The 2022 Lucid Air Dream Edition R is a 933-hp electric luxury sedan that can drive more than 500 miles on a single charge. I witnessed and experienced the latter firsthand. The former? Not so much, but you’ll need to keep reading. There’s also an Air Dream Edition P (P stands for Performance, R means Range) that makes 1,111 horsepower and offers a range of better than 450 miles. Now get this—they cost the same price. You choose: Do you want a sleek-looking EV with nearly 100 hp more than the Tesla Model S Plaid? Or do you want the car that makes more horsepower than any Lamborghini ever made, beats the Tesla Model S Long Range at its own game by more than 100 miles, and puts the very notion of range anxiety out to pasture? I won’t be much help answering that question, as I only drove the Lucid Air Dream Edition R. However, as the first person not on Lucid’s payroll to drive an Air, I discovered plenty to talk about.
Lucid’s CEO/CTO is a Welshman named Peter Rawlinson who showed up to our drive wearing racing boots. He was previously Lotus chief engineer as well as chief engineer for the Tesla Model S. Rawlinson’s ideal car rides like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class and drives like a Lotus. He feels strongly that the key to electric cars is the miniaturization of their parts. The rear motor of the Model S Long Range weighs 295 pounds and produces 430 horsepower, for a power density of 1.46 hp per pound. The Air uses the same motor front and rear; each weighs 163 pounds yet makes 670 horsepower (and spins at 20,000 rpm) for a power density of 4.11 hp per pound. That’s nearly three times better. Also, unlike Tesla, Lucid bothered to put a proper interior in its car.
Design, Out and In
The 2022 Lucid Air looks good, especially kitted out in Eureka Gold. The stainless-steel-look roof brings a little bit of DeLorean nostalgia to mind, and the overall effect is something like a Citroën DS redesigned for Blade Runner. Some folks have criticized the design for being too simplistic, but there’s purposeful futurism to the form that pops in person. Lucid initially offers the Air only in black, white, or gold; I’ve seen the Air in a deep oxblood burgundy, however, and that also looks fantastic. Maybe Lucid’s first-ever car doesn’t translate well into two dimensions, but in person the Air is distinctive even if it’s not quite stunning.
The interior is another matter entirely. Wow. Whereas every Tesla since day one has seemingly shipped without a finished interior, Lucid not only crafted a perfectly wonderful luxury-car cabin, but it also smartly avoided the screens über alles aesthetic that plagues cars like the Mercedes EQS.
In terms of screens, Lucid did a nice job of splitting the difference between the Model S and the EQS, a.k.a. the other two big electric sedans available now. The three screens don’t dominate the cabin the way their counterparts do in both the Tesla and Mercedes. As for the rest, the 2022 Lucid Air Dream Edition R comes filled with fantastic materials: wood, leather, metal, Alcantara, quality plastics, and even linen-like fabric. This isn’t just a great interior for an electric vehicle—it’s one of the nicest interiors in the car world. Also, there are physical controls for fan speed, temperature, volume, and the dome light. My favorite part is the two little Bear Republic emblems stitched onto the sides of the front seats. Subtle and brilliant.
Does the Air Drive Like a Lotus?
Short answer: No. Slightly longer answer: The Lucid Air Dream Edition R reminds me of a Nissan GT-R, especially one of the NISMO GT-Rs. The Air’s handling is the big surprise. You know a 933-hp car will be quick, and I’d ridden around Laguna Seca in an Air before, so I knew how ridiculously quick the Air is, and how lovely its interior is. I even knew Lucid’s 500-mile-or-more range claim was legit. I assumed the Air Dream Edition R would be decent enough to drive around big sweepers, but about 10 miles into our run up Angeles Crest Highway, I discovered the car enjoyed being manhandled through tight corners. The harder I pushed, the better the Lucid Air got. It leaps and bounds out of corners, much like the way a NISMO GT-R behaves. The “throttle” pedal unleashes a tsunami of thrust that the smart all-wheel-drive system takes full advantage of: When you’re mostly pointed straight, the Air is mostly rear-wheel drive.
The Lucid Air is shockingly fast, with quick, well-weighted steering. It’s hard to call anything exceeding 5,000 pounds a sports car (Lucid’s saying around 5,050 pounds), but after what I experienced it’s equally hard to not to think of the Air Dream R as a four-door, five-passenger luxury GT-R. Here’s the kicker: The full production car will be even better, as the traction control will not be stuck fully on, and the front suspension will be retuned. The car’s rear end is fantastic—planted, properly damped—but the front end needs to be tied down a bit more. David Lickfold, Lucid’s director of chassis and vehicle dynamics, said the front spring rate will be reduced by 10 percent before the start of production, the anti-roll bar will be stiffened, and the active dampers will get an adjustment. Can’t wait.
Here’s the other kicker: Lickfold was (needlessly, as it turned out) worried about the road quality up o
n Angeles Crest, and he strongly suggested I leave the Air in Swift mode. Lucid Air models have three drive modes, named Smooth, Swift, and Sprint. Smooth limits the motors to 670 hp, softens the dampers and the brake-pedal feel, and removes some heft from the steering. Lickfold said Swift mode allows 804 hp, and it firms everything up dynamically. Sprint is full-power mode, 933 horses’ worth, with the dampers set to extra flinty. Also, Sprint does some sort of Tesla Plaid-like battery conditioning where you sit and wait while all 6,600 cells are cooled or heated to an ideal temperature. Our drive time was limited, and 804 horsepower seemed like plenty, so I left the Air in Swift mode.
Imagine my horror the next day when Emad Dlala, Lucid’s senior director of efficiency and energy technology, casually mentioned Swift mode was only about 75 percent (670 hp, same as Smooth) of the Air’s total power output. Lickfold had made a mistake and quoted the Lucid Air Dream P model’s Swift mode output, which is 804 hp. That said, I’m still blown away by how great the Lucid Air was at 75 percent power. (Swift does have more torque than Smooth.) Here’s the whole power enchilada: In both Smooth and Swift, the Dream Edition R puts out 670 hp, and in Sprint that rises to 933 hp. For the Dream Edition P, the numbers are 804 hp in Smooth and Swift, and 1,111 hp in Sprint. Torque output is the same for both Air R and P versions: 670 lb-ft in Smooth, 738 in Swift, 885 in Sprint. In Sprint mode with launch control, however, peak torque is 1,025 lb-ft.
Long-ish Way Up
Since the Tesla Model S first appeared, we’ve conducted range tests in the following manner: The EPA says the range is 250 miles, so we’re going to drive the car exactly 250 miles. That’s 250 miles in extreme heat with no air conditioning, radio, or lights if need be. There was some relevance to this back when EVs were new and chargers were scarce, but these days? Why suffer? We know the bulk of the EPA’s testing takes place at 27 mph. Ambient temperature, the way you accelerate, if you turn the Lucid Air’s seriously rocking seat-massage function on, and even the weight of the driver impact the car’s range. Plus, there are chargers all over the place in California.
Since the 2022 Lucid Air has a massive 113-kWh battery, and the Dream R model has a range of 500-something miles (final EPA certification is imminent), we decided to just drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, about 350 miles, the way the owner of a $170,000 automobile would do it. Straight shot, driving with the flow of traffic, and if the battery needs some juice, we’ll find a charger. Just like the day before on Angeles Crest Highway, Rawlinson was in his own Air Dream R behind me, Lucid’s PR and engineering teams followed us, and speed limits would be (mostly) obeyed. We rolled out of Lucid’s Beverly Hills showroom at 7 a.m. with 503 miles of range showing. I got on the freeway in Smooth mode and set the cruise control to 67 mph. This was going to be a long one.
The 2022 Lucid Air is quiet, comfortable, and luxurious. It rides rather well in Smooth mode. Just a hint of waft, which is good in a luxury car. There’s a bit of wind noise, but it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination. We were on a smooth road, and tire noise was minimal. It’s worth noting the Air was fitted with different wheels and tires on different days. On Angeles Crest, the cars were on 21-inch wheels wrapped in Lucid-spec (signified with LMI) Pirelli P Zeros measuring 245/35 up front and 265/35 at the rear. For the road trip, the car sat on 19s wearing Lucid-spec low rolling resistance all-season P Zeros, 245/45 front and rear.
Why the switch? Lucid offers customers a choice of wheel and tires as an option, and this way I got to experience both. Even with the big glass roof (the only way it comes for now, but a different roof option is inbound) and Central California sunshine in August, I wasn’t boiling. I had the A/C temp initially set to 69 degrees; I thought it better to save a little juice, however, so I cranked it back to 71.
We took Interstate 5 north to 46 west (passing where James Dean met his demise) and popped out in Paso Robles for lunch. We’d covered 205 miles, and my Air Dream showed 286 miles of range remaining. Good news, because our destination—H.Q. Milton, a wonderful vintage watch shop in San Francisco’s gritty though gentrifying Mission District—was 204 miles away. Once we parked, I opened the Electrify America app on my phone and saw there were two Level 3 chargers five blocks from our lunch stop. With Lucid’s 924-volt architecture, a Level 3 charger would have practically refilled the battery by the time lunch was through. However, these long-range EV mileage tests are passé unless you’re a brand-new electric car company trying to prove a very specific point, and I had absolutely no doubt at this point that both Lucids would make it on a single charge. So we didn’t plug in.
Brave New EV World
If you combine the pre- and post-meal legs of our journey, 205 plus 204 miles, that adds up to a 409-mile trip. The 2021 Tesla Model S Long Range’s range rating according to the EPA: 405 miles. And yes, both 2022 Lucid Airs made it to San Francisco with plenty of juice left in their “tanks.” My Lucid showed 69 miles of range remaining, and Rawlinson’s was good for another 107. Why the discrepancy? The Lucid CEO is much better than I am at hypermiling. I just drove with my usual lead foot and checked out the various seat-massage modes. After we looked at some lovely vintage watches (the $140,000 Rolex “Platona” platinum Daytona caught my overzealous eye), we hopped back in the Airs and drove an additional 36 miles to Lucid’s headquarters in Newark, California.
I rode in the Air’s spacious rear seat and had Lickfold chauffeur me. We spoke about how he’s been with Lucid for more than six years and abo
ut how the company went through some dark times getting to today. He feels it’s been worth it. Not wanting to show my hand, I silently agreed with him. But what a fantastic machine Lucid has created. Once we arrived, my limo still had 30 miles of range on the clock, and Rawlinson’s car amazingly had 72. This meant my 2022 Lucid Air Dream Edition R had the potential to go 475 miles, whereas Rawlinson’s could have traveled 517 miles on a single charge. That’s a gauntlet dropped at the feet of you know who. Also, remember range anxiety? As with the internal combustion engine, it’s a thing of the past.
As for the Lucid Air, the future is now. Well, soon, anyway: Rawlinson and Lucid’s PR department remain a bit vague about when cars will reach customers, but the company aims to commence deliveries before 2021 concludes.
|2022 Lucid Air Dream Edition R Specifications|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front/Rear motors, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|MOTORS||2-AC permanent-magnet electric, 933 hp/1,390 lb-ft (comb)|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,050 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||195.8 x 76.2 x 55.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||2.5 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not yet tested|
|ON SALE||Fall/Winter 2021|