It’s been more than a decade since Tesla proved that it’s possible to start a new American automaker—and even become profitable. Its success has sparked a wave of subsequent EV startups, each with a mission to decarbonize our transportation sector. But that was a difficult prospect even before 2020 brought its own flavor of disruption to this nascent industry.
Of those upstarts, Rivian and Lucid have made it into production thanks to large investments. Rivian is busy building EV pickups and SUVs aimed at those with an affluent outdoorsy lifestyle, plus 100,000 electric delivery vans for Amazon. Lucid is further behind, but it too has gone into production with the Lucid Air, a handsome luxury sedan with a tiny drag coefficient, oodles of power and torque, and a rather hefty price tag—the Air Grand Touring we tested starts at $138,000.
Ars first met the Lucid Air in 2017 when the company brought one of its alpha prototypes to Washington, DC, to show off to lawmakers. In 2021, we went for a ride in the passenger seat, but now we’ve had some actual seat time in this intriguing EV.
Aimed at Stuttgart, not Austin
In the past, Lucid CEO and CTO Peter Rawlinson was adamant that his target with the Air was not the Tesla Model S—a car for which Rawlinson worked as chief engineer—but the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, a vehicle considered throughout the industry to be the gold standard for luxury sedans. In the process, however, Lucid has out-Tesla’d Tesla anyway, evolving and polishing many of the ideas we’ve seen pioneered in that car when it was new.
It’s quite short for a big luxury car; at 195.9 inches (4,966 mm), it’s a foot shorter than the current S-Class and even more so compared to BMW’s big new i7. Perhaps coincidentally, it’s exactly as long and has the same 116.5-inch (2,959 mm) wheelbase as the Model S. But at 76.2 inches (1,935 mm) wide, it’s narrower than any of its competitors. I had to do a double-take when I saw that figure, as the car feels wide from the driver’s seat; Lucid has succeeded in making a TARDIS-like cabin that feels bigger than the car looks on the outside.
It’s also shorter than anything you might cross-shop—not quite Ford GT40 low, but at 55.4 inches (1,407), you can see how Lucid has pursued range efficiency by minimizing the car’s frontal area. Of course, frontal area is just one variable; the other is the drag coefficient, which in the case of the Air was a stunning 0.21 but is now an astonishing 0.197 following some improvements Lucid made in 2022.
About 60 percent of an EV’s energy is spent combating air resistance at highway speeds, so you can understand why Lucid has gone to that effort. The low-drag design is coupled to a large lithium-ion traction battery—in the case of the Air Grand Touring, 112 kWh is useable—which translates to some extraordinary range estimates. Fitted with 19-inch wheels, the Air Grand Touring is capable of 516 miles (830 km) on a single charge, says the EPA.
As is usually the case, our test car was fitted with 21-inch wheels (a $2,000 option) with Pirelli P Zero performance tires instead of more efficient 19-inch wheels. That cuts 47 miles (76 km) of range in the process, but 469 miles (755 km) on a single charge makes this EV an ideal companion for long drives.