If you haven’t noticed, there is a bit of a horsepower war going on with electric vehicles these days. The Porsche Taycan can be configured with 750 ponies. You can get over 800 hp in Rivian’s R1S SUV. Heck, the GMC Hummer EV delivers 1,000 hp.
However, one that tops nearly everything is coming from an automaker that has some deep Formula E connections and sees great performance as enabled by efficiency. That aside, the Lucid Air Sapphire is no hypercar. It’s a big sedan weighing well over 5,000 pounds, but it checks in at 1,234 hp and 1,430 lb-ft of torque, blasting out of three motors.
What is a Lucid Sapphire?
Sapphire will be the moniker for future performance models, not just Air. Casting over to some very thirsty gasoline equivalents, think of Cadillac V performance vehicles, or the BMW M cars, and you get the idea. In fact, Lucid used the Caddy CT5 V Blackwing and the BMW M5 CS as benchmarks for the Sapphire. Engineers wanted to get that kind of raucous driving experience you get with a stonking V-8 and a limited-slip differential, just electric.
After a quick spin behind the wheel, I can wholeheartedly say the company has succeeded.
Lucid Air Sapphire goes for subtle
Outside there are some subtle aesthetic differences in my Sapphire test car versus other versions of the Air. The chrome has a smoky finish. There is a bigger chin diffuser to match the increased downforce applied by the carbon fiber wing in the rear. Carbon accents highlight the mirrors, and the glass roof has been nixed in favor of one made from aluminum. I mean, would you want a glass roof in a car that can go 205 miles per hour? Me neither.
Inside I’ve got the so-dark-blue-it’s-almost-black Mojave interior and it is loaded with Alcantara faux-suede. It’s everywhere—seats, dash, headline, door cards, steering wheel. I love it. The Sapphire also gets Lucid’s new sport seats with performance headrests, and upgraded bolsters—got to keep that butt in the seat—as well and contrast stitching. Rounding out the interior improvements are a new pedal design and an upgraded infotainment system.
Lucid Air Sapphire gains new modes, goes insanely quick
The Sapphire has Smooth, Swift, Sapphire and Track modes, each increasing power and loosening up nannies. Track mode also pre-conditions the batteries and goes for maximum cooling. There are three different sub-modes in Track as well. Drag Strip mode is self-explanatory but there is also a Hot Lap mode which the company tuned for one quick lap at Virginia International Raceway and an Endurance mode meant for traditional 20-25 minute track sessions.
I have David Lickfold, Director of Chassis and Vehicle Dynamics, riding right-seat with me, switching up the modes so I can feel the difference. Even in Smooth mode with “just” 750 horsepower my head is thrown back against the headrest as I shriek with joy at the acceleration. It’s a mere 1.89 seconds to 60 miles per hour and while I’m not even at full throttle, I have no reason to doubt that number.
Lickfold switches to Sapphire mode for a freeway on ramp and within seconds I’m over 100 miles per hour. I want to check around me for the fuzz but I don’t dare take my eyes off the road. Instead I hit the massive carbon ceramic brakes to quickly bring the Lucid back to something resembling a sane speed. The front rotors here are 16.5 inches clamped with 10-piston calipers, while the rear are 15.4 inches with 4-piston calipers. I almost expect to do a front wheelie with all those giant front calipers, but the brakes feel firm and confident.
Going quick in a straight line is easy. What happens when the road turns twisty? I don’t get a ton of time flogging it around turns, but it’s enough to know that this car can make anyone a far better driver than they deserve to be.
The Sapphire boasts a completely new suspension system with recalibrated rates for the springs and roll bars. There are new dampers and bushings, and engineers have added more negative camber on all four corners for more grip while cornering.
I don’t dare try Track mode on a public road, but the car’s intentions are clear in Sapphire mode. The steering here feels remarkably quick and there is plenty of grip from the staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. It’s eager to turn in at every corner, pushing more torque to the rear outside wheel and using a touch of regenerative braking to the rear inside wheel—dynamics enabled by the three-motor layout and its two motors in back. The hefty steering gives me confidence as I push the car a bit faster each time. Heck, I can even gun it mid-corner and the car remains on my intended path. Try that in a traditional supercar and you’ll likely end up facing the wrong way on the road, crashed into a center barrier or both.
Lickfold tells me that most of the complicated torque vectoring happens at the rear, while the front is left to just steer the car. Some of the controls are on an open loop, he says, taking in information and splitting the torque appropriately. However, some are on a closed loop, monitoring what the car is actually doing. If the Sapphire is in an unexpected situation, say skidding out of control, it will trim torque to help give what the driver is asking for.
That’s nothing new of course, but the deal here is how quickly it happens and how natural it feels. The computer is reacting every millisecond to get the power to the correct wheel for the correct response, keeping the Sapphire from oversteering into oblivion.
Lucid Air Sapphire vs. Tesla Model S Plaid
Of course, I’m curious how Lucid thinks this Air Sapphire is better than the Tesla Model S Plaid. Both have tri-motor all-wheel drive, can seat five, and can run like the dickens. The Lucid is a touch quicker to 60 miles per hour—0.1 seconds according to each manufacturer—and it bests the Tesla’s 200-mile-per-hour top speed by 5 mph. It’s got an EPA-estimated 427 miles of range compared to the Plaid’s 396 miles but more importantly, the Sapphire is a planned product. Engineers didn’t just add another motor and call it done. Everything has been modified for better performance. This is the total package.
However, that total package also includes a sky-high price tag. While the Tesla Model S Plaid can be had for around $108,000, the Lucid Air Sapphire is $249,000.
Don’t expect a day of performance driving instruction with that price tag either, although the company may change that policy at some point. After spending a bit of time in the car, I would highly suggest that you avail yourself of some instruction. Sure, the torque vectoring can get you out of a lot of trouble, but this car responds to your inputs and you are likely not as infallible behind the wheel as you think.
As for charging, I don’t get to try it out myself, but the 118-kwh battery can receive a peak fast charge power of 300 kw—good for some very quick road-trip fast-charging. The onboard charger can accept 19.2 kw so charging at home should be pretty speedy as well.
Just last month Lucid inked a deal with Aston Martin to supply the British automaker with its next-generation electric motors. Will the Sapphire coax more manufacturers into partnerships with Lucid? Lickfold is a bit cagey when I ask him, saying only: “We’ll have to see won’t we? Just watch this space.”
Reservations for the Lucid Air Sapphire will be live on August 23 at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.
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