- World-class efficiency
- Miraculous packaging
- Amazing performance and comfort
- Software needs sorting
- Tight rear door ingress
- Will Lucid “Tucker” out?
To earn an invite to MotorTrend‘s Car of the Year competition, a vehicle must be “all-new” or “substantially upgraded.” The 2022 Lucid Air nails those qualifications better than any contestant since the Tesla Model S, our 2013 COTY winner. It, too, is an all-new car from an all-new, largely unknown company seeking to “substantially upgrade” the concept of a high-performance luxury sedan. It also seeks to shatter paradigms of vehicle packaging and the human-machine interface while setting new benchmarks in efficiency. And much like our very first Tesla, the Lucid Air we evaluated was a pre-production prototype with teething problems.
Lucid has made a splash as the first electric vehicle to receive an EPA range estimate of more than 500 miles. It did so with a 113-kWh battery while earning efficiency ratings as high as 130/132 mpg-e city/highway. That’s an improvement of 6/17 mpg-e city/highway over the 405-mile, 100-kWh Tesla Model S Long Range.
Enabling this quantum efficiency leap are driveline innovations in the cooling and winding design of the stator, the amount and placement of permanent magnets in the rotor, and a thorough reimagining of the final drive that results in power density roughly triple that seen in Teslas. Applying Formula 1 aerodynamics expertise yields a claimed drag coefficient of just 0.200 and earns big points for engineering excellence and efficiency.
Features editor Christian Seabaugh praised the exterior’s “gorgeous styling that takes advantage of the compact powertrain size,” adding that it reminds him of “French cars from the ’60s,” and that that the cabin feels “luxurious without being pretentious.” Everyone was impressed with the ultra-wide-opening doors, the quiet and comfy interior, the broad clamshell trunk opening, and the deep, 9.9-cubic-foot frunk. But the tallest judges found themselves looking through the tinted top of the low roof and feeling crowded by the side roof rail, while even the shorter ones bumped their heads on the rear door opening—a consequence of that low-drag frontal area. At least the rear doors open to a gaping 90 degrees, which helps.
Innovations in the user experience drew mixed reviews. Displaying multiple views on different screens when reversing was appreciated, but having to use the center screen to adjust the mirrors and steering wheel or diving three screens deep to adjust things like a glitchy and blaring driver attention monitor were deemed “funky, and not in a good way.”
Then there was the stuff that just didn’t work from time to time. Like the Dolby Atmos Surreal Sound system, the Highway Assist lane centering, the power frunk latching, the proximity locking system, the pop-out door handles—the faults list was long. That said, Lucid has assured us that the majority of those issues were already in the process of being fixed, and those that weren’t in process are also now resolved. With production cars now in customers’ driveways and a promise to put a final-spec model in our hands soon, we expect to verify the veracity of the fixes shortly.
But a spirited drive during finalist loops in our 800-hp Lucid Air Grand Touring put many judges in a more forgiving mood. “It does a fabulous impression of a super-fast and super-quiet BMW M550i, only with better steering,” senior editor Conner Golden said. Many marveled at the Air’s eagerness to hustle on comparatively narrow tires that also manage to deliver Mercedes-level ride suppleness.
In the end, many of our judges deemed the 2022 Lucid Air to be The Car 3.0 and the Next Big Thing. The rest of them fretted Lucid might not survive or that history could come to regard the Air as our era’s Chevy Vega, a COTY choice to live down. Which half would prevail?
View every 2022 Car of the Year Contender and Finalist
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