Lucid Air First Drive Review: New kid in town beats everyone up
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MENLO PARK, Calif. – A new car from a new company raises some skepticism. You'd expect some rough edges, both literally and figuratively, with a few random choices here and some choppy elements there. Something probably won't work. Something will almost certainly be borrowed from another manufacturer's parts box.
The Lucid Air manages to dispel this skepticism very quickly. You step into the driver's seat to find an environment that seems entirely familiar to you, and not because the switchgear and technical interface are from another, familiar company (they weren't). There are plenty of screens, but their placement and control layout is broadly similar to what you'd find in a traditional, button-strewn interior. The screen to the left of the instruments in the 34-inch curved panel controls things like lights and windshield wipers, while the large touchscreen bridging the console and lower dash handles the functions buttons on the console and lower dash traditionally like climate and drive controls. The screens are also nicely designed with large, clear icons and minimal menus. In short, it's easy to use. You'd think someone who used to work for Apple was responsible. Oh wait, that was him and his name is Mike Bell.
There are still some buttons in the cabin, and they look and move with a richness often overlooked by smaller luxury automakers (see Aston Martin). The rest of the cabin is then a treat for your eyes and fingers, with familiar touches like soft leather, faux suede and open-pore wood blending with novel touches like alpaca wool and a two-tone color scheme that sees the front and rear seats in different-toned leather. As they say, the devil is in the details, and at least on the cars we tested, Lucid nailed them. This is a very expensive car and the cabin looks and feels like it.
Like some other electric cars, there is no start button. There are also no buttons on the key fob. Approach the car, the door handles will pop out, get in and hit the brakes to tell the car you're good to go. The transmission selector is an electronic column shifter, comparable to Mercedes' design, but with Lucid's own hardware.
The car is in Smooth driving mode by default, but remembers which of the two levels of brake regeneration you used last: Standard or High. This is the first electric car I've tested where the maximum regenerative braking mode was actually too strong. It was difficult to refine the throttle to avoid a queasy yo-yo tendency that will make your passengers (or you) sick. Maybe with practice it's worth regaining the extra electrons, but the default setting is still terribly strong, allowing for one-pedal riding and stalling on its own. The amount of automatic regenerative braking provided by Standard is actually reduced in both Swift and Sprint sport modes, but High remains the same in all modes. Its extreme level of braking is, perhaps paradoxically, more appreciated in the Sport modes as it's closer to the kind of hard braking you'd do when speeding down a mountain road.
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