‘It’s A Rocket Ship’: A First Ride In The Lucid Air EV
Lucid Motors, the EV venture, opened a new studio in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District this week, and holding court among the color swatches, T-shirts and video screens was a pre-production Lucid Air Grand Touring, built in Arizona in February. Derek Jenkins, Lucid’s senior vice president of design and brand, was the tour guide.
“That color is Cosmos Silver,” he said at the studio, used for information, test rides and—were it not New York State—possibly sales. “The Dream Edition will launch with Stellar White, Infinite Black or Eureka Gold.”
Okay, they have to paint them some color. The assembled journalists were more interested in the promised ride, as well as the out-of-this-world specs on the Dream Edition ($169,000 before the $7,500 federal tax credit) that will be the first Air electric car offered. The Dream will have 1,080 horsepower available from dual motors driving all four wheels, and can reach 60 in 2.5 seconds, with a 9.9 quarter mile. The aerodynamic profile, with a 0.21 coefficient of drag, helps with the takeoff. The Dream is “fully reserved,” said spokesman Andrew Hussey, with likely a few hundred built.
The $139,000 Grand Touring tones the performance down only slightly, with a three-second zero to 60 time. But it also has the model’s highest range, at 517 miles (instead of the Dream’s 503). Both cars have a top speed of 168 mph and a 113 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack.
Aluminum Monocoque Keeps the Weight to 5,000 Pounds
The Air, which weighs approximately 5,000 pounds via an all-aluminum monocoque (the metal skin is the car’s structural element), is also practical, as Jenkins demonstrated. It has a cavernous trunk (including a lower level that would normally house the non-existent spare tire) and wide, shallow “frunk” (front trunk; the largest of any electric car, Lucid claims)—also with a lower level. The rear seat is comfortable, with good leg- and headroom. The Grand Touring sits on 21-inch wheels with Pirelli tires, and has an amazing glass canopy roof that flows right into the windshield. The sun visors are bonded to the glass, which makes for an arresting sight. Pure and Touring models come standard with a metal roof.
34-Inch Glass Cockpit Display
Drivers face a 34-inch screen that offers information that, with a swipe, can be transferred to a lower screen where features such as seats, mirrors and massage functions are normally controlled. That lower screen can also be folded up if a button is held for one second. There are no less than three places to adjust the radio volume.
As with other automakers claiming big displays, Lucid’s is three smaller LCDs bonded into a single curved panel. The Cadillac Escalade cites a 38-inch OLED display. It, too, comprises multiple panels inside a single frame. Often, the panel gaps are hidden by the steering wheel and, at first glance, the composite seems a single display. The Byton M-Byte SUV that was supposed to ship this year (the company suspended business during the 2020 peak of the Covid-19 pandemic) will have a 48-inch display.
Test Drives? Not Yet. Test Rides? Hop Right In.
But journalists have been sitting in the Air for years, admiring its tech. The automaker has been somewhat slow to offer test drives, considering the car will launch later this year (with reservations taken now). Actual drives are promised in August or September.
Instead, in New York traffic, we got a test ride in the back of another Air. The prototype was very quiet around town, without squeaks or rattles. But that won’t make headlines—those are reserved for the neck-snapping acceleration when the driver floored the car on a quiet stretch of 12th Avenue. It was, literally, breathtaking.
“It’s a rocket ship,” the driver said. Not hyperbole.
Acceleration Matches Most Any Car on the Market
Riding is different from driving, but the car—a practical sedan, for gosh sakes—felt faster off the line than just about anything else on the market, including some vaunted supercars. Now the issue will be getting would-be buyers to snap their own necks, considering that many states continue to ban direct sales of cars, and others—including New York—only permit Tesla that privilege so far. The numbers are in flux, but approximately 20 are open to direct sales, the same number are closed, and around 10, including New York State, allow only Tesla to sell direct.
In addition to the Manhattan studio, Zak Edson, senior director of retail operations and one of many Tesla refugees at Lucid, said the company has also opened similar centers in West Palm Beach, Miami, San Jose, Beverly Hills, Century City, Newark (California) and Chicago, with Scottsdale and Boston to open soon and Vancouver, Canada as its first foreign location.
“We wanted locations where customers would be on foot, and it would be super-simple for them to just walk in and learn about the company,” Edson said. Hussey said that the studios will be giving test rides later this year. “Much neck-snapping will ensue,” he said.
Newer Trim Lines Will Sell Below $100,000
The Lucid pricing gets toned down in models to arrive later. The standard Touring model will offer 620 horsepower, 406 miles of range and a $95,000 price tag. Zero to 60 is 3.2 seconds. The single-motor $77,400 base Pure, will offer 480 horsepower. Lucid projects it will only build 577 cars in 2021, then 20,000 units in 2022.
Lucid has been around since 2007, as Atieva, a developer of batteries and drivetrains for EVs. It has supplied the battery pack for the international Formula E race series in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. Atieva was rebranded as Lucid Motors in 2016 with the goal of building and selling premium electric vehicles. The Lucid Air sedan is the first vehicle, to be followed in 2023, Lucid says, with an SUV called the Lucid Gravity.