After 11,000 miles in a Lucid Air Touring in under 11 months, I don’t see anything coming on the horizon that could ever replace it. It's a stunning car worthy of the 2022 Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. Still, if I had Harry Potter’s wand, I’d give it a wave and fix a few things. We’ll get to those in a bit.
The Air Touring is my eighth electric car. I’ve owned a self-built Miata conversion, three different BMWs, a Tesla Model 3, a Jaguar I-Pace, and a Hyundai Ioniq 5 (which is not mine, but my wife’s daily driver).
The Jag is probably the most comparable in terms of the driving experience, although the Lucid is quicker, quieter, and has an even more confidence-building connection to the road. The Lucid is also just lovely to sit in. The interior layout and controls make more sense than any other car I’ve ever driven. It strikes the right balance of tactile buttons for frequently used features versus the touchscreen. The Lucid’s touchscreen works well and isn’t “laggy” like the Jag’s and the menus are intuitive (very unlike the Jag’s.)
But by far, my biggest motivation for shelling out the most money I have ever spent on a car is for what I call drivability. I loved to drive the Jag, but its poor efficiency coupled with slow fast charging meant that for every two hours of freeway driving, I needed to charge about an hour. This made any meaningful road trip in the Jag, especially with family, who weren't deriving any fun out of the driving, simply painful.
Road trips are where the Lucid truly shines. With the supremely quiet cabin oozing a chill vibe, the Lucid makes the miles melt away like no other car I’ve driven. Couple that with a very efficient drivetrain and among the fastest charging on the planet, and no one in the family can complain about too frequent or too long of stops to charge.
From my home in the SF Bay Area, I’ve driven the Air to Las Vegas once, Lake Tahoe a few times, and many trips to Los Angeles. The era of attaching an asterisk to EV road trips is over. My “asterisk removal requirement” is when a car's range exceeds my bladder's range, coupled with a recharge to 80% during little more than a restroom break.
When considering the Air, the only car I cross-shopped was Porsche's Taycan. Drivability was a top priority for me and that effectively limited my choices to the two premium sedans with 900-volt architecture available at the time.
What led me to the Air over the Taycan? First, after owning more EVs than I have fingers on one hand, I’ve become accustomed to the simplicity offered by one-pedal driving. Porsche just doesn’t offer it. Their reasoning sounds perfectly plausible if your goal is top performance on the track, but I wasn’t buying a car for the track. Perhaps most important, was the negative vibe I got from the client advisors at my local Porsche dealer. I walked in, opened a few doors, and sat in a few cars, but the staff were too busy looking at their phones and refused to make eye contact.
I know Porsche makes a wonderful car, and I can still admire the Taycan, but those two simple things made me run straight into Lucid’s arms and I have zero regrets.
Careful readers may be screaming “Why didn’t you cross-shop the Hyundai Ioniq 6 (or other E-GMP-based cars) or a Model S?" These should all make excellent road trip cars and compete with the Air and Taycan for stellar drivability at lower cost than either.
Well, I already had an Ioniq 5 in the driveway when I bought the Air. The Ioniq 6 was months away when I needed a car, and I had previously owned Teslas and soured on the brand for customer service reasons. ‘Nuff said.
The Lucid Air: What’s Not To Love?
Frankly, all of my criticisms can be categorized as classical “first-world problems” and most can be remedied with software and are, in fact, on the unofficial Lucid software wish list. I do agree with the items on that unofficial list but would like to highlight my pet peeves below.
Software-Related Items That Need Improvement
Slow to boot up the “bird’s eye view” screen
A feature I can no longer live without is the awesome 360° bird’s eye view (described here). But on occasion, this screen is slow to boot and is unavailable right when I need it most.
The backup camera covers the HomeLink screen. The geofenced HomeLink works great when pulling into your driveway. But it gets covered by camera views when the car is put into reverse. So backing out of your garage becomes a multi-step process:
- Reverse out of the garage
- Once out of the garage, put the car in park to get access to HomeLink
- Close the garage door
- Put the car in reverse to continue backing out
No user-configurable split-screen
There is a lovely center console touchscreen, and above that, there is another touchscreen in the center of the dash. Known as the floating screen, you can ingeniously drag one screen down (or up) extending and expanding the menu between the two screens. But what you can’t do, as one example, is have infotainment on one screen and navigation on the other. You can, however, have navigation on one screen, and even more navigation on the other screen. Which isn’t useful.
No Android Auto
Apple Car Play was added in March 2023, but Android users must suffer the indignity of working with Alexia for voice control, with no analogous feature for phone screen sharing. When I bought the car I was told Android Auto was in the works for the summer of 2023. I’m getting a little impatient…
The GOM is topography ignorant
The current GOM (Guess-o-meter) is accurate, so long as there are no elevation changes involved. When I drive to Lake Tahoe from the SF Bay Area I need to factor in 6 or 7 miles of range lost for every 1,000 feet of elevation gained. Depending on the initial and final destinations, that can be as much as 50 miles of range lost for a 200-mile drive. Driving to/from L.A. over the Grapevine, I have learned that I’ll lose about 20 miles as I ascend, and then I’ll gain those back as I descend on the other side (due to roughly net zero elevation change).
As stated in pure physics, this is simply mass times acceleration due to gravity times elevation gain and the only variable is the mass of the car's payload, which frankly is a small fraction when compared to the total mass of the car. It’s embarrassing that this is still an issue almost two years after the first customer cars were delivered.
If I had Android Auto and could use A Better Route Planner while driving I wouldn’t care. In fact, I think OEMs should simply give up on in-house range estimators and install ABRP.
Key fob connection is too aggressive
If you store the key fob within 50 feet of the car, you’ll want to invest in a Faraday bag to store your key in, or your car’s vampire drain will be significant. My other cars have never needed this.
Special Mention Plug & Charge (via Electrify America)
After a few rocky months, Plug & Charge now works flawlessly. Lucid and EA are giving all Air owners 3 years of free charging. However, my concern is that the account is tied to the car, not to me personally. I have an Electrify America account (in my name) and when the 3 years are over, will Plug & Charge still require the account to be tied to the car? I’d like to avoid the scenario that is plaguing Ford owners where the Plug & Charge feature is tied to the car and costs a premium vis-a-vis skipping the Plug & Charge experience and using personal accounts the “old fashioned way.”
Without question the buggiest car I’ve ever owned. This is from one ~100 mile stretch of I5 north of L.A. In the last 30+ years I’ve driven this same section of I5 at least a million times in all kinds of conditions and have never had a result like this. And this isn’t a one-off, as it happens every time I take this car to L.A. Ceramic coating is the price we pay for vanity.
Hardware-related items to be aware of (or need improvement)
The buggiest car I’ve ever owned
The Air has one of the lowest coefficients of drag in the industry, but to a flying insect, there is just something mesmerizing about that front slab of plastic that is like a moth to a flame.
I was drawn to the sexy glass canopy that extends well past the driver’s head. And I still see it as a compelling feature. But after living with it for a year, I’ve come to… respect it. The Jaguar I-Pace has an all-glass moonroof so I assumed the experience would be similar. Not so. The execution in the Air is significantly different with glass in front of you, over you, and behind you. In summer months, it gets very hot, and even with the AC turned up to 11, the glass radiates enough heat to make it uncomfortable.
Low clearance with significant overhang
At first glance, the car does not seem that low—certainly not like some sports cars. But it is low enough that when coupled with a considerable distance from the front wheels to the front bumper, even modest driveway inclines will cause the plastic chin guard to scrape. Approaching such driveways at a significant angle helps, but this cannot always be done, nor is practical to accomplish with speed bumps or very steep inclines, such as those found in and around San Francisco. An iir suspension would help to get a couple of extra inches of clearance for such cases.
Illuminated charge port
I’m getting nit-picky here and this problem is not Lucid unique. But charge ports should be illuminated so the user can see the port when it is dark. In a classic case of where dogfooding could help, every EV I’ve owned has a light behind the charge port door that shines directly in the eyes of the user, effectively blinding them. At night, I find myself blocking the light with my hand so I can better see the port. For the love of all that is holy, point the light at the port, not in the eyes of the user. Or a backlit port would be freaking divine.
When I was a small boy (before seat belts, let alone car seats) I remember standing behind the front bench seats on the driveshaft tunnel so I could see out the windshield of the car. I would excitedly jump up and down, annoying my parents, and say “Let’s go on a long, long bye-bye!”
The Air reconnects me to that same excitement of seeing the road and all the possibilities that go along with it. Without any asterisks attached.
Owner Stories is a new feature on InsideEVs where real EV owners like you share their experiences with the crowd. Got a good story? Get in touch.
*John Higham is a retired aerospace engineer. John is a self-proclaimed EV activist, contributing to the local EV community and writing position papers supporting or opposing legislation for the Electric Auto Association.
In 2005, John traveled around the world with his family, with stories about them published in The New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, and others. John then wrote a travel memoir about the experience and it was first published in 2009 by Alyson Books, NY, NY. It is now used in public schools nationwide as a geography narrative. It was the first book ever published with a companion Google Earth layer.