When you test a car for a few hours, you wonder if you were just in a bad mood, and sometimes you wonder if you were just in a bad mood. You can't help but think that the car can't have been that great when you drive it.
I got some seat time in a Lucid Air and was left with some doubts. It was a short demo a few hours from my home and the roads were torn up from the winter. I was amazed that the car was able to handle all the frost heaves and potholes while still hustling and turning in ways that no 5,200 pound sedan should. I was questioning myself on the way home from work. It couldn't have been that great.
It couldn't have been that great.
About nine months later, I had a chance to take home a $139,000 Air Grand Touring, a car I had been wanting to buy for a long time. I am happy to report that I was not crazy when I first drove this car, after a full week of putting it through its paces on familiar roads. It was on the mark. This thing is really good.
If you don't know the name, you're forgiven because it's not a household name. The company was founded in 2007, but has only focused on consumer products in the last two years. Rawlinson was the genius mind behind the Model S at the time. The Air is the first product of the company.
It's American made and designed, but it's not well known in the domestic market. I was often asked what kind of car it was. No one had heard of Lucid. If you like driving a conversation starter, this is a good one, even though I live out in the wilds.
This is a good one for people who like to drive a conversation starter.
The air is what it is. Even though it is a luxury sedan, it is still an unusual one. While the overall shape isn't that different from the many "cab- forward" designs that Chrysler marketed in the mid 1990s, the long and low effect here is curious. The contrasting roof pillars, available on the GT and higher trims, make quite a striking effect, but I find everything else about the car to be oddly anonymous.
I don't think the Air is attractive, but it does have a sort of sophistication about it, and that classy, scripted "Air" logo has a strong mid-century modern vibe. The brown and black interior is in line with that vibe.
The door cards are moving away from you. The A-pillar, which runs in a continuous sweep to the rear, is huge and takes up a massive portion of your forward visibility, but that's more than offset by the way the glass roof continues up and over your head.
There is a lot of room up front. The legroom in the rear is so generous that it is borderline obscene. If you didn't have to fold yourself like a pretzel to get into the rear seat, the Air would be a great limo. The roofline is swinging very low.
There are many Touchscreens here and they are nicely positioned and laid out. The center stack has a portrait oriented display that is used for vehicle settings. With a gentle sweep, this display swings up and tucks into the dashboard, revealing a semi-hidden cubby that is perfect for hiding your phone and then forgetting about it.
Four switches allow easy access to cabin temperature and fan speed, while a chubby scroll wheel gives a pleasant way of adjusting the volume.
The main focal point of the interior is a giant curved display that can be seen just off of the leather dash. Three sections of display are present. The lower display used to be a continuation of the right display. There is a section on the far left that can be used to control headlights, wipers, and defrosters.
The gauge cluster is in the middle of everything else. You get speed in the middle, information on the left and navigation on the right. It is functional even though it isn't visually engaging.
1st of January
1st of JanuaryPhoto by Tim Stevens for The Verge
Since I was last in the car, the software has gotten better, but it still needs some work. The large central display down between the seats feels like it's not enough. It's possible to bring the navigation down to that display, but once you move away from that section on the top display, it disappears. It would be great to have media on the bottom and navigation on the top.
The biggest issue is the lack of either Apple orandroid auto. We have been hearing that for a long time.
If you want to get the Air on the road, you have to drive like a Mercedes-Benz. Smooth is the correct name for the Air GT's default drive mode. The car is calm. The suspension is so perfect and the throttle curve is so flat that you can glide over some really bad roads in complete relaxation and comfort.
The car is very calm to drive.
If you want to feel all of the power of the Air GT, you need to step up to Swift. It's 819hp, which is more than the Ford GT500. This is a car that can go from zero to 60mph in less than two seconds. It doesn't feel like it's neck-snapping like a Model S The Air wants to accelerate more and more until you run out of road or points on your license.
Average electric vehicles tend to run out of steam just as they get to highway speed.
1/12/Photo by Tim Stevens for The Verge
The air has a smooth surface. It's a shame that it's hard to see because you'll need to keep an eye on that speedometer. I couldn't see the gauge cluster because of the chubby steering wheel. I had my wife position the seat and wheel for her, so I assumed it was me. She wasn't able to see it. It's not comfortable to hold that wheel. If you prefer 9-and-3 like me, there is no place to fit your fingers.
The driver- assist systems are an issue. Everything from adaptive cruise, active lane-keeping on the highway, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, and so on are included in the Air. Some of them don't work well. I felt like I was edging too close to the side of the road because of the lane- keep assist nudging the steering wheel. The Highway Assist mode was prone to disabling itself only to prompt me to turn it back on. It would often stop disabling itself after being reenabled.
Driver monitoring was the most annoying thing. The Air has a camera hidden under the gauge cluster that can be used to watch the road. You get a chime if your eyes wander for more than 3 seconds. Eyes lingered on the navigation device to spot the next turn. It was chime. Are you trying to decide which massage you want to try next? It was chime. You know what the picture looks like.
Since it is a system that might get people to put down their phones and drive, I didn't mind. The car warned me that my hand wasn't on the steering wheel even though it was obvious. I had to wiggle a little to let the wheel know I was still alive. It's puzzling that the car can track the exact direction of the students, but not their presence.
The Lucid Air GT is a joy to drive, despite the annoyance and lack of steering feel. It handles and corners well despite not having rear steering and having a 116-inch wheelbase. When you push the Air for it to respond, it does not disappoint, even though it doesn't feel like an engaging car. Handling and poise are excellent.
I was happy in the air when I put it back to Smooth. I like the fact that this car can do both, but de-stressing was its preferred mode of transportation.
The Air is a great place to listen to music because of it's stress-reducing qualities. My test car was configured with a 21-speaker system and it was whisper- quiet. I found it to be very good, but I would argue that it's not quite as crazy as it seems. With the in-dash equalizer balanced, it delivers sharp and accurate sound, vocals coming strong and true out of the center of the dashboard, warm and rich bass flowing from all around When the bass dial is raised to its +6dB maximum, those who want a more lively experience will be happy.
The range was perhaps the most stress-reducing. The Lucid Air GT has an EPA rating of 469 miles on a charge from its 112kWh battery pack. You can bring that up if you use the 19-inch wheels. That's amazing. In my winter testing, I netted 3.2 miles per kWh, but that included a lot of hard acceleration and other hijinks.
I put about 50 miles of testing on the car before I left for Vermont. The temperature when I left was around 30 degrees. The Air was showing 163 miles of remaining range after returning from this 200 mile jaunt. It is more than the Nissan Leaf.
Few people need to travel that far on a regular basis. You know what. Big range will be a luxury in the EV era.
It is a pity that it is so expensive. There is a car here that is stickered at $139,000 and has a delivery cost of $1,500. That has gone up as well. The cheapest Grand Touring spec is at least $150,000.
If you like what you see, you can get into a Lucid Air for less than $100,000. It won't be this posh or this quick with a mere 480hp, but it will still do 410 miles on a charge, five more than the cheapest Model S, which starts at $104,000.
There is one roadblock to adoption of this car, and that is how fresh it is. Even though the company has been around for 15 years and has been publicly traded since last year, I can understand why people would be nervous to fork over that amount of cash. I didn't have a lot of time to comment on the reliability of the car. You aren't likely to have a shop just around the corner because of the expansion of the dealer and service network.
There is also the software. The only real glitch I encountered during my week with the Air GT was the Highway Assist, but you don't have to look far to find other problems. There is a gauge cluster wiring recall as well. It all sounds a bit familiar for someone who covered the launch of the Model S ten years ago.
This is a car that is worth a little risk for. I am not a fortune teller and it is not possible to know if Lucid will be the nextTesla or the nextFuture. While this car is not perfect, it is stunningly good and well worth the time it takes to explain it to your friends and neighbors.
Tim Stevens is a photographer.