Frunk Yeah: Lucid Air Debuts, Starts at $80,000

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Minus an unpleasant amount of virtue signaling, the Lucid Air debut was pretty good. But this is technically a commercial so what else could we have possibly expected? Lucid is an electric vehicle brand so it’s required by law to succumb to the growing list of EV clichés. Building this car the way Lucid does won’t just be better for the environment, “it will be better for all mankind.” We need to rally together because the world is ending. This startup is changing by building an extravagant automobile — that was the gist of the presentation anyway.

“We’re a California company,” explained the car’s interior designer. The Golden State was apparently so important that the interior color palates are based entirely on the way the sun plays off California’s various regions at different times of the day. They even held the event on the state’s birthday and made sure to mention it.

You get the idea. It started out a complete drag. And yet the car itself was quite interesting and the technical portions of the presentation excelled at explaining why someone might actually want this car over literally everything else that’s on the market right now.

This was more of a debut for the Lucid brand as a whole than something that was singularly focused on the Air. We had to hear about the way the company plans on designing its dealerships, about how green its factory (Arizona’s Casa Grande) is, and other disparate items that left the event feeling somewhat disjointed.

It’s not every day you get to watch a presentation about a frunk (front trunk) that proves it’s unequivocally the largest on the market. But that was Lucid’s opener. Never mind that the Lucid Air can run a quarter-mile in an alleged 9.9 seconds (when in its 1,080-horsepower format), tell me more about this gigantic storage area where I’d expect to find an engine.

Speaking of powertrains, the Air relies on Lucid’s Lucid Electric Advanced Platform (LEAP). It’s your classic skateboard architecture with the manufacturer claiming it had miniaturized components its rivals don’t, resulting in more interior space for occupants. But the motors themselves were left mysterious, as were the battery options. We know the base-model Air will start at $80,000 and will be available last, sometime in 2022. The Air Touring (starting at $95,000) is next up the ladder and boasts an impressive 620 horsepower and has an estimated range of 406 miles. Grand Touring trims ($139,000) are rated for 517 miles and 800 horsepower. The Air Dream Edition is the fanciest and will be the first to arrive in the summer of 2021. Starting at $169,000, it’s the one that will supposedly get you the sub-10-second quarter-mile time.

Lucid said to note that these prices are all subject to change and reminded customers to take into account the $7,500 federal tax credit they’ll be eligible for.

While the Air has a compelling shape, it’s becoming too familiar. Consider Porsche’s Taycan, Nio’s ET, Polestar’s Precept, or Faraday Future’s FF 91. Each of these EVs debuted in neutral color palates with razor-thin headlamps, bar tail lamps, and highly similar profiles. Most of them are also covert hatchbacks that look like sedans — including the Air. None of them are bad looking, quite the opposite. But there’s a faint sameness to them that’s mildly disheartening, even if this particular brand of minimalist futurism happens to be easy on the eyes. It’s like they all doing something different the exact same way. Perhaps it’s the constant obsession with drag coefficients, which just so happens to be particularly low on the Air at just 0.21.

Charging is said to be fast. Under ideal circumstances, customers can expect to recoup 20 miles per minute when plugged into a DC fast-charger. But there will also be a series of home-charging solutions, including one that allows energy to be shared between the car and the home.

Tesla was not mentioned during the event but it was still issued a couple of minor burns. The first attack came when Lucid passive-aggressively noted how valuable the paint factory was to the rest of its production facility. The second came when the Air’s interior was shown to have a huge 34-inch display wrapped around the driver instead of sitting in the middle of the cabin. Lucid’s display is also paired to a smaller touchscreen located between the front seats.

The interior is probably the Air’s greatest strength. It’s attractive and looks like the kind of place you’d want to spend your time. The vast greenhouse is welcoming but it doesn’t seem to offer much privacy and one has to wonder what happens in direct sunlight without some UV protection. Front seats are black to evoke a sense of sportiness while the back will have brightly colored upholstery to give a dash of calmness — which you can make even calmer by splurging on executive-style seating. Sadly, fixed luxury seats will be all that’s available at launch and they are all labeled with little bears to remind everyone of California.

So much mention made of California.

Dream Drive, Lucid’s autonomous vehicle suite, will be available at launch. However, it’s only rated for SAE Level 2, meaning it’s not even remotely autonomous and doesn’t get to rub anything in Tesla’s face. An upgraded version is said to be made available via over-the-air updates eventually and that is exactly what Elon Musk has been telling us for years. Air does have an impressive sensor/camera array, however, and they’ll support all the creature comforts you’d find on any other high-end model. The company tried to make it sound like it was on par, if not better than Tesla in terms of advanced driving aids. But we’re withholding all judgment until Lucid proves its fully realized its goals.

There were some key technical items missing from the presentation. But we’re assuming that will be revealed soon enough. It’s taken us so long just to get to this point that we don’t want to assume anything. Lucid unveiled the Air in late 2016 and announced plans for a factory in Arizona only to find itself running out of money. The company has since claimed a $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund saved the day and has allowed it to make the car even better than before.

Production begins on the most expensive versions of the Air next spring, with deliveries commencing the following summer. From there, the company wants to introduce the next-highest trim every quarter. Interested parties can visit the brand’s website to make a $1,000 reservation.

[Images: Lucid]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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3 of 15 comments
  • SSJeep SSJeep on Sep 10, 2020

    1. It is ugly, especially from the rear quarter angle; 2. It is egregiously expensive, even moreso than a similarly equipped Tesla 3. Its a sedan, no one is buying sedans. 4. “We’re a California company,” explained the car’s interior designer. The Golden State was apparently so important that the interior color palates are based entirely on the way the sun plays off California’s various regions at different times of the day. - Its corny. I wish Lucid luck, but absent a buyout or massive infusion of cash, I sense another Fisker.

    • La834 La834 on Sep 10, 2020

      Lucid emphasized in their unveiling that trying to sell other automakers their technology is one of their three key missions. It will be the one they fall back on if the car doesn't sell.

  • Chris724 Chris724 on Sep 10, 2020

    Several tens of these will be rolling off the line every month...

  • Funky D A few from my road trip playlist: Eddie Rabbitt - Drivin' My Life AwayAmerica - Ventura Highway---Herb Alpert - Route 101Jerry Reed - East Bown and DownEddie Money - Shakin'Lindey Buckingham - Holiday RoadWar - Low RiderTears for Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Not a driving song per se, but if you've seen the video, you'll get it)Wang Chung - Wait (Gotta see the end credits of "To Live and Die in LA", for this one)
  • Ronin Or can sedans be saved from themselves? Modern sedans have very low entry and seating, and unnecessarily downward sloping rear roofs. This may have been a sleek design center 25 years ago, but it's nice to have an alternative to SUVs for the olds (ie, anyone over 30).
  • Bd2 The Hyundai Sonota is the best sedan on the market right now.
  • Kcflyer hang in there Lexus. Keep making the IS with the V8 and sooner or later I will buy a new one :)
  • 1995 SC I'll take Mystichrome. And a different car