Home » The Lucid Air Grand Touring Is A Great EV But Sometimes A Profoundly Dumb Car

The Lucid Air Grand Touring Is A Great EV But Sometimes A Profoundly Dumb Car

Lucid Air Gt Top2
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“The future is stupid,” my buddy Dan says, laughing from the passenger seat, as I desperately try to get the electric Lucid Air Grand Touring just to move from where it’s stuck: next to an unmanned toll booth on the Ohio Turnpike, traffic collecting behind it, other drivers probably wondering why this idiot in the spaceship car won’t just drive past the open gate. The car is asking me, the idiot, for a PIN. I don’t have a PIN. I just have a key. What the hell? But I come here to praise the Lucid, not to bury it, because I’m actually impressed by this flummoxing car.

Everyone likes to pretend that electric cars are just like regular cars, but they really aren’t. This isn’t the difference between gasoline and diesel, manual and automatic, or wagon and sedan. This is the difference between tennis and pickleball. An electric car drives differently. You have to use it differently, especially over long distances. In many ways, an electric car is better than an internal combustion-powered car, but it’s not the same thing.

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Because electric cars are different and new, pure-EV carmakers tend to produce electric cars that are better at being electric cars than similar vehicles from a traditional automaker. At the same time, EV-only automakers are great at making electric cars that perform well as electric cars, but make strange choices that render them less useful as actual cars.

Lucid Air Gt At Charger
Here’s where it would be helpful to provide an example.

A Tesla Model 3 is a great electric vehicle. It packs a lot of range and a good number of features into an attractive and usable package connected to a large charging network. In my mind, the Tesla Model 3 (or the Model Y) is probably the best electric car in the world. It’s also a good car, capable of doing most car things pretty well, but it’s not a great car. Build quality is questionable, I don’t like the screen interface, it doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay, steering feel is good but not great, and I don’t love the interior. You may not agree, but that’s how I feel.

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The Porsche Taycan is a great car. One of the best cars you can buy. The steering feel is typically Porsche, the design is exceptional, the fit-and-finish is extremely high. At the same time, it is in no way the best electric car you can buy. A Taycan Performance Plus gets about 242 miles of range, compared to 315 miles for the Tesla Model 3 Performance AWD, which is also about $40,000 cheaper. The Taycan is a great car and an average EV.

You can play this game all day, but it’s a subjective game. I think the Polestar 2, for instance, is a good EV and a good car. The Kia EV6 GT is a good EV and a great car. The Mazda MX-30 is a good car and a terrible EV. Most cars are good-to-average EVs and good-to-average cars.

This is what I thought about when I asked for a Lucid Air to drive back and forth from New York to Chicago for the NASCAR race. Could this be both a great EV and a great car? Absolutely on the former, but the latter is way more complicated.

What Makes The Lucid Air A Great EV

Charge Port

Lucid is a California-based electric carmaker that’s clearly trying to follow in the footsteps of Tesla by offering an attractive, high performance luxury car to kickstart a larger brand play. It was co-founded by an ex-Tesla Motors VP and its CEO was the former chief engineer of the Tesla Model S. It is technically a public company, but it’s mostly owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which may or may not mean anything to you.

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I’ve driven a ton of electric cars and, in terms of range and charging performance, the Lucid Air is right at the top. I put nearly 2,000 miles on one and, while I never approached the 469 miles of promised range, I consistently got close to 380-390 miles of range and returned a miles/kwh in the 3.2-3.6 range. The Lucid is stuck using the CCS public charging network so charging speeds are more limited by the charger than the vehicle itself, but I was still amused to watch it add hundreds of miles of range in the time it took me to go to Sheetz and grab a sandwich (Car and Driver put it head-to-head with a Tesla Model S and found it to be the fastest charging EV they’d tested).

Lucid Air Charging

Is it fast? Yeah it’s fast. The version I had is the dual motor and it manages to put down 819 horsepower to all wheels, giving it a 0-60 mph time of 3.0 seconds. Because its weight is located low in the battery pack it feels flat and secure, even around turns, though I’m not sure I’d call it agile. It’s not as planted as a Taycan, but think of this more as an AMG S-Class.

All of this in a car that looks like the future, can outrun almost every other car on the road, is quiet, and weighs 5,216 pounds. The technology is there. The efficiency is there. This isn’t just a car with a big battery, this is a slippery dream of an EV that delivers performance difficult for any regular gas-powered car to match.

The Lucid Air Looks The Business

Lucid Air Gt Frunk Trunk

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The Lucid Air I borrowed was a Grand Touring with the Quantum Grey exterior, 21-inch Aero Blade Wheels, and Santa Cruz interior. The base price is $139,000, but toss in the DreamDrive Pro highway assist package ($10,000), the wheels ($2,000), and the Surreal Sound Pro system ($4,000), this thing stickers for $156,650 delivered.

That’s a lot of money. It’s probably worth it. Park it anywhere, open the capacious frunk and the weird rear hatch and just stand there and wait for people to gather. Young people. Old people. People in that weird middle area. In cities. In suburbs. At a fancy summer camp or a NASCAR race. It’s a fantastic design.

Low. Long. Wide. The greenhouse is tapered inward like Cinderella’s Castle, somehow making the Lucid Air look both larger and somehow sleeker than it is. The use of brightwork along the front lights, the pillars, mirrors, and lower trim somehow both screams future and 1930s Duisenberg luxury at the same time. Famed GM design boss Harley Earl would love the Lucid Air. There is no bad exterior angle of the car.

Lucid Air Gt Big Frunk

Inside, I’d argue it’s even better. The open pore wood, full grain Nappa leather, and discreet touches of bright metal combine to somehow capture the best elements of Swedish minimalism and midcentury modernism. With a giant glass opening covering the entire roof and plush, Rolls-Royce-like carpeting, it impresses everyone who sits inside of it. The whole car is a statement piece.

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Lucid Air Interior

Most massage seats in cars are a joke, like sitting on Larry David’s lap and hoping to feel something as he flexes his muscles. The massage seats in the Lucid Air GT I had actually work, like sitting on Jean Claude Van Damme. You’re welcome for those very strange visuals.

I’m not a huge fan of screens in cars, but I appreciate the wide but narrow floating screen, which is great to look at. People complain that cars don’t often look as good as the concept but I’m not sure, even in concept form, what I’d do to improve the aesthetic. It may not be for everyone. It’s definitely for me. Or at least the idealized form of myself.

Actually Using The Car Is Slightly Frustrating

Lucid Air Keychain

I’m not gonna lie. It took me a while to like this car. Many of the futuristic details made to make the Lucid feel worth the money also makes it, to my friend Dan’s point, kinda stupid.

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The key is just one smooth, minimalistic piece with no hint as to how to use the buttons or even any kind of guide as to what actually button hidden underneath actually do. I eventually figured it out, but it never became natural. I’m sure at some point you get used it, but for $150,000 these details should just work.

Lucid Guage Cluster
Photo: Lucid

Adjusting the mirrors? Congrats, you’re going to have to go into a sub menu on the center console panel. A panel that, while the car was in my possession, sometimes just stopped working. Do you want to turn on the windshield wipers? There’s a little stalk you can use to turn them off and on, but for real controls you have to use the little screen to the left of the steering wheel. This is a bad system and requires taking your eyes off the road. It looks nice, but it’s not great to use.

Lucid Wiper Controls

Cruise control involves using thumb controls along the centerline of the wheel. I actually like the texture of the thumb dials and they look cool, but they are, like much of the car, unintuitive. It has Apple CarPlay, via an over-the-air update, but it managed to wig out me more than once.

The PIN? This is my least favorite feature on almost any car.

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So I’m on the Ohio Turnpike in the middle of who-knows-where and for some reason my EZpass isn’t working. No big deal, I’ll just lean out of the car and get a ticket. Because this is a very expensive car, I give myself a little extra room so I don’t thrash the wheels or fancy trim on the car. I’m too far away and lean out to grab the ticket.

Lucid Air Car PlayI get back into my seat, buckle up, and the car just stops. It won’t move. Traffic begins to pile up behind me. My friend Dan, along for the ride, is also stuck, but after about 600 miles of all these little nuisances piling up he finds this deeply amusing. I’m not quite panicking, but I can see an employee of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission ready to call the cops out of the corner of my eye.

The car keeps asking for the PIN. “Just put in the PIN,” my friend Dan offers, pretty clearly aware that I do not, in fact, have a PIN. No one gave me a PIN.

Now the Turnpike employee is walk-running towards the car, across traffic. I’m embarrassed, for the car, for myself, for the future. I take a deep breath and look and realize the car no longer detected the key, which was in my pocket when I leaned out of the car. I quickly grab the little black suppository in my hand and wave it, frantically, like a mystical totem in the hope that something will happen.

Right before the authorities reach me the car decides it recognizes the key and we book it out of Ohio. Just to make sure I’m crazy, I checked the Lucid Owners Forum and found this is not an uncommon problem.

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This was my greatest annoyance with the car, certainly, but it’s not my only gripe. When covering long miles in a car, on-center feel is important. The ability of a car to track straight and keep the wheels pointed forward is more than just a nice-to-have. The on-center feel of the Lucid Air was below average and the car required constant adjustments.

None Of These Are Deal Breakers

There’s a bit of a Stockholm Syndrome that sets in after you spend enough time with a car and, after nearly 2,000 miles, I did come around to the Lucid Air Grand Touring.

It’s a huge bummer that most of the car companies I like seem to only be able to produce, on their best days, good electric cars. It’s nice to drive a great electric car that isn’t a Tesla and, frankly, it’s a plus that the car is yet another example of stellar American engineering.

If you’re a rich person with taste and access to an EV charger, it’s a great alternative to something like a Mercedes AMG or a Tesla Model S. It’s new. It’s different. It’s unusual. It’s a way to one-up your friend in the EQS at the country club, or whatever.

I think it’s possible for Lucid to make a car that isn’t occasionally so clumsy and, hopefully, solve some of its interface problems. If that doesn’t work out, I was quite pleased to hear that Lucid was going to be providing some of its EV technology to Aston Martin. Aston Martin is very capable of making a great car (and of taking Saudi money).

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Honestly, just take this whole thing, shove a Lagonda badge on it, and I think you’ve got a winner.

Update: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly said Lucid was going over to the NACS standard. As of now, they are not. 

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Ioan Radulescu
Ioan Radulescu
1 month ago

You’re probably missing the point when complaining about the screen interaction but not mentioning if you can do that by voice command, like it’s in all Teslas. So, can you do everything that’s buried in the menus by voice?

NAJ
NAJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Ioan Radulescu

Dealing with voice commands or screen interfaces is still worse than having physical controls for a lot of things like HVAC, mirrors, wipers, etc. Those should never be buried in virtual menus or controlled via voice because you’ll need to change them at a whim while driving with your eyes on the road.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

“In many ways, an electric car is better than an internal combustion-powered car”
-No way in hell

“$156,650 delivered.
That’s a lot of money. It’s probably worth it.”
-Nope!

“screams future and 1930s Duisenberg luxury at the same time.”
-How dare you compare this EV junk to Duesenberg (spelled right) at all!

Larry David’s lap? Yes, too weird

Screw all those stupid screens!
(& all EV plastic junk)
Gas forever!!!

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

The key/PIN problem- What a joke, all this new junk creates problems
(If it ain’t broke, DON’T FIX IT!!!)

The wiper deal? Partly on a screen?!
That made me the most furious and is completely asinine (should be illegal) OK, when you’re in the daily downpour during rainy season in FL, on the freeway, can’t see and are messing w/ a SCREEN; its your OWN damn fault!!!

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 month ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

The PIN thing makes me think of The Transporter with Jason Statham. However, the movie would be a lot less exciting if he had to stop during a chase to recharge for 20 minutes.

Colin
Colin
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas Metcalf

I imagine a scene where our main characters have to defend their location from the baddies while the car recharges, waiting for the countdown. Once the car is ready one person lays down covering fire so the other can get in the car and pick up the other while moving, laying down rubber as they peel out of the station.

Ioan Radulescu
Ioan Radulescu
1 month ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

Gas forever?! Nah. You should drive a BEV, you’ll love it, except on a race track.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago
Reply to  Ioan Radulescu

No thanks

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
1 month ago

Am I alone in hating the styling of the greenhouse and not being crazy about the rear? If this was a soft top, it would be an excellent design. If it looked like an Aston… I’d have to become rich and buy one

Just Jeepin’
Just Jeepin’
1 month ago

Duisenberg

The auto enthusiast in me is deeply offended. Fortunately I’m a pretty meh auto enthusiast.

The Hoosier in me, however, is all-encompassingly angered.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago
Reply to  Just Jeepin’

Yeah, that was sacrilege all the way around! On top of that, daring to compare this EV junk to Duesenberg

Peter Vee
Peter Vee
1 month ago

The greenhouse is tapered inward like Cinderella’s Castle, ? Huh? what does that mean?
Styling is okay in an Oldsmobile Aurora way.

Peter Vee
Peter Vee
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

Thanks for the reply, and I swear I am not trying to be difficult, but I still don’t get what doesn’t push all the way to the door? I look at the photo you link–are you saying there’s a small window near the C -pillar? The glass is framed in some way that I am not seeing? The windows are not vertical- as the case with nearly every car produced since 1968 with only a few minor retro models. Sorry to bother you with this, I appreciate the article, it vicariously satisfies my curiosity about a car I’ll likely never drive.

Peter Vee
Peter Vee
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Vee

Do you mean the way the C Pillar is wider at the top than at the bottom, like a late sixties Mopar 2-door? https://pbs.twimg.com/media/F27-yFcWEAAmh42?format=webp&name=900×900

AKA Rukh
AKA Rukh
1 month ago

Having to take your eyes off the road to operate the vehicle is dangerous. Automakers had a chance to correct this on their own, but did not. Since automakers don’t seem to recognize or care about this, it’s time for the government to step in and mandate tactilely distinguishable switches for driving-essential functions. At the least this should include controls that frequently need to be manipulated while the vehicle is in motion (wipers, HVAC, turn signals, basic radio controls, etc).

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago
Reply to  AKA Rukh

Yes!!!

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

This car is the worst thing about Tesla. No, I’m not confused. Hear me out:

Tesla convinced everyone that EVs should have almost no physical controls. This is a terrible design decision and should have been smothered in the cradle. It wasn’t. Now terrible interiors are part of the EV ethos, much like ugly exteriors were with hybrids due to the Prius being the progenitor of that segment. I hope it doesn’t take us five generations to move past that like it did with the Prius.

I say this as a fan of Lucid who wants to see them succeed, but I wouldn’t spend my own money on one of these. :-/

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

It’s part the absolute travesty that is the minimalism design language, but a lot is just cheapness.
EVs are really expensive, they have to cut costs to make them even approach gas cars in price. Tesla successfully convinced idiots cars without buttons are cool.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 month ago

It’s because everyone studying design heard that minimalism is good and has a basic understanding of what minimalism is, but nobody bothered to actually research why it was ever a thing. The point, more than anything, was that the aesthetic of objects should be clean and rational and not interfere with its usefulness, for the sake of promoting a more empathetic world with useful and affordable things that everyone can afford.

Now however, people skipped the “why” and only know “minimalism aesthetic is fashionable,” so we have a world littered with so-called “minimalist” designs that go to extreme lengths for the aesthetic, to the point that minimalist design is now more expensive for the sake of clean perfect surfaces and actively hostile when it comes to user interface because things like clearly labeled buttons and ergonomics might make it look less like a shiny bar of soap.

Modern minimalist design is literally the antithesis of what minimalism was supposed to accomplish in the first place. The original movement wasn’t a bad thing, it had noble goals, but it was ruined the moment it became fashion.

Ioan Radulescu
Ioan Radulescu
1 month ago
Reply to  Ben

Voice command replaces hand interaction people.

T H
T H
1 month ago
Reply to  Ioan Radulescu

There are multiple reasons why we shouldn’t accept replacing safety critical controls with voice control. Perhaps… you have a accent that the voice interface doesn’t understand, or there are other people in the car talking loudly, or you are passing a building site, or have the window open at speed, or have some sort of speech impediment, or just don’t want to waste critical seconds trying to get the car to understand “fastest wiper speed” when you drive into a patch of heavy rain and could flip the physical switch in half a second

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