The Lucid Air Sapphire — 1st Ride

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Lucid has dropped the official specs for its peak performance Air Sapphire and they invited CleanTechnica out to an exclusive drive event in the foothills overlooking Los Angeles, California. We sat down with Lucid’s Senior Vice President of Design and Brand, Derek Jenkins, and Lucid’s Director of Vehicle Dynamics, David Lickfold, to talk about the DNA of the Air Sapphire.

Right out of the gate, the Lucid Air Sapphire completely redefines the concept of a luxury performance sedan. The Mercedes S-Class has set the bar in this category for decades and has been the go-to vehicle for buyers looking for luxury while being driven around in the rear seat and performance when you want it from the massive combustion engines under the hood. Lucid has now stepped into the driver’s seat.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The Lucid Air Sapphire takes this concept and explodes it into a thousand tiny pieces. The performance offered on the Lucid Air Sapphire with its 1,234 horsepower and 1,430 foot-pounds of torque push it firmly past supercar territory, straight into the rarified air of the hypercar elite. Its competing with 2-seat, purpose-built Italian stallions and it’s doing so as a four-door sedan that you can comfortably haul a family around in to soccer games. At the same time, it can also handle school pickups, picnics, and weekend hikes in the mountains with the family.

Refined Performance

Sapphire pushes everything Lucid is doing to the extreme. It is the halo brand within Lucid and shows the world what its technology can do when all limits are removed. It’s what you might imagine would come out the other end if Lucid sent a few dozen engineers into the desert with some of the highest performance motors, batteries, power electronics, and software with an unlimited budget. They’ve come back down from the mountain and it’s beautiful.

Lucid’s Senior Vice President of Design and Brand Derek Jenkins took us around the vehicle, highlighting the exterior improvements made to optimize the Sapphire. The overall exterior package of the Air Sapphire is the same as the other flavors of the Air, with subtle refinements that deliver increased aerodynamic performance. It boasts an exclusive ultra-dark Sapphire blue paint that pops wildly in the sunlight. Muted carbon fiber mirror caps and playful California bear logos accentuate the new color, serving as subtle indicators of its Sapphire status.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Up front, Jenkins talked about how Lucid added a pronounced new chin spoiler to provide a bit of additional downforce on the vehicle. The greater the downforce on the vehicle, the more power Lucid’s engineers can push through the tires without breaking traction. Out back, a more pronounced carbon fiber spoiler helps keep the rear of the vehicle planted. Lucid even tuned the underbody shielding with new aero channels to optimize airflow around the vehicle.

Downforce always comes with the expense of aerodynamic efficiency, but in this case, Lucid knew it needed to give the tires as much of a fighting chance as possible to maintain traction when the 1,234 horsepower and 1,430 foot-pounds of torque were summoned. The new staggered wheel set on the Air Sapphire was enabled by a set of subtle fender flares that ensure the extra rubber would still be in compliance.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

These new open rims show how Lucid is constantly balancing performance and luxury and in this case opted for a less aerodynamically efficient rim in favor of higher performance in the form of brake cooling. For the Sapphire specifically, Lucid added new ducting and put an additional focus on adding airflow being delivered to the oversized calipers and rotors to ensure they never heat up over the course of a single circuit on the track or even a long day at the track in one of the three customizable track modes available.

Transformer

With the Air Sapphire, Lucid has built what feels much more like a transformer, leveraging the power of insane software-driven engineering to morph the car from a luxurious cruiser to a track slayer, depending on what you’re looking for. The different driving experiences are packed up into a series of four different driving modes that completely change the personality of the vehicle to match your mood.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

For the ride home from work, the Smooth driving mode provides the feeling of a luxury saloon. It smooths off the acceleration curve, delivering a muted 750 horsepower which is paired with a more damped suspension that delivers predictable handling suitable for everyday driving. That’s not to say that it’s boring or dry. Even in its most vanilla mode, the Air Sapphire still packs more power than most vehicles on the road. And it’s more than eager to summon that power as needed.

In Smooth driving mode, the car has applied its immense intelligence and logic to the powertrain and suspension to make your life as easy and as comfortable as possible. The driving characteristics and comfort suspension in Smooth mode feel like a long wheelbase S-Class Mercedes. It’s comfortable and predictable and does everything you need it to do.

In addition to the standard driving modes, the Lucid Air Sapphire also boasts a track mode. Inside track mode, three customizable modes allow you to maximize performance depending on what you’re doing for the day. This includes optimizing performance for a single hot lap, for a quick hit of the Air Sapphire’s 1.89 second 0-60 mph capability on a drag strip, or for a full day at the track in Endurance mode. While not every buyer will be tracking the vehicle, it is cool that Lucid unlocks the potential for those looking to explore the full capability of their vehicle in a safer environment.

Sapphire

A gentle touch of the finger on the center control pad of the vehicle transforms the vehicle quietly and invisibly into Sapphire mode. The immense power, torque vectoring, elite suspension tuning, and millisecond-level calculations unlock an absolute beast of a vehicle that is equally comfortable shredding tires on the track, ripping through the mountains on the weekend or blasting zero to whatever your heart can handle on a drag strip.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

It sheds the facade of a family car, morphing into a 2-seat curve slayer. Time warps as software morphs the driving characteristics of the vehicle, leveraging active torque vectoring bolstered by an equally capable processor that optimizes traction and power every millisecond. Ripping around Southern California’s famous foothills just off Mulholland Drive, we slammed the pedal to the floor around a 90 degree left-hand turn. In a car with 1,234 horsepower. It’s about the most counterintuitive thing imaginable.

The Air Sapphire opened up its gullet as the new dual-motor rear axle fired up its proverbial electric afterburners with instant torque slamming into the car like Thor’s hammer. The car simultaneously attempted to separate me from my consciousness and strip my hands from the steering wheel as it blasted through the corner.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The Air Sapphire is tuned to maximize every single piece of the vehicle to the limits of the capability of its battery system and the traction available from its custom tires. The Air Sapphire sports a set of custom staggered Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires that boast rubber optimized for daily driving at the center, with a grippier compound at the corners. As the tires warm up, the grippier compound softens, enabling even more traction without sacrificing comfort.

All four tires were called into action, tuning and adapting in realtime to the immense forces being applied by the motors. Traction was never in question. The tires did not object, as power was seamlessly, silently applied to whichever corner could handle even an ounce more. The Sapphire’s tri-motor package enables not only front to back torque vectoring control, but also optimization side to side on the rear axle with the dual-motor stack.

Lucid’s rear-axle, dual-motor stack. Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

It’s more likely that the Air Sapphire will help you find your own limits than its own. 1,234 horsepower and 1,430 ft-lb of instantly available torque ensures this is the case. It weakens mental faculties and blurs eyesight as your mind struggles to keep up with what the car is actually doing. This was my daily driver just a minute ago. What in the absolute hell just happened?

Power & Control

The insane part is that the car will do this same dance through curves on a track and it has the braking power to actually control the beast when the next curve comes into view. A pair of six piston calipers keeps the rear axle in check with a set of 390 mm carbon ceramic discs. These would be impressive on just about any other car, but when you look to the front of the Lucid Air Sapphire, they just look cute.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

For the front wheels, Lucid slapped a set of 450 mm carbon ceramic rotors with a staggering 10 piston caliper that clamps down with brake pads that look like they’re built for some sort of industrial semi truck. They are absolutely massive and they really became the star of the show when we let one of Lucid’s experts get behind the wheel to show us what the car could do on a quick rip through the mountains.

Under his expert control, the full might of the Lucid’s power in Sapphire mode was summoned at what seemed like the most awkward of times. Hitting the apex of a turn, he slammed the pedal to the floor pulling so much g-force that consciousness was at risk. The Lucid Air Sapphire’s rapid cycle programming ensured all four tires maintained traction with the ground and all of that power was applied, even through tight corners.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

Ahead of the next turn, the Sapphire’s brakes were cranked to the max, and again, the vehicle simply would not lose traction. They scrubbed our speed, clutching onto the massive rotors with the thankfully oversized calipers.

So What

But so what, right? I don’t think anybody would put a $250,000, 1,234-horsepower electric vehicle at the top of their list for world changing ideas. Electric vehicles are a key weapon in curbing emissions in the fight against climate change. Just the same, the Air Sapphire is important more so than it seems on the surface.

The Lucid Air Sapphire screams out to the world that electric vehicles can deliver the luxury that Mercedes S-Class buyers are looking for. It can be a Maybach if you want it to and has the extended wheelbase with extra foot room in the rear seats that anybody being driven around by a chauffeur would want.

It’s not going to hit any sales volume records, but instead, it tells the wealthy elite of the world that the bar has been reset. Gas vehicles no longer dominate the day. Electric vehicles can do everything they used to do and do it better. You want luxury? Sure. Performance? You can’t handle the performance.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

The Air Sapphire pushes the envelope. Its ability to change the driving characteristics and power output of the vehicle with a touch of a button literally transforms the vehicle’s driving characteristics from a large luxury boat to a sprightly, track tuned sports car. Sure, there are still a handful of vehicles that can compete with it in the world, but the fact that a rather large four-door family sedan can actually compete on the Nurburgring or Buttonwillow on any given weekend is staggering to think about.

The Lucid team rolled out the power of the Air Sapphire in a way that’s subtle and yet it tells a story. It is refined and polished, but it will still make you squeal if you know where to look and what buttons to poke.

It makes you wonder why anyone would buy a Lamborghini, Ferrari, or Bugatti when an equal amount of performance can be had in a more affordable, versatile vehicle. Sure, you might want the braggardly looks that come with a Lamborghini or the audacious colors you can get a Ferrarri wrapped in, but for someone looking for pure performance, the Lucid Air Sapphire makes a strong case.

Halo

The Lucid Air Sapphire will pull buyers into the Lucid ecosystem and not just for the peak-performance, high-price-tag Sapphire. It demonstrates Lucid’s capabilities to build vehicles at any performance level and to do unimaginable things with them that most other electric cars aren’t doing and no other internal combustion engine vehicles can do.

Looking beyond Lucid’s admittedly low production in sales volumes, the Lucid Air Sapphire shows the world that electric vehicles are not just an evolution of the automobile. They represent an entirely new paradigm of performance that can only be had when the best electric motor engineers are brought together under one roof with world-class battery systems, and most importantly, the software that plays conductor, keeping everyone playing off the same sheet of music.

Image credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica

It is an entirely new playground for the world’s best engineers to leverage, not just hardware but software to bring their dreams to reality. Hardware to unlock new possibilities in automotive performance. And software to unlock new capabilities to literally transform the vehicle you’re driving from your Monday-through-Friday commuter during the week to an absolute hell-raising demon of a track car on the weekends. And who knows, maybe you won’t get in as much trouble from your significant other when you go out and drop a quarter of a million dollars on a car because this one can actually take the place of three of the cars in your garage instead of simply being another boring addition to the stable.

Lucid’s mastery of electric powertrains is known across the industry, and even from its competitors. Aston Martin’s recently signed a contract to use Lucid’s high-performance powertrains in its next-generation electric supercar. In fact, Lucid representatives told us that the tri-motor powertrain in the Lucid Air Sapphire we drove is very similar to what we will likely see in the inevitable Aston Martin electric vehicle sporting the Lucid powertrain.

Head over to the digital home of the Lucid Air Sapphire for more information or to order one for yourself. Production of the Lucid Air Sapphire begins in September of this year, with deliveries expected shortly thereafter.


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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1660 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field