Efficiency is the last thing on my mind out on Skyline Blvd. The undulating ribbon of pavement ripples through the high country south of San Francisco and just east of the Pacific Ocean – a well-known stretch for cyclists, sightseers, and automakers looking to impress with their new vehicle’s handling prowess.
I’ve been out here plenty over the years. Though typically the car responsible for bringing me has been a bit trimmer than the Lucid Air Grand Touring’s curb weight of 5,200 pounds, somewhat shorter than its lanky 16.3 feet, and a whole lot louder when darting past recalcitrant CR-Vs and F-150s. But one of the most pleasant surprises about my first spin in Lucid’s moonshot Air Grand Touring sedan is how well it acquits itself on a curvy road.
Point the chromed smile of a front end at the corner apex, roll on the throttle gently, and let tidal wave of torque bring the whole rapid blur of a machine instantly from one moment of fractional bliss to the next. No fuss, no muss: the kind of efficiency that any enthusiast can appreciate.
From the density of its powertrain – two compact electric motors making as much as 1,050 horsepower – to the capacity and recharge speed of its batteries, to the cost and reduced complexity of its manufacturing processes, Lucid employees from CEO Peter Rawlinson on down have prioritized efficiency at every step of the game. That single-minded focus was clear after hours of pre-dinner technology talks with animated engineers and product planners, but how it all translates out on Skyline is nothing short of breathtaking.
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|Quick Stats||2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring|
|Motors:||Twin Permanent Magnents|
|Output:||819 Horsepower / 885 Pound-Feet|
|0-60 MPH:||3.0 Seconds (est)|
|EV Range:||516 Miles (on 19-inch wheels)|
Gallery: 2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring: First Drive
Of course, for many enthusiasts of conventionally powered vehicles, it’ll be Lucid’s lurid outputs, not apexes, that get them in the door. The company’s range-topping Air Dream Edition made waves in Performance spec with its two-motors, 1,111-horsepower, and a sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 2.5 seconds. And, arguably the Dream Edition’s EPA estimated range of 520 miles is the most impressive stat.
The new Air Grand Touring and Grand Touring Performance models step back from the flagship, but only just. The GT is rated at 819 horsepower and 885 pound-feet of torque, with a supercar-esque 3.0-second sprint to 60 and a max range of 516 miles. Toss an extra $25,000 at the Air GT’s $154,000 starting price and you’ll tack on the not-insignificant Performance modifier. The Air GTP sees output raised by just a little less than one GTI to 1,050 hp and 921 lb-ft, with 60 miles crossed in just 2.6 seconds, and range up to 446 miles.
For reference – though the acceleration arguments are done and dusted – a Dodge Challenger Redeye has a theoretical max range of 388.5 miles (EPA rating of 21 miles per gallon Highway x an 18.5-gallon gas tank) and can only creep to 60 in about 4 seconds.
Yeah, I know, I know, you can fill a gas tank faster than you can fill a battery. Lucid is working on that one, too. The Air GT uses a 900-volt architecture for its 112-kilowatt hour battery pack, which allows it to refill more quickly than a 400v pack. The resultant peak charging rate of 300 kilowatts (our buddy Tom Moloughney at InsideEVs.com actually saw a real-world peak rate over 300 kW) allows for adding up to 300 miles of range in just 21 minutes when using a 350 kW DC fast charger. Not quite as fast as pumping $7-per-gallon Premium into your tank, but a fair bit cheaper.
Expending the electrons is always more satisfying than refilling them, to be clear. And In the “boring” stint of highway driving from my hotel to the aforementioned back roads, it was hard to think about any driving impressions other than the exploitation of the Air’s deep power reserves. Even in the lesser GT the instant torque and ungodly horsepower figures were sufficient that I could move the car in an eyeblink.
At 70 miles per hour, just moving the accelerator pedal about a quarter of its travel (definitely not flooring it), caused the Lucid to close the 10 or 12 car lengths in a magically small space of time. The company rates the 60-130-mph time at just 7.4 seconds for the Air GT which is violent enough to elicit either involuntary laughing or weeping, depending on your mindstate at the time. Move up to the GTP and that 60-130 figure drops to 5.0 seconds, or what I like to call “friction-limited teleportation.”
I did a demonstration run with Lucid’s launch control system in the 1,050-hp car, as well, and can report that it’s way too fucking fast for anyone to even think about using on a public road… ever. Did you hear me, current or future Lucid Air owner? The procedure is dead simple, too – put the car in Sprint Mode, left foot full on the brake, right foot fully depressing the gas, lift off the brake and you’re Chuck Yaeger for about three seconds before you run out of courage or hit something solid. Bananas.
Having seen Ben Collins (aka The Stig) drive the Air GTP up the hill at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed, I knew the Air wasn’t going to fall apart on a twisty road. But I hardly expected it to feel utterly at home.
Riding on a reasonably simple steel spring suspension with active dampers, instead of the more sophisticated air-ride featured by so many players at this price point, the car was an example of good old-fashioned tuning. The dampers adjust with one’s selection of three “curated” drive modes – Smooth, Swift, and Sprint – but it's aluminum double wishbones in front and a multi-link setup out back, with anti-roll bars on both ends primarily responsible for keeping the tires in contact with the Earth.
I knew the Air wasn’t going to fall apart on a twisty road. But I hardly expected it to feel utterly at home.
The result was a remarkably balanced ride quality, that never felt floaty or imprecise on tight corners, nor overly harsh or stiff in absorbing big impacts. If you can remember driving a big BMW from a few generations ago, you’ll get the idea.
The steering experience, meanwhile, while quite quick and precise, didn’t offer me even a message in a bottle about the grip level of the tires. Thankfully, the super-intelligent, torque vectoring all-wheel-drive setup meant there was loads of stickum to be had on every corner exit acceleration… just no feeling through the wheel to my human fingers. That isolation, along with the sensory deprivation chamber levels of in-cabin sound, is the major blocker to the Air feeling like a “sports sedan.” That designation still requires more than outright speed, at least in my book.
A Lovely, Flawed, Place To Drive
Derek Jenkins, the SVP of Design and Brand at Lucid Motors, is a swell guy. He’s funny, Mensa-level intelligent, wears cool sneakers (beware car designers in bad shoes…), and agrees with me about the use of classy, demure materials in car cabins.
Look at the interior doors and handles, for instance. The door card is trimmed in a linen-like fabric, with dark suede covering the higher-touch regions, while the handle itself is surrounded by a lovely open-pore wood framed in matte aluminum. Modern, elegant, and understated. Dividing the front and rear portions of the cabin by light/dark colorways is also a stroke of unassuming brilliance, instantly giving visual interest to large seating surfaces that, in other cars, can become oceans of black or tan.
The Air is about the size of a Mercedes E-Class in terms of exterior dimensions but offers S-Class room for the heads and legs of tall folks.
I just wish that the seats themselves were better to, you know, sit in. Despite being adjustable in myriad ways, heated and cooled, and offering a massaging feature, the front chairs suffer from being both overly stiff and overly flat. In cornering situations I found myself sliding alarmingly side to side, while in calm cruising I wasn’t ever able to sink in and find a comfortable spot.
On the plus side, there’s a ton of room, front and rear, even for someone as tall as me at six-foot-five. The Air is about the size of a Mercedes E-Class in terms of exterior dimensions but offers S-Class room for the heads and legs of tall folks. (This idea extends to the cargo space, too, which at 32.1 cubic feet, with the front and rear combined, gives one SUV-like storage capacity.) The only big-guy-based demerit is that there’s no cushioning for the driver’s right knee on the central tunnel, meaning in the aforementioned cornering situations you won’t want to be wearing shorts if you’re planning on pulling some Gs.
The Air GT’s all-digital instrument display that spans more than half of the dash is a lovely thing to look at. Likewise, the 12.3-inch vertical display, which retracts to reveal a clever storage bin, is razor sharp and very quick to respond to touch inputs. The Android-based system is currently being adapted for Apple CarPlay functionality, which, along with some software updates, should cure the vehicle of some of the bugginess I experienced trying to connect my iPhone and manage what media I was enjoying while on the move.
Unfortunately, the biggest failing of the cabin might be its utterly lovely glass roof. The visual effect of this glass dome is spectacular, especially as a passenger, offering a planetarium-like view of one’s fast-moving surroundings. That is if your eyeballs haven’t melted out of your sockets by the time you look up.
It’s hot in here, y’all. Really hot. I drove the car during mostly daylight hours under bright blue skies and California sunshine, and despite a tint that filters out all of the harmful bits of the spectrum, the AC basically could only keep me cool from the neck down. To reiterate: I’m very tall. But this isn’t a problem I’ve ever really experienced in two decades of writing about cars for a living. Thankfully Lucid says that an aluminum roof option will be available, first on the upcoming Pure model and then filtering through the range.
A ground-up design with class-leading technology and smart design just about everywhere you look, the Lucid Air is a triumph in every trim. Honestly, it’s hard to overstate how impressive the machine is, even for someone who has driven a vast number of production vehicles for years and years (me). There isn’t a question in my mind that new owers of the Air GT and GTP will quickly become evangelists for the Lucid Motors brand, and for EVs in general (if they aren’t already).
That ownership still comes at a price too dear for most people to handle. Mid to high hundred-thousand-dollar window stickers aren’t the purview of everyone who cares about driving an EV.
But there are a few important points to remember. Tesla’s Model S Plaid is really the only true competitor for the Air GT and GTP, in terms of price and overall performance. (Audi and Porsche will sell you very nice E-Tron GT RS and Taycan Turbo models, that dramatically lose in most, if not all, measurable categories.) In fact, the tri-motor Plaid nails the Air GTP on all speed metrics, despite a lower output, with a notable tradeoff in terms of range and charging rate. The Tesla also starts at $127,590 or $26,410 less than even a GT.
Sadly, Tesla ownership increasingly comes saddled with some pretty weird baggage, as well. And despite frequent and meaningful updates, the hardpoints of the Model S are getting rather long in the tooth these days, meaning life inside the Air is likely to mean better ease of use and a quicker rate of improvement and upgrade, as time goes by.
A ground-up design with class-leading technology and smart design just about everywhere you look, the Lucid Air is a triumph in every trim.
In the wider world of luxury cars, $150,000-ish gets you into some very interesting luxury or performance vehicles, if you’re not picky about an electric powertrain. That’s an interesting bar stool debate, but likely a non-starter for people in the Lucid Air market, today.
The Lucid Air Dream Edition order bank is closed, while Grand Touring and Grand Touring Performance models are on sale and being built today. The first volume models for Lucid Motors, these spectacular cars are going to win a lot of firm fans, quickly, even without a test drive on Skyline.
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2022 Lucid Air Grand Touring