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First Drive

Lucid Air Pure (US) review: breathtakingly good

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Published: 18 Jun 2024
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Lucid Air? What’s that?

It’s a car, we promise you. This is the luxury sedan from EV automaker Lucid, the former EV battery brand that decided to eat the Tesla Model S’s lunch with its own prestige electric vehicle. A disruptor of the disruptor kind of thing.

How’s that working out?

Lucid hasn’t been immune to the struggles of EV startupship. Layoffs, supply chain issues and so on have put the company on the same shaky ground as its contemporaries. For its part, it’s moving ahead with its plans for the upcoming Gravity SUV, as well as plotting what comes after that. In the meantime it continues to develop the Air, streamlining its line-up to make it less confusing. Most notable is this new base model, the Air Pure.

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What’s so pure about it?

For the most part, it’s a more scaled back version of the sedan in most aspects. But mainly it’s now only offered with a single motor, as the others sport dual or triple motors. This also makes the Pure the only rear-wheel drive version of the Air.

So does that make it the fun one?

Oof, tough to say. It depends on what you’re looking for. For starters, the Air, in any configuration, hasn’t been lacking in dynamics. In fact, it’s one of the most enjoyable EVs to drive on the road today full stop.

What makes you say that?

In our recent experience, automakers have been attempting to leverage the power of electric to best fit their particular brand of fun, and with varying degrees of success. For example, Hyundai and Kia have carved out their niches with the nimble and drifty Ioniq 5 N and EV6 GT. Rivian takes its kicks off road, and Mini just electrified its already sporty Cooper.

Then there are other brands like AMG. How does the performance house - famous for being powerful and shouty - do what it does when it can’t shove a turbo V12 into every cavity? We’re still collectively finding out.

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The best indicator we have at the moment is the AMG EQE. It’s a good car, but it insulates the driver from, well, everything: the sound baffling, air suspension and even the faux feedback filling in for an engine note. It’s the only car that feels like a VR simulator while you’re actually driving in real life. With all this context, the Lucid Air is the antithesis of that.

What sets the Lucid apart?

Mostly the suspension setup. For all the tech-forward attention to things like the e-motors, battery pack composition and drag coefficient of the exterior, the car’s handling rig is decidedly old-school.

It rides on a double wishbone front setup and a multi-link rear, both paired with adaptive dampers that can be adjusted depending on the drive mode. No air suspension on the Air.

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In practice, this means the Air is super communicative of what’s going on during spirited driving. Real feedback about the surface comes through the steering wheel; you can feel how planted it is through the seat, how the load shifts during turns, and so forth. Also, while this might be a “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature” kind of situation, the sound baffling of the cabin isn’t particularly dense, so drivers also get audible feedback. Sometimes it’s mechanical noise, often its tires, but mostly it’s the motor whirr.

Allowing you to hear the latter also avoids having to solve the ‘lack of engine noise’ issue, so there’s no need to mock up something else. In all these ways, the Air brings an… air of authenticity to EVs which feel so stark and digital most of the time.

How is the Pure different?

In terms of just driving, the Pure’s lighter in the front and quick to dial in the angle. The single engine pushes out 430hp, which is plenty, though it doesn’t dazzle in any particular way. In this config, the Air feels like a modern EV that has a hefty amount of push when the pedal is laid down, and though it can tap into it in an instant, it’s not going viral on YouTube any time soon. On paper, Lucid says the Pure can run from 0 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds.

Which Air is the face-melting one?

That would be the Sapphire, the tri-motor powerhouse that delivers 1,234hp faster than you can say “one two three four.” Lucid claims it can go from 0 to 60mph in 1.85 seconds, which we didn’t put to the test lest we end up with a new pair of steel bracelets. But it did have a tendency to scramble our insides if we got a little heavy on the pedal.

This one also has a similar suspension setup to the Pure, though it has a hollow anti-roll bar included. While the Pure also has assisted torque vectoring for added control, it’s brake assisted. All-wheel drive gives the Sapphire a full range of power delivery.

As powerful as it is, the Sapphire isn’t unruly, it’s just got all the power you need and then some, all while hugging the ground and squelching around bends. The true limit is your talent and imagination. In a way, it’s a little disheartening because it feels like a cheat code where you’ve just unlocked a race car’s level of capability but you’re in a luxury four-door. No need to start chasing that racing license now, I suppose.

How is the Air when driving normally?

The Lucid is as docile as one would expect for a car of its ilk. The cabin is roomy and secure, with the dash layout looking clean and modern. Lucid’s floating digital display makes use of all the space available and the center console supports it by displaying other functions as well as a full-sized map. There’s a significant reduction in physical buttons but most remain in some fashion.

What’s the story with the range and battery stuff?

Right. The Pure is fitted with an 88kWh battery and is estimated to get 410 to 394 miles of range depending on if it's optioned with 19- or 20-inch wheels. In contrast, the Sapphire has a 118kWh battery and has an EPA-estimated range of 427 miles. They’re quick to charge - the Pure can add 200 miles of juice in 17 minutes - and will be compatible with the Tesla NACS Supercharger network sometime in the near future.

How much money does Air cost?

Take a deep breath. For the Pure, prices start at $69,900. Touring and Grand Touring models - which we haven’t tried yet - offer AWD and 620 to 819hp: those go for $77,900 and $109,900 respectively. For the crown jewel of the Air line-up, prepare to shell out $249,000 for the Sapphire.

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