We have entered a new age of car records as a result of electrification. Powerful and torquey EVs are constantly redefining what it means to be fast, providing acceleration so brutal that it would violate the regulations of any NHRA-sanctioned event. Even yet, there was no way I could have anticipated the incredible impetus provided by the newest record-breaker in the electric industry.
The 2024 Lucid Air Sapphire is the most potent production four-door sedan ever, with a three-motor drivetrain producing up to 1,234 horsepower and 1,430 pound-feet. It is an upgrade over the already-rapid Air and accelerates to 60 mph in 1.89 seconds, a tenth faster than the Tesla Model S Plaid. The maker claims that it will have a top speed of 155 mph.There was no way to test that last number in my 25-minute first drive of the flagship Air, but rest assured, we launched the thing again and again. And then once more for good measure.
|2024 Lucid Air Sapphire
|Three Permanent-Magnet Synchronous
|1,234 Horsepower / 1,430 Pound-Feet
|205 Miles Per Hour
|Price As Tested
Lucid Air Sapphire First Drive
I expected the brief spin in the Sapphire would be fairly low-key since Lucid Director of Vehicle Dynamics David Lickfold was in the backseat giving me driving cues. As one of the company’s few instances with production intent, we would be driving through some unusually heavy mid-afternoon traffic for suburban Los Angeles.
I was completely in error. The Lucid still has 767 horsepower available even in the car’s least aggressive “Smooth” drive mode, which David instructed me to use in the middle of a sweeping turn on a six-lane road.I ignored my gut feelings and did what he said, which was met with a nudge to the lower back that made my stomach turn. Surprisingly, however, the tri-motor design with a single motor on the front axle and two motors for the rear, each controlling a wheel, allowed the vehicle to display exceptional stability. As a result, the car will underdrive the outer wheel in Smooth and the Lucid will have true torque vectoring. In spite of being shoved through a corner, the Air doesn’t feel jittery, uneasy, or tail-happy because of this counterintuitive behavior. Driven in this way, the Sapphire operates similarly to other Air.
For our next exercise, we switched the drive mode to the middle-of-the-road “Swift,” enabling more dynamic torque vectoring from the rear motors. David instructed me to pin the throttle just past the apex as we approached a motorway on-ramp with a sharp, 160-degree turnaround. The Sapphire tightened up the cornering line perfectly before the ramp smoothed out and we accelerated approaching triple-digit speeds, as promised in our engineering conversation. I won’t admit to anything in particular, but the experience was agonizing and compelling.
After a few exits, with just enough time on the freeway to detect a trace of tire roar but outstanding straight-line stability, we continued on our approach to Sepulveda Boulevard’s twisty sweepers. The power delivery, torque vectoring, and adaptive damper tuning all changed noticeably as David shifted the car from Smooth to Swift and finally to the most extreme Sapphire mode. But even in the most extreme mode, with its corresponding continuous 1,121 horsepower (or the attention-grabbing 1,234 horsepower when launching from a halt), the Lucid behaves smoothly overall despite having an avowedly stiff ride.
The real test of its control came as we handily arrived first in line at a red light. David instructed me to maintain brake pressure while driving in Sapphire, then pin the throttle to apply launch control—a fitting description when the light went green. The Lucid accelerated off the line like a 5,336-pound Olympic sprinter without even a hint of wheelspin, but what was truly amazing was the constant push as the speedometer’s digital needle climbed higher and higher. Without much of the tapering that has come to be associated with EVs, the Sapphire can achieve longitudinal G-forces that are competitive with some sports vehicles even at freeway speeds.