Tesla Model S vs. Lucid Air

Nothing lasts forever, and the reign of the Tesla Model S is no exception. It’s been the best all-around, all-electric large sedan since its debut, but that’s mostly because it was the only one in its class until the Taycan came racing out of Porsche’s production line last year. Very soon, there will be an American rival: The Lucid Air.

If the Air is as good as it looks on paper, the Model S will have to take a knee to the new king. We won’t know until the production-ready Air debuts on September 9, though. Until then, we can only speculate. Below, we compare both electrical vehicles (EVs) with the information we have on the Lucid so far. Will Tesla continue its dominance? Decide for yourself.

Tech features

Lucid Air

At its September 9 debut, we will likely find out a lot more about the Lucid Air’s interior tech, but for now, let’s work with what we know. The Air’s interior features several screens. Two of them are touchscreens located on both sides of the fully digital instrument cluster (which is not a touchscreen). There’s also an iPad-like touchscreen located at the start of the center console. It’s able to retract up, revealing a small storage space behind it. If you opt for the available Executive Rear Seating package, another small touchscreen is added on the center console between the two rear reclining seats and can be coupled with a large center monitor. Several USB or USB-C ports will likely be found throughout the interior.

Little has been said about the infotainment system other than its advanced voice recognition system and a personal assistant feature. A facial recognition system can detect who enters the car as the driver and will automatically adjust their vehicle settings. The Air will also feature a smartphone app that allows owners to see vehicle information and remotely control certain functions. Like Tesla models, the Air will have over-the-air (OTA) software updates. We have yet to hear of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or Amazon Alexa integration. Since the Air is a luxury EV, we expect a good standard audio system and an optional high-end unit. A head-up display and a wireless phone charger might be part of the available options.

Tesla Model S

Tesla’s Model S is very well-known for its massive 17-inch center touchscreen, the largest in its class. Its digital instrument cluster is 12.3 inches. The infotainment system has Bluetooth connectivity but doesn’t support Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or Amazon Alexa. However, it features a navigation system with live traffic information and an internet browser. The Tesla’s audio system consists of 11 speakers and an 8-inch subwoofer. The upgraded system adds three more speakers. There are two smartphone docking stations (no one else offers this) and four USB ports. Like the Lucid Air and many other vehicles, you can opt for a vehicle smartphone app for remote functionality. Lastly, we can’t forget the latest software update (version 10.0), which adds Netflix, YouTube, and karaoke.

Driving range, charging, and power

Lucid Air

Lucid recently made headlines with a claimed driving range of 517 miles for its upcoming Air model. That’s currently more than any other mass-produced EV on the market by a long shot. It achieved this with a 113-kilowatt-hour battery.

Charging time for the Air hasn’t been released, but we expect it to charge faster than any current mass-produced EV, thanks to its 900-volt electrical architecture. That’s more than the Porsche Taycan’s 800-volt system and more than double that of Tesla’s 400 volts. When Lucid unveiled the Air in 2016, it said it would have 1,000 horsepower with its dual-motor setup. That hasn’t changed, and it’s possible the number could increase a little when the production version debuts. That’s a lot of power, more than most supercars. And there’s more: A tri-motor model with a mind-numbing 1,800 hp is in the works. Lucid says the upcoming Air can hit 60mph in 2.5 seconds.

Tesla Model S

When Tesla recently announced its improved 402-mile driving range for its Model S Long Range Plus model, the industry was impressed — it was the first mass-produced EV to break 400 miles. But Lucid took that thunder away with its 517-mile driving range. The Model S Performance model manages a 348-mile range on a full charge. Both Model S variants use a 100-kWh battery pack.

Charging time likely won’t be as quick as the Lucid’s because of the Tesla’s 400-volt electrical architecture. But with an 11.5-kW on-board charger coupled with a Tesla Supercharger, expect a nearly-empty battery to charge to 80% in about 30 minutes. Tesla’s Level 2 at-home Wall Connector charger will take at least six hours for a full charge from empty. When it comes to power, we can only speculate, because Tesla mysteriously doesn’t advertise horsepower or torque numbers. However, several third-party estimates put the Performance model’s total output at just under 800 hp. The Performance model has a zero to 60mph time of 2.3 seconds.

Safety, driver-assistance features, and semi-autonomous driving

Lucid Air

We expect the Air to come with a long list of driver-assist tech, thanks to its semi-autonomous system called Lucid Dream Drive. Unlike the Model S, the Air will have a driver monitoring system and lidar sensor (short for Light Detection and Ranging). In addition to the lidar sensor, the Air will also come equipped with 32 sensors. These consist of camera, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. Driver-assist features include a surround-view camera, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic protection, traffic sign recognition, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane centering, headlight assist, traffic drive-off alert, and a self-parking system. At its debut, we should learn if these sensors and features will be standard or optional.

Full autonomous driving is not possible for any production vehicle yet, but Lucid says the Air has the hardware it needs for it and will be capable of self-driving down the line after a series of OTA software updates. Once the Air is released and tested, we will know how well its initial semi-autonomous system operates in the real world. We can’t talk about crash testing yet, because the Lucid Air hasn’t been tested by the NHTSA or IIHS.

Tesla Model S

The Model S doesn’t have the assortment or number of sensors the Air will have once it hits the production line, but it does have one of the better semi-autonomous drive systems in the industry. Autopilot, a standard feature, is a driver-assist system that can steer, accelerate, and brake for the driver under certain conditions.

The optional Full Self-Driving Capability package is not a self-driving system. Although it’s called that, the Model S cannot drive by itself. Drivers are still required to hold the steering wheel and pay full attention. With that said, it’s still a very advanced system when compared to others on the market. The package consists of Navigate on Autopilot (a more advanced Autopilot), automatic lane change, a self-parking system, the Smart Summon feature, and traffic light and stop sign assist. Crash testing for the current Model S hasn’t been conducted by the NHTSA or the IIHS. However, the IIHS did give the Model S its lowest rating of Poor for its headlights and the highest rating of Superior for the front crash prevention (vehicle-to-vehicle) test.

Styling and dimensions

Styling

When the Model S first came out, it was a sleek-looking and attractive EV — but that was eight years ago (which is basically an eternity in the auto industry). It’s showing its age, especially when compared to the Air. The Lucid Air looks like something Tony Stark should be driving. Its futuristic, classy, and luxurious, unlike anything in the current North American market. There’s no question that the Lucid Air easily wins in exterior styling. On the inside, it’s a similar case. As much as we like Tesla’s minimalistic interiors and the huge center touchscreen of the Model S, the Air’s interior takes the cake. It’s styled better and is more luxurious, especially if you opt for the impressive-looking Executive Rear Seating package.

Exterior and Interior Dimensions

It’s not possible to compare dimensions between the two EVs, because Lucid has yet to release most of them. We do know the Air’s length is 195.5 inches, just half an inch less than the Model S. But the big difference lies inside. Lucid claims the Air’s interior space tops the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which is 11 inches longer. So, it’s safe to say the Model S is beat in passenger space. However, the Model S likely has more cargo room, thanks to its hatchback design. Both have front trunks, but the Air’s rear trunk looks small.

Pricing

Lucid Air

Lucid stated a few years ago that the Air will start at $60,000, and that’s still the case. However, we don’t expect to see that base model pricing for a while. The first model to be released will likely be a fully loaded, range-topping trim with a price tag well above $100,000. We will get more pricing information after its debut on September 9.

Tesla Model S

Currently, there are two Model S models: The Long Range Plus and Performance. The former starts at $74,990 and the latter at $94,990.

Key rivals

The Model S and Air compete in the small but growing all-electric large sedan category. Porsche’s first mass-produced EV, the Taycan, also competes in this segment. Upcoming rivals include the Audi E-Tron GT.

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