2024 Lucid Air Pure — 'World's most powerful electric sedan'

By Dan Scanlan

(April 22, 2024) JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Lucid: expressed clearly; intelligible; bright or luminous. Air: essential to breathe. Pure: free or unadulterated. Put them together, and they make up the name of the base model of what its creators have called “the world’s most powerful and efficient luxury electric sedan.” And three years after I got an in-depth walk around of the first Lucid pre-production models at The Amelia concours d’elegance, it was finally my turn at the wheel of this very new EV luxury car company’s offering.

But no Lucid Sapphire — $249,000/1,234 hp/all-wheel-drive/446-mile range — for me this time. Instead, it was the new base model – the Lucid Air Pure, a rear-wheel-drive 5-passenger luxury EV that starts at $69,900, and offers up to 410 miles range and a solid 430 hp.

Lucid Motors was conceived in 2007, with some former Tesla officials at the helm. Rebranded in 2016 as Lucid, the design was led by ex-Mazda/ex-Volkswagen designer Derek Jenkins, with some Audi time under his belt as well.

The result is a luxury car with a wind tunnel-verified coefficient of drag of 0.21. But while Teslas and many other EVs are pointy jellybeans or edgy wedges, the Lucid Air comes off as a longer, leaner shape with some muscle as well as sharpness. The design hasn’t changed since the early versions I saw in 2021 on the greens at Amelia.

A satin chrome accent circles the leading edge of the bonnet, over a slim band with a sleek 6-element LED headlight system that “steers” light into corners by digitally switching it in different directions. A slim grill-like channel is below the smooth bumper, with slit side light blades, a polished alloy air dam under and in between. The long hood has twin vents that flow into channels that form rounded front fender upper edges it’s all very low.

Aerodynamic flat-bladed satin silver and gloss black 10-spoke 20-inch wheels wear low-profile Pirelli P-ZERO rubber, the tread sharing tight clearances with gently flat-edged fenders. There’s a low, rounded roof that flows off the raked windshield whose base starts just aft of the front axle line. The tinted transparent solar roof of some models is replaced with a steel one with black side window framing, the C-pillars framing a small rear window that flows into a small rear deck with molded-in spoiler. A neat touch – the “Air” name accents satin alloy trim panels at the C-pillars’ join with the black trim that flows along the side, and rear window beltlines.

The Lucid is low, with a long wheelbase design and short overhangs. But it’s easy to drop into the heated Mojave PurLuxe Leather (faux leather) bucket seats under Alcantara Suede headliner and open pore wood door and dash accents, plus some cool fine-weave tweed wool-like cloth atop the dashboard.

It’s whisper quiet in here, the driver on a much softer 12-way power bucket seat than the prototype had three years ago. You face a simple flat-bottom steering wheel which power tilts and telescopes, and hosts some of the few physical controls in the cockpit - ribbed turbine-like thumbwheels for various functions, with smart cruise and distance setting touch controls below.

Straight ahead, a sweeping 34-inch arc of 5K digital resolution display floats above the dashboard base under one piece of glass. A digital speedometer with charge/power meter ringing it is front and center, with audio, traffic distance and driver safety system status. To the left, touchscreen icons for climate control, defrost, headlights, windshield wipers and door/charge port lock, all within a fingertip away and using familiar iconography. To the right, navigation, weather, distance and other information.

The wide center console has the party trick – a retractable central Pilot Panel screen below appreciated mechanical dual-zone climate and fan speed buttons. It has touch controls for “Smooth,” “Swift” and “Sprint” driving modes, plus steering wheel/mirror adjustment. Charging, glovebox and trunk/frunk opening and more. There’s also main function touch buttons for seat, interior ambient lighting themes (Wonder, Inspire, Escape, Space and Solitude), charging and more.

That said, a lot of menu buttons that lead to more menus – a few more physical controls would be nice. The center armrest slides back to reveal cup holders, while an inductive charger slot for a cellphone is under its tweed cloth section. There’s an audio system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth – no Android Auto.

With a 116.5-inch wheelbase and four doors that open almost 90 degrees for easy access, plus low-mounted batteries under the floor, there’s tons of room in the wide back seat – once I ducked a bit to get under the sloping rear roofline. And even with the EV “skateboard” batteries below, there’s good legroom, with a flip-down center armrest, rear air vents and a touch control panel to handle climate control, with decent head room under the tinted moonroof. While I liked the tinted clear roof of the models I saw, it’s nicer to have some shade overhead in the Florida sun.

Driving a 430-hp luxury EV in the traffic surrounding The Amelia concours was an exercise in frustration – yearning to let the Lucid free to fly, but stuck in a high-priced traffic jam on tree-shaded, winding Florida roads. Our entry-level Lucid had just 34 miles on the clock, and that meant a single rear-wheel-drive motor – higher levels can get front and rear motors for all-wheel-drive and 620-, 819- or the new Sapphire’s 1,240-hp respectively.

That permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor offers a solid 406 lb-ft of torque through single-speed transmission and inverter, both together weighing just 163 lbs. Power comes from those low, floor-mounted liquid-cooled lithium-ion batteries.

With a limited drive, we had no chance to charge up our silvery Fathom Blue Metallic Lucid, but it indicated 300 miles of range on its 4/5ths-full battery when we began our test — 7.7 miles since its last charge. Lucid claims it can gain 200 miles of range after just 17 minutes plugged into a 440-volt DC Fast Charging network, and about 25 minutes to hit its estimated 410 miles full range when charged. At Level 2, it gets a full charge in about 12 hours.

That 1,234-hp Lucid Sapphire, with all-wheel-drive, claims a 0-60 time of 1.89 seconds. Our 430-hp Pure Air, set in Comfort mode, hit 60 mph in a very quick 4.6 seconds with almost no sound other than some tire noise. Our second launch in Sprint mode saw hints of well reined-in wheelspin as 60 mph showed in 4.2 seconds, the mode unleashing full more power and suspension firmness as well as changed traction control settings, Lucid said. In order to activate “Sprint” mode, you have to tap the icon, then a “Confirm” touch-button. The result is powerful – a pedal push shoved us into our 12-way power seats, but no drama – just quiet speed and traction control seamlessly working.

The high level regenerative braking rapidly slows the Lucid Air to a stop, for one-pedal driving. The lower level offers some noticeable regen, but aimed more for those who are used to a brake pedal on an internal combustion-engined car. In that setting, the brake pedal had a bit of a soft spot, then bit well, with solid stopping on damp roads – would love the ability to coast when I back off the go pedal, but there is an auto-hold function when you brake to a stop.

For safety, a Dream Drive driver-assistance system with 32 sensors handles vision, radar and ultrasonics with high-resolution LIDAR and other systems like lane-keep, parking assist and adaptive cruise control, plus Level 2 and Level 3 driver assistance technologies if optioned. There’s Alexa Voice for navigation, calling, streaming media, smart home control, and expanded vehicle control features via voice command.

Base prices for the rear-wheel-drive 430-hp Air Pure start at $69,900 – our test car started at $77,400, plus $800 for the Fathom Blue Metallic paint. Air Touring, with 620 hp and all-wheel-drive, starts at $77,900. They have up to 406 miles of range. The all-wheel-drive Air Grand Touring, with 819 hp, starts at $109,9000 and gets up to 516 miles range. And the 1,234-hp Sapphire starts at $249,000, with 427 miles of projected range.

All Lucids are built in a factory in Casa Grande, Ariz. FYI — Lucid recently showed off its new Gravity SUV at the Geneva International Motor Show — the same elegant styling has been carried over.