Tesla Model S Vs Lucid Air: Our Exclusive Comparison Of These Two Exceptional Electric Sedans
Aug 13,2022 | Chloe Lacour
The Tesla Model S is the benchmark to beat. To judge its level of armor against the competition, we pitted it against the Lucid Air, another contender for the title of the segment.
“Competitor”, “rival”, “enemy”, “killer”, “Tesla-killer” … There is no lack of qualifiers to present new cars on the electric market. You regularly criticize us for making too much use of these terms in the titles of our articles, considering them above all to be highly touted. However, the facts are there: for an equivalent segment, the majority of electric cars that arrive try to display characteristics to approach the Tesla, which is still the benchmark.
In the road category, it is the Tesla Model S that is regularly targeted. And for good reason, the sedan that appeared in 2012 is still almost unbeatable in terms of comfort, technology, and autonomy in the world of electric vehicles. Polar star to follow in this segment, the other proposals arriving after it cannot avoid the comparison.
And this is all the more the case for a few months: with its recent restyling and the significant improvement in its characteristics, the Palo Alto sedan is back in the race. The Grand Autonomie version is gaining in maturity and versatility, while the Plaid version has just opened a new page in terms of performance. On the other hand, she is no longer the only one to reign. And its main competitor is not so far away, since it comes from Newark, perfectly opposite Palo Alto on the other side of San Francisco Bay. And what says Peter Rawlinson, the boss of Lucid, who considers himself more in competition with Mercedes?
With the Tesla Model S going its merry way ignoring all the others, and the Lucid Air aiming more at the Mercedes S-Class (but also the EQS, now), the rivalry between these two cars is quite inevitable. Because this is the unbridled vision of the ultimate electric car according to Peter Rawlinson, former chief engineer of the Model S before its release, who could not follow through with his ideas under the direction of Elon Musk. . A form of revenge, which seems to go well beyond our preliminary comparisons.
During a quick trip to San Francisco, we had the opportunity to try these two models still unavailable to us. An Automobile Propre exclusivity that now allows us to draw up the very first comparison in the world between these two versions of almost similar sedans. Almost, since the Tesla Model S Grande Autonomie is the perfect entry-level, the Lucid Air Grand Touring is at the top of the catalog. It is more the Touring version that should be compared, but it is still not available in the USA.
Style: deja vu and never seen
The first confrontation is stylistic and the two contenders know how to differentiate themselves while maintaining the same spirit. The Model S, we all know it, has already occupied our streets for almost 10 years now. 4.97 m long and 1.96 m wide, it is no longer really intriguing. But his new pencil stroke gives him a second youth that suits him perfectly and reinforces his appearance as an exotic car. In our view, this is the development that has worked best for it since its inception.
But his efforts are in vain next to the Lucid Air, a true homologated concept car. Its fluid lines give it a charisma that erases the Model S. It is the result of a short micro-sidewalk at the foot of the Golden Gate, where onlookers recognized " Elon Musk's car", without being able to know if the Lucid is “an American car or those Chinese things”. Nice comparison for the cars of the Middle Kingdom, which proves that they manage to get up to speed. Either way, the loving Lucid. It must be said that its Stellar White configuration with polished 21-inch rims is much more seductive than the sad full-black dress of the Model S LR on its 19-inch wheels.
Habitability: a more family-friendly Tesla
On the tape measure, it has more or less the same measurements as its competitor with a length of 4.98 m and 1.94 m wide. However, it seems to occupy more space, due to its horizontal robotic gaze and its lower pavilion. The result of an obsessive search for aerodynamic efficiency, where both play in the same court: the Model S has a Cd of 0.208, against 0.21 for the Lucid.
On the other hand, it can be seen from the outside, that the wheelbase is longer at 2.96 m against 2.88 m for the Tesla. In terms of habitability, the gap is widening. The Lucid offers rear legroom worthy of the superior category when the Model S retains the place that we already know. In both cases, the rear seats are rather low, forcing the tallest to raise their knees well.
The Tesla retains the advantage of a rear hatch. It has no equivalent in terms of practicality. And especially not with that of the Lucid Air. Therefore, if its 456 l appears to be correct, the 709 l of the Model S lend themselves better to the game of family use. But at the front, the roles are reversed with a frunk of 202 l for the Newark sedan against 89 l. Not enough to allow it to make up for its shortcomings in this game, the Tesla takes the advantage with a total volume of 798 l against 658 l.
Interior: two rooms, two atmospheres
It is on board that minds diverge. On board the Lucid, the presentation is silky smooth with choice materials and robust assemblies. Each element could have a place in an art deco gallery. And this is particularly the case with the beautiful 34-inch semi-floating digital panel. Too bad that the vision towards this object is partly obscured by an attractive, but traditional steering wheel. We dare to imagine that a Yoke would have its place here to free up the panorama.
This is what the Model S does, with a large steering wheel that has finally shown itself to be an almost indispensable object. Why hasn't anyone thought of this before? Because as usual, the Palo Alto brand has this habit of redefining everything, ignoring propriety. The proof is with the games box in a car that doesn't want to take itself seriously. The Model S would undoubtedly be this bad student who does not hesitate to smoke illicit substances at inappropriate times, the Lucid Air prefers a straight and Casual Chic presentation. Oh, but wait, we've seen that before somewhere, Nope? But the brand also forgets to take care of the assemblies and materials. It's better than before, but hardly premium. We cannot proclaim ourselves in this category thanks to a segment or a selling price to match. If Tesla insists, however, the Model S would evolve on the low border with the best generalists, while the Air tickles the world of luxury closely.
If the layout of the elements and menus is very different from one to the other, the two share complex ergonomics and an annoying tendency to take your eyes off the road. Because both have chosen to centralize all or part of the controls in their respective slabs. In the Lucid, however, you can manipulate the navigation from the small screen to the right of the steering wheel, but it is easier to do so on the retractable central screen.
Still, the Air interface is slower, especially to program a destination. With Tesla mastering the art of in-vehicle computing for years, the Model S's infotainment system takes the edge off. Responsive, fast, and readable (hard not to be with a size of 17 inches), its use is intuitive. So that any teenager today thrown into the cabin will manage to find their way around. A little less in the Lucid. It is also in the Tesla that he will be most comfortable, enjoying his favorite applications both front and back, from Netflix to TikTok, via YouTube so as not to miss anything from the channel. Clean car.
On the road: a Model S in a new light
To chain the kilometers on the highway, the Lucid Air wins the comparison hands down. The tallest rear passengers will not be of this opinion since they should hunker down, the headroom being more favorable in the Tesla at this place. And they'll have more space under the front seats to slide their feet in a bit, not in the Lucid (but you'll have to be pretty damn tall). Apart from this grievance, the seats offer better comfort. This is particularly the case at the front with a longer seat with adjustable support for the thighs and massage programs among the most effective.
Quietness is the order of the day in the more luxurious of the two, with channeled air noise, but a few rises in the roadway on the highway and engine noise barely more present at low speed. On the other hand, the Lucid does not transmit any furniture noise as was the case in the Model S. A constant with the brand's cars, which still does not seem to find a solution in its production and quality control process.
The new Model S benefits from more advanced running gear and an adaptive pneumatic suspension fully adjustable from the central menu. Yet a technological showcase, the Lucid Air is based on classic springs combined with Bilstein shock absorbers. Despite everything, it offers a more cushioned rolling comfort, although the magic carpet effect that we were hoping for is not entirely there. This will require opting for the – ugly – 19-inch rims and all-season tires, not suitable for use in Sprint mode.
Yoke in hand, the Model S Grande Autonomie presents itself in a new light with the dynamism that one expects from a car of this type. Fast in the changes of course and rigorous in its support, it shows a fairly neutral behavior on secondary roads. With its identical but thinner Pirelli P Zero Elect tires, the Lucid Air is a bit more understeered. Nothing prohibitive in itself, this sedan is not being made to be driven with a knife between the teeth. But it is not reluctant to submit to the exercise, displaying exemplary handling when the pace picks up. The Tesla would like it, but the Yoke is then no longer so enthusiastic when you have to both think about positioning your hands correctly when returning from the steering wheel while trying to understand what is happening on the go-around.
Performance: the Lucid folds the Model S like a plaid
We appreciated more the direction of the Air, consistent in all driving modes. This allows it to tell the driver exactly where the wheels are. Driving sensations and road feel are among the best. The Model S is more distant, but it is above all the reduction of the steering and the shape of the steering wheel that limit the pace: while trying to find out how to place your hands, steering wheel movements are frequent and driving more chopped.
Both cars feature a similar mechanical setup, with two permanent magnet synchronous motors. Altogether basic in the Model S and devoid of the sophistication of those of the Plaid version, those of the Lucid is engineering parts. On the technical sheet, the latter promises 827 hp and 1,200 Nm of torque, while the Model S peaks at 680 hp. The Air wins the round with its more favorable weight/power ratio (2.85 kg/hp versus 3.04 kg/hp).
Neck and neck on the 0 to 100 km / h exercise, the Lucid Air however highlights a phenomenal ability to climb again and again to the top of the tachometer, without ever giving the impression of running out of steam, before starting. to worry about his license or his criminal record. We have proof of this vigor during times on the most sporty mode, with an 80-120 km / h in 1.9 s against 2.2 s with the Insane mode of the Tesla. It's not much on paper, but the cry of the passengers is much louder, believe us. However, when pressing the accelerator, the Lucid does not give the impression of breaking the clock: when the Tesla hits brutally in its running gear, the Air seems to cushion the shock. She takes care of the bones of the passengers, but also of her own.
Autonomy: queens of efficiency
If they know how to provide pleasure at the wheel (the Lucid a little better than the Tesla), these sedans are not intended to file the asphalt. Their thing is to be able to swallow the kilometers like no other and to go to the charging stations less often. The Lucid Air has a head start for this with a 112 kWh battery when the Model S retains its 95 kWh unit, both expressed in useful capacities. According to the EPA, the American certification body, the Model S is credited with an average autonomy of 652 km against 754 km for the Lucid. This equates to very similar fuel consumption, just 0.28 kWh/100 km higher on the Lucid.
For this first exclusive comparison, we took the trouble to measure the two cars on the same stretches of road. At an average speed of 110 km/h with the Lucid, we measured consumption of 17.5 kWh/100 km (640 km of autonomy), while at the same time the Model S stabilized at 19.4 kWh/100 km (490km). During a very short measurement at 130 km/h (we are more on almost instantaneous here), the gap narrowed with values of 21.7 (516 km) and 22.2 (428 km) respectively.
By using our databases acquired during our Supertests, we can then anticipate, with the conditional required by the theory, total autonomy on a long motorway journey of 450 km with the Tesla and 540 km with the Lucid. If these calculations are confirmed, the Lucid Air would do better than the Mercedes EQS.
|Lucid Air GT||Tesla Model S LR|
|Expressway (110 km/h)||17.5 (638km)||19.4 (490km)|
|Motorway (130 km/h)||21.9 (511km)||22.2 (427km)|
Consumption recorded in kWh/100 km
Charging: 300 kW versus 250 kW
During our attempt to recharge the Lucid Air, we were unable to reach one of the Electrify America 350 kW terminals, which could offer it all the power that its 900 V architecture can support. So we maxed out at 150kW on one of the city units in Silicon Valley, before plummeting to 75kW due to the crowd. As usual, we had no precautions to take with the Tesla, which displays the power of the targeted Supercharger and the price list directly on its screen, which the Lucid does not do.
According to the brochure, the Air can aim for a maximum of 300 kW, or 482 km of range recovered in 20 minutes according to the EPA value. In the real world, we were able to determine a gain of 300 km of range for the Model S in 30 minutes (taking into account our consumption reading at 130 km/h), thanks to its charging power of 250 kW maximum allowed by its 450 V network. In both cases, the 10-80% runs in almost 30 minutes (a little less for the Model S, a little more for the Air).
Tesla killer? Tesla killed!
If Peter Rawlinson had stayed at Tesla and allowed his vision to be expressed, the Model S could have looked, at least basically, like the Lucid Air. But history decided otherwise, Elon Musk slowing down the engineer in his tracks. In the proper sense of the term (or almost), Rawlinson has already confessed to our American colleagues from Road and Track to have been inspired by the Lotus Elan S3 that he owns to develop the Air. While the Englishman revels in the level of perfection of a McLaren F1 keeping in mind the precepts of Colin Chapman ( difficult to apply them to the electric, however), Elon Musk bathes in the pop culture of a few films like The Mad space history. And while Musk was tinkering with programs to set up Zip2 software and online banking PayPal later in the 1990s, Rawlinson was building the Imola roadster with his own hands, which he presented to Lotus, giving it the best CVs to become chief engineer of the brand between 1994 and 1998.
This is enough to draw up the picture and the conclusion of this first comparison between these two cars which are a reference. In every way, the Lucid Air shines at the very top of the hierarchy with captivating technological advances. Gentleman Driver's car, able to keep up with the rhythm of a Taycan and to move in the greatest calm, displays a polished finish that has nothing to envy the best high-end car craftsmen. And it also wins in the little game of the greatest autonomy, while adorning itself with a fire recharging power, provided that the network follows.
On the slow charging side, the Tesla is automatically offered with a 16.5 kW three-phase AC charger, while the Lucid accepts up to 22 kW. Also note that its Wunderbox offers a two-way V2X charging system, without us yet knowing how the brand will make it available in Europe.
But it is clear that you have to pull out the heavy artillery to reach the level of the Tesla Model S, which consumes little more energy, but without resorting to complex (but brilliant) technical solutions. More than a restyling, the Model S is more akin to a new generation as it makes you forget the previous version. And it retains its lead in terms of on-board technology, with a slightly finer FSD system than Lucid's DreamDrive, as well as a fast and accomplished interface.
The fight is seemingly unequal, with a sedan at $104,990 on one side and a car at $154,000 on the other (prices in France are not yet known). This will have to wait for the Lucid Air Touring, in direct confrontation with the Model S Grande Autonomie. Still equipped with two motors (for a total power of 628 hp here) and equipped with an 88 kWh battery (therefore lighter, no doubt), it could aim for an estimated range of 654 km (407 EPA miles). All for a price of $ 107,400, without the technological endowment moving. If it, therefore, retains the plumage of its big sister (which is very likely), the Model S will again have to worry. Because the verdict is final, the Tesla-killer wins the round: Tesla is killed!