2021 Lucid Air revealed - Tesla-rival EV makes expensive debut

Lucid Motors has revealed the production 2021 Lucid Air, the luxury electric sedan with which it aims to go head-to-head with Tesla and the rest of auto industry. Variously teased, previewed, and promised since Lucid first took us for a ride in its Air prototype all the way back in 2016, the Air will eventually be priced at under $80,000, the automaker promises, though the first examples will cost significantly more.

Production will kick off later in 2020, with deliveries of the first Lucid Air models expected to start in spring 2021. Lucid will kick off with the 2021 Air Dream Edition, a limited-volume – and fully-loaded – example of the EV. That will be priced at $169,000 before the US federal tax credit and any other incentives.

Your money gets you 1,080 horsepower from dual electric motors, with all-wheel drive as standard. It's enough for 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds, putting the Air into legitimate hypercar territory, and a top speed of 168 mph. The quarter mile, Lucid says, takes 9.9 seconds with a speed of 144 mph.

Whether luxury sedan owners actually want to go drag racing – or just want drag-brag rights – is questionable, and happily Lucid is promising more than just making the Air go fast in a straight line. With its standard battery pack it'll have an EPA estimated range 465 miles with the striking 21-inch AeroDream wheels, or 503 miles if you go for the optional 19-inch versions.

That battery charges with DC fast charger support, and Lucid is claiming that the Air will be the fastest charging EV ever offered when it goes on sale. Figure on up to 20 miles of range being added per minute on a suitably-potent charger, or 300 miles in 20 minutes. Lucid has partnered with Electrify America for a turnkey charging network in the US, and Air owners will get free charging at those locations.

The design isn't as outlandish as some EVs out there, but it's certainly striking. Lucid says it's taking full advantage of its LEAP (Lucid Electric Advanced Platform) architecture, slimming the hood and rear overhangs to maximize cabin space. Expect something along the lines of a full-size traditional luxury car's interior, in the overall footprint of something smaller than a Model S or Taycan. That also helps with a sizable 9.9 cu-ft frunk, contributing to more than 26 cu-ft of cargo space overall.

In the cabin, the driver gets a 34-inch curved "Glass Cockpit 5K" display suspended over the dashboard, with retractable "Pilot Panel" center console that slides out like an iPad. Unlike some rivals, Lucid isn't entirely averse to physical interfaces, with steering wheel controls that look like ribbed turbines, a roller for audio system volume, and alloy toggle switches for the climate control.

If you'd rather control things by voice, there's native Amazon Alexa support integrated into the infotainment system. That supports the usual functionality familiar from smart speakers, like streaming music and smart home control, but also localized control of the EV's features such as the HVAC and navigation. It's integrated with the dashboard display for visual feedback, and Lucid says there'll be new functionality added over time via the Air's integrated data connection.

The Air won't be able to drive itself, not entirely, but Lucid is promising a suite of advanced driver-assistance (ADAS) features. Standard on the Air Dream Edition will be its Lucid DreamDrive platform, with 32 sensors around the car – including camera, radar, ultrasonic, and LIDAR – working to provide things like adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping and, eventually, Level 2 and Level 3 assistance using things like geo-fenced HD mapping.

With a price tag of $161,500 even after the federal tax credit, the 2021 Air Dream Edition certainly isn't a cheap car. It'll be offered in Stellar White, Infinite Black, or a Dream Edition-exclusive Eureka Gold finish on the outside; inside, there'll be an exclusive "Santa Monica" themed trim. That will combine full Nappa grain Bridge of Weir leather and silvered eucalyptus wood, with the 21-inch wheels on the outside.

Unsurprisingly, Lucid does have plans for other, more affordable versions of the car. The 2021 Air Grand Touring will come next, in mid-2021. It'll be priced from $139,000 before credits and incentives, and should be your pick if you want maximum range. Lucid is predicting up to 517 miles of EPA range from the EV, which will also have 800 horsepower. That'll be enough for a 3.0 second 0-60 mph time, and a top speed of 168 mph.

Following that is the Air Touring, from $95,000. It'll have 406 miles of range, Lucid estimates, and 620 horsepower. 0-60 mph still only takes 3.2 seconds, with a 155 mph top speed. Expect it in Q4 2021. Finally, there'll be the promised "below $80,000" version of the Air. That won't arrive until sometime in 2022, with all of its specifications – bar the same support for speedy DC fast-charging – yet to be announced.

On the one hand, it's easy to downplay the relevance of another high-end electric car. As we've seen from Tesla, it's easy to promise cheaper variants on day one, but a whole lot tougher actually delivering on that. Lucid's strategy, to deliver its most expensive Air models first and then progressively scale the price tag down, makes business sense but – if 2020 has taught us anything – reality can easily upend even the best of plans.

Still, with the Model S looking increasingly old in the tooth, and more mainstream automakers still working on their luxury electric portfolios, the Air isn't without its merits. Nor is it going to be alone in Lucid Motors' portfolio, with the company already teasing its upcoming SUV.