In the relatively small luxury electric sedan space you have the Tesla Model S, the Porsche Taycan and the upcoming Lucid Air. None of these cars use an ounce of gasoline to move across the face of the Earth and, frankly, all feel relatively similar to ride in. So it comes down to interior features and quality. You asked me about the Air—the first car from erstwhile startup, now publicly-traded company Lucid Motors that's supposed to enter production later this year—and now I'm back with some answers.
Recently, I went to Lucid's new Studio showroom in New York City's Meatpacking District to check out a couple of pre-production models. Walking up to the Air, I have to say it looks like nothing else on the road. It's absolutely striking and futuristic even from a whole city block way. There were a lot of people stopping to take pictures of it.
The Studio itself a cool and trendy space that just so happens to have a car parked in it, along with an Air chassis, charging system, electric drive unit and battery on display. These latter items are indeed quite small and compact!
While there, I spoke with Derek Jenkins, vice president of design, Zak Edson, senior director of retail operations, and Doreen Allen, director of sales. I also was able to go out for a quick jaunt up the West Side Highway in a Lucid Air Grand Touring edition. The one with a dual-motor setup and 800 horsepower.
Like Tesla, Lucid will also operate with a direct sales model. So the Meatpacking showroom won't actually handle any financial transactions. You'd go there to learn more about the car, check out potential color and trim options (there are only a handful to choose from), sit in the display vehicle, and then you'd go home and order your car directly from Lucid, according to Allen. Right now, the company is looking into mobile deliveries and mobile service in order to better serve customers who might not live close to a Lucid location.
This is the first time I'd ever seen the Air in person, and while it's indeed very sleek-looking, there's also no getting around that it's a rather large car. It's not super wide but it's long. But while other cars I've driven are big on the outside but mysteriously cramped on the inside, the Lucid is both big inside and out. To start, it has a front trunk, which is quite deep. That parcel shelf removable, too.
The rear trunk opens like a clamshell—wide—so the opening won't restrict whatever it is you're trying to get back there. And why not a hatch design like the Tesla Model S has got? Jenkins said the company went with a traditional trunk-style opening because it offers better overall stability and rigidity. It was also meant to solve any NVH concerns because the seals on a hatch-style trunk are located in the occupant space and unwanted noise can come in through that way.
As for riding in it (remember, I wasn't allowed to drive it), it's shockingly quiet. Not your usual EV silence, mind you, where you can still hear some tire noise, wind noise, outside traffic, and the whir of the motor(s) under acceleration. Being in the Lucid was like sitting in a sound booth, where extraneous noises from the outside were sound-proofed out.
The ride quality was also stellar. Departing from the Studio meant driving over some cobblestone streets—pretty to look at but horrendous to take a car on. But the Air handled it with excellent comfort. I was aware we were driving over a bumpy road, yet the sensation that made it up to the seat was one of a mere suggestion of bumpiness rather than acute bumpiness. It was very pleasant.
Inside, the Air was minimalist and modern. Clean lines intersected other clean lines, though there were physical buttons and scroll-knobs for changing the climate temperature and volume. The dashboard was also low, which made forward visibility pretty good. This kind of design, I think, will stand up well to the test of time.
My favorite interior feature had to have been that all-glass ceiling, though. It was a pretty warm and sunny day when we went out, but Lucid's reps told me many different layers of tempering make up that ceiling so it apparently does a good job of letting in light and keeping out the heat. I'll have to determine that for myself on a longer ride. But for now, I can tell you sitting in the rear seats gave me a view of the sky like I haven't gotten in any other fixed-roof car. The only potential issue I can see with the roof is since it and the windshield are all one piece of glass, getting a windshield repair might be difficult if you take it anywhere besides a licensed Lucid repairperson.
But enough about me! Let's get onto what you want to know.
Q: Does the Lucid have cooled seats? How about a 360 camera? What about some of the delighters that Tesla offers such as the ability to open your garage door based on geolocation? — Michael, via email
A: Yes, the Air indeed has air-conditioned seats. No sweaty butts in this car! And yes, it does have a 360-degree camera. The Air also has HomeLink and there are plans to have it open garage doors automatically through proximity. At the moment, it offers features and apps such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Spotify. But since a lot of its software updates are handled over-the-air, I imagine more features will come with time. In terms of hardware, the soft-close doors were a nice touch.
Q: Apple partnership or no? Warranty on: Battery, powertrain, bumper to bumper? Vehicle delivery to customers…logistics? — Mike, via email
A: That is TBA, but Lucid says there is an announcement on all that coming soon.
Q: I would love if you could get a feel sitting in the air driver seat whether we will miss not having a heads up display. Lucid claims that the floating dash more than suffices? — Ken, via email
A: No, I don't think you'll miss a heads-up display with that giant, curved screen. It's 34 inches and has great definition from what I could tell.
Q: I wanted to know if the Lucid Air studio in New York will be open to the public and also when will it open next week? — Eli, via email
A: The Meatpacking Studio opened to all on Saturday, June 26. The address is 2 Ninth Avenue and it marks the automaker's eighth location. Next up will be a Scottsdale, Arizona, location in July. Edson said the aim was to create a space that people would see and wander into. He called it a "casual discovery of the Lucid brand."
The team is selective with where they'll put these showrooms. Edson said they didn't want to be just another car dealership on a busy road alongside all the other car dealerships. They wanted something a bit more boutique and upscale in feeling.
And it's a showroom, not a dealership. Big distinction!
Q: I would like your honest opinion, how do you feel about the car from a passenger standpoint only. Quietness, comfort level, speed, and how luxurious it really feels to you as a passenger. Is it worth the price tag? — Mark, via email
A: Super luxurious! From both the front passenger seat and the rear seats, you get an overwhelming sense of airiness because of how spacious the cabin is and how much light the all-glass roof lets in. I rode around in the fully equipped Air Grand Touring, so there were soft leathers, wool, and open-pore wood all over the cabin, giving it a very beachy feel.
The ride is eerily quiet. I've driven and ridden in other EVs that make some noise—tire noise, wind noise, motor noise—but sitting in the Air, I was greeting with almost absolute silence. Even the air conditioner blew silently, as a Lucid spokesperson explained the two HVAC blowers were moved to the outside of the firewall, which expands cabin space and cuts down on ambient blower noise. The suspension soaked up the worst of the cobblestone street could throw at it, too.
Of course, when the Lucid rep hit the accelerator on the West Side Highway, there was that familiar, leave-your-stomach-behind sensation from the instant torque; 800 HP tends to do that. But as for whether or not it's worth the $139,000 price of entry? That's a tough call and one I won't be making until I actually get to drive the Air myself.
Q: What is your impression of back seat comfort? Can the glovebox be opened with an Alexa voice command? Since Lucid claims they have struck a balance between screens and conventional switches and buttons for some functions, why not with the glove box? During development Lucid switched from an air suspension to a coil spring/sway bar setup. Why? — Hmp10
A: Legroom in the back row is impressive. I mean, it doesn't take much to impress me because I have short legs, but I could actually straighten my knees decently while riding around. Since the Air I went out in was the longer-range model, the rear floor height was raised slightly to accommodate the extra battery packs. But it wasn't super noticeable. The seats were also plush and definitely had a more relaxed posture to them—meaning that they don't cup occupants as aggressively as the Taycan's do. Your view of the sky above is nearly unobstructed, which is very cool.
The glovebox can be opened with an Alexa voice command, but that feature will come at a later date, according to a Lucid rep. They continued to say that eventually, all interior features will be able to enabled through Alexa. I suspect there isn't a physical glovebox button because the Air's designers really wanted a minimalist design and also because it usually costs additional money to make more physical switchgear. The physical volume switch feels great under your fingers, though!
As for the suspension, a Lucid rep said the company changed to the coil spring and sway bar setup as it pushed toward production. The air suspension is coming but the advantages of the air suspension system over the coil spring setup mostly come down to ride height. They said ride comfort across the two systems won't be sacrificed, however.
Q: My husband has a reservation for this car. I just want to know when in the hell will it be available for me to purchase it! What is the hold up?? I can’t wait to get a new car and all of this waiting is killing me! — Sylvia, via email
A: Depending on which Air model your husband reserved, Edson said deliveries will start in descending trim order starting in "the second half of 2021" (he wouldn't be more specific than that). First will be the limited Air Dream Edition, followed by the Air Grand Touring, then the Air Touring, and finally the base Air model. But, "by the end of 2022, everything will be available," Edson said.
Q: Why launch with a luxury sedan when luxury SUVs are outselling sedans by increasing amounts? It sounds like they developed a great technology that allows the car to communicate with multiple cellular carriers and connect to the carrier with the strongest signal. Will they allow buyers to use the car as a wifi hotspot? Elon Musk indicated that Tesla was partnering with other companies to use the Tesla Supercharger network. Any chance that includes Lucid? If not, does Lucid plan on doing anything to contribute to fast charging infrastructure (beside making more cars that need to use it)? — Atlas80
A: Jenkins, and by extension Lucid, both believe the "luxury ticket of entry" is still the sedan. Jenkins in particular thinks the SUV-craze is a fad and will ebb away, just like the station wagon and minivan fads did before it. With a sedan, there are handling and performance advantages. Plus, a sedan is way more aerodynamic than an SUV, which helps enable Lucid to put down those massive estimated range claims. And it offers a more impressive way for Lucid to show off its interior space. Essentially, a sedan is the way Lucid can put its best foot forward.
And, yes, the car can be used as a WiFi hotspot.
At the time of this writing, Lucid plans to work with Electrify America to satisfy customer charging needs. A company rep wouldn't comment on any concrete plans to expand the charging infrastructure, but did say Lucid is "open to it." Which is is PR-speak for, "neither yes or no."
Q: The hood vents seem to be functional, is it an aero device or a heat extractor? Oh, here's an even more random, Torch-level question: So US cars always have side markers, an amber marker for the front, red one on the back. You usually find these tacked on the leading edge of the bumpers, cut out of the rear quarter panel, or integrated into the side of the headlights and tailights. They usually stick out like sore thumbs on the side of the car, even when it's inside a headlight housing. This Lucid is super clean. I see that they integrated the rear red reflector in the tailight, but how the hell did they manage to hide the front amber reflector? — ThousandLemons
A: The hood vents are indeed functional! They're there to cool the headlights.
As for the front sidemarkers, they are integrated in the vertical front running lights. Subtle!
Q: I would like to know what vaporware smells like. — mgmcd1
A: Like new car, bud.
Q: What's the temperature on the day of the test and how does that big airy (read glass) cockpit feel? — Shawarmongor
A: During the day of the test, which was bright and sunny, the temperature was around 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass cockpit is awesome—made being a passenger in New York City actually fun because you could tilt your head back and see the buildings.
Q: Pics or approximations of a Caleb-sized person in it. What's that weird fabric on the back of the front seats? Does it feel as unpleasant to the touch as I imagine? — teh penguin of doom
A: You're in luck! Edson is six-foot-six, so I had him move the driver's seat to his driving position and then climb into the back seat immediately after. This is what two Edson-shaped people would look like sitting in the Air.
And the fabric on the back of the front seats is wool. It was actually pleasant to the touch. Felt like a sofa.
Q: Is what you're seeing an actual road-legal, for-sale-if/when-production-begins car, or someone's "concept" of what a customer vehicle could be like some fine day should the necessary investors step up? — ExAutoJourno
A: The two cars Lucid had on site were both pre-production cars. They aren't concepts but they aren't the versions you or I would take delivery of, either. A Lucid representative said all those two cars would need is a software update and a "final validation of the drive experience." Then they ought to be ready to go.
Q: How is this different than Tesla? More luxury? Tesla success is mostly because of the software/interface. — 4cyl
A: I didn't spend a whole lot of time messing around with the software or interface, but I would consider the Air more luxurious. The interior materials used felt a step above what Tesla currently offers and though there's an electronic release button on the door, you merely have to press the button further to activate the manual release. Same button, two functions. I found this thoughtful.
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