Spider graphs are the first thing the engineer in the passenger seat thinks of.
A complex science, balancing the weight of battery packs with power and braking can tip too far in one direction and result in complete customer turmoil. Federal and legal regulations, design restrictions, and other factors make it appear nearly impossible to develop a successful new car from start.
The Lucid Air, a high-end electric car with prices ranging from $77,400 to $169,000 depending on the model, has some excellent spider graphs.
The new Lucid Air offers a blend of incredible range, luxurious fit and finish, and enough technology to satisfy even the most discerning customers. While the Air hasn’t quite hit the mark on the first try, thanks to a team of automotive veterans, cutting-edge technology, and that spider graph sweet spot.
ROCKET SHIP WITH A VIEW IS THE DRIVE, . Im handed a planogram leaflet with the words Lucid Quick Starter written across the front as I waited in line for a 13-minute test drive in one of the dozen Lucid Air Dream R cars that had just rolled off the assembly line.
Imagine it as a map from the grocery store that shows you where to find the wipers and how to turn the wheel. After a nearly three-hour tour of the battery and assembly plant in Casa Grande, Arizona, customers and journalists alike mill forward; it is obvious that the product we are about to test drive needs some de-mystification.
The Lucid Air Dream R vehicles we were operating and traveling in are full-size sedans with a maximum seating capacity of five, and interior volume that approaches some midsize SUVs. The initial iterations of the Air that are coming off the production line have been given the name Dream by Lucid. The Air, Lucid Motors’ first production car, is available in two versions: Range (R) and Performance (or P). The fundamental distinction between the two is made clear by their names: Performance offers 1,111 horsepower and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 2.5 seconds, while Range offers up to 520 EPA-estimated miles.
Other than very basic temperature and fan settings for the driver and passenger, radio controls, and a few small buttons on the steering wheel to manage things like the ADAS system, there are hardly any physical buttons in the cabin. The main console interface, which Lucid refers to as the Pilot Panel, is used to configure everything else. The Lucid Air’s primary control panel is a sizable curved screen that can be tucked away into the dash to reveal a compact storage compartment.
The comparison to other gasoline-powered vehicles ceases after you climb inside and adjust your seat settings using toggles on the seat, just like you would in any other luxury car. Do you want to relocate the steering wheel? There are no buttons, joysticks, or levers on the column, just like a Tesla. You must use the Pilot Panel to complete it. Perhaps you could adjust the mirrors? You can get there by making a couple more swipes and taps on the middle screen.
Once in position, shift into drive using the stalk on the right side of the steering wheel. If you have brake hold on, you may need to lightly press the accelerator to start the 5,600-pound vehicle moving. Since this is a full-size luxury sedan, the turning radius is pretty large, thus it is realistic to assume that many owners will be practicing three-point turns in confined parking spaces.
In the comfort mode, which Lucid refers to as Smooth, the accelerator is not sensitive. In actuality, it is nicely balanced and has good feel, much like any current ICE-powered car. Since acceleration is linear, you won’t unexpectedly find yourself rocketing to incredible speeds without putting any thought into it. The Air R travels smoothly and comfortably, perhaps even a little numbly in the Smooth mode, on sun-scorched, cracked, and bumpy roads.
The five-link suspension, the semi-active dampers, the throttle map, and the steering ratio all change when the car is in Swift mode, which increases the driver’s sense of connection. Although the ride gradually stiffens, you don’t need to worry about jarring your passengers. It’s no longer pillowy soft, but this is no sports car either. According to Esther Unti, the senior vehicle dynamics engineer who oversaw one of the two 13-minute drives we had, you do (for obvious reasons) lose about 10 miles of overall range if you drive the car in Swift or the even more sporty Sprint mode, which we weren’t allowed to attempt.
The Lucid Air has two regenerative brake modes that you may choose from: standard and high. You can access the brake settings by depressing and holding down the Swift mode button on the Pilot panel. The Air operates in high mode similarly to any other electric car in braking or B-mode. When you release the accelerator, the vehicle slows down and returns some power to the 113 kWh battery pack. (By the way, the pack is larger than anything produced by Tesla.) It takes some getting accustomed to, like other braking modes, to modulate and not shake your passengers, but it’s not designed to be unduly forceful. The Lucid Air coasts similarly to a large gasoline-powered car in standard mode.
The cockpit is a gigantic, yet nevertheless manageable 34-inch curved 5K screen in front of the driver. Surprisingly little information is provided. The adaptive cruise system’s 14 cameras, six radar sensors, one lidar, and one ultrasonic sensor are deployed once the ADAS system, which Lucid refers to as DreamDrive, is configured using the steering-wheel buttons. The ADAS system appears to be in relatively good shape, at least from what I could determine during the three-minute highway stint I did while it was on. Highway drive employs lane-keeping assistance to keep you roughly in the center of the lane; although, the car did ping-pong a little off the lines in wider lanes. The other option is conventional cruise control, which disables lane-keeping aid and merely controls speed.
We were unable to test any of the navigation systems because they were deactivated, but according to Lucid, a big map can be displayed by entering a location on the screen in the upper cockpit to the right of the steering wheel and swiping it into the Pilot panel.
THE INSIDE: ALL THAT ROOM The interior of the Lucid Air, which was built with space in mind, is spacious. The R variant I rode in had more than 35 inches of legroom in the rear seat, and the enormous dual-pane infrared-blocking glass canopy gives the back seat a really lounge-like feeling. It’s similar like riding in a convertible without having to worry about getting a sunburn, destroying your fresh hairstyle, or misplacing your hat.
Even on very smooth sections of road, the car’s interior is a little boomy due to all the glass. Boomy enough that I had to bend forward on two different 13-minute loops in order to hear the dialogue taking place in the front seat.
Modern and minimalist design are balanced throughout the space. There are several elements within the Air that feel a little less than quality, despite the muted colors and linen and leather materials that promote the same light and open feeling. The internal door handles, to start. The standard pull has been redesigned by Lucid and is now located inside the armrest as a little, plastic-like lever that is simply pulled in the direction of the back of the vehicle to open. It was light and a little scratchy against my hands in both models, almost like a 3D-printed component that was an afterthought.
The ADAS system’s steering wheel controls function similarly. A pair of silver buttons located immediately on the wheel spokes are used to operate the system. For highway mode, press once; for cruise control only, hold. When utilizing ADAS or cruise control, you can increase or decrease your speed using a little thumbwheel located beneath the button you use to activate cruise. That wheel also feels like a light, 3D-printed component and lacks the notchy heaviness you’d expect from a luxury vehicle.
Overall, they are minor issues that do not detract from the Lucid Air’s overall luxury and sturdy fit and finish. There is a distinct feeling of what Lucid believes will be the future of the premium car in the tight, flush body panels with even gaps all around.
The standard model of the Air costs $77,400 ($69,900 after federal tax credits but before the destination fee), while the Air Dream Edition that I drove can cost up to $169,00 ($161,500 after tax credits). The Air Dream Edition is currently sold out and reservations are closed, according to Lucid’s website. Deliveries to customers begin in early October.