Lucid Air Sapphire review: without question the best-handling EV on sale Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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Lucid Air Sapphire review: without question the best-handling EV on sale

Published: 16 Oct 2023

Punchy headline. This thing’s quick, then?

Pal, you have no idea. The Lucid Air Sapphire can hit 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, 100 mph in 3.8s, and it'll run a full quarter mile in around nine seconds, depending on the ambient conditions and how much you had for breakfast. I can personally attest to ripping off a 9.09-second quarter mile with a 153-mph trap speed, which is an experience so brutally quick and jarring that I literally yelled words out loud in the car that I cannot in good conscience publish online.

And you know what? That warp-speed launch isn't even the best part. The Lucid Air Sapphire is more than a one-trick pony of straight-line antics. This is, without question, the best-handling EV on sale today – a car so all-encompassingly satisfying it'll make any dyed-in-the-wool gearhead a believer in electric power. It’s a car so mind-melting, I can’t imagine ever forgetting it. 10 out of 10, no notes.

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Sheesh, wow, okay. How much power does this thing make?

No foolin': 1,234hp and 1,430lb ft of torque. That comes from a 118kWh battery pack and three electric motors – one up front and two at the rear. By fitting a pair of e-drive units on the aft axle, the Air Sapphire can pull off some incredible lateral torque vectoring, which is a major contributor to this sedan's handling prowess. Yeah, getting a 5,336lb luxury car to hit 60 mph in less than two seconds is one thing. Making it dance around a race track like a car half its size is another.

What did Lucid change?

The chassis got a major tune-up, with more robust anti-roll bars, Bilstein adaptive dampers, a new electric power steering calibration, and springs that are 17 per cent stiffer up front and 25 per cent stiffer 'round back. Increased negative camber gives the Air more composure through fast corners, and new bushings improve lateral stiffness by 25 per cent across the front axle and 28 per cent in back.

Crucially, the Sapphire’s tires are a freakin' treat. Michelin developed bespoke (and staggered) 265/35R20 front and 295/30R21 rear Pilot Sport 4S rubbers specifically for this car. The tires actually use a unique hybrid construction where the middle tread is akin to that of a standard Pilot Sport 4S, but the shoulders are the same spec as a more hardcore Pilot Sport Cup 2. It's a best-of-both-worlds approach that pays dividends both on the track and out on the street.

That's not all, of course. The carbon-ceramic brakes save 48 pounds of unsprung mass compared to the Air's standard iron stoppers, and they're strong enough to scrub off speed with surefootedness, all while keeping Lucid's smooth regenerative braking characteristics intact.

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So, you tracked it?

Indeed – and at a notoriously tricky race circuit, too. Sonoma Raceway is kind of a bear, full of quick elevation changes and corners that are very easy to get wrong. It's here that you learn exactly how incredible the Sapphire is, and why that 1,234hp power spec isn't the real headline.

When you engage Track mode, you're presented with three sub-settings: Dragstrip, Hot Lap, and Endurance. These are pretty self-explanatory; use Dragstrip to precondition the battery and make all 1,234hp available for a launch, select Hot Lap if you want to go balls-out for one impressive time trial, and toggle over to Endurance if you're up for repeat performance. With the latter, in an effort to not absolutely fry the battery or motors (or brakes), the Sapphire is limited to 737hp, which, let's be honest, is still a goddamn ton.

Leave the stability control in its fully on setting and it'll be a little heavy handed as you throw the Sapphire into corners, cutting power to the axle where slip is being detected. You can feel the leash tightening around the car when you start to get carried away, so if you're going to lap the Sapphire with regularity, familiarize yourself with the stability control's Track mode, where the nannies will let you have a little more freedom, pulling you back right before things get out of hand.

Can you completely disable the traction control? Not 100 per cent. But no matter, it's still free enough that you can rip off four-wheel drifts and do smokey burnouts to your heart's content. Just mind those tires. They won't last long.

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How's the handling?

Out-freaking-standing. The steering is crisp and perfectly weighted, and you can feel exactly what's happening at road level. The torque-vectoring system works quickly to move power across the rear axle in a way that's completely natural – like, you never feel like electronics are artificially enhancing the fun.

The Sapphire is light and tossable – well, as tossable as a car this heavy can be, anyway – and every action it makes is fully on the driver's terms. You can steer it with the throttle through bends and dialing in some countersteer through a corner won't send the Air into a tizzy. It's very clearly been engineered by people who know what they're doing. Legit, this thing's an absolute ripper.

Does all of this performance absolutely tank the range?

Oh, darlin', not even close. According to the US EPA's testing regimen, the Air Sapphire can go 427 miles on a full charge, which is better than almost every other non-Lucid EV on sale today. That's on the standard 20-inch front and 21-inch rear Pilot Sport 4S tires, too. Though there is one cheat code: a driver-installable aero cover that snaps onto the wheels. You'll need that for max range.

The Air's high-voltage architecture means it'll recharge with quickness, too. Find a compatible (and functional) Level 3 DC fast charger and you might see charging speeds as high as 300kW. That's rad.

How's it on the road?

Pretty nice, though not as comfortable as other Air models. Those chassis changes stiffen the ride quality appreciably, but not so much that you'd hate to drive one of these things every day. There's a unique Sapphire drive mode that'll release this car's full potential, but putz around in the standard Smooth or Swift settings and you'll find this Air is as coddly and relaxed as every other Air.

The interior's just as lovely, too, with Alcantara trimmings, heavily bolstered seats, and great overall design. Sure, the multimedia system is still a chore and it'll always and forever be stupid that the mirror and steering wheel adjustments are housed in the center touch tablet. But none of those issues are unique to the Sapphire.

This thing's gotta be expensive, yeah?

Oh my god, yes. At $250,500 including $1,500 for destination, the Sapphire is more than three times the price of a base Air Pure. Is it three times the car? Not when you're running errands or sitting in traffic. But open the Sapphire up and it's a freaking animal – borderline unhinged in the best way.

There's no other sedan that can rip off hot laps like the Air Sapphire, and no other EV that can go 427 miles on a single charge and accelerate from a stop to 200 mph in 17 seconds flat (not at the same time, obviously). Yes, the Air Sapphire has a super-steep price of admission. But nothing this fantastic is ever going to be cheap.

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