The Tesla Model S has enjoyed a nearly 10-year head start on the premium electric sedan competition, but the gap is beginning to close. There's a newcomer giving the Model S a run for its money, and it comes from a fellow startup. The 2022 Lucid Air is an all-electric luxury sedan that can compete with the Model S in some areas and surpass it in others.
So, which is the better electric luxury flagship, the Tesla or the Lucid? The car experts at Edmunds compared these two long-distance EVs to find out.
RANGE AND CHARGING
The Lucid Air's biggest claim to fame is its exceptional driving range. The top-of-the-line Dream Edition boasts a bladder-busting 520-mile EPA range on a single charge. The most that the Tesla offers is 405 miles, which is still generous but trails even the entry-level Lucid at 451 miles. In Edmunds' real-world range test, a Lucid Air Dream Edition Range model traveled 505 miles of its advertised 520 miles. Meanwhile, a Tesla Model S Plaid on the optional 21-inch wheels managed 345 miles in the same test, just short of its 348-mile EPA rating.
The Air is one of only a handful of EVs that can use the maximum 350-kilowatt rate available at some DC fast-charging stations. The Model S charges at a slower maximum rate of 250 kW. In our test of the Lucid, we measured a consumption rate of 28.3 kilowatt-hours of electricity used per 100 miles, versus 32.1 kWh per 100 miles in the Model S (a lower kWh number is better). More range, superior efficiency and faster charging give the Lucid Air the easy win here.
Both the Air and Model S possess sports car-like performance capabilities. Teslas are well known for their seat-pinning acceleration, but the Model S Plaid takes it a step further. Edmunds recorded a 0-60 mph run of just 2.3 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 9.4 seconds — insane numbers by any standard. The Lucid is also unfathomably quick, though, with the Air Dream Edition Range model rocketing to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds in Edmunds' testing.
The available Air Dream Edition Performance model is even more potent with 1,111 horsepower on tap and a set of 21-inch wheels wrapped in summer tires. Those grippier tires are key if you want a responsive and agile sedan because without them the Air's handling doesn't impress. While the Model S delivers better handling out of the box, both sedans offer mind-blowing power, period. There simply cannot be a loser in this category.
INTERIOR AND TECH
Tesla has always been one to take chances and the Model S Plaid's controversial steering yoke is perhaps its biggest gamble. But you also have the company's decision to remove the traditional column stalks and replace them with touch-sensitive buttons, making simple commands more distracting while driving.
The Lucid likewise has significant flaws in this area. Since Edmunds purchased a 2022 Air Grand Touring for a yearlong evaluation, staffers have highlighted the sometimes painfully slow responses from the Air's multi-touchscreen instrument and entertainment system. The Edmunds team has also encountered problems with the Air's advanced safety features, including laggy blind-spot cameras and an adaptive cruise control system that needed rebooting to work properly. Fortunately, like the Model S, the Air is able to receive over-the-air software updates, so hopefully, some of these bugs can be fixed in the future.
PRICING AND VALUE
These two sedans operate in the stratosphere of the EV pricing spectrum. Though the Lucid Air nominally starts around $87,400, that model isn't yet available, so it's very easy to get into six-figure territory. The Dream Edition, for example, costs a whopping $170,500. Meanwhile, the Tesla Model S now starts at about $105,000 and will set you back just over $137,000 for the ultra-high-performance Plaid trim.
Both cars tend to suffer from build quality issues, so you can expect at least a few flaws with either sedan. On the warranty front, both Tesla and Lucid offer four-year/50,000-mile basic coverage, but Tesla's powertrain warranty is slightly better at eight years/150,000 miles for the powertrain and battery. Lucid does, however, offer three years of free fast charging at Electrify America stations. Both vehicles will make a serious dent in your bank account, but the Model S Plaid is less expensive and offers a level of acceleration few vehicles in the world can attain, making it a relative bargain.
Winner: Model S
EDMUNDS SAYS: The Lucid Air is a praiseworthy first effort from a new automaker, thanks in large part to its Tesla-beating range, otherworldly acceleration and head-turning exterior design. For now, the Model S holds a slight edge overall, but if Lucid can work past its teething issues, it may well end the Tesla's reign.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Alex Nishimoto is a contributor at Edmunds.