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3-Motor Lucid Air Sapphire Super-Sports EV Debuts With Over 1,200 HP

A three-motor Lucid Air variant aimed squarely at Tesla's Model S Plaid is no big surprise, but Sapphire's performance claims are staggering.

Lucid Air Sapphire
Plaid is passé. Meet the Lucid Air Sapphire.
Lucid Group, Inc.

California-based electric automaker Lucid announced a new three-motor variant of its flagship Lucid Air luxury sedan today. The Lucid Air Sapphire is the first model in Lucid's new Sapphire performance sub-brand and is said to boast over 1,200 horsepower, which makes it the most powerful production sedan in the world.

Lucid has been teasing big news this week with social media posts themed around the number 3, so the three-motor spec aimed squarely at Tesla's Model S Plaid is no big surprise. (In fact, the automaker previewed the tri-motor hardware in 2020..) However, the level of claimed performance is staggering and Sapphire's position as a performance brand -- not just a model -- implies that perhaps high-power variants of Lucid's upcoming Model 3 rival and the recently delayed Gravity SUV are also in the works.

The Air Sapphire's twin-motor unit fits a megawatt of power into the same subframe space as the standard Air.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Air Sapphire's rear axle now features a pair of 500-kilowatt electric motors, each with its own power unit and custom transaxle reduction gear set. The front wheels share the same single drive unit as the Air Dream and Grand Touring Performance models, making 670-horsepower. All in, Lucid states the Sapphire will make over 1,200 horsepower -- enough power to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in under 2 seconds, to 100 in under 4 seconds and finish the quarter-mile in under 9 seconds. Top speed is stated at over 200 mph. Range estimates for the high-power model haven't yet been updated, but we expect to learn more closer to next year's launch.

Two motors on the rear axle allowed Lucid's engineers to take the Air's torque vectoring to the next level with fully independent positive and negative torque application per wheel. That means that the Sapphire can apply power to the outside wheel while slowing the inside wheel with regenerative braking mid-turn, adding yaw to help rotate the sedan more dynamically.

Speaking of brakes, the Air Sapphire's friction brakes see a substantial upgrade to help the luxury sedan cope with the demands of its over 5,200 pounds of mass at breakneck speeds. Up front, 16.5-inch carbon ceramic discs are gripped by 10-piston (yes, 10!) calipers while the rear axle features 11.8-inch carbon discs and four-pot calipers. 

The stoppers can be peeped between the spokes of high-performance wheels with staggered sizing, 20 inches up front and larger, wider 21s at the rear. The wheels are designed to optimize brake cooling and come with a bit of an efficiency hit, but Lucid will ship the Air Sapphire with special carbon-fiber aero discs that can be fitted to the wheels with a simple center locking nut to optimize aerodynamic slipperiness on the road. In the same vein, rides on specially designed multicompound Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires that combine low rolling resistance rubber for the center treads to preserve straight line range and sticky Cup rubber on the shoulders to promote maximum cornering adhesion as the Air rolls into a turn.

The Air Sapphire's wider stance is accommodated by 0.5-inch wider front over-fenders and 0.9-inch wider rears. The static coil suspension sits lower, while the adaptive dampers and power steering system have been retuned for the higher handling limits and race track duty. Visually, the Sapphire further distinguishes itself with carbon fiber wing mirror caps, front chin spoiler and a rear ducktail spoiler -- the latter two bits being aerodynamically functional. Unique Sapphire Blue paint, California Bear and Sapphire brand iconography and Lucid's recently announced Stealth Look package are all also standard.

10-piston brake calipers grip 420mm carbon ceramic rotors on the front axle.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Inside, the Sapphire debuts Lucid's new sport seats with deeper hip and midsection bolstering and grippy Alcantara upholstery. Sapphire Blue is echoed in the seat and steering wheel stitching, the ambient lighting around the cabin and in a unique theme for Lucid's infotainment suite. Users will also find a new Sapphire drive mode, in addition to Smooth and Swift, that unlocks the maximum performance with sub-settings optimized for straight-line speed, road or track use. The system also features new lap timer and data logging functions.

Well-heeled EV enthusiasts looking for the highest-performing electric sedan that money can expect to drop $249,000 on the Lucid Air Sapphire when it goes into production in the first half of 2023. Orders open for the new line-topping model beginning at 9 a.m. PT on Aug. 23.