 seconds in the Performance package), the GT delivered a real rush on launch and the thrills continued as I slalomed through some wickedly tight corners.
Another nice feature: the extensively adjustable brake regeneration mode. This allows the vehicle to recapture energy normally lost during braking or coasting to extend range. The Air Grand Touring offers two levels of “1-Pedal” driving which basically feel like a gas drivetrain that’s been downshifted several gears. Once you learn how to use 1-Pedal mode you’ll only rarely ever find need to jump onto the brakes. I made the entire 30+ mile run through Hell and the neighboring countryside simply modulating the throttle.
2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring Specifications
|Dimension||L: 195.9 inches/W: 76.3 inches/H: 55.5 inches/Wheelbase: 116.5 inches|
|Powertrain||Dual-motor AWD automatic transmission|
|Fuel Economy||516 miles of range/4.6 miles per kWh|
|Performance Specs||819 horsepower and 885 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $154,000; As tested: N/A|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
I had the chance to go for a ride in a Lucid Air prototype nearly two years ago and had extremely high expectations for the sedan once I finally had one parked in my driveway. While I did find a few things to grumble about — almost entirely with the all-encompassing infotainment system — I can say with no uncertainty that the sedan is the most impressive battery-electric vehicle I have so far driven.
The Lucid Air Grand Touring is blisteringly quick yet also offers the sort of comfortable driving experience you’d expect of a classic grand tourer. It delivers enough range to get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Boston to Washington, D.C. on a single charge. And once you do have to plug in it powers back up with lightning speed.
The sedan has a distinctive design without taking things too far. The interior is impressively high tech yet doesn’t forego the sort of details you’d expect of a product in its price range — unlike the Tesla Model S.
As mentioned, the infotainment system and a few other details need some work. But there’s a major software update coming that, I hope, will address some of my concerns.
I’d have absolutely no problem recommending the Lucid Air Grand Touring model (or other Air variants) to those that can afford the stiff price tag. The GT starts at $154,000, the Air Range and Performance models closer to $170,000. There will be yet more versions to follow for those on more limited budgets.
For a first-time entry, Lucid has simply hit it out of the park with the Air sedan.
2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Lucid Air better than the Tesla Model S?
In many ways the Lucid Air is not just newer but better than Tesla. The Air is more energy efficient and offers better range — as much as 520 miles per charge on some versions, according to the EPA. The Performance edition effectively matches the speed of the fastest Model S Plaid, and other versions are faster than comparable Tesla variants.
Who makes the Lucid Air?
Lucid Motors is based in Newark, California, founded in 2007 by a group including Peter Rawlinson, formerly the chief engineer on the Tesla Model S program. It introduced its first product, the Lucid Air, for the 2022 model year.
How fast is the Lucid Air Grand Touring?
The Lucid Air Grand Touring features a two-motor, all-wheel-drive electric powertrain producing 819 horsepower and 885 pound-feet of torque. In Sprint mode, it will launch from 0-60 in just 3 seconds. The Grand Touring Performance package boosts the numbers to 1,050 hp and 921 lb-ft, while trimming the launch to 2.6 seconds.