As if Tesla didn’t already have enough problems to contend with – shaky share prices, a missing-in-action CyberTruck, and CEO Elon Musk’s distracting purchase of Twitter – along comes Lucid to make matters more difficult.
The brand itself may be a newcomer to the market, but the 2023 Lucid Air has the refinement and performance chops of an established segment frontrunner, and it performs an effective mic drop on its nearest competitors with an unprecedented 830 km range in Grand Touring trim tested here.
One key to the Air’s impressive range is its exceptionally slippery shape. The Grand Touring boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.197, besting the Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S (0.22 and 0.208, respectively), and making it one of the most aerodynamic production cars ever built (the Mercedes-Benz EQS is close at 0.200).
Better still, the Air manages this feat with stylistic panache: a low greenhouse and deeply sculpted flanks help it slice cleanly through the atmosphere while giving the car an imposingly muscular presence. Up front, a full-width polished aluminum grille and slit jewelled headlights lend the Air a look that’s at once futuristic and timeless. The grille treatment is mirrored in the rear, with a full-width taillight adorning the clamshell trunk lid. This latter feature creates some slightly awkward cutlines but makes it a cinch to load bulky, overlong items such as golf bags.
Inside, the Lucid Air Grand Touring hits all the right luxury notes with rich materials, comfortably supportive seating, and excellent fit and finish. A glass canopy roof lends the cabin an airy, spacious feeling, while the Nappa leather seating (leather alternatives are available), open-pore wood trim, and faux suede dash and door trim ensure the cabin feels invitingly warm rather than cold or clinical. Think Scandinavian spa and you won’t be far off the overall vibe.
There’s head- and legroom aplenty, with near limo-like space for rear passengers, and the back doors open 90 degrees for easy entry and exit (just be careful of the sharp door corners against neighbouring cars). All seats except the centre rear are heated (as is the steering wheel), and the 20-way adjustable front seats also get cooling and massage functions.
The Air Grand Touring comes fully equipped, so there are no options or accompanying price creep. In addition to the gear mentioned above, there’s selectable ambient lighting, rear window sunshades, Amazon Alexa-enabled commands, and a 21-speaker audio system that uses Dolby Atmos technology to deliver phenomenal presence and frequency response. A musician friend who rode along during this test called it one of the best sound experiences he’s ever heard in a car.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto weren’t yet available at the time of this test, but the Lucid rep said they’ll be available in mid-summer 2023 on both new and existing vehicles via an over-the-air update.
The Air follows the current trend – especially among electric vehicles (EVs) – of putting most controls on touchscreens, but executes its interface more thoughtfully than most. The touch controls are logically grouped on different screens and are generally accessible in more than one way, and there are welcome physical controls for frequent-use items including cabin temperature, fan speed, and audio volume. It’s just too bad the same isn’t true of the mirror and steering wheel adjustments.
Critical driving information is displayed in a simple, easy-to-read instrument cluster in front of the driver, with a secondary information panel floating off to the right (a matching left-hand touch screen is dedicated to lighting, wiper controls, and locks). A centre stack “pilot panel” controls the infotainment system and most of the car’s other features, and you can also drag the right-hand instrument panel’s info down onto it, allowing you to show items like navigation or audio controls on the bigger screen. The pilot panel can also retract into the dash to reveal a big central storage cubby. From a stylistic point of view, the whole setup is nicely integrated and is far better looking than Tesla’s “big-screen TV” approach to infotainment.
With seating for five, an easy-to-drive demeanour, excellent range, and plenty of luggage space (divided between a good-sized 627-L trunk, and a surprisingly spacious 283-L frunk) the Air is a thoroughly practical sedan. Interior storage includes a covered console bin, a hidden bin behind the central pilot panel, and commodious door pockets.
As expected of a luxury offering, the Lucid Air Grand Touring comes with a full suite of advanced safety and driver-assist systems including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure protection, collision protection, adaptive cruise control, speed limit alert, distracted/drowsy driver warning, and automated parking. Lucid notes that the hardware is ready for semi-autonomous driving when that becomes available via over-the-air updates.
The useful lane change camera displays that pop up on the instrument cluster when the signal is activated are particularly handy, and as are the very accurate distance markings displayed by the excellent bird’s eye rear-view camera. Less impressive are the extremely bulky A-pillars, which significantly impede vision while turning corners. The Air hasn’t been crash-tested in North America, but it performed very well in European testing, earning a five-star rating across the pond.
With 819 hp and a whopping 885 lb-ft of torque directed to all four wheels, the Lucid Air Grand Touring moves like few other cars on the road. The zero-to-100 km/h run is dispatched in 3.2 seconds flat (your passengers will gasp and laugh), but even more impressive is how instantly that power snaps the car from 80 km/h to 120 km/h. For those who want even more power, there’s an available Grand Touring Performance trim that makes 1,050 hp and does the same dash in 2.8 seconds.
Driving Feel: 8/10
Substantial electric range requires big batteries, and those batteries mean the Air Grand Touring tips the scales at a ground-pounding 2,398 kg (5,236 lb). It does a good job hiding its weight, however, and thanks to a semi-active suspension setup it drives like a much smaller, lighter car. The ride is taut but not harsh, and while it’s hard to call a car this heavy sporty, the Air feels well-controlled and responsive in the corners, if perhaps a little lacking in steering feedback.
The standard drive settings (smooth, swift, and sprint) include reasonably aggressive regenerative braking – one of the keys to the car’s excellent range – and while this can be turned down through the menu system, the one-pedal driving is a nice touch. A tighter turning radius would have been nice, too; between the Lucid’s substantial size and big 12-metre turning circle, parking lot manoeuvres can require more cuts than a julienned carrot.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
With a 112-kWh battery pack providing 830 km of advertised range, the Lucid Air Grand Touring is supremely efficient for a midsize sedan. In real-world winter conditions, this tester only managed about two-thirds that amount; however, it was cold outside and the heater was cranked. Making matters worse was showing off the Air’s quick turn of speed to friends and family.
What this means is that if it’s miserably cold outside and you like to drive like a lead-footed maniac, you’ll still get over 400 km of range from the Grand Touring. And keep in mind that the Porsche Taycan and the Tesla Model S similarly failed to achieve their advertised range when driven in winter conditions during a recent comparison test.
The Air’s charging rate is almost as impressive as its efficiency, with a 900-volt architecture that can charge up to 350 km of range in about 15 minutes (using a 350-kW DC fast-charging station). Lucid has partnered with the Volkswagen-owned Electrify Canada, which is building a network of charging stations nationwide, and as part of this is currently offering three years of complimentary access to up to 350-kW charging for two years when you purchase an Air.
The Lucid Air isn’t cheap – the base 480-hp Pure starts at $121,500 including destination fees, and this 819-hp Grand Touring tester priced out at $212,500. But in the rarified air of premium electric sedans it still represents compelling value.
The Air Grand Touring has performance that stomps on the Mercedes EQS (which starts at $146,500). It performs on par with both the Porsche Taycan and the Tesla Model S, but offers far greater range than either of those cars. The Taycan’s more sport-oriented interpretation of premium electric sedan pretty much matches the Air’s pricing (the Taycan starts at $125,600 and tops out at $220,800); and while a Tesla S with similar straight-line performance can be had cheaper (a price reduction announced for 2023 means the 670-hp base trim starts at $122,900 and the 1,000-hp Plaid trim sells for $149,900), it simply doesn’t match the Lucid Air’s level of luxury.
The 2023 Lucid Air is an impressive addition to the premium electric segment. It’s a well-executed, head-turning sedan that bests its competition in terms of driving range and luxury, while offering comparable power and pricing. For those who have the means, it’s a combination that should prove hard to resist.
|Engine Displacement||611 kW|
|Engine Cylinders||dual electric motors|
|Peak Horsepower||819 hp|
|Peak Torque||885 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||1.8 / 1.8 / 1.8 Le/100 km, 16.1 / 15.8 / 16.0 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb; 830 km range est.|
|Cargo Space||627 L rear, 283 L front|
|Model Tested||2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring XR|
|Price as Tested||$212,600|