Lucid Air Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Monday 4th December


What is it like to drive?

First, a reminder of those (many) powertrains. Entry-level Pure is the only rear-wheel drive Air, capable of 424bhp and 419 miles of range. It's the slowest Air, but not slow by any measure: 0-60mph takes 4.5 seconds. The dual-motor Pure is seven-tenths quicker courtesy of 473bhp, but less rangey.

Touring is next (612bhp/3.4s/425 miles) followed by Grand Touring (808bhp/3.0s/516 miles) and Grand Touring Performance (1,036bhp/2.6s/446 miles).

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Finally, there's the Air Sapphire, which is a tour de force of numbers: 1,217bhp and 1,430lb ft of torque from a tri-motor set-up, 0-60mph in 1.89 seconds, top speed of 205mph. And many strained neck muscles as you brace against the acceleration.

Like Tesla, Lucid is a bit cagey when it comes to battery sizes. We know the Sapphire uses a 118kWh unit; Pure and Touring cars are thought to get 92kWh, with Grand Tourings running a 112kWh battery. Useful intel for your charging maths.

Ta. So what's it like behind the wheel?

You’ve a choice of various driving modes, including Smooth, Swift and Sprint. In the Air Sapphire there's also a Track mode with Dragstrip, Hot Lap and Endurance options. Ooh. The car you see above is the sold-out Dream edition, in which you'd be pegged back to less than 600bhp in all but Sprint mode.

Lucid could've easily fooled us into thinking we were still being given full whack, so prodigious is its power even when stifled. In truth, you’ll use Sprint once – to see just how mental that acceleration feels – before settling into Smooth for everyday driving and Swift for your favourite roads.

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It firms up the damping and sharpens the braking and steering response, though relatively subtly. The Air doesn’t suddenly feel like a trackday special with it pressed – it just feels surprisingly sprightly in corners. And with its power delivered in a very rear-biased fashion.

Tell me more…

David Lickfold, a chassis man flown over from JLR six years ago, was keen to make a car that responded intelligently to your needs. It’d prioritise range when it knew you were cruising – slipping into two-wheel drive and softening the throttle – then spark itself into life when it sensed you pushing on.

So, the more the Air’s numerous algorithms sense you giving it a good go on a rural road, the more power they’ll send to the rear axle. The maximum torque split is 30/70 front/rear, and even with the stability control in ‘Partial’ you can encourage moderate oversteer. This car never shrinks in size or weight like the very best internal combustion sports saloons, but it’s pretty mesmerising for the mass involved.

And whichever mode you’re in, there’s an inch of ‘are you sure?’ hesitation in the throttle to avoid whoopsie-daisies. Sneeze while in Sprint and you’ve a fighting chance of not careening across a four-way stop at twice the posted speed limit.

Oh, and a point of note if you intend on prodding a circa-1,000bhp Air into Sprint on a Californian canyon road – it’s not unlike sparking a roman candle in your downstairs loo. Momentarily thrilling, predominantly startling. Unless you really need those bragging rights, our hunch is the bottom-rung models will feel more than quick enough on road.

What's the ride like?

On the 21in wheels you see here, the Air rides fantastically; a properly supple and luxurious saloon. Optioning smaller wheels will bring even more smoothness, as well as longer range: something to remember if you can't find the 516-mile version on the configurator, which automatically puts you on 20s or 21s on all but the base car. Weird.

The ride is all the more impressive because the Air weighs near-as-dammit 2.5 tonnes. Which, when it comes to making a car controlled and precise to drive, ought to be somewhat problematic. But Lucid’s spent big snaring some people who know what they’re doing. The aim was a driver-focused car, and the target – which Lucid missed thanks to various delays – was to be the first EV with stability control that can be loosened. A proper line in the sand. The Porsche Taycan got there first, in the end, but that doesn’t make the Air a dud in its class.

Far from it. While the car’s focus is undeniably on being a rock-solid but whisper-quiet limo – a brief it nails – there’s been a faintly staggering amount of effort put into making it fun on roads that aren’t endlessly straight. Yep, America does have ‘em.

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