There is no more perfect audience for new cars than Malibu, where the cheapest house starts at $1 million. Many Malibuites have the means to buy any car: Bentley, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Mercedes—you name it.
When it comes to electric vehicles (EV), another contingent chooses them because they are good for the planet. I encountered my first Lucid Air car prototype on display by its makers in Malibu Village. The company says the car takes a “holistic, clean-sheet approach to advanced EV construction, without using existing 'off the shelf’' solutions so often seen in EVs from legacy automakers.”
In other words, they did not simply take an existing internal combustion car and switch drivetrains. In its press release Lucid goes heavy on the superlatives about having “the philosophy of hyper-efficiency embedded in every facet of Lucid Air, from energy to spatial efficiency, delivering an unprecedented combination of range, practicality, performance, and luxury.”
They claim their car “looks entirely distinctive on the road,” but it reminds me shapewise, sizewise and appointments-wise of the Hyundai Genesis 90, a $75,000 luxury car that is a full$100,000 cheaper than Lucid's top-of-the-line model.
The styling, specifically the nose, looks like a Toyota Celica, except the top band is muted silver instead of body color. The headlights are interesting (some foreign automakers have had to supply “dumbed down” headlights because their more courageous designs don’t meet U.S. laws), and the vertical light bars on the front copy Cadillac. The rear view has a full-length taillight, hardly anything new (had 'em on my '66 Dodge Charger). From the side it's a four-door seemingly pillarless coupe with side sculpting, but it may have "B" pillars hidden under the tinted windows.
As per the newest all-electric cars, a big screen dominates the dash. Publicity pictures show what appears to be an all-glass roof continuing the windshield right up to the middle of the roof. I hope it's tinted strong enough, because they're going to make them in Arizona where it gets a wee bit toasty during the summer.
The Lucid Air packs up to 1,080 horsepower in a dual-motor, all-wheel drive architecture in the top-of-the-line “Dream Edition” model. Lucid claims quarter-mile times as quick as 9.9 seconds on a consistent, repeatable basis.
But horsepower on a full electric is not nearly as important to buyers as range—how far can you go before you need to recharge? That's the all-important question. One option drives up to 517 miles on a single charge, leaving the 2022 Hummer EV, with its mere 300-mile range, in the dust.
Lucid Air also claims to be the fastest charging electric vehicle ever offered, with the capability to charge at rates of up to 20 miles per minute when connected to a DC Fast Charging network. But then they throw in “real world” by saying, “in real-world conditions on the road, that can translate into 300 miles of range in just 20 minutes of charging.”
Race-Proven EV Battery Packs
Lucid claims 20 million miles of real-world testing went into creating its in-house developed, compact 113 kWh extended-range battery pack. For those who believe in the old saw “racing improves the breed,” they tested their motors in the world’s leading electric racing championship.
Lucid also claims it has the largest “frunk” (front trunk) of any electric car to date and “incredible bi-level storage capabilities in both front and rear compartments.” With a claimed coefficient of drag of 0.21, which is a magic figure that automakers recently reached through extensive wind tunnel testing, that translates to better gas mileage than anybody ever dreamed possible decades ago.
Inside there’s a big 34-inch curved glass cockpit 5K display that “floats” above the dashboard, contributing to an airy feel of the interior. Fortunately, it's not all push buttons on a screen. There are still a few precision-milled knobs to control(for) climate, radio and such.
Although not fully self-driving, the vehicle’s Lucid Dream Drive is described as a “cutting-edge Driver Monitoring System that is the “first of its kind to offer 32 sensors, covering vision, radar and ultrasonics, plus the world’s first standard high-resolution LIDAR in an EV.'” In other words, they are challenging Tesla. All the emerging electric car companies would like to go fully autonomous right now, but the laws haven't yet changed to allow it.
In case you miss Alexa telling you what to do, Lucid Air comes with Alexa Built-In, providing navigation voice cues, calling and streaming media options, Smart home control and more.
The Lucid Air will be available in four models:
· The Air, available in 2022 for less than $80,000 ($72,500 after federal tax credit);
· The well-equipped Air Touring, available in late 2021, starting at $95,000 ($87,500 after federal tax credit);
· The fully equipped Air Grand Touring, available mid-2021, starting at $139,000 ($131,500 after federal tax credit); and
· The all-inclusive, limited-volume Air Dream Edition, available in spring 2021, starting at $169,000 ($161,500 after federal tax credit).
Westsiders will especially want to check out the exclusive “Santa Monica”-themed interior trim package with Bridge of Weir leather throughout and silvered Eucalyptus wood accents. The top-of-the-line Dream Edition also features a unique 21-inch “AeroDream” wheel design highlighted by special badging and trim that marks its position as a limited-production halo edition of the Lucid Air.
Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 car history books and an anthology of “Twilight Zone”-style fantasy stories about collector cars.