Lucid Air Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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What is it like to drive?

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 – on the R version here, you’ll get a 481-mile max with the 21s or the headline 520-mile peak if you can slum it on 19s.

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.

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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.

So how does it feel? 

You’ve a choice of three driving modes – Smooth, Swift and Sprint. You only get the full 933bhp of this Dream Edition R in Sprint, which is also when the sub-3.0secs 0-60mph time is on the cards. The other modes are pegged below 600bhp, but we would have happily believed 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 batsh*t that acceleration time feels – before settling into Smooth for everyday driving and Swift for your favourite roads.

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.

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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.

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