By SCOTT WASSER
My first reaction after receiving the invitation to visit a Lucid Air studio was, “No thanks; I stopped doing that sort of thing after graduating college.”
Then my NEMPA colleague, photographer Kevin Nguyen, explained that a Lucid Air studio is an unconventional and elegant car dealership, not the kind of place where The Beatles hung out while expanding their minds and writing “Magical Mystery Tour.”
Hmmm. Seems I’d completely forgotten about Lucid Motors, a company that could be called an electric vehicle startup… if you can use that term to describe a company that has been around for 15 years. California-based Lucid, which initially focused on making innovative EV battery systems, is now making a car called the Air.
It is also opening fancy emporiums called studios that make some conventional new-car showrooms look and feel like Cheap Joe’s corner dirt lot. Our invitation was to visit Lucid’ newest studio – the first in New England – which opened April 16. It is located at 131 Seaport Blvd. in Boston’s tony Seaport District.
The Boston location is Lucid’s 26th showroom … err, studio … in the U.S. The company plans to have 11 more studios and/or service centers within the next year, including a studio and service center in the Natick, Mass., Mall scheduled to open this fall.
From everything we saw and learned at the Boston location, the Air is one of the coolest and most appealing new cars in years. But don’t go scurrying over to the Seaport District for a test-drive. Apparently, studios are set up for customers to look, touch, and see the Air, not drive one.
At least not at this time. A spokesperson said Lucid will definitely “make arrangements” for a potential buyer to drive one if they wish to do so, but the studios are not currently intended for that purpose. Heck, the Boston location had only one car when we visited, and we were told that was a pre-production model.
Visitors can sit in it, operate the controls, admire its multiple 5K displays, and even luxuriate in its massaging and vibrating seats. They will be guided by a host to areas on the street-level and second floors, where they’ll find five scale models of the Air, each coated in a different lustrous paint color. The models are intended to be picked up and viewed from different angles in different light to reflect what a given color will look like on a full-size Air.
Adjacent to the painted models are four laptop-size rectangles, each containing samples of the wood, fabric, leather, and carpeting combinations buyers can choose for an Air’s interior. There’s even a vegan option for those who prefer not to sit on animal hide or step on wool carpeting while enjoying their vehicle.
The interior color, texture and material combinations draw their inspiration from specific locations, such as the desert, and how that location looks at a very specific time of day. Sounds like new-age mumbo-jumbo to me, but that is Lucid’s pitch. And regardless of how the colors and materials were actually chosen, there’s no denying that they make the Air’s cabin as elegant as anything the EV world – and the car world in general – has to offer.
Once a studio visitor chooses his/her favorite exterior color and interior trim, the real fun begins. Visitors are guided to the studio’s second floor, where they are introduced to a powerful, proprietary virtual reality (VR) system melded to what looks like the bare bones of an Air’s front passenger compartment.
After donning the obligatory VR system’s goggles, the visitor becomes immersed in a Disney-esque world in which he/she is suddenly transported to a site – desert, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. – selected from a limited menu. Within seconds, an Air in the color you’ve chosen pulls up, the driver-side door opens, and you climb in. Magically, you’re now sitting inside an Air sporting your favorite interior trim and at the location and time of day (or evening) you specified. You can’t control the car, but you can scan the entire interior, peer out any of its windows, and even ask your host to change the location or time of day.
Unfortunately, that’s as close as we came to driving, or even getting a ride, in a Lucid Air. For what that’s like, you can check out Motor Trend, which named the Air its 2022 Car of the Year.
Motor Trend said that the Air, made in Arizona, is America’s most efficient large electric sedan with combined EPA ratings ranging from 111-131 mpg-e. The publication’s testers called Air’s self-driving system state-of-the-art, raved about its handling, was impressed with its comfort, and lauded its massive 32.1 cubic feet of cargo space (including 10 cubic feet up front).
Motor Trend also appeared to confirm Lucid’s claim that the Air obliterates range anxiety by being capable of traveling 406-520 miles (depending on model) on a full charge and requiring just 20 minutes of charging to add another 300 miles to that. Those numbers, along with an advertised zero-to-60 time of 2.5 seconds for its flagship model, seems to give Lucid Motors solid ground for claiming to have the most efficient and effective electric propulsion system on the planet. And it’s also one of the smallest.
You’ll find that system in all four Air models, which essentially share the same bodies, platforms and features. The models are primarily differentiated by their battery power and whether they have one or two motors and two- or four-wheel drive.
Oh, and let’s not forget price. The Air is currently available in four configurations ranging in price from the $74,400 Pure to the $169,000 Dream. The Touring and Grand Touring are $95,000 and $139,000, respectively. Each model qualifies for a federal tax credit of $7,500, which might be only marginally significant to those considering the Dream but perhaps enticing enough for other consumers to forego a conventional Audi or BMW in favor of a Pure or Touring EV.