A lucid dream is one in which you are aware you are dreaming and can exert some degree of control. That seems to describe the state of mind of those who brought the all-wheel-drive Lucid Air Dream Edition to life because, by all rights, it shouldn’t exist. The team that CEO Peter Rawlinson assembled not only was building the airplane while they were flying it, they were also hyping and financing the complicated endeavor at the same time.
On paper, the results are just as jaw-dropping as they are easy to disbelieve. How could a first-time carmaker burst out of the gate with a stunner of an all-electric sedan that produces an eye-watering 1111 horsepower and 471 miles of EPA range in Performance spec and delivers an unprecedented EPA range of 520 miles in the 933-hp Range spec? The gracefully styled Air looks long, low, and wide, so it just has to be a portly sled that’s hiding a huge battery pack and a massive pair of motors, right?
Actually, no. Each of the two electric drive units has the capacity to produce 670 horsepower apiece, but each one weighs just 163 pounds and can fit into a carry-on suitcase. That’s a power density of 4.1 horsepower-per-pound, folks—about triple that of a 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V-8 without its requisite transmission, prop shaft, or rear differential. The Lucid figure, on the other hand, represents complete coaxial drive units that include the electric motor, power inverter, differential, final-drive reduction gear, and a pair of embedded axle drive flanges.
What’s more, the battery pack that drives these electric machines is not an unspeakably large monstrosity. Lucid is getting that bonkers range out a 112.0-kWh battery because the Air’s EPA combined efficiency of 125 MPGe for the Dream and 131 MPGe for the Grand Touring are better than compact EVs like the Chevrolet Bolt EV (118) and Hyundai Kona Electric (120). The pack does weigh a smidge over 1500 pounds, but it can be forgiven because it is a stressed member of the body structure that represents some 40 percent of the car’s overall torsional stiffness.
According to a Lucid supply chain specialist we talked to, the secret sauce was the decision to design and build all of these powertrain components and the battery pack in-house. Off the shelf or even Tier-1 supplier-developed components would not allow for the design optimization that was necessary to pull off the kind of power, range, and packaging efficiency Lucid was after. Chief engineer Eric Bach summed up the unwavering clean-sheet philosophy by saying that the team started by “targeting the limits of physics, not other vehicles.”
The desire for ultimate range and packaging efficiency led to a system that runs at as much as 924 volts instead of the typical 400 volts or the Porsche Taycan/Audi etron GT’s 800 volts. Doubling the voltage reduces the amount of current, and thus heat. That’s one of many reasons why so many of Lucid’s powertrain components are more heat-resistant and compact.
The diminutive size of the motors adds up to a remarkable amount of interior space, trunk volume, and frunk volume. Front legroom is absolutely immense, and the only thing that gets in the way of an excellent driving position is the cumbersome touchscreen-based steering-column tilt-telescope and side-mirror adjustment scheme that’s admittedly better than Tesla’s, but not by much. Apart from that, the 34.0-inch floating 5k display screen makes a stunning centerpiece to an exceedingly well-trimmed and attractive cockpit.
Rear legroom is nearly as generous, but the posture is somewhat akin to a chaise lounge. The Dream and GT front seats are mounted low against the underfloor battery pack. While this helps facilitate the Air’s ultra-sleek roofline, it means back-seat passengers can’t tuck their feet under the front seats. The upcoming Touring and Pure models solve that with an 18-module battery instead of a 22-module pack, with the four absent ones right where rear passengers’ feet naturally rest. The trade-off will be 400-odd miles of range instead of over 500, but that hardly seems a problem.
Underway, the Air Dream immediately impressed with a seemingly bottomless well of torque and ridiculously easy speed. The roads around Lucid’s Casa Grande, Arizona, assembly plant are no place to plumb the depths of this car’s potential, but we did stand on it hard enough to inadvertently test the headrests. Suffice it to say there’s no reason to doubt any of Lucid’s power figures, its 2.5-second 60-mph acceleration claim, or the 9.9-second quarter-mile estimate. Still, those are numbers for the sold-out Dream Performance model. We expect the 800-hp Grand Touring model to rip off a quarter-mile in 11.0 seconds. And the Dream Range model should fall in between.
We tried out all three driving modes: Smooth, Swift, and Sprint. Each offers differing levels of motor response, damper calibration, steering effort, and regenerative braking. Smooth offers more regen than Swift or Sprint, the theory being that drivers in a sporting mood want to control and feel the friction brakes. The two systems are not blended in any way, so the pedal feels predictable and authentic. Those who prefer a strong level of regen braking can select a High setting to conjure up 0.30 g in any mode, which we found highly entertaining when hustling through a tight, decreasing-radius freeway ramp.
The front suspension is a multilink design with a virtual pivot steering axis that is a boon to steering precision and straight-line stability. The rear uses a different multilink design called integral link. Both make bushing tuning more straightforward when it comes to comfort and performance. Electrically assisted power steering produces consistent feel and a strong sense of straight ahead despite the disparate effects that came with power application, regen braking, and friction braking.
We half-expected to see air springs under the Lucid Air, but it uses steel coils. That was fine because there’s no need for height adjustment here. Lucid sourced Bilstein DTSky dampers with independent control of rebound and compression, and the combination delivered an appropriately smooth ride in Smooth mode. Our main gripe was the road noise produced by the optional low-profile (35 series) 21-inch Pirelli P Zero PZ4 Elect tires on one particularly nasty stretch of asphalt. Back-seat occupants noticed it more, but we’re willing to chalk it up to coarse asphalt meeting the sportiest of three tire offerings. If you needed another reason to not go for the 21s, EPA range drops to 481 miles when they are spec’d.
The Lucid Air Dream Edition is sold-out, but you can reserve a $139,000 Grand Touring and expect delivery in the early part of next year. You can also reserve a Touring or the $77,400 Pure, but those won’t be added to the production mix until the latter half of 2022.
This was a short drive on unchallenging roads. There’s still a lot to learn about the Lucid Air, but what we gleaned from this encounter was huge. Lucid is the real deal and has seemingly redefined how efficient an electric powertrain can be. Others in the EV biz need to wake up.
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