In the face of electrification, legacy automakers have a head start of sorts. After all, they've had the "car" part figured out for decades; all that's left is shoehorning in the electric components. Lucid, on the other hand, is in the opposite situation: After years of developing EV batteries for FIA Formula E racing, now it's time to build a car around what it's learned. That car is the Lucid Air, and a very brief spin shows an awful lot of promise.
From soup to nuts
Before sliding behind the wheel, Lucid took me on a tour of its powertrain and general assembly facilities, located about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. One day, Lucid will corral nearly all parts of the car-making process into a single campus, but with only one phase of construction complete, it's currently assembling powertrains in a rented building a few miles away from the facility and relying on suppliers for certain processes like parts stamping. But what exists now is enough to start building the high-end Air Dream Edition trim, and production vehicles quite literally started rolling off the line days prior to my arrival.
. This is a fully baked production plan from start to finish. I wasn't given many details about the processes for its efficiently packaged batteries and electric motors, in part because they're loaded with trade secrets that Lucid thinks will give it an early edge over the competition. But after watching stators get wound and cylindrical battery cells getting loaded into modules where the bus bars are molded into the enclosure, it's clear that Lucid wants to have as much control as possible over every inch of the Air's most important pieces. That's how a battery with a 113-kilowatt-hour capacity can .
The general assembly building is filled with know-how. Every team I met on the tour had collective decades of experience putting together cars or running plants for Ford, General Motors and other major automakers. The processes that turn the Air from pallets of parts into whole cars are not much different from how everybody else does it. Sure, there are clever parts, like how vehicle bodies travel through a curing process sideways to better treat the inside of the shell, but for the most part Lucid's not trying to reinvent the wheel.
It's quick, but is that enough?
I overheard Lucid's executives patting themselves on the back at the conclusion of the drive event, noting to each other how many executives and early adopters were smitten with the Air's acceleration. Trouble is, a whole lot of electric cars can smash heads into headrests with little issue, but that luster fades fast. Survival, then, is predicated on whether or not the car in question can offer its owners something above and beyond raw g-forces, something other automakers don't have.
Wow factor is going to be one of those things for Lucid, and there's plenty of visual punch here. Sliding into the backseat -- and bumping my head on the low roof -- I'm met with so much glass. The windshield extends nearly halfway up the roof, with another massive glass panel above the back seats. The Air may have less rear legroom than a Honda Accord, but all that sunlight pouring in makes it feel more expansive.
Aesthetics play a big part in the Air. The cabin is filled with interesting materials, including both leather and high-quality fabrics, and the general layout is clean and uncluttered. As with other new EVs, screens abound, with the dashboard sprouting a 34-inch display that covers standard gauge cluster stuff in addition to a unique infotainment system I didn't get any time to fiddle with. A center console screen covers vehicle functions, climate control, all the other usual things. Perhaps the weirdest part of it all is that the electric steering column can only be moved via this display, which feels unnecessarily complicated.
My 10-minute spin takes place in the Lucid Air Dream Edition Range, which doesn't have the full-fat 1,111-horsepower output of the Performance variant. But 993 hp isn't anything to shake a stick at. Yet, there's plenty of right-pedal leeway for soft starts in its default Smooth mode. Regenerative braking is also strong enough to comfortably one-pedal my way around town.
Lucid's adaptive dampers lack the outright pillowy nature of an air-based setup, but the suspension does a commendable job absorbing highway expansion joints in both Smooth and Swift modes, and it holds the Air's body nice and flat during off-ramp cloverleaf hustling. Sadly, my limited time with the Air was strictly structured, so I'll need another crack at the car to truly evaluate the difference between vehicle variables.
Yes, the Air is quick, but anything with 933 hp will be quick even if the curb weight eclipses 5,000 pounds. A single-speed transmission means there's nothing but forward motion, so it feels closer to a Porsche Taycan and its two-speed box. The Air pulls with authority well beyond double digits, unless you're a cop, in which case I drove the speed limit the whole time.or than a
Down to brass tacks
Acceleration alone may provide the Lucid Air with the initial impressions that puts bodies through the front door, but no car company can survive on that alone. Thankfully, Lucid has more to offer than the same G-force experiences as its primary competitors. If the tech proves as nice as the initial impressions, the Air should provide a more uniquely styled, expressive model against the when-did-they-make-this-design-again Model S and the melted-egg-business-suit EQS. But I'll probably need more than 10 minutes to be sure.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.