Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at MikeHagertyCars.com are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical. Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days. Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during last month's Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Half Moon Bay, California.
Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.
Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at our host hotel, the Aristocrat, down Highway 1 to Highway 84, onto Stage Road (named for the former stagecoach stop still---but barely---standing on the corner), past the historic (since 1889), socially-aware and only-in-Northern-California funky San Gregorio General Store, through some marvelous twists and turns that lead back to Highway 1 and ultimately back to the hotel.
At the hotel, support teams from Page One Automotive and DriveShop sanitize the vehicles as they return while journalists choose their next vehicle from a total of 20 cars, trucks and SUVs provided by their manufacturers. This goes on for eight hours on day one, minus a 90-minute lunch break, and for three hours on day two.
If that sounds more like kid-in-a-candy-store stuff than just another day in the life of a car writer, you're right. There wasn't a wallflower in the bunch. But there was a line---and a list---to get behind the wheel of the 2022 Lucid Air.
If you have not yet seen a Lucid Air in person, don't feel badly---they're not exactly thick on the ground, even here in California.
The briefest summation is this: BMW expat Peter Rawlinson jumped ship to Tesla. He got the Model S to market in 2012, but left the following year, saying he felt "frustrated" and "limited". There's talk that Rawlinson wanted Tesla to aim for build quality standards that Elon Musk had no interest in.
And so we have Lucid, and its first car, the Air. Rawlinson's timing is good. While we're seeing a rush of automakers (Ford, GM, VW, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Subaru) coming to market with EVs that undercut Tesla on pricing, Lucid's opening bet is on a market above Tesla's.
The 2022 Lucid Air produces up to 1,111 (not a typo---one thousand, one hundred and eleven) horsepower, can hit 60 miles per hour from a standing start in 2.5 seconds, has a top speed of 168 miles an hour, an EPA-estimated range per charge of 520 miles and can regain 300 miles of range via DC fast charging in 20 minutes.
Limo-like rear seat legroom, quality materials, excellent fit and finish---check, check and check.
The Lucid Air is breathtakingly fast, well appointed and marries cutting-edge tech and serious quality standards. If you're thinking it can't be cheap, you're right. The least-expensive Air, the Air Touring, with 620 horsepower, 0-60 in 3.2 seconds and 406 miles of range, starts at $107,400. The Air Grand Touring boosts the horsepower to 1,050, the range to 516 miles and starts at $154,000. And the Dream Edition, which is the model I drove---that's the 1,111 horsepower, 520 miles of range top-of-the-line starting at $169,000.
Of course, it's not just power and range that differentiate the models. There are differences in equipment and trim, as well.
That may sound stratospheric to some, but Lucid's on to something here. A lot of Tesla sales have been conquests from European luxury brands---people who have the money and are willing to spend it. They've gone downmarket to $80,000-ish Teslas, trading luxury for perceived cool. The Lucid Air aims to bring them both. Lucid also has done another very smart thing here. Rather than leading with a low-price model and then introducing faster, more luxurious variants at higher prices, it's delivered the ultimate (for now, at least) in performance this car can deliver. If it sees a business case for it, it would be very easy to come in with a 500-horsepower Air below $100,000. A two-wheel drive version with 400 horsepower could be less still. Any startup faces headwinds---especially in the automotive industry. Lucid has a long way to go in terms of becoming a sure thing and a major player. But they have absolutely delivered on the ability to build a fast, luxurious, long range electric vehicle.