I spent some time with the 2022 Lucid Air, here's what I learned
At the opening of Lucid Motors' New York showroom we got up close and personal with the new 'Air.' Here's what we learned
What happens when a few billion in Saudi investment dollars, key former Tesla Employees and designers get together? Well... this:
The 2022 Lucid Air.
Lucid, much like Porsche and Rivian (to name a few), is banking that after over a decade, people are ready for a more grown-up, if you will, approach to EVs. Devoid of fart buttons, poorly-disguised Space Balls references, and most notably Elon Musk, Lucid presents itself as a welcome addition to a market that, in over a decade, has seen disappointedly-little product-based innovation.
Yes, I know. EVs have hardly stood still under Tesla's watch. Especially when you start talking about performance. I mean, Jesus f*ing Christ, 6,000-lb sedans covering the quarter-mile in under 11 seconds is just plain crazy! And while Lucid certainly adds itself to the growing list of obscenely-quick electric sedans, there is a degree of added sophistication here. Because for once, outlandishly-useless performance isn't the only trick in the Magician's hat.
Tesla's long-time status as the de facto EV has served the company well, but it has also instilled a culture of complacency. Aside from endlessly improving 0-60 numbers, Tesla, despite its innovative image, has been decidedly un-innovative.
Late last week, I visited Lucid's new Manhattan showroom ahead of its public opening. Aside from the usual slew of eager 20-somethings, as this was the company's flagship location, I got the chance to speak with some of the company's leadership.
Doreen Allen, Lucid's Senior Director of Sales was there in the early days of Tesla, and aside from endowing me with entertaining characterizations of Elon Musk: "Elon will be Elon," a lot of what she and David Buchko, Lucid's PR manager, said gave real insight into where the brand is trying to position itself.
Allen, for example, was emphatic that Lucid is not trying to be a 'Tesla Killer.' And both she and Buchko continuously emphasized Lucid's push for the coherence of design and engineering. So, let's talk about it then, what makes this design so special?
Well, first, Lucid stole Pontiac's old formula: lower, longer, wider. Except they didn't!
Even though in-person, this thing looks like it's the size of a Phantom, in reality, it's within a millimeter of the current 5 Series! This effect, 'small car big,' as I like to call it, plays on what humans perceive to be indications of size.
Much like the Volvo S90 I reviewed last week. The Air employs long, flat, sloping surfaces cleverly broken up to give the illusion of a larger vehicle. Add to this the design team's impeccable material and color choices, you end up with something truly special.
The top third, or greenhouse, looks as though it's floating. Is that because it uses more glass? No.
As you look at the car from the bottom up, you will notice that on all four corners, the transition from lower 2/3 to the top third constitutes a change in material and relative design language. Though never straying from the mantra of lower, longer, wider.
Lastly, you might think that for $170,000, a car the size of a 5 Series would be a bit cramped. But you would be wrong. Remember what I said earlier?
All that stuff about the integration of design and engineering? Well, they weren't kidding.
Allow me for a second to take you back to 2011, the year that Tesla showed the world their revolutionary Model S sedan. At the time, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who wasn't absolutely gobsmacked by it. Yet, the only criticism, if any, was that Tesla had the chance to reinvent the human experience of riding in a car, but largely because they didn't want to scare people off, they didn't.
Lucid now enters a market already conditioned to EVs, giving them the chance to exploit the full advantages of an electric powertrain. Without a big V8 up front, or a fuel tank in the back, the Air's cabin is expansive, comfortable, and just plain brilliant.
Material choices play a significant role in this. But gobs of natural light and clever elevation changes within the passenger compartment gives me hope that for once true design hasn't been replaced by token party tricks.
As Lucid continues to ramp up production, we'll hopefully be able to get our hands on one of these to put this remarkable interior through its paces. But just from spending a few minutes in it, I can tell you that despite its beauty, it isn't fussy.
Sure, you get a huge command and control screen, but with the push of a button, it goes away! And then all you have left is some beautiful wood paneling, and get this, analog buttons! What a novel idea.
The driver's binnacle looks like it's straight out of a Porsche Taycan, though I'm not complaining, as I firmly believe that this style of digital gauges is the best we've ever seen. And Lucid's addition of touch sensitivity only adds to the system's functionality.
The car we played around with was a $139,000 'Grand Touring' edition (read this for a breakdown of Lucid's lineup), and while it certainly isn't cheap. You'll be able to get a superficially similar interior on the $77,000 'Pure' edition.