California-based EV carmaker Lucid has been on a long and interesting journey. Founded in 2007 by Peter Rawlinson, the former VP of Engineering at Tesla, the company was initially focused on developing components (such as EV batteries and powertrains) but shifted to consumer products almost a decade later. At their facility in Arizona’s Casa Grande, the manufacturer began building vehicles, with the first being the Lucid Air (available as Pure, Touring, Grand Touring or Dream Edition) which launched at the end of 2021 and had over 4,000 customer deliveries last year. Not only is the debut vehicle luxurious—we drove the Grand Touring model—it’s also packed with more innovation than any other car in the space. Plus, it’s a blast to drive. Lucid is still a new name to many people and with the constantly shifting landscape of EVs they might be apprehensive, but at this stage we’re feeling like it’s a brand that’s here to stay.
The team at Lucid knew the best way to push their vehicles—and the industry—forward was to design and build new, innovative solutions for common parts. The motors in the Lucid Air are significantly smaller while more powerful and efficient than others in the market. That translates to 819hp and 844 lb-ft of torque in the Air Grand Touring, and 1,050hp and 921 lb-ft of torque in the range-topping Air Grand Touring Performance. The former reaches 60mph in three seconds, and the latter in 2.6 seconds. It’s all quite impressive for a midsize sedan that weighs 5,236 pounds.
It’s the 80mph to 120mph sprint that had us doing double takes, however. Unlike other EVs, the Lucid Air’s performance doesn’t come at the expense of efficiency. With a class-leading total range of 516 miles for the Air GT (on 19-inch wheels) drivers will need a break before the car does. Opt for the larger 21-inch wheels on the GT and range drops to an impressive 469 miles, while the Grand Touring Performance offers 446 miles—still more than any other EV available today.
There are other luxury EVs on sale, but none that offer the greatest luxury of all: the opportunity to skip dealing with North America’s frustrating and lackluster charging infrastructure. During our time with the Air GT we put this to the test and went on an extended drive totaling 4.5 hours. It wasn’t a necessary trip, but the combination of plush, serene interior and plenty of range to assuage any infrastructure anxiety had us feeling impulsive. This is something that we’ve yet to experience with any other EV, as taking a roadtrip in one typically requires planning in advance. The Air GT removes the necessity of arranging a drive route around charging stops—provided the car is fully charged and there’s an available charging option at the final destination. Again, the most desirable luxury offerings of the Air GT are intangibles, like time and peace of mind. That being said, there’s a lot of tangible luxury to go around as well.
Because the Air was designed from scratch as an EV there was an opportunity to rethink the underlying form and how it could influence the interior experience. Looking at the car from the outside, it appears like a mid-sized sedan but inside it’s as spacious as a much larger car. Wind and road noise are barely perceptible with the audio system off (something many EV makers haven’t managed to meaningfully achieve) and with music on, the interior is like a soundproof studio.
While EVs from other brands now offer Dolby Atmos equipped audio systems, Lucid was the first to do so through a direct partnership with Dolby, resulting in an immersive 21-speaker “Surreal Sound” system. Best paired with Dolby Atmos Hi-Res Lossless files that have been downloaded to a smartphone, the listening experience in the Air GT is simply transformative. Combining a classic song that’s been reengineered with Dolby Atmos, the mid-century modern inspired cabin of the Air GT, and the performance capability of the chassis, the Lucid Air GT offers an experience like no other.
In addition to providing next level entertainment, the audio system offers next-generation safety features. A seatbelt warning will hit the driver’s ears from the direction of the unbuckled belt. Blind-spot detection alerts feature directionality in order to help focus the driver’s attention on the appropriate area. Even something as common as the click of a turn signal will sound as if it were coming from the side of the vehicle in which direction of travel is being indicated.
Through these innovations drivers will find themselves more connected to the Air GT than any other EV. It’s further evidence that cutting-edge EV technology doesn’t have to result in vehicles devoid of character and charm. While some in the luxury marketplace have been inexplicably conceived as basic and efficient transportation with luxury touches sprinkled on top of them, the Air GT was clearly conceived and constructed as a luxury product from the very beginning. Given the freedom the team at Lucid started with, it makes sense.
Taking a cue from the cornerstone brands of the internal combustion world, Lucid developed the tech that underpins the Air GT through motorsports, specifically Formula E, starting back in 2007. Having agreed in 2016 to develop fully race-capable batteries for the Gen 2 Formula E cars, Lucid’s proprietary technology continued into the Gen 3 cars. Their motors—also produced in-house—are also coming to Formula E and they feature the same continuous wave winding and microjet cooling system found in every Lucid Air. There was a time when internal combustion luxury sedans offered motors derived from a brand’s racing programs. That time is no more, but in the EV world, with Lucid anyway, the time is now. Slice open one of Lucid’s in-house made battery packs and you’ll clearly see it’s professional versus haphazard, the latter unfortunately being the norm in the EV marketplace.
Lucid is most certainly an automaker, but with a great deal of tech company mixed in the brand is ideally positioned to adapt to market conditions and is changing quickly—at least by typical automotive industry standards. Lucid unveiled the Air in December 2016, delivered the first Air Dream models in October 2021 and just over a year later they delivered the first Air Pure units—adding a crucial entry level for a luxury car model to the Air line-up. Even in today’s marketplace $92,900 is quite a price tag for a car—but keeping in mind that the Air is a luxury vehicle with cutting-edge tech that leads its competitors everywhere it counts, the Pure is a great value. We look forward to driving the dual-motor Pure AWD model (as well as the single-motor Pure RWD that’s on the horizon).
Among the many reasons we’re eager to get back in an Air is that in the time since our experience with the car, Lucid has pushed out an OTA update adding Apple CarPlay to the beautiful dashtop Glass Cockpit screen. It shows that the team at Lucid has been listening to customers and working quickly to make good on their promises. With 35 studios/service centers in North America and 40 worldwide, Lucid is growing steadily. The mighty Air Sapphire is coming soon, as is news around the much anticipated Gravity SUV. It’s a car brand that’s dedicated to changing the industry for the better, and we’re eager to see what Lucid does next.
Hero image by Josh Rubin