Nothing lasts forever, and the reign of the Tesla Model S is no exception. It’s been the best all-around, all-electric large sedan since its debut in 2012, but that’s mostly because it was the only one in its class until the Taycan came racing out of Porsche’s production line last year. But now, there’s an American rival: The Lucid Air.
If the Air is as good as it looks on paper, the Model S will have to take a knee to the new king. We won’t know until the Air hits the production line and is tested next year, though. Until then, we can only speculate based on the information we received from its September 9 reveal. Below, we compare both electric vehicles (EVs) with the information we have on the Lucid Air so far. Will Tesla continue its dominance? Decide for yourself.
The Lucid Air’s interior features impressive displays and an advanced infotainment system. In front of the driver spans a 34-inch curved 5K display. The display integrates two touchscreens that flank a center, fully digital instrument panel. There’s also an iPad-like touchscreen located at the start of the center console. It’s able to retract up, revealing a small storage space behind it. If you opt for the available Executive Rear Seating package, another small touchscreen is added to the rear center console that’s located between the two rear reclining seats, and it can be coupled with a large center monitor. USB-C ports and a wireless smartphone charger are located near the front center screen.
We still have more to learn about the Air’s infotainment system but we do know that Lucid collaborated with Amazon to give the Air Alexa technology that’s built in to the system for advanced voice recognition and commands while driving. A facial recognition system can detect who enters the car as the driver and will automatically adjust their vehicle settings. The Air will also feature a smartphone app that allows owners to see vehicle information and remotely control certain functions. Like Tesla models, the Air will have over-the-air (OTA) software updates. We have yet to hear of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. As with many luxury vehicles, the Air will offer a high-end audio system. The optional system consists of 21 speakers.
Tesla Model S
Tesla’s Model S is very well-known for its massive 17-inch center touchscreen, the largest in its class. Its digital instrument cluster is 12.3 inches. The infotainment system has Bluetooth connectivity but doesn’t support Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or Amazon Alexa. However, it features a navigation system with live traffic information and an internet browser. The Tesla’s audio system consists of 11 speakers and an 8-inch subwoofer. The upgraded system adds three more speakers. There are two smartphone docking stations (no one else offers this) and four USB ports. Like the Lucid Air and many other vehicles, you can opt for a vehicle smartphone app for remote functionality. Lastly, we can’t forget the latest software update (version 10.0), which adds Netflix, YouTube, and karaoke.
Driving range, charging, and power
Lucid recently made headlines with a claimed driving range of 517 miles for its Air model. That’s currently more than any other mass-produced EV on the market by a long shot. But that’s on the Grand Touring model; the top Dream Edition has a range of 465 miles with 21-inch wheels and 503 with 19-inch wheels. The lower Touring model can achieve a range of 406 miles and the range for the base Air model has yet to be released. This is achieved with a 113-kilowatt-hour battery.
Charging time for the Air is incredibly fast, faster than any current mass-produced EV. This is thanks to its 900-volt electrical architecture. That’s more than the Porsche Taycan’s 800-volt system and more than double that of Tesla’s 400 volts. The company says the Air can charge as fast as 20 miles per minute using a DC fast charger (assuming the charger is at its peak output). Out on the road in the real world, Lucid says that translates to about 300 miles in 20 minutes. With a long range and fast charging times, range anxiety could be a thing of the past with the Lucid Air.
When Lucid unveiled the prototype Air in 2016, it said the EV would have 1,000 horsepower with its top dual-motor setup. It’s actually a bit more. The range-topping Dream Edition will sport 1,080 hp. That’s a lot of power, more than most supercars. With that much power, it’s no surprise that the EV can hit 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and do the quarter-mile in a flash: 9.9 seconds at 144 mph. And there’s more: A tri-motor model with a mind-numbing 1,800 hp is in the works. If you don’t want all that power, the lower Grand Touring model has 800 hp and hits 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. The Touring model packs 620 hp and hits 60 in 3.2 seconds, still very fast. There is still no information for the base Air model.
Tesla Model S
When Tesla recently announced its improved 402-mile driving range for its Model S Long Range Plus model, the industry was impressed — it was the first mass-produced EV to break 400 miles. But Lucid took that thunder away with its 517-mile driving range. The Model S Performance model manages a 348-mile range on a full charge. Both Model S variants use a 100-kWh battery pack.
Charging time won’t be as quick as the Lucid’s because of the Tesla’s 400-volt electrical architecture. But with an 11.5-kW on-board charger coupled with a Tesla Supercharger, expect a nearly empty battery to charge to 80% in about 30 minutes. Tesla’s Level 2 at-home Wall Connector charger will take at least six hours for a full charge from empty. When it comes to power, we can only speculate, because Tesla mysteriously doesn’t advertise horsepower or torque numbers. However, several third-party estimates put the Performance model’s total output at just under 800 hp. The Performance model has a zero-to-60mph time of 2.3 seconds.
Safety, driver-assistance features, and semi-autonomous driving
We expect the Air to come with a long list of driver-assist tech, thanks to its semi-autonomous system called Lucid Dream Drive. Unlike the Model S, the Air will have a driver-monitoring system and a lidar sensor (short for Light Detection and Ranging). In addition to the lidar sensor, the Air will also come equipped with 32 sensors. These consist of camera, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. Driver-assist features include a surround-view camera, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic protection, traffic sign recognition, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane centering, headlight assist, traffic drive-off alert, and a self-parking system.
Full autonomous driving is not possible for any production vehicle yet, but Lucid says the Air has the hardware it needs for it and will be capable of self-driving down the line after a series of OTA software updates. Once the Air is released and tested, we will know how well its initial semi-autonomous system operates in the real world. We can’t talk about crash testing yet, because the Lucid Air hasn’t been tested by the NHTSA or IIHS.
Tesla Model S
The Model S doesn’t have the assortment or number of sensors the Air will have once it hits the production line, but it does have one of the better semi-autonomous drive systems in the industry. Autopilot, a standard feature, is a driver-assist system that can steer, accelerate, and brake for the driver under certain conditions.
The optional Full Self-Driving Capability package is not a self-driving system. Although it’s called that, the Model S cannot drive by itself. Drivers are still required to hold the steering wheel and pay full attention. With that said, it’s still one of the best systems when compared to others on the market. The package consists of Navigate on Autopilot (a more advanced Autopilot), automatic lane change, a self-parking system, the Smart Summon feature, and traffic light and stop sign assist. Crash testing for the current Model S hasn’t been conducted by the NHTSA or the IIHS. However, the IIHS did give the Model S its lowest rating of Poor for its headlights and the highest rating of Superior for the front crash prevention (vehicle-to-vehicle) test.
Styling and dimensions
When the Model S first came out, it was a sleek-looking and attractive EV — but that was eight years ago (which is basically an eternity in the auto industry). It’s showing its age, especially when compared to the Air. The Lucid Air looks like something Tony Stark should be driving. Its futuristic, classy, and luxurious, unlike anything in the current North American market. There’s no question that the Lucid Air easily wins in exterior styling. On the inside, it’s a similar case. As much as we like Tesla’s minimalist interiors and the huge center touchscreen of the Model S, the Air’s interior takes the cake. It’s styled better and is more luxurious, especially if you opt for the impressive-looking Executive Rear Seating package.
Exterior and Interior Dimensions
It’s not possible to compare all dimensions between the two EVs, because Lucid has yet to release most of them. We do know the Air’s length is 195.5 inches, just half an inch less than the Model S. But the big difference lies inside. Lucid claims the Air’s interior space tops the Mercedes-Benz S-Class (bigger than the Model S), which is 11 inches longer. So, it’s safe to say the Model S is beat in passenger space. However, the Model S has more cargo room thanks to its hatchback design. With the rear seats up, the Model S can carry up to 26.3 cubic feet of cargo, but that increases to a healthy 60.0 cubic feet with the rear seats down. The Air’s rear trunk measures in at 16.2 cubic feet. Both EVs have front trunks, but the Air’s is larger at 9.9 cubic feet while the Tesla’s is 2.1 cubes.
Lucid stated a few years ago that the Air will start at $60,000, but that’s changed. Once available in 2022, the base Air model will start below $80,000. In late 2021, the Touring model will be in production and start from $95,000. The Grand Touring model (available in mid 2021) has a starting price of $139,000. The top and limited Dream Edition is the most expensive, starting at $169,000. That’s significantly more than Tesla’s current top model, the Model S Performance.
Tesla Model S
Currently, there are two Model S models: The Long Range Plus and Performance. The former starts at $69,490 and the latter at $89,490.
The Model S and Air compete in the small but growing all-electric large sedan category. Porsche’s first mass-produced EV, the Taycan, also competes in this segment. Upcoming rivals include the Audi E-Tron GT.